I recently finished reading Steve Jobs’s most acclaimed biography written by Walter Isaacson. It was a great book; I learned much about Jobs, and the biography was highly entertaining at the same time as being informative. Although I much prefer autobiographies, of which I’m an astute fan, to biographies, this book was one of the best books I’ve read in a while. It evoked many emotions in me, and I’d love to share the experience with you.
When I review books, I like to start with a brief summary of the author, and then a summary of the book itself. In a paragraph each, I discuss the strengths of the book, and the weaknesses. However, this is no ordinary book. I must break from my preferred style of reviewing books, and must instead delve into the heart of this book: the content.
Walter Isaacson is a successful writer who has written critically acclaimed biographies for the likes of Einstein, Franklin, and more. He’s played significant roles in companies such as CNN and Times Co. In this book, he covers all aspects of Jobs’s life exceedingly well, although he places a heavier emphasis on his business ventures than his family life. The writing quality is superb; his writing is gripping, and at the same time, informative. The read is very enjoyable; regardless of what types of books you may enjoy, this is one book you simply must read.
I never knew much about Steve Jobs before I read this book. Very honestly, after reading this book, I can say that I’ve become slightly depressed, but not in the way you might imagine. While reading the book, it became obvious that Steve Jobs was a genius, and quite honestly I don’t think I, or anyone else I know, will change the world the way Steve Jobs did. It’s quite disheartening; we all like to think ourselves to be intelligent, but after I read about Jobs’s life, my intelligence seems woefully limited. Admittedly, it isn’t a great attitude to adopt; Job’s intelligence and abilities were rare qualities that very few people have, or will have in the future. Hopefully by the end of this review you’ll understand why I feel the way I do after reading this book.
I’ve already stated it, and I’ll do so again. Steve Jobs was a genius. When he was around thirteen or fourteen, he called Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, and managed to get himself a job at HP. When he was around seventeen, Jobs and his friends knew enough about engineering and electronics to be able to wire together a rudimentary computer. At this time, Jobs and his friend, Steve Wozniak, started a company in Jobs’s parents’ garage. Forty years later, their company would be the most valuable company in the world. Of course, Jobs began his illustrious career at Apple by making and selling computers. I won’t summarize his life; you know who he was, what he became. By no means did he have an easy life, but he took what he had and turned it into so much more than what the average man would have been able to do.
Jobs had several successful products that he led the production for from Apple; the Apple II, Macintosh, iMac, iPod, iTunes, and iPad being the most famous of them. If there is one thing that made Steve Jobs successful, it was his ability to innovate. Steve Jobs was likely one of the most innovative people in the history of the world. Although he did not develop new technology, or even come up with the ideas for them, he knew what products would be successful, and how to make them successful. For example, Jobs took the idea of a graphical user interface (GUI) from Xerox, who didn’t know what to do with it, and turned it into the very base of the computer industry. He attained the hardware for the iPod from Toshiba engineers, who thought the hard disk was a neat idea, but useless as a business venture. Simply put, Steve Jobs knew what would sell, and how to sell it. His design taste was extraordinary. So great was his sense for design and sales that he once said, “How can consumers know what they want when they’ve never seen it before?”
The praise for Jobs’s accomplishments cannot be emphasized enough. He revolutionized several industries: computers, music, phones, retail stores, the print industry, digital animation, and tablets. His products have become industry standard today. He was a great designer, who wanted companies to have complete and absolute control of their products. It is what allowed for the success of the iPod and the following products; the software and hardware were seamlessly integrated. It was this that set him apart for Bill Gates and Microsoft over the battle of computers, and what is setting him apart from Google’s Android operating system today in the battle of smartphones. Jobs wanted complete control of his products; the thought of licensing an operating system to harware companies was repulsive. This allowed him to make products with exceptional design, a skill that originated from his Zen training as a young man, where he grew to appreciate the minimalist desgin and concepts of the fact that less is more. There’s no denying how successful his products and companies are today; he was, undoubtedly, a genius.
Genius though he may have been, Jobs was a different man when it came to his personal life. Although it may sound harsh, Jobs could be a complete ass when he wanted to. He knew how to size people up, find out where they were weak, and then hurt at will. He used this trait to force his employees to achieve things they never would have thought possible. Jobs could distort reality to benefit him; while this was clearly great for his business, it was terrible for his family. Jobs could be brutally cold and harsh to his family and coworkers. A sensitive man, he knew how to hurt people, and did so often. He’d shrug it off when people complained of this trait, saying instead that it was his job to be completely honest at all times. It seems completely contradictory to societal values, but then Jobs was a man of a strange personality. At a young age, he immersed himself in eatern culture. He had extreme vegan and fruitarian diets. He was such a perfectionist that he couldn’t buy furniture. He certainly did not know how to sustain healthy relationships, a problem that may have stemmed from the abandoment issues he faced as a child put up for adoption (indeed he’d later go on to do the same thing at the same age as his biological parents). Great innovator and entrepreneur though he was, he was far from an ideal man when it came to relationships.
I feel like I’ve learned some important lessons from Steve Jobs’s biography. Jobs would often stress that unless you truly love what you do, you’ll never be successful. He was big on human interactions, which led to increased productivity. Finally, Jobs showed us the power of perseverance. Given up by his biological parents did not ruin his life; being ousted from the company he created did not slow him down. He demonstrated how you can will something into existence if you believe enough in it. There are several other things I learned from reading this book, but this post is becoming too long as it is.
Steve Jobs. He was a genius who had a dark side. He was perhaps the most innovative people in the history of mankind. He fell to cancer, and the loss is as regrettable a loss to the world as the likes of Kennedy, King, and Gandhi. I could keep going, but I can’t write the way Isaacson does. Read the book. It matters not what you’re into, this book is one that is an absolute must-read, a 10/10. The lessons we learn from Jobs’s life are many; we can all learn from them. Hopefully by now you understand a little bit why I feel slightly depressed after reading about his life. Steve Jobs changed the world in ways many of us can only ever dream of. He was an amazing man, who will be remembered in history next to names such as Ford, Tesla, and Einstein. Steve Jobs was one of very people in the history of mankind who, in his own words, “made a dent in the universe.”