Thursday, December 8, 2011

Five Things I learned from Steve Job

I've been staying up nights reading the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Issacson. Okay I know that's a lame excuse for not posting, but I'd wanted to read this biography ever since I caught wind of it before Jobs died.

Why? I had a MacBook and loved the way it was so user friendly compared to my former Thinkpad and Dell laptops. In fact, I liked it so much I got an Ipad, then eventually an Iphone.

And last summer when Copyblogger Brian Clark did an interview with former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki, I became more intrigued with Steve Jobs--who nearly 70 percent of visitors on the Time Magazine website said deserved to be the person of the year. And in spite of Jobs saying "Americans don't read," his biography racked up 379,000 sales at Amazon the first week it was released, and was the best selling book in 2011. How's that for book sales?

I couldn't wait to get a copy of this book and learn his secrets.

I'd heard he was brash and egotistical, but when you hear someone is a visionary, it sets you up to expect a typical "hero's journey," with the big transformation in the end. Don't look for that in this book. In fact, many people interviewed for this book thought Jobs brash, insensitive, prone to temper tantrums and some said he even took other peoples' ideas and passed them off as his ideas. So like many reviewers, at first I couldn't get past the fact that Jobs didn't seem likable. I obsessed about it, even looked online and there I found some people did like him, even thought he was kind.

What impressed me was Steve Jobs set out to change the world and he did pushing "both design and engineering to the edge," developing brand new products, not just better examples of existing products. I mean what did we have before the Ipod, the Walkman? Seriously compare the two.

As this Huffington Post article puts it, this biography takes off the "rose colored glasses" for an honest look at "one of the greatest minds" of our generation.

Here are five things I learned from the Steve Jobs biography:

1. Get inspired about your book, article or project, go with your gut feeling. One person found Jobs fascinating because "whatever he was interested in he would generally carry to an irrational extreme."

2. Be passionate, fall in love with what you do. If you aren't passionate, mediocrity the result. Take a look at books and products and see if you can discern which were produced with passion. Two farmers from Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston, Oregon come to mind when I think about passion and quality. The two words naturally flow together.

3. It's okay to obsess about details and seek perfection, follow your path, don't listen to critics, believe in your project with all your heart.

4. Ask for what you want, speak boldly with confidence, don't be creepy but don't accept "no." I was amazed to learn how Jobs' courted artists for put Itunes together, Jobs' audacity in approaching people and asking for exactly what he wanted amazed me.

5. Surround yourself with talented people. Brainstorm frequently. I found this theme throughout the book from his collaboration with Steve Wozniak in his garage, to Pixar, to Apple. When I read that Toy Story wouldn't have happened without Jobs, I wanted to see the movie again.

It was tough to reading at times; I sometimes cringed when Jobs was so brutally honest with everyone, even the nurses in his hospital room. But I wondered isn't there a place deep down inside where many of us have wanted to be brutally honest? Mostly we can't, we're too polite, constrained by society. Not Steve Jobs. Still, I wouldn't exactly call him a hero, but he was a visionary.

At his Stanford commencement speech, he told three stories about his life. (Remember the power of story.) This quote, played often in the news this past year is one of my favorites:

"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You're already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

Get inspired, roll up your sleeves and get busy with the work you love.


  1. Great blog, Debra. Interesting review. I really got a lot out of the Steve Jobs book too. I mainly read novels. But occasionally I dip into non-fiction. The best book I have read for years is by a doctor called Atul Gawande. The title is Better. I did a post about it.

  2. hi..Im student from Informatics engineering, this article is very informative, thanks for sharing :)