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Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

​Walter Isaacson is in my opinion the best writer when it comes to biographies and Steve Jobs has one of the most fascinating stories to tell. He was adopted; one of the early Silicon Valley tech startups; an underdog to Bill Gates and Microsoft for so long; fired from the company he started; his new company called NEXT didn't succeed; came back to run Apple; gave the world the smartphone, ipod, ipad, Pixar movies and then died young. The book is long but is a very easy to read due to Walter's great writing style and it doesn't disappoint.


"I came of age at a magical time, Steve Jobs reflected later. "Our consciousness was raised by Zen, and also by LSD." Even later in life he would credit psychedelic drugs for making him more enlightened. "Taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows that there is another side to the coin, and you can't remember it when it wears off, but you know it. It reinforced my sense of what was important - creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could."

Mike Markkula, [an early venture capitalist for Apple and father-type figure to Steve,] emphasized to Steve Jobs that you should never start a company with the goal of getting rich. Your goal should be making something you believe in and making a company that will last.

Pg 78 - [Mike also wrote a one-page paper titled the Apple Marketing Philosophy. It stressed empathy, focus, and impute. Impute is how something is represented. Mark told Steve Jobs that people DO judge a book by its cover, so an Apple product should always be represented in the best way in order to convey to the customer its value.]

“We may have the best product, the highest quality, the most useful software etc.; but if we present them in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as slipshod; if we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will impute the desired qualities.” – Mike Markkula to Steve

Apple had been more innovative, imaginative, elegant in execution, and brilliant in design. But even though Microsoft created a crudely copied series of products, it would end up winning the war of operating systems. This exposed an aesthetic flaw in how the universe worked: the best and most innovative products don't always win. [Steve’s opinion on losing to Microsoft in the operating system battle]

When asked about his obsessive concern over the look of the factory, Jobs said, “I'd go out to the factory, and I'd put on a white glove to check for dust. I’d find it everywhere – on machines, on the top of racks, on the floor. And I’d ask Debi to get it cleaned. I told her I thought we should be able to eat off the floor of the factory. Well, this drove Debi up the wall. She didn’t understand why. And I couldn’t articulate it back then. See, I’d been very influenced by what I’d seen in Japan. Part of what I greatly admired there – and part of what we were lacking in our factory was a sense of teamwork and discipline. If we didn’t have the discipline to keep that place spotless, then we weren’t going to have the discipline to keep all these machines running.”

“Your thoughts construct patterns like scaffolding in your mind. You are really etching chemical patterns. In most cases, people get stuck in those patterns, just like grooves in a record, and they never get out of them. I’ll always stay connected with Apple. I hope that throughout my life I’ll sort of have the thread of my life and the thread of Apple weave in and out of each other, like a tapestry. There may be a few years when I’m not there, but I’ll always come back… If you want to live your life in a creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much. You have to be willing to take whatever you’ve done and whoever you were and throw them away. The more the outside world tries to reinforce an image of you, the harder it is to continue to be an artist, which is why a lot of times, artists have to say, “Bye. I have to go. I’m going crazy and I’m getting out of here.” And they go and hibernate somewhere. Maybe later they re-emerge a little different.” - Steve Jobs

[Jobs focused Apple on video rather than music just as companies like HP were allowing users to burn CDs. Jobs got rid of the tray disk drive and installed a more elegant slot drive because he wasn’t so concerned with burning CDs. Steve admitted that he really missed the boat on this and Apple needed to catch up fast. This shows you can’t get everything right. It’s too hard, especially in technology.]

"The mark of an innovative company is not only that it comes up with new ideas first, but that it knows how to leapfrog when it finds itself behind.” – Steve Jobs

Pg 383 Jobs once let a Time reporter meet Apple’s head of music software development but only under one condition. That the reporter wouldn't print his last name. Jobs felt that this employee (Jeff Robbin) was so valuable to Apple that he didn't want his last name out there so he could get stolen by a competitor.

[Steve Jobs on the failure of Microsoft’s competing portable music player, the Zune:] “The older I get, the more I see how much motivations matter. The Zune was crappy because the people at Microsoft don’t really love music or art the way we do. We won because we personally love music. We made the iPod for ourselves, and when you’re doing something for yourself, or your best friend or family, you’re not going to cheese out. If you don’t love something, you’re not going to go the extra mile, work the extra weekend, challenge the status quo as much.”

Pg 407-408 - Walter Isaacson describes how Sony failed at competing with Apple in the portable music player business. It was because Sony was a corporation that was organized into divisions all with their own profit statements. Jobs had his companies controlled to work in one cohesive and flexible unit with one profit and loss statement. Sony also worried about cannibalization. If one division of Sony created a portable music player to share songs then it would have hurt the profits of its record division.

There's a classic thing in business, which is the second product syndrome," Jobs later said. It comes from not understanding what made your first product so successful.

"There's a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat." [Steve Jobs] said. "That's crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they're doing, you say 'wow, and soon you're cooking up all sorts of ideas."

Pg 484 [This page describes when Steve Jobs got on the organ donor waiting list.] “It was dreadful.” Powell recalled. “It didn’t look like we would make it in time.” Everyday became more excruciating.

[A night after the announcement of the iPad, Steve Jobs told Walter Isaacson this:] "I got about 800 email messages in the last twenty-four hours. Most of them are complaining. There’s no USB cord! There’s no this, no that. Some of them are like, ‘Fuck you, how can you do that?’ I don’t usually write people back, but I replied, ‘Your parents would be so proud of how you turned out.’ And some don’t like the iPad name, and on and on. I kind of got depressed today. It knocks you back a bit.”

Steve Jobs as he battles cancer, “Living with a disease like this, and all the pain, constantly reminds you of your own mortality, and that can do strange things to your brain if you’re not careful. You don’t make plans more than a year out, and that’s bad. You need to force yourself to plan as if you will live for many years.”

Walter Isaacson asked Steve why he let him write the book and here is Steve’s answer, “I wanted my kids to know me. I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did. Also, when I got sick, I realized other people would write about me if I died, and they wouldn’t know anything. They’d get it all wrong. So I wanted to make sure someone heard what I had to say.”

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