Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

August 02, 20232 min read

⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Steve Jobs’ biography is an interesting insight into one of the most recognisable inventors of the 21st century. The book captures the story of his early life, growing up in the magical 60s counter-culture era where, as he put it “[our] consciousness was raised by Zen, and also by LSD.” This stemmed his inability to accept automatically received truths—a characteristic that defined his decisions throughout his business life.

‘Vegetarianism and Zen Buddhism, meditation and spirituality, acid and rock – Jobs rolled together, in an amped-up way, the multiple impulses that were hallmarks of the enlightenment-seeking campus sub-culture of the era.’

Living and embodying the nexus of counterculture and technology, with his ascetic outfit and political leanings, he tapped into a design system that was not to be defined for many years to come—human centred design. By intuitively understanding human desire, he scoffed at Market research, stating “No. Customers don’t know what they want until we’ve shown them.”.

His unwavering commitment for design and perfection, was forged by his father who as a mechanic drilled that the inside of a cabinet should look as beautiful as the outside. This commitment was strengthened, not tempered, as he contended with the manufacturing and cost side of developing products.

His mindset though, was clear. “The goal was never to beat the competition, or to make a lot of money. It was to do the greatest thing possible, or even a little greater.”

With this though, came the caveat that he could not make tradeoffs well. Things were either shit or perfect. Johnny Ive—the head of design at Apple stated that due to this, he was careful to not show new things straight away since ideas were fragile, and required tenderness. This showcased his more cold, and calculating side. He had a sociopathic ability to cut through people, and twist them to how he wanted—saying things that either could elevate you above the clouds, or strike you to the ground.

The biography shows multi-faceted man, whose ambition came at the expense of other areas of his life. It does not hold back criticism, yet also does not shy away from his achievements. It’s a cool read.

Read sometime in early July.

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Apurva Shukla

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