Reading Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs was inspiring and motivating on many levels.
Out of 1142 Amazon reviews as of today, 690 are five stars, and 55 have one star. Half of the reviews with one star are off the mark. They don’t even review the book, but they rant about Jobs or Apple in some way or other. The bottom line is that this is a great biography and very much worth reading.
I have read books on Jobs before. Two back in the 1980ies. One I don’t remember now, and the other was The Journey is the Reward, 1988, by Jeffrey S. Young. From reading those more than two decades ago I knew that Jobs was a difficult person, an oddball and yes, successful. But in 1988, Jobs was still making NeXT work, and he was far, far from the pinnacle he would eventually reach.
More recently I read Inside Steve’s Brain, by Leander Kahney and reviewed it in this blog. It focused less the person of Jobs, but his accomplishments and the processes of how he worked.
Isaacson’s book has more than 600 pages, and it moves at a steady pace, not always chronologically but more by subject. It creates a fascinating picture of a very unique man whose unusual combination of business savvy, vision, drive and creativity inspired thousands of people and affected billions in the way they interact with the world. He leads us through Jobs’ childhood and upbringing, through the rebellious years as a teenager and college student to the creation of Apple. It guides us through the years as Jobs created a company in his parents’ garage in 1976 and built it into the world’s most valuable company within 35 years.
Jobs was a creative genius and driven individual. Most people who only know him from stage appearances and magazine articles will not know just how difficult, obnoxious and outright abusive and insensitive a person he was to be around. Petulant, impetuous, conniving, sometimes lying and deceiving, he would trample over anyone and everyone in his way. I realize now that Jobs was successful in spite of himself. Had he been more measured a person, who knows what heights he could have reached – or could he?
Apple was formed when Jobs and Wozniak signed their partnership agreement on April 1, 1976. I remember that day clearly because it was my first day reporting to military service. There are a few days in life that every man remembers forever. Reporting to boot camp is one of them. I remember the day, the weather, the feeling, and thinking of the fact that two guys in Palo Alto made a decision that day that would fundamentally change things for a lot of people for a long time is staggering. One of the facts that strikes me is how long ago it was, a lifetime ago, in Jobs’ case.
I also found myself thinking about where I was with my life in the various stages of Jobs’ life and career, and I followed along, as he changed industry after industry fundamentally. Jobs stands shoulder to shoulder with Edison and Ford today. He changed personal computing, the music industry, the cell phone industry, the movie business, manufacturing and electronic design. He invented a number of new technologies that granted, others would have invented eventually, but he did it first.
As I followed along and drew parallels in my own life to get perspective on the timing and state of affairs in the world, I put the book down at the end with inspiration: Today is April 1, 1976. There is somebody, somewhere in the world, signing an agreement for a new company that will make things different for many people in the decades to come. It takes vision, dedication and a lifetime of work to make it happen. Who will do it? Will I? Will you?
Today is that day.