Saturday, May 19, 2012

A semi-biography of SJ

kw: book reviews, short biographies, quotes

The title recalls Isaac Asimov's classic I, Robot. Wittingly so. A collection of more than 160 quotes classified under more than 150 headings, I, Steve: Steve Jobs in His Own Words, edited by George Beahm, gathers a comprehensive overview of the world as seen by Steve Jobs, but very little of how he saw himself. He was famously secretive, so there is no surprise there.

Steve Jobs became a public figure in his mid-twenties, and remained so for three decades, so the editor had a great deal of material to cull into this small book. The quotes are arranged alphabetically by (editor chosen) category, rather than on a timeline. An appendix of 17 pages titled "Milestones" provides year-by-year events, and that gave me a better historical sense of the life of SJ, as he is called in the editor's own text.

I have not read the authorized biography by Walter Isaacson, but I plan to do so (so many books, so little time). The sense of SJ that I got from this collection is of an exceptional genius who was more comfortable with his products than with the people, yet made an effort to succeed in relationship building. You don't become a successful entrepreneur if you're a total jerk. He seems to have had the same outlook on life as a friend of mine, who was brought up with the philosophy, "We aren't everyone. We are Dravens (a pseudonym). We don't have to care what others think."

He had to have a strong sense of his own mind to live a life so consistently against the tide of "expert opinion". Several of the quotes echo sentiments such as Henry Ford's "If you asked the people, they just wanted a faster horse." SJ didn't give people what they wanted. He gave them what they were going to want. That was his genius.

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