Steve Jobs is the most detailed and accurate account of the life of the man who created Apple, the most valuable technology company in the world.
Favorite quote from the author:
“If you want to live your life in a creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much. You have to be willing to take whatever you’ve done and whoever you were and throw them away. The more the outside world tries to reinforce an image of you, the harder it is to continue to be an artist, which is why a lot of times, artists have to say, ‘Bye. I have to go. I’m going crazy and I’m getting out of here.’ And they go and hibernate somewhere. Maybe later they re-emerge a little differently. (Steve Jobs)”
It’s a massive read, but a fascinating one.
Written by Walter Isaacson, former CEO of CNN and managing editor of Time Magazine, it is not only the most detailed and accurate book about Steve Job’s life, but also the only authorized one, since he wrote the book with Steve’s consent.
Isaacson conducted over 40 interviews with Steve Jobs over the last 2 years leading up to his death. Here are 3 interesting things I learned from the summary, which you probably won’t find elsewhere:
Steve Jobs’s team invented a name for his most important skill, the reality distortion field.
The Apple name was chosen for a very specific reason.
Apple didn’t make Steve Jobs a billionaire, Pixar did.
Let’s take a good hard look at those facts!
Lesson 1: Steve Jobs’s reality distortion field got its name from his team.
The skill that allowed Steve Jobs to create this huge vision for Apple out of nothing was not his obsession for detail, nor his sense for design, simplicity, or aesthetics.
It was his reality distortion field, or RDF in short. The phrase was originally coined by Bud Tribble, part of Steve’s Macintosh team, who borrowed the term from Star Trek.
Talking about Steve’s RDF became a thing, and what it meant, was this:
Once Steve decided that something should happen, he would bend reality to his will until it came true.
This extended to everyone around him. His RDF is how he could convince a sleepless team of engineers to work another 10 hours on Macintosh fonts, because it would be the greatest computer in the world.
He also used it to make sure anyone who left an official Apple keynote was convinced the product they just saw was the best in its industry.
By using charisma, hyperbole, marketing and persistence, Steve would pull impossible feats into the realm of the possible for himself and his audience, allowing him to create what has become the most valuable technology company in the world.
Lesson 2: There is one major reason for Apple’s name.
The first thing anyone wonders about upon learning about Apple and its products is where the hell it got that name. They’re not selling smoothie makers, after all.
Of course there are several reasons for the name, one being that Steve was often experimenting with fruitarian diets, and, since he really liked apples, had been on an apple farm the same day the name had to be decided for official filing to the government.
Another reason is that “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”, a quote by Leonardo DaVinci, was the slogan for Apple’s first brochure, and Steve felt the apple symbolized this quote really well.
But the one major reason for Apple’s name has nothing to do with personal preferences and symbolism, it’s a simple, clear-cut business decision: Apple comes before Atari in the phonebook.
Steve had worked at Atari before, and didn’t want people to see his competitor first, when looking for a computer company.
I’m not sure if “Phaser Beam Computers” was ever in play (Matrix Electronics definitely was), but the discussion about the name is also one of the funniest scenes of the 2013 Jobs movie.
Lesson 3: Steve Jobs did not become a billionaire from Apple products, but from Pixar’s IPO.
Have you ever wondered who Steve Jobs became a billionaire? Everyone assumes all of his money came from Apple, but his bank account actually made the biggest jump on a whole other project.
After being fired from Apple in 1985, Steve really sunk his teeth into two projects: NeXT and Pixar.
Teeth in this case also means money. Steve paid a $100,000 flat fee, for the logo design for NeXT alone. That, next to countless delays and some other costly production standard demands made NeXT a black hole where money disappeared like nothing.
In the Pixar case, Steve purchased a majority share of the company (80%) from George Lucas for $5 million in 1986, and invested another $5 million right into the company.
By 1995, Steve’s total Pixar bill had racked up to a grand total of $50 million. He often considered selling it, until a deal with Disney came through to produce and distribute Toy Story in 1995.
Grossing over $350 million, the movie became the most successful movie of the entire year. This of course led to a very optimistic outlook for the company, which held its initial public offering on November 29, that year.
The company’s stock was priced at US$22 per share, giving Steve a 20x return on his initial investment and making him a billionaire over night.
His stocks were now worth $1.2 billion.
My personal take-aways
There are so many details and lessons to be learned from this man’s life, and even though it’s a long read, I can highly recommend the book. If you’re interested in creating a company that outlasts a decade or even a century, making almost addicting products and becoming an awesome CEO, this book is an all-in-one package, just like the Apple II was back in the day.