The fascinating life of Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs ranks as one of the most remarkable men in the past 50 years.  At 21 he founded a company that today is worth close to $100 billion.  The credit for Apple's huge success goes to Steve Jobs and his brilliance, passion, competitiveness, and charisma.  At 600-plus pages, Walter Isaacson's biography Steve Jobs is a compelling read that gives readers insight into what Steve Jobs was all about.

Isaacson has many interesting details about Steven Jobs.  Born to an unmarried relationship between a Syrian professor and a college coed, Jobs was given up for adoption as an infant.  As a businessman, Jobs was fiercely competitive, obsessed with perfection, and often cruel and manipulative to employees and others close to him.  His personal life was often a mess.  At 23 he abandoned his daughter, only to invite her back into his life a decade later, then to grow estranged from her again.  He didn't attend her graduation from Harvard, lamely explaining, "She didn't invite me."

Some revelations about Steve Jobs were unfortunate.  I was surprised at the extent of Jobs' drug use as a teen and twenty-something.  As a parent I wish he had become an advocate of staying away from drug usage, but he didn't.  In his 40s, Jobs told a reporter dropping acid was one of the two or three most important things he had done in his life.  Jobs also dabbled in Zen Buddhism.  He was captivated by the Buddhist value of simplicity, and simplicity was a dominant theme of many of his products.  But, Buddhism didn't seem to influence Jobs at all on how he should treat other people.  

Stories of Job's cruelty are shocking.  Example: once Jobs and two other Apple employees were interviewing a job applicant. Immediately sizing up the applicant as a loser, Jobs starting toying with the poor guy. 

“How old were you when you lost your virginity?" he asked. The candidate looked baffled. “What did you say?” “Are you a virgin?” Jobs asked. The candidate sat there flustered, so Jobs changed the subject. “How many times have you taken LSD?” Hertzfeld recalled, “The poor guy was turning varying shades of red, so I tried to change the subject and asked a straightforward technical question.” But when the candidate droned on in his response, Jobs broke in. “Gobble, gobble, gobble, gobble,” he said, cracking up Smith and Hertzfeld. “I guess I’m not the right guy,” the poor man said as he got up to leave.

Matthew Porter says this about Walter Isaacson's book:

I’ve never read a book this long so quickly. I found Job’s life fascinating. Published just after his death in October this book will give you real insight into the man behind Apple. If you can, take the good bits from Jobs – his discipline, his creativity, his desire to do the very best possible; and lose the worst things – the poor people management, the bad temper, the selfishness.

I found this an interesting read, even if it was disturbing here and there.

To buy this Steve Jobs autobiography, click here.