January 22, 2012

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

[STEPHEN WOZNIAK – one of the three founders of Apple. He is a gem of a person. However, such good hearted people cannot grow up much. Steve is a tough person (control freak & perfectionist) and the book showed no mercy in revealing all aspect of his personality that includes ‘the other side’.

This is a great book on an amazing genius of our time.

Following some of my picks!]

[His Childhood & college life] Seventeen years earlier, Jobs’s parents had made a pledge when they adopted him: He would go to college. So they had worked hard and saved dutifully for his college fund, which was modest but adequate by the time he graduated.

But Jobs, becoming ever more willful, did not make it easy. Instead he insisted on applying only to Reed College, a private liberal arts school in Portland, Oregon, that was one of the most expensive in the nation. He was visiting Woz at Berkeley when his father called to say an acceptance letter had arrived from Reed, and he tried to talk Steve out of going there. So did his mother. It was far more than they could afford, they said. But their son responded with an ultimatum: If he couldn’t go to Reed, he wouldn’t go anywhere. They relented, as usual.

[When he decided to drop from the expensive college, Reed]Jobs also began to feel guilty, he later said, about spending so much of his parents’ money on an education that did not seem worthwhile. “I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out okay.”

[India Trip] At one point Jobs was told of a young Hindu holy man who was holding a gathering of his followers at the Himalayan estate of a wealthy businessman. “It was a chance to meet a spiritual being and hang out with his followers, but it was also a chance to have a good meal. I could smell the food as we got near, and I was very hungry.” As Jobs was eating, the holy man—who was not much older than Jobs—picked him out of the crowd, pointed at him, and began laughing maniacally. “He came running over and grabbed me and made a tooting sound and said, ‘You are just like a baby,’” recalled Jobs. “I was not relishing this attention.” Taking Jobs by the hand, he led him out of the worshipful crowd and walked him up to a hill, where there was a well and a small pond. “We sit down and he pulls out this straight razor. I’m thinking he’s a nutcase and begin to worry. Then he pulls out a bar of soap—I had long hair at the time—and he lathered up my hair and shaved my head. He told me that he was saving my health.

Daniel Kottke arrived in India at the beginning of the summer, and Jobs went back to New Delhi to meet him. They wandered, mainly by bus, rather aimlessly. By this point Jobs was no longer trying to find a guru who could impart wisdom, but instead was seeking enlightenment through ascetic experience, deprivation, and simplicity. He was not able to achieve inner calm. Kottke remembers him getting into a furious shouting match

with a Hindu woman in a village marketplace who, Jobs alleged, had been watering down the milk she was selling them.

After coming back to US after seven months in India: “My head had been shaved, I was wearing Indian cotton robes, and my skin had turned a deep, chocolate brown-red from the sun,” he recalled. “So I’m sitting there and my parents walked past me about five times and finally my mother came up and said ‘Steve?’ and I said ‘Hi!’”

Coming back to America was, for me, much more of a cultural shock than going to India. The people in the Indian countryside don’t use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead, and their intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the world. Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work. Western rational thought is not an innate human characteristic; it is learned and is the great achievement of Western civilization. In the villages of India, they never learned it. They learned something else, which is in some ways just as valuable but in other ways is not. That’s the power of intuition and experiential wisdom. Zen Buddhism has been a deep influence in my life ever since.

Vegetarianism and Zen Buddhism, meditation and spirituality, acid and rock—Jobs rolled together, in an amped-up way, the multiple impulses that were hallmarks of the enlightenment-seeking campus subculture of the era. The Autobiography of a Yogi, the guide to meditation and spirituality that he had first read as a teenager, then reread in India, and had read once a year ever since

Taking LSD was one of the two or three most important things he’d done in his life, Jobs told Markoff. People who had never taken acid would never fully understand him.

His mischievous interview questions were “How many of you are virgins? How many of you have taken LSD?”

Asked if he wanted to do market research, he said, “No, because customers don’t know what they want until we’ve shown them.”

[Perfection to the details] Rand came up with a colorful type treatment, which Jobs liked, but they ended up having a lengthy and heated disagreement about the placement of the period after the “P” in Steven P. Jobs. Rand had placed the period to the right of the “P.”, as it would appear if set in lead type. Steve preferred the period to be nudged to the left, under the curve of the “P.”, as is possible with digital typography. “It was a fairly large argument about something relatively small,” Susan Kare recalled. On this one Jobs prevailed.

[Another mischievous] At one point Jobs and Ellison (Founder/CEO Oracle) pulled a prank on a clueless computer consultant who was campaigning for the job(as CEO of Apple); they sent him an email saying that he had been selected, which caused both amusement and embarrassment when stories appeared in the papers that they were just toying with him.

[Ellison's plan to buy out Apple for his best buddy, Jobs [when Jobs were ousted from Apple] Once again Ellison publicly floated the idea of doing a hostile takeover and installing his “best friend” Jobs as CEO. “Steve’s the only one who can save Apple,” he told reporters. “I’m ready to help him the minute he says the word.”

“It’s better to be a pirate than to join the navy. He wanted to instill a rebel spirit in his team division. One of Jobs’s business rules was to never be afraid of cannibalizing yourself. “If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will,” he said.

“In his presence, reality is malleable. He can convince anyone of practically anything. “It was dangerous to get caught in Steve’s distortion field, but it was what led him to actually be able to change reality.”

Recounting the scene (Think Different Advertisement) years later, Jobs started to cry. This chokes me up, this really chokes me up. It was so clear that Lee loved Apple so much. Here was the best guy in advertising. And he hadn’t pitched in ten years. Yet here he was, and he was pitching his heart out, because he loved Apple as much as we did. He and his team had come up with this brilliant idea, “Think Different.” And it was ten times better than anything the other agencies showed. It choked me up, and it still makes me cry to think about it, both the fact that Lee cared so much and also how brilliant his “Think Different” idea was. Every once
in a while, I find myself in the presence of purity—purity of spirit and love—and I always cry. It always just reaches in and grabs me. That was one of those moments. There was a purity about that I will never forget. I cried in my office as he was showing me the idea, and I still cry when I think about it.

[Steve’s return to Apple where he cut most of existing products and retained only four]
After a few weeks Jobs finally had enough. “Stop!” he shouted at one big product strategy session. “This is crazy.” He grabbed a magic marker, padded to a whiteboard, and drew a horizontal and vertical line to make a four-squared chart. “Here’s what we need,” he continued. Atop the two

columns he wrote “Consumer” and “Pro”; he labeled the two rows “Desktop” and “Portable.” Their job, he said, was to make four great products, one for each quadrant. “The room was in dumb silence,” Schiller recalled.

In return for speaking at the retreat, Jobs got Murdoch to hear him out on Fox News, which he believed was destructive, harmful to the nation, and a blot on Murdoch’s reputation. “You’re blowing it with Fox News,” Jobs told him over dinner. “The axis today is not liberal and conservative, the axis is constructive-destructive, and you’ve cast your lot with the destructive people. Fox has become an incredibly destructive force in our society. You can be better, and this is going to be your legacy if you’re not careful.” Jobs said he thought Murdoch did not really like how far Fox had gone.“Rupert’s a builder, not a tearer-downer,” he said. “I’ve had some meetings with James, and I think he agrees with me. I can just tell.”

[Comparing Microsoft] 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.

[On Android] Our lawsuit is saying, “Google, you fucking ripped off the iPhone, wholesale ripped us off.” Grand theft. I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go to thermonuclear war on this. They are scared to death, because they know they are guilty. Outside of Search, Google’s products—Android, Google Docs—are shit.

[Taking his high-school son, Reed during iPhone 4 Antenna crisis] “I’m going to be in meetings 24/7 for probably two days and I want you to be in every single one because you’ll learn more in those two days than you would in two years at business school,” he told him. “You’re going to be in the room with the best people in the world making really tough decisions and get to see how the sausage is made.”

It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough. We believe that it’s technology married with the humanities that yields us the result that makes our heart sing. Nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices. Folks are rushing into this tablet market, and they’re looking at it as the next PC, in which the hardware and the software are done by different companies. Our experience, and every bone in our body, says that is not the right approach. These are post-PC devices that need to be even more intuitive and easier to use than a PC, and where the software and the hardware and the applications need to be intertwined in an even more seamless way than they are on a PC. We think we have the right architecture not just in silicon, but in our organization, to build these kinds of products. It was an architecture that was bred not just into the organization he had built, but into his own soul.

The announcement of Jobs’s 2011 medical leave prompted others to make a pilgrimage to the house in Palo Alto. Bill Clinton, for example, came by and talked about everything from the Middle East to American politics. But the most poignant visit was from the other tech prodigy born in 1955, the guy who, for more than three decades, had been Jobs’s rival and partner in defining the age of personal computers. Bill Gates had never lost his fascination with Jobs. Through their mutual friend Mike Slade, Gates made arrangements to visit Jobs in May. The day before it was supposed to happen, Jobs’s assistant called to say he wasn’t feeling well enough. But it was rescheduled, and early one afternoon Gates drove to Jobs’s house, walked through the back gate to the open kitchen door, and saw Eve studying at the table. “Is Steve around?” he asked. Eve pointed him to the living room. Their discussion lasted three hours.

When our discussion turned to the sorry state of the economy and politics, he offered a few sharp opinions about the lack of strong leadership around the world. “I’m disappointed in Obama,” he said. “He’s having trouble leading because he’s reluctant to offend people or piss them off.” He caught what I was thinking and assented with a little smile: “Yes, that’s not a problem I ever had.”

Some leaders push innovations by being good at the big picture. Others do so by mastering details. Jobs did both, relentlessly. As a result he 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.

Was he smart? No, not exceptionally. Instead, he was a genius. His imaginative leaps were instinctive, unexpected, and at times magical. He was, indeed, an example of what the mathematician Mark Kac called a magician genius, someone whose insights come out of the blue and require intuition more than mere mental processing power. Like a pathfinder, he could absorb information, sniff the winds, and sense what lay ahead.

I have my own theory about why decline happens at companies like IBM or Microsoft. The company does a great job, innovates and becomes a monopoly or close to it in some field, and then the quality of the product becomes less important. The company starts valuing the great salesmen, because they’re the ones who can move the needle on revenues, not the product engineers and designers. So the salespeople end up running the company. You’ve got to be able to be super honest. Maybe there’s a better way, a gentlemen’s club where we all wear ties and speak in this Brahmin language and velvet code- words, but I don’t know that way, because I am middle class from California.

Then he looked at her (Ann Bowers, the widow of Intel’s cofounder Bob Noyce) and asked, intently, a question that almost floored her: “Tell me, what was I like when I was young?” Bowers tried to give him an honest answer. “You were very impetuous and very difficult,” she replied. “But your vision was compelling. You told us, ‘The journey is the reward.’ That turned out to be true.”

What drove me? I think most creative people want to express appreciation for being able to take advantage of the work that’s been done by others before us. I didn’t invent the language or mathematics I use. I make little of my own food, none of my own clothes. Everything I do depends on other members of our species and the shoulders that we stand on. And a lot of us want to contribute something back to our species and to add something to the flow. It’s about trying to express something in the only way that most of us know how—because we can’t write Bob Dylan songs or Tom Stoppard plays. We try to use the talents we do have to express our deep feelings, to show our appreciation of all the contributions that came before us, and to add something to that flow. That’s what has driven me.

“I’m about fifty-fifty on believing in God,” he said. “For most of my life, I’ve felt that there must be more to our existence than meets the eye.” He admitted that, as he faced death, he might be overestimating the odds out of a desire to believe in an afterlife. “I like to think that something survives after you die,” he said. “It’s strange to think that you accumulate all this experience, and maybe a little wisdom, and it just goes away. So I really want to believe that something survives, that maybe your consciousness endures.”

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