Monday, September 24, 2012

Steve Jobs [Book Review]

Apparently I'm on an Apple kick. First Maps, then Contacts/Calendars, and now Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.

I've been working on this audio book for a while. First, it's long. Second, I've been splitting time reading the Bible as part of my yearly goals. Most of my listening was done while running for my other goal and the Disney Half Marathon. Seriously, if you need to do something that takes a while (running, driving, washing dishes, and mowing lawn), I highly recommend listening to audio books. You can rent them from the library, buy them on, or borrow from friends. I consume the VAST majority of my books this way, and it really helps pass the time of those other events (I actually look forward to mowing the lawn).

When I was in high school and college I loved two types of books: real estate investing and self-improvement books. Those, I've discovered, are best for reading since I take notes and refer back to them later. However, when it comes to listening, my favorite types of books are definitely biographies and company profiles (OK. I like fiction books too). I've started using Good Reads to track what books I've read if you're interested. So, given my preferences, I knew I would like this book.

It also helped that I listened to it on an iPhone, and am writing this post on a Mac.

So, I liked the book and found it extremely entertaining. It had a good mix of childhood stories, young adult experiences, and career decisions. To be clear, the book is about Steve Jobs. NOT Apple. Sure, it talks about his management style and things he did within Apple, but it doesn't go into the inner workings of how Apple. I'm OK with that, though I did hear others complaining about it. Shocker! Apple stays secretive!

I really enjoyed learning about the early days of Apple, or Jobs' first round there. It's amazing how free-wheeling the company was. They just tried a bunch of ideas, ran them by Jobs, and implemented whatever he thought was FANTASTIC! I also can't believe how willing he was to review version, after version, after version, after version until it was just right. I like to think I can be OCD about things I create, but Jobs takes it to an entirely different level.

The writing style of the book is interesting. Biography books are normally written from a faceless 3rd person's perspective. Isaacson writes from his own perspective: "While talking to Bill Gates, he told me..." I suppose that's something he can get away with since most of the people he wrote about are still alive. It definitely makes it feel more real in the sense that it adds some fuzziness to the whole story. "I asked Steve later if that's how the event happened, and he would shrug his shoulders indicating he didn't care to remember." I think that helps show the complicated nature of Jobs too. Of course, it's hard to imagine anyone who genuinely has a straight-forward life.

Speaking of that, my big take away was that Steve Jobs wasn't some magical hero genius. He had a clear vision of what he wanted, and didn't care about hurting people to get his way. He also surrounded himself by super smart people. In the beginning it was luck, later on he made it a habbit. His vision also focused on how things looked visually. I don't think he would have flourished in the bio-technology or green-technology industries.

I do wish I had his ability to say "no" more often. I tend to jump on opportunities way too often and spread myself too thin... therefore not really being a run-away success at anything. That comes from having a clear vision of what you want, and focusing on that. I'm not really ready to make any radical changes today, but I will probably start to crystalize my own vision and focus on that.

Again, it's a good book. It's long, and very entertaining. If you're into technology (especially Apple) or biographies, it's definitely worth picking up and reading.

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