Saturday, March 14, 2015

Reflections: Steve Jobs

One of the things Steve Jobs is known for is his piercing stare.  As a young man he fine-tuned and perfected the ability to stare at someone without blinking as a way to intimidate them into doing what he wanted.  (The cover of Steve Jobs's biography has a portrait of Jobs with what appears to be that glare, and if you really focus on it you may get a small glimpse of what that stare must have felt like in person).  That odd trait also illustrates the incredible focus Jobs had as a visionary and businessman.  He was indeed brilliant and shepherded new products that have had an incredible impact on the entire planet, but he was also a bulldozer who trampled those around him to achieve his goals.  Reading about the life of Steve Jobs will both leave you in awe and with a bad taste in your mouth.

Steve Jobs the biography is the best business book I've ever read.  I have tried on several occasions to read business-oriented books, such as The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The Wisdom of Teams, and Who Moved My Cheese?, and have always walked away feeling somewhat disappointed.  Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs, however, puts on display a business leader who showcases some of the best business acumen ever known, as well as someone who was a nightmarish manager who prided himself on having no filter.  He was the embodiment of unrestrained honesty.  He saw the world in binary terms.  Products and people were either brilliant or sucked.  (Steve Jobs often used more colorful language).  It's incredible how much there is to discuss and debate in this book.  It should be required reading for anyone wanting to learn about business, marketing, and consumer products.  Furthermore, Steve Jobs the biography provides a wonderfully intimate and honest glimpse into the world of corporate CEOs.

As much as we can justifiably admire Steve Jobs for his contributions to the human experience, we are also faced with his glaring frailties and weaknesses.  Steve Jobs the biography appears to be a honest rehearsal of who the man really was, warts and all.  (I appreciate this because I have read other biographies that appear to be far too sanitized and subsequently lose sight of what makes their subject interesting).  He could be incredibly cruel to people, including his own family.  He was inconsiderate and brutal in his evaluations of others; yet, he also drove people to accomplish things even they didn't believe they could.  That was part of his genius.  Some of those who worked for and with him came to appreciate and value that.  Others were just left behind.  Perhaps just like the people who associated with him, I found myself both loving and loathing Steve Jobs, sometimes from one page to the next.  He's worthy of admiration in some ways, and unworthy of imitation in other ways. 

Steve Jobs the biography caused me more reflection of my own life and contribution than perhaps any other book in years.  Especially as Steve Jobs gets close to the end of his life, he, as well as the reader, begins to ponder about their legacy, what they're leaving behind, and what's most important.  The book causes introspection, self-evaluation, and probably some self-correction.  This was one of the best biographies I've ever read.

This is a great book.  It's compelling, fascinating, and, at least for me, motivational in a way I was not expecting.  One can learn a great deal from Steve Jobs's life, as much about what to do as what not to do.  And if you can learn from that, then Steve Jobs's impact in your life will extend beyond the consumer products he helped design, create, and make a part of our every day life and experience.

Other Topics of Interest:
Reflections: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Reflections: Too Big To Know
Thousander Must-Reads

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