If you're like me the first thing that strikes in reading this book is how mythological it is.
Put up for closed adoption by unmarried parents who eventually married, rejected by the first would be adoptive parents, then adopted by working class parents, it would be difficult to imagine a more inauspicious beginning, or a more auspicious outcome. Steve Jobs would grow up to prove that an apple can fall quite far from the tree, and still blossom. Abandoned, the chosen one, special.
Firstly, I don't think there is any such thing as an illegitimate child, only illegitimate parents.
The public life and business achievements have been well chronicled, and I didn't want to read a book about Apple. I wondered about the family life, the relationship with Bill Gates, were they collaborators or competitors, some of the other cast of characters. I wondered how much of Apple's great accomplishments were due to Jobs, what effect his passing would have on the future of Apple. I wondered about how he got the Beatles music, and the reputedly fractious relationship with Apple records.
Isaacson has put together a narrative never less than fascinating about a mercurial man. My opinion of Jobs did not change as a result of reading this book. He already struck me as being a highly driven type A personality, narcissistic, aggressive, perfectionistic. Certainly these traits contributed to both his successes and his setbacks, and made him a difficult man to get along with, but those high standards imposed by a drive for perfection, and a demanding lack of compassion, would also draw out of people abilities, creativity, and great accomplishments.
Certainly, Isaacson's unvarnished portrait, means many people will not find Jobs the man appealing, and will not condone certain of his behaviors, and I commend Jobs for his honesty in allowing that. Perhaps the biggest surprise that he let go of his controlling tendencies, and did not seek to approve the book.
Ironically at age 22, he would find himself in the exact same position as his adoptive parents at that age, and would not acknowledge his out of wedlock child Lisa. He would eventually reverse that position before Apple went public agreeing to a DNA test, and making an arrangement. I was interested to discover that he has a lost sister Mona Simpson, an author who has written a book, A Regular Guy
: A Novel, the main character based on Jobs and the relationship with his daughter Lisa.
Nemesis follows hubris with punishing fall from grace at Apple, betrayed by his hand picked underling, fired by the company he founded, exiled, buying Pixar off George Lucas for $5 million, selling it to Disney for a reputed $500 million, eventually returning as conquering hero to regain his throne, after many lean years the kingdom would once again prosper.
Among his influences were The Beatles, particularly John Lennon, also rejected by both his parents, and raised by an aunt. The Beatles being greater than the sum of the individual parts would inpsire his own management style of making better products through teamwork. Perhaps more surprising was his relating to Captain Ahab from Moby Dick, and that despotic tyrant King Lear.
The strength of this book, unfettered access to Jobs, the uncensored commentary and insights, of family, friends, business associates, even enemies, and critics.
I enjoyed the story of how he met his wife Laurene Powell. Her name is quite similar to my name, Laurence Power, and she has a degree in Economics. I enjoyed the humor and pranks of the early days with Wosniak. I particularly like calling the Vatican prank pretending to be Kissinger, collecting bootleg Dylan recordings, and illicitly mimicing the long distance beeps. I also enjoyed reading of the reality distortion field sometimes employed effectively, sometimes not. He would one day meet his father in a restaurant but neither would be aware that they met.
The book did answer most of my questions, yet I do not give it five stars. Here is why:
Recently, I have bought several quotation books, and when I learned Jobs illness was fatal, I started looking up quotes by Jobs.
Some quotation books such as Bartlett, Forbes Business quotes, and so forth do not have any Jobs quotes. Oxford and Yale each have two. In fact most quote books do not have many if any quotes by business leaders. Hopefully, this will be addressed. In fact, the The Ultimate Book of Investment Quotations (The Ultimate Series) book I found to be the only decent book that quotes business leaders and investment experts.
If you look at the Stanford commencement speech for example, available where video clips are seen, Jobs has many good quotes, and has great presentation skills. In fact, I understand there are about 100 books due to be published about Jobs.
While Isaacson's book contains many good quotes, most of these are by other people about Jobs, by Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Andy Grove, Al Gore and many others. Perhaps my favorite was the Herman Hermits quote by Bono. What I found curiously lacking were so few great quotes by Jobs himself. When I watched the Stanford speech on youtube, I wrote down six or seven quotes from that speech alone. Isaacson references the speech but barely quotes it.
Certainly, he could have sprinkled some of Jobs best quotes throughout the book. If he had done this I would definitely give the book five stars. Hopefully, this will be addressed in future editions and printings. That would make both an honest depiction and a fitting tribute to a great visionary.
Jobs: The Beatles all want to be on iTunes, but they and EMI are like an old married couple. They hate each other but can't get divorced.
Jobs: Picasso had a saying, good artists copy, great artists steal.
Alan Kay maxim adopted by Jobs: The best way to predict the future is to invent it.
Tim Cook: I realised very early that if you didn't voice your opinion he would mow you down. He takes contrary positions to create more discussion because it may lead to a better result. So, if you don't feel comfortable disagreeing, then you'll never survive.
As I read the book, three quotes by George Bernard Shaw came to mind:
The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him. The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself. All progress depends on the unreasonable man.
If I give you an apple, and you give me an apple we each have an apple. If I give you an idea, and you give me an idea, we each have two ideas. Jobs certainly turned apples and ideas into dollars).
Some people see things as they are and ask why. Steve Jobs dreamed things that never were and asked, why not?
As a result we have iPad, iPod, iPhone, iTunes, iMac, iBooks.
I think you will enjoy it, if you choose to get it, and I hope this was helpful.