Monday, October 31, 2011

65 Miles

Last Monday, I started listening to the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. The audio version fits my lifestyle really well since I can listen while walking. This book caused me to exercise a bit more than normal as there were several times when I reached my time or mileage goal and just kept on going to keep listening to the book. I finished listening this weekend so, for me, this book was 65 miles long.

The book portrays Jobs as a very intelligent person who needs to control everything and was incapable of empathy. And what strikes me the most was that he was unhappy, irritated or mad more often than not. What also strikes me is the contrast to other CEO types within technology companies such as Microsoft and Google. His skill seemed to be design and sat at the intersection of the arts and technology. This is in stark contrast to Balmer's marketing background and Page's engineering focus and this has a lot to do with his success. There were many quotes from friends, enemies, colleagues and competitors. Some positive but many more were negative and critical but all appeared to be accurate. Since I have been working in the technology field for almost thirty years, I was familiar with many of the stories and products but this book filled in many of the details.

There were several references to his BMW R60/2 motorcycle including that it was usually parked in the lobby during the development of the original Macintosh. He put it there to inspire the engineers and designers.


  1. Richard,
    I must add this to my reading pile!
    Your early comments about his nature have triggered my own thoughts about the profound differences between a "manager" and a "true leader". It would suggest that Jobs may not have been viewed as a true leader by his employees, despite his success. They're a rare breed - I've only worked for 2 true leaders in my whole life and I would have walked over broken glass for both of them.

  2. I'm remember reading or watching a bio on Steve Jobs a few years back and it didn't paint him in a very good light. How much truth there was in the bio I have no clue. I don't think too many of the computer guys, Gates, etc had great people skills. :)

    Our IT guy today was talking about what Steve Jobs meant to him. His school received computers from Apple and had that not happened he didn't think he'd ever have gotten in to computers.

  3. I noticed that the book seemed to come out quite quickly after Jobs passed away. Wonder if it was being worked on all this time or if it was thrown together to get it out there.

    People like Jobs can tend to be hard to get along with, I'm sure. People of vision and technical skill often don't have much patience with the rest of us who don't "get it".

    I listen to audio books. Never thought to measure progress in miles!

  4. Geoff James:
    I'm not sure of his leadership or management style but his goal seemed to be surrounding himself with "A" types. To this end he seemed to be successful.

    You are right about the lack of social skills in most computer types. When we hired technicians, it seemed like we were better off looking for social skills and teaching the technical skills than the other way around.

    I think the book was started a year or two ago and was originally scheduled to come out in November so it is only a little early. We'll see how long before the movie comes out.

    When walking (or flying), I find that I generally listen to audio podcasts and audio books. Almost to the point of removing the music from my phone.

  5. Dear Richard M:

    I am always a little surprised to read that those who are idolized as the great thinkers or corporate leaders of the age, occasionally have shortcomings that whittle away at the pedestal. (I was recently shocked to hear that several women who once described me as perfect have publicly described me as the perfect bastard.

    Yet the faults of the man do contribute to the overall nature of his work.

    It was such with Edison, Ford, and Hughes.

    Fondest regards,

  6. Richard,

    This is an interesting take, particularly as the whole of the united states seemed to lament his passing. The things that go unnoticed or forgiven are a bit disturbing - particularly as people probably forgive him his faults because he brought them toys. I suppose we forgive Santa Claus and his breaking into our houses for the same reason.

    I'm not surprised - but it is a bit worrying to know what it's like at the top. We're told we can do anything when we're young - but I don't know that I could ever be the micromanaging fanatic that he was, nor produce the same type of product as a result. It's also sad to know that others will struggle as a result - some pushed to greatness, but others left on the side, pushed out of the way.

    Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life