JCL Blog

Book Review: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

In 1990 Michael Lewis wrote his now famous book: Liars Poker. His intent was to expose the bad behavior of people on Wall Street and help to bring an end to the steady stream of our best and brightest wasting their abilities in a parasitic business. To his surprise, his book just added fuel to the fire and all of these years later we still lose bright and motivated and capable minds to the pit of greed.

This 571 page book reads like a 200 page book because it is well researched and well written and the subject is familiar to all of us. I read it on my iPad -- a device I did not know I needed until after I got it and that I spend several hours a day with now. In fact, I am writing this review on my iPad.

It will be interesting to see how history views Walter Isaacson's latest master work: Steve Jobs. Of course everyone is talking about it and I have put some links to other reviews below. The common thread in the commentary about the book is to marvel at the fact that even though his own life was shaped by his adoption, Steve Jobs was still able to abandon his own daughter. The barefoot thing, the diet thing, and the personal hygiene thing also seemed to get a fair amount of attention.

To me the biggest question posed by the book is whether Steve Jobs was successful despite his narcissism, or because of it. This is the central question because a great many young entrepreneurs are right now reading the book and getting ready to emulate Steve Jobs. I hope they are learning to operate at the intersection of Liberal Arts and Technology, and to have an uncompromising focus on design and quality. I fear they may be encouraged to put themselves in the absolute center of their universe and make everyone else feel less than adequate. Will this book encourage the next generation to belittle co-workers, send food back at restaurants, and put themselves before their own children?

I have said before that I believe Steve Jobs was the best CEO we have ever seen. There is no question that he created amazing products and a company that will not only survive, but will thrive for years -- just by coasting on the lead he built before is death.
The pain he inflicted on those that loved him was also of epic scale. At the end, he knew he was dying, and even then, he could not connect with his daughters. I hope that legacy is forgotten.

Here are my take aways from the book:

  1. Narcissistic Personality Disorder is real and Steve Jobs had it.
  2. A passion for simplicity and quality has to start at the top.
  3. Leadership makes a big difference.

Here are other reviews of the book:

I hope that 20 years from now we look back and find many companies built by young people that were inspired by Steve's passion for great products and design. It would be even better if they learned how to do that by building up the people around them.