Friday, December 6, 2019

Key Takeaways From “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson

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Yash Goyal
Avid reader and a budding writer fascinated by stand-up comedy, table tennis and swimming, and is engrossed in Netflix for a major part of the week watching Suits, Friends, Brooklyn Nine Nine or some MCU movie chosen arbitrarily.
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“You’ve got to find what you love… keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.” –Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Address, 2005

The life and escapades of Steve Jobs are unrivaled. He lived a life less ordinary, and the incredible things he did surely left what he longed the most, a dent in the Universe.

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When we were given the biography of Steve Jobs to read as an assignment in college, I was a bit skeptical. It seemed like just another long-drawn out, mundane read, brimming with the cacophony of “self-improvement” and “finding one’s passion”. Nonetheless, I decided to “Think Different”, and give it a try.

I began reading the book, and boy was I wrong. I was immediately engrossed after reading just the first few pages. Jobs put nothing off-limits. He encouraged the people he knew to speak honestly. That’s what made the book so all-inclusive and honest. Ultimately, I loved the book and I think it is one book which must be read by everyone, for it voices a brilliant story that is his life, all while giving priceless lessons of leadership, creativity and life. I learned aplenty about the genius of Steve Jobs, was more thoroughly entertained by his astounding life than by major Bollywood flicks, and came up with this tiny list of my 6 prime takeaways from the book (it could’ve been a much longer list) :

  • Love what you do and stick to it

Jobs continually mentions how he combined art and technology and worked at that little grey area, which led to his sweet success. His friendship with co-founder Steve Wozniak stemmed from this shared interest. His focus was crystal clear and he always wanted to fashion products and pull off tasks according to his vision. His ideology reeked of doing a few things, and doing them really well. When he was back at Apple, he terminated a large number of projects, such as Newton, Cyberdog and OpenDoc to fixate on just a few of the products, like the iMac, which turned out to be ground breaking.

  • Learn from the environment and people around you

Jobs was a quick and a keen learner. During the 70s, when the tech culture and many tech companies like Hewlett Packard were booming in the Silicon Valley and California, Jobs was always learning from all the cultural influences and nurturing his love for technology and design. His father loved the mechanics of how cars worked and his qualities of both, the detail and design, rubbed off on Jobs. Jobs tended to pick the superior facets of whoever he worked with and imbibed them effectively.

  • Simplification and Perfection

Jobs was obsessed with designing and simplifying his products. He even took care of the parts of the products, which the consumer cannot see. He took days to decide upon the shade of beige, which would go on the Macintosh panel. His idea for the most minuscule details was alluring. He believed in simplicity. While most companies manufactured phones with QWERTY keypads, he wanted no keys at all, except the on-off and volume buttons, an idea which was met with initial skepticism bore fruits, as can be seen today on literally every smartphone on Earth.

  • Be Bold

Jobs was unafraid and bold. He never begrudgingly did things, and was always ready to take action. At the age of 12, he telephoned Hewlett Packard to get some spare parts he needed for a project he was working on. As a result of that telephone call, HP gave him a summer job and he never looked back. The lesson we can learn here is to always try, even if we are turned down.

  •  Work with A-Players

Jobs only wanted to work with A-Players. Employees either won him over or were fired because of  their ineptitude, there were no two ways about it. Sometimes it took him months to build his team, because he never compromised on hiring. Some of his employees were afraid to go with him in an elevator, as they were afraid they might lose their jobs by the time the elevator reached a floor, if Jobs sensed any ineptness in them.  Jobs stiffly believed that Non-A Players create more Non-A Players and drag good performers down.

  •  Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

The phrase Steve Jobs famously quoted at his even more renowned Commencement Address at Stanford, 2005. Jobs propagated the idea to always keep learning more and more, thus staying “foolish” and “hungry” for more. He preached to never settle and keep looking for what one loves. The idea which Jobs assimilated from The Whole Earth Catalog in the 70s and brought to light in 2005, still resonates with and inspires millions like us today.

Writing a biography is never easy, as often the impeccability and availability of facts become a problem. But Walter Isaacson has done a praiseworthy job at bringing forth both, the positives and negatives of Steve Jobs’ personality, motivations and life rather neutrally.

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