Book Review, Books

Steve Jobs

Before you read this, I believe it’s important to note my personal history with Apple. Ever since I got my first iPod back in 2009, I have been in love with Apple products. Like any Apple fanatic, I’ve regarded Steve Jobs with a sort of reverence usually reserved for rock stars and actors. I was, therefore, deeply interested in reading about his life. So, this review will be slightly different from all my other reviews. Take what you will from my review given my feelings towards Apple, and the man who made the company what it is today.

Genre: Biography

This biography is one of my favorite books of all time. I first read it in 2012. I was, and still am, very inspired by Steve Jobs as a leader, inventor, businessman, and entrepreneur.

This is a fantastically well-written and exhaustive biography of a brilliant, if flawed, man, with no holds barred. Steve Jobs was very specific about the author who would curate his biography. It’s interesting how he approached Walter Issacson years before his most phenomenal products were launched. And Isaacson had declined at that point. But he eventually agreed to produce this New York Times bestselling biography. The book is based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over two years, as well as interviews with more than a hundred family members, friends, adversaries, competitors, and colleagues.

Walter Isaacson has written a riveting story of the roller-coaster life and searingly intense personality of a creative entrepreneur whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing. — Goodreads

Steve Jobs was a fascinating person whose powerful personality and extraordinary life make for a very compelling read. He was able to defy reality by simply refusing to accept it (a phenomenon referred to as his “reality distortion field”), enabling him to do the impossible. Isaacson makes an interesting point when he says Jobs was a genius. He means genius not in terms of a high IQ but in terms of an ability to see things in surges of intuition, inspiration, and creativity.

Isaacson’s narrative style is engaging. Rather than listing a bunch of facts and quotes, which would make for a very dull read, he uses them to construct a story about Jobs’ life. The book is also structured in a logical fashion. Although largely chronological, the chapters do center around certain themes. One of the fascinating threads of this book was the debate between proponents of closed and open systems. Was it better to manufacture a pristine, inflexible system or the messier free-thinking open system? And what were the implications of that belief on Jobs’ view of his customers and his worldview?

I believe that Isaacson presents a realistic picture of Jobs that includes both the positive and negative sides of his personality. Jobs comes across as a real person with a lot of flaws, but who has also accomplished some amazing things. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Isaacson was positively biased towards Jobs, however, this did not prevent him from exposing the darker side of Jobs’ personality. He also contradicts Jobs’ own statements with both facts and other people’s accounts. I appreciated that he included both sides of a story.

I actually felt empowered as I came to the end of the book. Steve Jobs had lived by certain precepts, which we could all benefit from:

  • Know your value
  • Have a skill you can sell.
  • Be really, really good at something.

Overall, this is a tale filled with lessons about innovation, character, leadership, and values.

“I like to think that something survives after you die,” he said. “It’s strange to think that you accumulate all this experience, and maybe a little wisdom, and it just goes away. So I really want to believe that something survives, that maybe your consciousness endures.”

Isaacson writes that Jobs fell silent for while, then said, “but on the other hand, perhaps it’s like an on-off switch. Click! And you’re gone.” Then he paused again and smiled slightly. “Maybe that’s why I never liked to put on-off switches on Apple devices.”

Thank you for reading. Hope to see you in the next one. Till then, don’t forget that you’re amazing.

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