“Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”
These were the last words of the legendary Steve Jobs, according to his sister, Mona Simpson.
They were Jobs’ last words but my first words after reading his biography by Walter Isaacson titled, “Steve Jobs.”
This book gives incredible insight into the inner workings of the genius that I believe is behind much of today’s technology.
It is the story of a college dropout who built an empire and set the pace for future technological development.
Isaacson makes an incredible attempt to describe Steve Jobs’ every success and every failure.
Isaacson interviewed Jobs more than 40 times over the course of two years, enabling him to uncover the life of a man “whose passion for perfection and ferocious drive revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing,” Isaacson said.
The book shares extensive details about the phases of Jobs’ life. It outlines family relationships, his business demeanor and some of his most personal secrets. It displays hidden characteristics about Jobs’ personality that explain why Apple devices have become the de facto standard in the industry.
There are stories that show how persuasive Jobs was to those around him. Some stories are humorous, such as the way Jobs got the president of PepsiCo, John Sculley, to work for Apple by asking him, “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”
The biography begins with the story of Jobs’ parents’ difficult decision to put him up for adoption and segways into his childhood with his adoptive parents. From there, Isaacson uncovers Jobs’ mischief as a teenager, which propagated through his early-ended college career, in which he met Steve Wozniak, a fellow prankster who co-founded Apple.
Jobs’ brilliance comes to light when the story switches, talking about his entrepreneur attitude and the beginning of Apple, founded by two pranksters on April 1, 1976: Wozniak, the nerdy computer engineer, and Jobs, the innovative, future-thinking game-changer.
Their venture began in Jobs’ parents’ garage but soon evolved to a corporation eager for the big league.
On Dec. 12, 1980, Apple Computers went public with an initial public offering (IPO) in the stock market worth $1.8 billion. Jobs, at the age of 25, was worth $217 million after the IPO.
“I went from not worrying about money because I was pretty poor to not worrying about money because I had a lot of money, (and) was rich.” Jobs said.
Jobs was infamous for his outlook on money. The biography talks of Jobs’ modest lifestyle. He was a man who didn’t get caught up in material things. He understood what money could do after he witnessed the way it changed his co-workers’ attitudes and values.
“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me,” Jobs said. “Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.”
The biography displays Jobs’ demanding expectations, his strive for perfection and his low tolerance for those who did not warp to his “reality distortion field.”
The concept of Job’s “reality distortion field” is infamous throughout the book. It was the definition given to describe his God complex and apparent ability to set impossible goals and actually get his team to accomplish them. He would bend reality to fit his best interests. If Jobs said something, no matter how ridiculous, it somehow became a reality.
The book ascends into Jobs’ obsessive attention to detail and harsh treatment of his co-workers, which eventually led to him being impeached from his CEO status.
After being kicked out of Apple, Jobs began his own ventures with NeXT Computers and Pixar Digital Animation Studios, but soon Apple came knocking at his door begging him to come back and save the company from its impending doom.
After returning to Apple, Jobs laid the groundwork for the future of Apple when he by developing the “Think Different” advertising slogan. This slogan became the status quo for Apple product design.
From the time of his return, Jobs’ products were at the forefront of the technology industry offering devices to the public they didn’t even know they wanted yet.
“People don’t know what they want until you show it to them,” Jobs said.
This mindset led to the triumph of revolutionary Apple products including the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Although the concepts for these products had been discussed, Jobs brought them all to fruition.
Taking these ideas and producing them was not enough for Jobs. Another of Jobs’ demanding characteristics was his drive for perfection.
Isaacson recalled Jobs’ story of building cabinets with his adopted father, where he learned the value of perfection and precision. No one would ever see the back of the cabinets, but his father insisted they be as flawless as the front. This explains why Apple products look like pieces of art. Not only the devices, but also the packaging was carefully designed and run through a guillotine of critiques by Jobs.
I believe Jobs’ values and ideas will continue to affect the future of technology, and this biography will keep his legacy alive for decades.
I recommend this book to anyone who has an entrepreneurial spirit with dreams of being a successful industry leader, and also to anyone with an interest in technology. I’d even suggest it to anyone who has ever owned or used an iPod, iPad, iPhone or Mac computer and wants to understand the rich history of how those devices were created and uncover the secrets of the man responsible for all of it.