“The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” – Apple’s “Think Different” commercial, 1997
As I write this review on my iMac, reading my notes (and the book) on my iPad, and receiving texts from friends and family on my iPhone (all of which I love to use), it is obvious that Steve Jobs has in many ways affected my own life. Therefore, this book is not only a biography of our generation’s Edison, but in some ways it reads as a personal biography of my own life, as Apple’s various products and design philosophies of art intersecting technology have shaped my own thinking in many ways.
To be clear, Steve Jobs is not a god, or an angel, or someone to be worshipped. Isaacson’s honest portrayal of Jobs shows that, like all humans, he was deeply flawed, misguided, self-righteous, prideful, and totally depraved – though Steve’s flaws often seem to be magnified. And yet, Job’s life and accomplishments also show a measure of God’s common grace still manifested in the imago Dei. As such, I will put the remainder of this review in the following categories: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (but in reverse order)
Steve Jobs was often brutal, vindictive, and ugly in dealing with people. He was demanding and arrogant with almost everybody… whether it was the local waitress or his wife. Though a genius, he spent much of the early 70’s at hippie communes dropping acid, or traveling to India to study under a guru. Paradoxically, Steve embraced Zen Buddhism which emphasizes detachment from the world, while at the same time seeking to make products and profits that do the exact opposite.
I guess this goes along with the ugly, but there are plenty of bad aspects of Job’s life and personality as well. The book details many people who have been wounded and betrayed by Jobs sharp tongue, deceit, and meanness. It seems Jobs never developed a filter for his emotions or his mouth. At times he would cry, scream, or stare coldly and unblinkingly at people as ways to manipulate them. Jobs had what many labeled a “reality distortion field” around him. He had the ability to distort reality and even get others to buy in to that distorted reality. Jobs saw himself as enlightened – on a higher plane than almost every other person. As such, he deemed it his right and responsibility to stand in a place of judgment of almost all others – this was his worldview. Unfortunately for jobs, this is not reality. Only God is God, and God will always humble the proud.
In spite of the ugly and the bad, there is much good that has come out of Steve Job’s life. Certainly the products he worked so diligently to produce, but there’s much more behind the products that I was able to personally benefit from. Jobs wanted to do only a very few things well. Apple could have produced a ton of consumer products, but then Apple would just be a reiteration of Sony or Google. Instead, Jobs wanted to do one or two things ‘insanely great’ – and he did. His hard personality and reality distortion field, would at times work well toward this end. Jobs was able to get people to achieve personal levels of success that they did not believe was possible .
So often we are tempted to do a bunch of different things in our lives, without ever really doing any of them great. If we were to evaluate our lives with the same level of scrutiny Jobs evaluated his potential products and focussing in like a laser on the one or two key things, I believe we would be better for it as individuals and as a society.