A year ago I finished Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs and couldn’t stop thinking how compulsive and egomaniac Steve is. He was the jerk, and seems unfairly worshiped.
A little flash back first. In Isaacson’s book, he was stubborn and incapable to change. Even when he was in the hospital, he insists on the anesthetist showing him 5 different types of devices for him to pick simply because he isn’t happy with the design. His attitudes to others were polarizing, “he could be charming to people he hated, as the same as he could be insulting to people he liked.” Don’t even mention the way he treated women, he compares and analyzes, on the decision of marriage, he went to great lengths asking for opinions from all the people he encountered.
I wondered, for many times, how did such a jerk manage to lead the best team and challenge and even changes the industry. Are ridiculously good taste and nasty personality prerequisites as a CEO? The stereotype seems to be true nowadays, all the media, movies, best sellers were trying to create this nasty, a little perverted image of the higher level management persona (allow me to spare the names), one friend even told me: We need to work hard, or the world will be handed to those highly intelligent sociopath.
And then comes Becoming Steve Jobs. Instead of focusing on the parts of his personality that made him an “asshole” or a “jerk,” or perhaps simply “binary”, the new bio covers so much more on his growth story, not a success story, emphasized by the author. He is someone who is flawed, but always changing for the better. Yes, there are characters in him that may make him seem greedy, selfish and egomaniac, but that’s either unimportant or uninteresting. “What’s more illuminating is to take a look at the specific ways in which Steve failed to do an effective job of tempering some of his weaknesses and antisocial traits, and to consider how, when, and why some of them continued to flare up even during the years of his greatest effectiveness as a leader. ”
A case in point: While in Isaacson's book, Steve was greedy, selfish and egomaniac, the new book gave more insights on his way of dealing things and how people around him cope with it. Ive Jony, the head designer whose idea was constantly plagiarized by Steve in the earlier book, said in the interview about how similar their aesthetics is, and how Steve could articulate his idea way better than himself, “in a way that I was completely incapable of doing. And that’s what was so amazing. I learned, I got better at it, but obviously I was never ever in his league. “
As a writer myself, I could imagine a few other angles to write Becoming Steve Jobs, Tim Cook could be the complex, devious and even evil character who carefully orchestrated his plan and worked his way up to the corporate ladder. He offered Steve his own liver when Steve was taking the last sick leave probably knowing Steve’s last days were counted. Or Steve could be this revengeful person who created NeXT to take down Apple when he was fired by the board member, and later came back as the callous, tough character whose first move was to cut the headcounts who he thought weren't contributing to the company. But these aren't important either. The book is never intended as sensational as the first one, and that finally does Steve some well deserved justice.
There are some other highlights too. In Becoming Steve Jobs, he is someone who cares, especially about his career and his family. “Steve cared, he cared deeply about things. Yes he was very passionate about things, and he wanted things to be perfect. And that was what great about him. ” Tim Cook said in one of his interviews. He held regularly family picnics and treated his employees as his children. The image of him sinks deeply in my mind: Steve sat barefoot on the grass and rattled on how important family is, while his NeXT staff come over from time to time, thanking him for holding such wonderful event. As a reader, I wish this is how he is remembered.
Like a lot of people, my own career path was influenced by Steve’s 2005 Stanford commencement speech. However, after reading all the stories, it is a surprising revelation to read the speech from a different perspective. Yes, I was one of those people who “keep looking” till I found my ideal job, but Steve also said “You don’t leave the game, until it’s not your choice,” which I failed, big time. After all the misfits and bumpy roads I've taken, I am too starting to reflect and connect the dots. Did I leave too early and too often? What would happen if I didn't leave my last job which back then I thought matches my exact career plan? “You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”
Now as someone who is about to go back to school and study for my master in marketing, any book about industries' leaders to me personally holds academic value. As the biggest mobile device company in the world, Apple always leads the market with impressive marketing campaigns and plans. Steve knew too well that technology alone is not enough. And his massively successful marketing plan had me highlighting the paragraphs none stop. When he was back to Apple, even before any new products are made, he conducted a new campaign to resend Apple’s message, a clearer and much cooler commercial that focused on creativity and the power of the individual. I still remember the black and white iPod commercial back in 2006 featuring a dancing silhouette and a bouncing iPod in contrast color. “We’re not going to have to out-scale our competitors, we have to out-think them.” Said Steve.
Last but not the least, I’d like to end the review with one of the highlight I regard worth reading twice or more. It is a message in the marketing campaign that all of us can resonate with:
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble makers. The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.
How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see and laboratory on wheels?
We make tool for these kinds of people.
While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.