Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book Review: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

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I first knew about Steve Jobs when I was in primary school. Back then we have a computer room filled with the Macintosh. I wasn't really a computer whiz kid whatever, but it's a very sought-after subject that time. I was just a kid, and I managed to draw stuff on the computer, and it was touted by my teachers as fantastic. In church, I thought Jobs was a book in the Bible.Then in college, I have to learn to use the Mac for creating magazine covers and advertisements. The last time Steve Jobs was famous to me at least was when he was diagnosed with cancer, before ushering the Iphone 4S. Seriously, I don't even own any Apple products even after his death - generally I don't follow the herds of people rushing to get his last product. But as a man, Steve Jobs strikes me as someone I could relate to. Hence, when his official autobiography was due out, I first got myself a copy.

Walter Isaacson wrote in a very matter-of-fact manner, devoid of any sentimental or flowery language I would usually get from novels. It's really refreshing to read every page without having to endure all the sentimentality for once - and this book is good. You can read it fast or read it slow, it doesn't matter. I can still get all the facts I wanted from a reporter that is the writer, who is objective, informative and unbiased when describing this technopreneur Steve Jobs. Trust me, it's better than watching the movie. This book is detailed to the T. It started with Jobs' parents. A detailed account of how they met as young lovers and out came Steve.

I won't go into his account of life, but I am most appalled by the way Steve Jobs treated people. From the book, we get to know how he's a spoiled child, often being told how special he is. Then he discovered that he was adopted, hence he seek to find himself, not his real parents per se - but to find his selfish self to enlightenment. He got himself into dropping acids and into all the flower movent of the 60s, basically getting himself high. The flow of the book follows chronologically from his childhood up to his death.

What appeals me to the book is the fact that Steve Jobs is an artiste himself, but cloaked in the form of a billionaire who runs the world's most successful company Apple. His artistic sensibilities are one that is perfection. As I read the book, I began to see how he makes other people suffer for perfection. He strives for perfection, and he suffers from chasing after it too. But one thing he actually makes me realise is how often the people all around me are stupid, dumb and utterly bunch of asses. It's quite true his assessment, but if I were him, I won't waste my energy in attacking these type of people. But since he's the boss, therefore, he's free to do as he pleases like a dictator ruling his little country. Another extremity to both sides of his personality.

I suspect a lot of Malaysian companies are reading his book, and thinking themselves as great as Steve Jobs, therefore many would throw their stupid tantrums. Please silly bosses, you are NOT Steve Jobs. You can never be like him. Ever. He lived at this time, born and raised in that certain way no one else can be alike, So please be kinder and use other ways to manage your staff. Don't let poor folks working for you suffer for your silly high standards. Come on, this is Malaysia. We are still a developing country. Our ways are so different from this Steve Jobs. Like one saying "Do not hit where the pud is, but hit it where it has not been before".

What I've learned from this book:
1) Your country of origin determines your future success.
2) The first Mac was a failure. Steve Job's first true successful product was Ipod.
3) Steve Jobs is great at creating hype but hype can only give you this much only.
4) Treating people like shit is not going to sustain your success.
5) Life is short, so create only the best product - that is YOU!

Looking back again, I do find moments in the book that Steve Jobs and I were exactly alike. First off, it's his mind distortion technique. After reading this book, now I realised I actually uses that too whenever I'm with people I work with. If I discovered a film director I really liked and wanted to work with, I used that technique.

The other more glaring point we shared is impatience. But there's a slight difference here, being that Steve Jobs is impatient with his staff. As for me, I am simply impatient with myself! I have things I want to achieve, and time and money is always against us. That's also motivated by the sense that life is short, as do Steve Jobs. But his death was one quite painful and tragic, and really nobody wants to end their lives from cancer. So in many ways, many people felt a connection with this book by Walter Isaacson. His writing is direct, clear, straightforward and fair in much a way a mediator should be. And this is what makes this book such a must-have. And of course, the subject is one of such extreme polarities, corporate back-stabbing and laced with so much story arcs between father figures and abandoned child - truly it's real life. Abandonment is another form of abuse. Very true.