Steve Jobs – Book Review

I am not going to do a summary of this book since it is a biography. After reading it I would recommend anyone who wants to be inspired to read it. I was sure to underline a few of the major themes from the book for my reference, but I do not want to take any of the continuity and context that the book as a whole will provide. Steve Jobs was an incredibly complex person. From the early days when he was looked down upon as an arrogant hippie kid that didn’t wear shoes or shower to being kicked out of Apple after clashing with the CEO. Ultimately, he found his way back to Apple, where he went on to create some of the most revolutionary products of the last 15 years. You can claim to not be an ‘Apple person’ but there is no denying the impact Jobs had on the world. Below is a list of things I highlighted, starred, sticky-noted, etc.

  • Sought fulfillment from a dual legacy (pg 306)
    • Building innovative products
    • Building a lasting company
  • Craftsmanship – even (especially) with the parts unseen
  • The idea that what is truly important is creating great things instead of making money
  • He positioned himself at the intersection of the arts and technology
  • Simplicity – like Atari’s instructions for their Star Trek game were “1. Insert quarter. 2. Avoid Klingons”
  • His “Reality Distortion Field” – If he has decided something is going to happen, it will happen. Despite all advice and naysayers.
  • IF you act like you can do something, then it will work. “pretend to be completely in control and people will assume that you are”
  • The goal of an entrepreneur: Make something you believe in and making a company that will last
  • Apple Marketing Philosophy
    • Empathy – connection with the customer
    • Focus – Eliminate the unimportant opportunities. “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. That’s true for companies, and that’s true for products”
    • Impute – “people DO judge a book by its cover” – a great company must be able to impute its values from the first impression it makes
  • Execution – “in the annals of innovation, new ideas are only part of the equation. Execution is just as important”
  • Being naive can be good. Because you don’t know if something cannot be done.
  • “The goal is to do the greatest thing possible, or even a little greater” – Hertzfeld
  • “If we’re going to make things in our lives, we might as well make them beautiful” – Bud Tribble
  • By expecting your team to do great things, you can get them to do great things
  • On Hiring – Get people that are creative, wickedly smart and slightly rebellious
  • You have to be ruthless if you want a team of A players- it is easy to put up with a couple of B players. “A players only work with other A players, which means you cannot indulge B players”
  • Jobs to the Mac team:
    • Don’t compromise
    • It’s not done until it ships
    • The journey is the reward
    • The customers don’t know what they want until we’ve shown them
  • Jobs’ pitch to get Sculley on as CEO ” do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”
  • Jobs on getting older: “In most cases, people get stuck in those patterns, like grooves in a record, and they never get out of them” (page 189)
    • He was able to get out of his groove at the age of 45 with the iPod.
    • I personally consider this SDMBA journey I am on as my way out of the deep groove I had worn. The first step is recognizing it.
  • An observation is that the greatest successes were of him leading a small team with a focus to create a great product
  • His diet obsessions reflected  life philosophy – ‘one in which asceticism and minimalism could heighten subsequent sensations…things led to their opposites’ (pg 260)
    • Material possessions often cluttered life rather than enriched it
  • Apple fell from grace under several CEO’s after Jobs was ousted in 1985 since “they cared about making money – for themselves mainly, and also for Apple – rather than making great products”
  • The “Think Different” campaign- “The Crazy Ones” ad
  • When he came back to Apple he decided to kill a ton of product lines. He drove focus on 4 products by drawing a four-squared chart. In the two columns he wrote “consumer” and “pro”. in the rows he labeled “Desktop” and “Portable”
  • Design principles: “less but better” from German industrial designer Dieter Rams.
    • “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”
    • Simplicity that comes from conquering complexities, not ignoring
  • Apple Stores: “You can’t win on innovation unless you have a way to communicate to customers”
    • One entrance
    • Customers should be able to intuitively grasp the layout of the store as soon astroturfing they enter
    • “Impute the ethos of Apple products: playful, easy, creative, and on the bright side of the line between hip and intimidating”
  • Rewriting- on several occasions, Jobs and his team hit a point where they realized what they were working on was not right.  Jobs said “If something isn’t right, you can’t just ignore it and say you’ll fix it later. That’s what other companies do”
  • “The mark of an innovative company is not only that it comes up with new ideas first, but also that it knows how to leapfrog when it finds itself behind”
  • Motivations matter (pg 407) “The older I get, the more I see how much motivations matter. The Zune was crappy because the people at Microsoft didn’t really love music or art the way we do…”
  • Never be afraid of cannibalizing yourself – “If you don’t cannibalize yourself, someone else will.” He pushed forward knowing the iPhone would cannibalize the iPod, and the iPad would cannibalize the laptop.
  • Second product syndrome – “it comes from not knowing what make your first product so successful” (pg 430)
  • Collaboration – When designing the Pixar studio, Jobs insisted on a large atrium that was designed to encourage random encounters. “creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions…” (pg 431)
  • Stanford Commencement Speech: The best way to begin a speech is “Let me tell you a Story” (pg 456-457)
    • Dropping out of Reed College
    • How getting fired from Apple turned out to be good for him “The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything”
    • “remembering you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
  • The Apple Voice: Simple, Declarative, Clean
  • The importance of infusing an entrepreneurial and nimble culture into a company (pg 509)
  • Apple’s (and Jobs’) response to the “antennaegate” on page 523
  • Accountability needs to be strictly enforced.
  • The future:
    • At the intersection of biology and technology – pg 539
    • The intersection of technology and education – pg 553, 544
  • Keywords: FOCUS, creating GREAT products
  • Strong leaders should not be reluctant to offend or piss people off – pg 556 (about president Obama)
    • Polite an velvety leaders, who take care to avoid bruising others are generally not as effective at forcing change
    • “my job is to say when something sucks rather than to sugarcoat it”
  • Jobs had a binary view of the world. Things were either: the best or the shittiest. whether it was food, an idea, a person…
  • “nature loves simplicity and unity. So did Steve Jobs”
  • Bob Dylan – “if you’re not busy being born, you’re busy dying”

Books, Songs, and other things referenced in the book to look into later

Buy the book on Amazon


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