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Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Charles Cherney

Passionate about teaching after graduating from Harvard, I ultimately found myself drawn into the world of real estate in Cambridge and Somerville...

Passionate about teaching after graduating from Harvard, I ultimately found myself drawn into the world of real estate in Cambridge and Somerville...

Jul 30 4 minutes read

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs (2011) is the great big biography of the Apple CEO by Walter Isaacson. My larger hardcover edition is 577 pages long. I have been meaning to read this book for some time. Recently, I did just that! I discovered that with a book this size, the best approach is to commit to reading a chapter a day.

Lots to reflect on when it comes to Steve Jobs. Below you can watch his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address. No surprise that it has been viewed more than 29 million times. Worth watching - and learning from Steve.

As Isaacson notes near the very end of his biography, "Jobs launched a series of products over three decades that transformed whole industries:

• The Apple II, which took Wozniak's circuit board and turned it into the first personal computer that was not just for hobbyists.
• The Macintosh, which begat the home computer revolution and popularized graphical user interfaces.
Toy Story and other Pixar blockbusters, which opened up the miracle of digital imagination.
• Apple stores, which reinvented the role of a store in defining a brand.
• The iPod, which changed the way we consume music.
• The iTunes Store, which saved the music industry.
• The iPhone, which turned mobile phones into music, photography, video, email and web devices.
• The App Store, which spawned a new content-creation industry.
• The iPad, which launched tablet computing and offered a platform for digital newspapers, magazines, books and videos.
• iCloud, which demoted the computer from its central role in managing our content and let all of our devices sync seamlessly.
• And Apple itself, which Jobs considered his greatest creation, a place where imagination was nurtured, applied and executed in ways so creative that it became the most valuable company on earth."

The list above is absolutely extraordinary. To think one person was present - and the key participant - in the creation of each one of these realities is truly extraordinary.

The fundamental divide in the digital world is open versus closed. Isaacson notes that Jobs' "quest for perfection led to his compulsion for Apple to have end-to-end control over every product that it made." In other words, Jobs was in the closed camp, informed by a commitment to integrated systems. Jobs' desire was to delight the user with good products. Ask any Apple apostle, and they will agree that Apple has certainly done just that in spades. The whole open versus closed debate is a fascinating one, and it will be interesting to watch it continue to play out moving forward in time.

Steve Jobs was intense. He knew how to focus his full attention on something with relentless energy and will and determination. He also loved minimalism and simplicity. And he was an aesthete. And, before making him out to be a saint, he had a nasty edge to his personality. He could be mean. Steve Jobs was a human being, just like you and me.

In reading this biography, I learned that Steve Jobs was adopted; he dropped out of college; he liked Bob Dylan; he had odd eating habits; he did not believe in having a license plate on his car; he was into Zen; he liked to take long walks.

Reflecting on this book, I find what stays with me the most about Steve Jobs is that he believed he could accomplish his goals and realize his visions. That does not mean everything he did worked out. But lots of things did. And through thick and thin, Steve Jobs believed. For me, Steve Jobs reminds me to keep the faith. We are capable of more than we realize.

Steve Jobs died in 2011 at the age of 56. Apple lives on. As does Jobs' legacy. 

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