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Book Reveiw: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

December 27, 2011

Steve Jobs is a cultural icon.  I can’t think of another CEO who could have been eulogized and mourned  like Jobs was – it was on par with the death of Princess Diana.  To use the cliché he was a rock star.

Walter Isaacson is a very fortunate man – he was given free access to Jobs, friends, associates, etc. to write a very candid biography and timed to be released shortly after Jobs’ death.  It has been a huge best seller.

I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I feel like a know the man – the genius, the visionary, the charmer, the asshole.

I have to admit that I am sucked into being fascinated by Jobs and Apple.  I have lots of Apple products in my family and I write this blog on a 5-year-old MacBook (which is a testament in itself).  I think Apple products are the best, but I also know they are not perfect and they are priced like a luxury item. In general I am underwhelmed by the iPad.  So I am not a complete sucker for all things Jobs and Apple.  But I still remain fascinated by Jobs.

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in how to run a business.  I recommend this book to anyone who loves their Apple products.  I recommend this to anyone who is interested in successful people. I recommend this to anyone who reads rock star biographies (most of the books I read).

What did I learn?  As a business person you need to be focused on something other than profits.  For Jobs it was about creating great products through an enduring company – the proverbial company built to last.  With that focus things like profits, shareholder return, market cap, etc. will take care of themselves.

However, there is some magic here – you must have that “vision thing” and Jobs had that.  Do we all have that as business people if we just dig deep in our hearts and souls?

I also learned about drive.  Jobs knew what he wanted and pushed as hard as he could to get it.  Did he push too hard?  He was hard on people.  He was candid – more than “brutally candid,” he was cruelly candid.  Could a kinder more gentle Jobs been just as successful?

He did what he did without typical “hard skills.”  He was not a programmer and he was not an engineer.  He did not even have conventional managerial skills.  Apple was not the originator of any of its great products or ideas – they just executed and monetized it better than everyone else.

He had weird habits around eating, hygiene, spirituality, etc.  So weird they would be socially crippling to most.

So in the end I am more fascinated with Jobs today after reading this book than I was when I started and I am inspired to do more with my own life – that is about all you can ask from a biography.

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