It’s possible—likely even—that Steve Jobs could have picked someone better than Walter Isaacson to write a biography. Isaacson is just one man after all. One writer. One lens. One shot in a game devoid of do-overs.
I picked up my copy of Steve Jobs with low expectations. I’d heard some pretty scathing criticism of Isaacson from people I consider more scholarly in their knowledge of Apple history than I.
And maybe that’s the reason I couldn’t put the book down. The bar was so low it could’ve been walked over. Or maybe Jobs did get it right. Maybe Isaacson was the right guy. Or at the very least, the most right given the circumstances.
I really enjoyed Steve Jobs, the book. It meant a lot to me, in some very complex ways. I am, in most respects, not like Steve Jobs in my way with people, but I deeply identify with many of his personality traits.
I think there’s a lot of reason to be inspired by the man. Inspired to be more like him, and to be very different from him—both for what he did and for what he often did not do in his business and personal life.
Maybe I’ll say more one day, but for now, I just wanted to share the two quotes, which, more than any others in Steve Jobs, have stayed with me weeks after finishing the book.
The 1983 Mac team
Steve Jobs moved people. He moved people to action, to glory, and sometimes, to tears. He moved low value, attention-sapping projects out of the way. He moved entire industries forward. He moved competitors to action, and to failure.
He also created a world-class team of movers. In Isaacson’s words:
Veterans of the Mac team had learned that they could stand up to Jobs. If they knew what they were talking about, he would tolerate the pushback, even admire it. By 1983 those most familiar with his reality distortion field had discovered something further: They could, if necessary, just quietly disregard what he decreed. If they turned out to be right, he would appreciate their renegade attitude and willingness to ignore authority. After all, that’s what he did.
Jobs acted with intense conviction, and he forced others to do the same.
One day Jony Ive will have his own biography, but I hope it stays unwritten for a long, long time. I think Ive has a lot left to do, if not with Apple, then with a company that lets him continue intersecting art and technology.
Ive’s deeply da Vincian design philosophies are evident in every major Apple product released since he joined Apple. Ive explains the value of simplicity:
Why do we assume that simple is good? Because with physical products, we have to feel we can dominate them. As you bring order to complexity, you find a way to make the product defer to you. Simplicity isn’t just a visual style. It’s not just minimalism or the absence of clutter. It involves digging through the depth of the complexity. To be truly simple, you have to go really deep.
The world desperately needs more people like Jony Ive.