Steve Jobs

by Walter Isaacson

Read:  2017-01-21, Rating:  10/10.

Gripping life story full of takeaways for an engineer, businessman, student. I couldn’t put the book down.

My Takeaways:

  1. Strive for simplicity, Minimalism, Zen
  2. Organize and Motivate A-players
  3. Ask “What is the Purpose?”
  4. Never use PowerPoint again
  5. Laser Focused Eye Contact

My Notes:

Biological father was a Syrian Muslim and biological mother was Catholic. Steve was supposed to be adopted by lawyers, but last minute decided they wanted a girl. Steve was adopted by a hard working mechanic and housewife. Lots of influences from his father. Job’s father had once taught Steve that a drive for perfection meant caring about the craftsmanship even of the parts unseen. Jobs took interest in electronics. Jobs took one year of John McCollum’s electronics class.

Steve Wozniak was a legend in McCollum’s electronics class. But emotionally and socially he was still a high school geek. Woz was a son of an engineer. “I remember him telling me that engineering was the highest level of importance you could reach in the world. It takes society to a new level.” Steve Jobs met Steve Wozniak in Bill Fernandez’s garage in Silicon Valley. The two Steves bonded over pranks, electronics and music. “Woz was the first person I’d met who knew more electronics than I did.” Together they made illegal blue boxes to generate tones for long-distance phone calls.

Instead of Berkeley or Stanford, Steve insisted on applying only to Reed College. A vegetarian, he experimented with extreme diets and use of psychedelic drugs (he was really into LSD). He started practicing Zen Buddhism. Took a calligraphy class and learned to appreciate typography and minimalist design.

This fusion of flower power and processor power, enlightenment and technology, was embodied by Steve Jobs as he meditated in the mornings, audited physics classes at Stanford, worked nights at Atari, and dreamed of starting his own business.

The Homebrew Computer Club – Steve Wozniak started to sketch out on paper what would later become known as the Apple I.

“I designed the Apple I because I wanted to give it away for free to other people.”

“Every time I’d design something great, Steve would find a way to make money for us.”

Jobs was awed by Wozniak’s engineering wizardry, and Wozniak was awed by Jobs’s business drive.

The Jobs house in Los Altos became the assembly point for the first order of Apple I boards. Paul Jobs suspended his sideline of repairing old cars so that the Apple team could have the whole garage.

Jobs wanted to provide power in a way that avoided the need for a fan. Fans inside computers were not Zen-like; they distracted.

“That switching power supply was as revolutionary as the Apple II logic board was. Rod [Holt] doesn’t get a lot of credit for this in the history books, but he should.”

On January 3, 1977, Apple Computer Co. was officially created.

Markkula wrote his principles in a one-page paper titled “The Apple Marketing Philosophy” that stressed three points: Empathy, Focus, Impute. “People DO judge a book by its cover.”

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

“He was an enlightened being who was cruel.”

Xerox PARC scientist Alan Kay had two great maxims

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it”

“People who are serious about software should make their own hardware”

The Apple raid on Xerox PARC is sometimes described as one of the biggest heists in the chronicles of industry.

“Steve wasn’t much of an engineer himself, but he was very good at assessing people’s answers.” Bill Atkinson

He was an anti-materialistic hippie who capitalized on the inventions of a friend who wanted to give them away for free, and he was a Zen devotee who made a pilgrimage to India and then decided that his calling was to create a business.

Yet the houses he lived in, no matter how rich he became, tended not to be ostentatious and were furnished so simply.

“I went from fairly poor, which was wonderful, because I didn’t have to worry about money, to being incredibly rich, when I also didn’t have to worry about money.” Steve Jobs

“Now students aren’t even thinking in idealistic terms, or at least nowhere near as much. The idealistic wind of the sixties is still at our backs, though, and most of the people I know who are my age have that ingrained in them forever.” Steve Jobs

“Steve has a reality distortion field. In his presence, reality is malleable. He can convince anyone of practically anything.” Bud Tribble

“He can deceive himself. It allowed him to con people into believing his vision, because he has personally embraced and internalized it.” Bill Atkinson

People were either “enlightened” or “an asshole.” Their work was either “the best” or “totally shitty.”

“The Mac team taught me that A-plus players like to work together, and they don’t like it if you tolerate B work” Steve Jobs

“Can you imagine looking at that every day?”

“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”

“I know I might be a little hard to get along with, but this is the most fun thing I’ve done in my life.”

“Did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research before he invented the telephone?”

Bill Gates found him “fundamentally odd” and “weirdly flawed as a human being,” and he was put off by Jobs’s rudeness and his tendency to be “either in the mode of saying you were shit or trying to seduce you.”

Microsoft 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.

From his Macintosh experience: “It’s too easy, as a team grows, to put up with a few B players, and they then attract a few more B players, and soon you will even have some C players”

It’s not quite right to say that he is sitting through this staff meeting, because Jobs doesn’t sit through much of anything; one of the ways he dominates is through sheer movement. One moment he’s kneeling in his chair; the next minute he’s slouching in it; the next he has leaped out of his chair entirely and is scribbling on the blackboard directly behind him. He is full of mannerisms.

“He was both romantic and afraid to be romantic.”

On March 18, 1991, Steven Paul Jobs married Laurene Powell, at the Ahwahnee Lodge in Yosemite National Park

He wanted around him only things that he could admire, and that made it hard simply to go out and buy a lot of furniture.

“What is the purpose of a sofa?”

Buying appliances was also philosophical task, not just an impulse purchase.

Their child was known for two weeks as “baby boy Jobs,” because settling on a name was proving only slightly less difficult than choosing a washing machine. Finally, they named him Reed Paul Jobs.

Jobs was known during his career for creating great products. But just as significant was his ability to create great companies with valuable brands. And he created two of the best in his era: Apple and Pixar.

For all his willfulness and insatiable desire to control things, Jobs was indecisive and reticent when he felt unsure about something. He craved perfection, and he was not always good at figuring out how to settle for something less.

Jobs personal heroes. They tended to be creative people who had taken risks, defied failure, and bet their career on doing things in a different way.

“I discovered that the best innovation is sometimes the company, the way you organize a company.”

One of the first things jobs did during the product review process was ban PowerPoints

“People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint” Steve Jobs

He finally began asking simple questions “Which ones do I tell my friends to buy?”

My role model was J Robert Oppenheimer. I read about the type of people he sought for the atom bomb project. I wasn’t nearly as good as he was, but that’s what I aspired to do.

“He’s pathological, which can be useful in negotiations. And he’s a genius” Andy Lack “I fought for Sony and the music industry, so I can see why he thought I was a dick.”

Jobs did not organize Apple into semiautonomous division; he closely controlled all of his team and pushed them to work s on cohesive and flexible company, with one profit-and-loss bottom line.

Alex Haley once said the best ways begin a speech is “Let me tell you a story”

Monday morning executive team gathering… the focus was always on the future. This served to centralize control… and prevented he struggles between divisions that plagued decentralized companies.

Memento mori“: Remember you will die

Ive “Because of how very sensitive he is, he knows how to efficiently and effectively hurt someone. And he does do that.”

“It’s simply who I am” Steve Jobs

He could taste two avocados that most mortals would find indistinguishable, and declare one was the best avocado ever grown and the other was inedible

“Nothing kills humor like a general and boring truth” Scott Adams

The Autobiography of a Yogi, the guide to meditation and spirituality that he read as a teenager, then reread in India, and had read once a year ever since

“Years passed, kids came, good times, hard times , but never bad times. Our love and respect has endured and grown.” Steve Jobs

Reed adored his father. His father as not a cold profit-seeking businessman but was motivated by a love of what he did and a pride in the products he was making.

“Like many great men whose gifts we extraordinary, he’s not extraordinary in every realm”

“The Valley has been very supportive of me. I should do my best to repay” Steve Jobs

“I’ve had a very lucky career, a very lucky life. I’ve done all that I can do”