Steve Jobs Biography: Insanely Great

Steve Jobs Biography: Insanely Great

My cobbled notes on the Steve Jobs biography…

First, one of my favorite quotes that makes my hair stand up:

The people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.

This book has a few recurring themes:

  1. Steve Jobs is a dick and seems to be able to exploit others into doing what he wills. This is both good and bad.
  2. Steve Jobs has a reality distortion field; see #1.
  3. Steve Jobs is meticulous about the design of just about anything.

My notes will focus more on Steve Jobs the entrepreneur.

The book establishes early on that Steve Jobs has a disdain for authority. After reading this and some of the anecdotes regarding his family history, I felt as if Isaacson wrote part of the book for me. It spoke to me personally. Perhaps, that means it was well written? Forget the haters.

A quote about religion that resonated with me:

The juice goes out of Christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it. I think different religions are different doors to the same house. Sometimes, I think the house exists, and sometimes I don’t. It’s a great mystery.

I enjoyed the early tales of Jobs seeking enlightenment and prajna - much like my journey.

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 instad, and their intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the world. Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect.

Think about that statement for a moment; think about how it relates to products. Of course their are biases, but I think that it could be said that making a product intuitive or one that appeals to intuition far outweighs those that appeal to the intellect. People are not rational, and have different levels of intellect. Products that appeal to intellect aren’t necessarily bad, see: Vim. They are just niche products. When a person wants to have an impact upon the world, like Jobs, this must be considered.

My vision was to create the first fully packaged computer. We were no longer aiming for the handful of hobbyists who liked to assemble their own computers, who knew how to buy transformers and keyboards. For every one of them, there were a thousand people who would want the machine to be ready to run.

Markkula (original investor in Apple) wrote a one page paper: “The Apple Marketing Philosphy”:

Empathy. An intimate connection with the feelings of the customer. We will truly understand the needs of the customer better than any other company.\ Focus. In order to do a good job of those things that we decide to do, we must eliminate all of the unimportant opportunities.\ Impute. People form an opinion of a company by the signals that it conveys. People do judge a book by it’s cover.

Often attributed to Leonardo da Vinci: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” This became one of the maxim’s for Jobs’s design philosophy.

The Apple II, Lisa, Xerox PARC, and Macintosh stories set the stage for Job’s core beliefs on products:

  1. Design leads engineering. That is to say, the design dictates everything. Engineering must find a way to make it work with the design. Most companies are backwards in this regard.
  2. Simple products are easier to use.
  3. Customers don’t know what they want, Apple must show them.
  4. For the best product experience, Apple must own it end-to-end. Hardware and software in contrast to the PC environment where Microsoft just owns the operating system.

On competition…

Steve had a way of motivating by looking at the bigger picture. Jobs thought of himself as an artist and he encourage others to think this way too. His goal was never to make a lot of money or to be competition, it was to do the greatest thing possible or even a little greater.

Does it feel to you like companies get competition all wrong? They are so focused on what their competition is doing, instead of just being the best at what they can be. Companies lose focus by doing this.

The book doesn’t conclude this, but I wonder if part of the reason he did this was to instill cultural pride in his employees. If they feel they must focus on these details, then they’ll ingrain this philosophy in their heads day in and day out. Thus, being a bit more meticulous about their crafts.

On employees…

I learned over the years that A-plus players like to work together, and they don’t like it if you tolerate B work.

So true.

Jobs had incessant demands for perfectionism in things that most people won’t care about. Two examples:

  1. The inside of the cases and how Jobs wanted them to look neat and clean.
  2. The way his factories look and how he detailed he wanted machinery to look and operate. Even positioning.

Rebel Spirit…

It’s better to be a pirate than to join the navy.

Market Research when asked about launching the Mac…

Did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research when inventing the telephone?

On Focus…

Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what do to. That’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.

On Design…

Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I felt as if I was taking a tour of the mind of Steve Jobs and what made him tick.

Now, imagine what a person could do if they could lead in a more humble manner, giving their employees credit, not stealing the spotlight, but not being afraid of calling people out on their bullshit and pushing them to their limits? Imagine if this person had a rebellious attitude and a disdain for authority. What if this person had an overwhelming desire to be honest, even at his own expense? Imagine if this person had a love of simplicity and art. Imagine that this person is driven with a passion to deliver maximum impact on improving people’s lives. Could this person change the world? We’ll see.


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