Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs

Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs is amazing. He creates a story and leads you through Jobs’ life in a way that feels so natural at times you forget you’re reading a biography. The story is already incredible, but I think Isaacson’s control of the story was brilliant. I highly recommend it. I know that it’s been a year now and nearly everyone has already read it, but I finally got my hands on a copy and it was so worth it.

I knew almost nothing about Jobs other than the soft-spoken older gentlemen I saw presenting the first iPad (which I drooled over) so the book was incredible fascinating. Jobs is nothing how I imagined him and has a fundamentally different personality to me. His personality was so strange that I was enthralled during the first chapters while I read about what a petulant brat he was (and, apparently, never stopped being). During his prickly adolescence I was made uncomfortable reading about brazenly rude and boorish he acted to everyone he encountered. It was beyond confidence and a desire to “get what you want”—-Jobs’ felt he was entitled to everything and if you couldn’t help him get what he deserved, than you weren’t worth his time. At first I felt the same frustration at his ingratitude that I felt whenever I read the Ramona books by Beverly Clearly (who’s with me?!) but by the end of the book, I realized that if he didn’t have this—really monstrous—personality he wouldn’t have accomplished all the things he did. And the products Apple has produced were each groundbreaking. I take all my awesome computer things for granted.

Beyond his personality, he was just a very strange fellow. Think the “smelly kid.” Who would have thought?

—Wait, let me back up. As horrified as I was by almost all of his interactions with people, I wish I just had a dab of his cockiness. One of my good design friends I’ve met in Denver is honing me into becoming more confident in myself and my work and it pains me. Seeing Jobs just mistreat people right and left, make absurd demands, and push people around compared to what I do…it’s…it’s not just no contest. Not comparable. I am actually quite sure that many of clients view me as a human doormat of sorts. I’m a very hard worker, I care about what I do, and…I’m talented! (It was hard not to use “I feel/I think” qualifiers). I mean, no we should all be Steve Jobs, but we should all appreciate our own worth and not let people take advantage of us.

Other other hand, true to my dual gemini nature, I live for helping people and always volunteer for things in the first place. Do you see where I run into trouble here?

During the first few chapters I could not put the book down. Then as it kind of went through the murk of inventing some computers and stuff my interest kind of waned. It’s gigantic book. But then in the second half they started talking about design and  Steve met Jony Ive and I was in love.

Simplicity isn’t just a visual style. It’s not just minimalism or the absence of clutter. It involves digging through the depth of the complexity. To be truly simple, you have to go really deep.

So many good moments connected to design in this book. Too many to recount, but the overarching theme was the passion that Jobs and Ive had to the design of the products they were creating– How much they valued it. Jobs would fret over the amount of bevel on a edge, spend hours picking out just the perfect shade of gray, and demand custom (sometimes not even invented yet) pieces for his products against all practically because of how highly the thought of design. It made my heart really happy. I felt more worked up reading about the design discussions in this book than I do over 90% of sappy movies. It wasn’t just visual design (though that was there too), but product design. Making something effortless and wonderful from the inside and out not because people will see it but because you will know it’s there. Ughh, so good!

I say this despite the fact that….

  • My iPod is glitchy. I have to turn it on and off a couple of times before it will play sometimes.
  • Within a few months of getting my iMac the hard drive failed and I had to get it replaced
  • Within a year of getting my macbook it periodically freezes and turns off. Might be the logic board but I missed the warranty by a week.

But I digress. I could go on and on about all the things I in biography, but I definitely couldn’t do it justice. If you’re put off because it’s about the CEO of a computer company, know that he is an incredibly quirky CEO of an astoundingly innovative company. That in his short life he did man things and met many people. I know that it has changed the way I think about myself as a professional. and has inspired me to hold on to my idealism like an asset. We need more people to believe in the impossible.

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