I finished the Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs. It was interesting to compare the reality with some of the early reviews. I think many of the complaints were around the representation of the technology elements of Steve’s story. When certain annoucements were made, who came and went from Apple at when, that sort of thing. The technical errata for this biography is porbably best covered in John Siacusa’s Hypercritical Podcast #42 on the book.
It was clear to me that this was a biography, it was about the person not the technology so that might disappoint some. For those people, I recomment a copy of Triumph of the Nerds DVD. If you want the, behind the scenes of the history of Silcon Valley and the struggle for supremacy in the world of the personal computer.
For the book, as a biogrpahy, some may say that it might have been a little kind to the memory of a person known for his tyrannical approach to those around him. It did certainly focus on some of the kinder elements of his personality; the details of his family life and relationships with key people in his business life. The book also makes a great virtue iof his desire to build not only great products but a great company that will endure. He certainly accomplished that. For all the worry of a post-Jobs Apple they shouldn’t have bothered. If you take the stock price as any indication AAPL dipped slightly below $370 following Steve’s dealth. Less than a year later it reached over $670 and holds the record for the most valuable public company in history. So mission accomplished there..
But a better lesson from the book might be how Steve dealt with little things not how he created big things. I remember getting Steve’s first sick note in 2004 at Apple. It was almost inconsequential. Now I wish I’d kept a copy. It is my own little example that you don’t know how significant things are when you are in the middle of them. And in a way, Steve had a good strategy for not missing the important things; you treat every detail as important. He wasn’t some brilliant predictor of the future. His products that failed like the Mac G4 Cube and MobileMe are in there with the iMac and the iPhone. The book is a constant stream of fanatical focus and attention to detail both in sucess and failure. The good news is they tend to remember your sucesses and discount the failures, especially when the sucesses ultimately are so much bigger.
The callus elements of his nature were part of the same strategy. The book cites muliple examples of; “that sucks”, “your doing it wrong”, “kill it and move on”. You focus on success and don’t spend 2 seconds wringing your hands over a failure. He probably had a good reason not to waste the time. As many have already noted, the years since his 2004 medical problems were probably his most productive. Successful products, financial results, and the progress of his family.
The bellwether is probably his Stanford commencement address Again, another important moment that only has context when viewed as history. It was almost his manefesto for the next 5 years.
The theme is very clear the two competing character traits. this rebel, hippie, minimalist buddist who doesn’t care about money, drives around with no license plates and parks wherever he wants and the maniacal driven capitalist, who demands perfection, and has a genius/shithead scale for all those around him.
So in the minimalist tradition.. Yeah it was a good book.
Rest in Peace Steve .. you made good stuff.