I do not own an Apple product. I do not desire to own one. Before the advent of the iPhone, Apple was one of those California cults you get in, and never get out. I can go so far as to say, I did not like Apple because it made its users develop condescending attitudes to anything not it; in general, it made its customers zombies who waited outside for the next shiny object to drop from the Silicon Valley paradise. They had disgust for anything PC, and were proud to show it.
So how did I end up reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of the entrepreneur, visionary, and demigod known as Steve Jobs? Well of course, to create the next great technological juggernaut of a company that will have not just a customer base, not just a fan base, but a groupie base. I wanted to find somewhere in its 638 pages the secret that made Jobs and Apple two of the most successful entities in the last fifty years. I wanted to learn the secret of success. What I found was a greatness incapable of being duplicated, even if I wanted to.
Through reading the tome of this technology titan, I have re-learned Emerson’s now clichéd quote, “To be great is to be misunderstood”. Greatness is a term we do use too often in society because we have lost the true visionary who will stand by his passion and intellect like a captain by the wheel of his ship. Greatness is the difference between what is black and white, and when we come close to it, we pale in our ordinary humanity. Steve Jobs was great because of his vision, his passion, and his ability to believe he could do anything he willed.
When you read non-fiction (and this is one that reads like a novel), you should be able to take away some useful strains of human knowledge and apply it to your life. Isaacson writes in a style so comfortable that if you read it anywhere other than the couch, you do the book an injustice. This book does contain wisdom, and even though it was clear that Isaacson liked Jobs and admired his personality and work, he still was not able to construct a congenial portrait of a life cut short by cancer. Steve Jobs was imperfect, but was great. In great men and women, there are things to admire, perhaps even to emulate. Here is the list I derived.
1) Surround yourself with A players: Jobs thought that A players made a company great and if you were B or you could not devote your whole essence to the project, then you were shit.
2) Creative people are the best: Jobs held salespeople and business types in disdain even as he maneuvered to become one of the richest men in the world. If you were not creating, you were stealing.
3) Take risks: You decide your path by what you are willing to sacrifice to reach your vision. It was Jobs’ vision and not his goals or skill set that propelled him forward. Success is determined by conviction and conviction is determined by the chances you are willing to take.
4) You decide what the customer wants: You create because you know what your audience wants even before they do. If you want to be a leader and shape the future, you must drag everyone along.
5) Re-invent yourself: Jobs would build Apple, then lose it, then recreate it. His philosophy of blending humanities with technology allowed him to follow a path with passion and abandon. His only guide was intuition – a belief that you define the product and yourself by change.
You can follow James Dugan on facebook and on Twitter @jamesduganlb. Purchase his new book through Amazon What Baseball Teaches: A Poetic Odyssey into 2008 Season of the World Champions Philadelphia Phillies