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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

Steve Jobs: A Biography - Walter Isaacson The following is a summary of my comments, observations and lessons I take away from this book:

1. Many who knew and/or worked with Steve Jobs said he was a genius who could turn on the charismatic charm (when doing so was favorable to his own interest).

2. The management style to be emulated from Steve Job's life is NOT his abusive tirades toward his employees, friends, acquaintances and total strangers. Rather it is to give attention to the experience of the customer/consumer.  This includes design and manufacturing concerns related to ease of use, simplicity, style, attention to details, quality, and service.  In my opinion all these things can be done without the disregard for the feelings of others that was typical of Steve Jobs.

3. Thank goodness for Stephan Gary "Woz" Wozniak for giving engineers a good name by being such a nice guy.  His friendly demeanor is in sharp contrast to that of Steve Jobs.  Apple Inc. would have never existed without Woz's design of the first Apple computer that evolved into the famous Apple II.  On the other hand, if it weren't for Steve Jobs, Woz would have given the design away free of charge, and Apple Inc. would have never existed.

4.  Steve Jobs' wife, Laurene Powell, must have the patience and endurance of a saint.  In my opinion all good marriage relationships require at least one saint, although two saints are preferable. In the Jobs/Powell combo, there's only one.

5. While reading the book my inner amateur psychologist struggled to diagnose Steve Jobs’ apparent personality disorder. Then I came across the following quotation that provided a right-on name for the problem. The “she” referenced by the quotation is Tina Redse, a former girl friend of Steve’s. They had an on-again-off-again relationship for five years.
“She was entranced by him, but she was also baffled by how uncaring he could be. She would later recall how incredibly painful it was to be in love with someone so self-centered. "Caring deeply about someone who seemed incapable of caring was a particular kind of hell that she wouldn’t wish on anyone," she said. . . . after they broke up . . . she read about Narcissistic Personality Disorder and realized that Jobs met the criteria – perfectly. “It fits so well . . . that I realized expecting him to be nicer or less self-centered was like expecting a blind man to see,” she said. “It also explained some of the choices he’d made about his daughter Lisa (born out of wedlock just like Jobs was) at that time. I think the issue is empathy – the capacity for empathy is lacking.” ”(emphasis is mine)
6. Here is another quotation from the book that basically says the same thing as Item 5 above except using a different word:
7. Steve Jobs’ attention to detail in his drive for perfection is usually described as a positive asset. But many of the stories in this book sounded like obsessive-compulsive disorder to me. His OCD led to some foolish expenditures (think Next Computer) and some beautiful designs that compromised performance (think antenna-gate).

8. Jobs ate a vegan diet most of his life and insisted that it naturally prevented body odor issues. He thus took one bath per week whether he needed it or not, and of course he saw no reason to use deodorant. All evidence seems to have indicated otherwise. The problem was so bad that when he worked at Nintendo he was assigned to work a night shift so that the day time crew wouldn't have to smell him all day. This must have been the beginning of his famous "reality distortion field." Mention in the book of the odor problems became less as he became older, so perhaps his bath frequency increased with age.

9. Practically every chapter in the book features some instance of Jobs crying, quite often when he didn’t get his way with product design or corporate organization. But Jobs would also cry happy tears when encountering what he thought of as “purity of spirit” ­ such as the copy for the first “Think Different” TV ad. I've inserted a copy of the poem used in this ad at the end of this review.

10. Jobs' reality distortion field may have cost him his life. His pancreatic cancer was a slow moving curable type that was accidentally found amazingly early during a ct scan of his kidneys that was searching for kidney stones. There are good reasons to believe that a prompt surgery could have stopped the cancer. But Steve delayed surgery for a year while he tired alternative holistic and diet related sorts of cures.

11. I lived through the "turn on, tune in, drop out" 60s and early 70s. So I think I have some understanding of Steve Jobs' motivations in trying to live an alternative counter-culture life style while being drawn into the technical world of engineering. In that era a hippie demeanor with long hair was a way to say, "I'm a flower child for peace and love." But I learned early on that just because somebody had long hair didn't necessarily mean they were a nice friendly person. If I had met Steve and Woz back in their long hair days, I'm pretty sure into which categories I would have placed them.

12. Steve Jobs believed Apple Inc. was different from their competitors because they were "at the intersection of technology and liberal arts." I couldn't help but notice some similarity of that motto to my own personal six word biography.

Below is the free verse poem used in the first “Think Different” TV ad. It made Steve Jobs cry to recall it. It is a good poem. Perhaps it says something about Steve Jobs, and how he viewed himself.

Here’s to the crazy ones.
  The misfits.
    The rebels.
      The troublemakers.
        The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.

They’re not fond of rules.
     And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can praise them, disagree with them, 
  quote them, disbelieve them, 
    glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.
      Because they change things.

 They invent.    They imagine.    They heal.
  They explore.    They create.    They inspire.
    They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas
     and see a work of art?
Or sit in silence and hear a song 
    that’s never been written?
Or gaze at a red planet 
    and see a laboratory on wheels?

We make tools for these kinds of people.
While some see them as the crazy ones,
   we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough to think
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

(written by a Chiat/Day copywriter, Craig Tanimoto)