I read historic biographies. They are the books I like most. I don’t have much time for fiction, so I would at least like to read something well written about someone real who did something historic. John Adams by David McCullough remains one of my favorites. William Pitt by William Hague is another.
I sat down last week on my iPad and began reading, until my hard copy arrived, Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. Wow.
I am am Apple fan. I have, right now in my office, my iMac, iPhone, iPad 2, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Airport Base Station. Throughout the house there are plenty of other Apple gadgets. Growing up, most of my friends were hackers who wanted to rip open a computer, take it apart, and play. I just wanted to use the computer. I wanted a Mac.
My school education happened in Dubai at the Jumeirah American School. Encounters with computers came in the first grade with the Apple II. By fourth grade, all the students in my grade were required to take Logo programming on an Apple IIe. By my ninth grade year I routinely used the Apple IIgs and occasionally got to dabble on a Mac.
Jobs was in exile by then.
This biography gives a historic account of a man who had and will continue to have a profound impact on the world. It is weird to encounter a historic biography about a man only just buried. But it is historic nonetheless.
Jobs was more than a bit of a jerk, but he was also brilliant and able to pull out of people some of their best work. He was on many patents not because he per se invented the product or process, but because he perfected them in a way others could not.
The biography really gets me focusing as well on what I want to do when i grow up — exactly what can I accomplish and how do I accomplish it. The end result is not to be another Steve Jobs, but the best you that you can be. While not all the management tips would be useful, e.g. berating someone until they cry in front of a crowd, many of them are, including going on intuition as much as reasoned thought.
You don’t have to be an Apple fan to appreciate this biography. It is a reasonable and non-technical read about a man who changed all of our lives.
Along the way, and I don’t mean this to be a political point, I kept thinking of other people like Rush Limbaugh. He’s a Jobs fan, i know. But one thing they have in common is a quest for perfection. Jobs and Rush both developed products no one knew they needed and now we can’t live without them. Along the way, they’ve kept refining and perfecting their products.
It really is amazing to see this evolution of genius over time. There’ll never be another Rush Limbaugh. He is why I’d rather guest host his show than have my own national show. You’ll never even have a chance to be number one as long as he is around.
The most impressive thing about Steve Jobs is that not only was he number one while he was around, but he worked very, very hard to ensure his company would stay number one after he left. There’s a valuable lesson there. Jobs had a tough time coming to terms with not being indispensable. But, once he did, he made sure his company would be indispensable to many of us.