By Bob Schiers, Ras & Associates
As much as I try to force myself to read books (paperback, hardcover or digital), I just can’t seem to find the time to do so. Not lately, anyway. So imagine my reluctance to dive into Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson’s bestselling biography about the life and times of Apple founder (and one of my personal heroes), Steve Jobs.
Based on more than forty interviews with Jobs conducted over a two year period, the nearly 600 page tome chronicles the life of one of the most inventive and forward thinking persons of the past century – perhaps longer – depending on your perspective
Some say he was perhaps one of the most brilliant minds of all time. After all, he nearly single-handedly revolutionized six major industries: personal computers, digital publishing, animated films, music, cell phones, and tablet computing.
Back in 1984, when I purchased my first Mac, I knew something remarkable was happening. Perhaps to a fault, I stayed with Apple through thick and thin because I truly believed they were doing all the right things. My PR firm most likely would not exist today if it were not for Apple products whose desktop publishing capabilities launched an entire decade of hugely profitable business ventures for my agency. We went from “wannabes” to genuine players, going up against the “big guys” in our region thanks to outstanding software and hardware options from Apple. Between 1985 and 1995 we produced more than 1200 newsletters of all types and styles – all designed on Macs. And we outsmarted more than one competitor during that time that failed to recognize the desktop revolution, or to embrace the emerging technologies that enabled “little guys” like me to compete on the “big guys” turf. For that, I’m forever indebted to Apple (and Jobs).
According to Isaacson, throughout his life, Jobs was fanatical about perfection. He wouldn’t, no check that… couldn’t tolerate imperfection – on any level. Whether it was the design of a product, the functionality of a system or the relationships he had with friends, family or co-workers, he would accept nothing less than perfection. Ironically, having now read the book, which by the way was penned with Jobs’ full cooperation, I’ve come to learn that Jobs was perhaps the least perfect person I know (albeit from afar).
For those of you who read my last blog (Steve Jobs: An Apple A Day), it comes as no surprise that I put Jobs on a pedestal. Of course, like most, I never personally knew the man so I formed my opinions based mostly on what I read, and from a greater standpoint on what I purchased – Apple products – which to me will always be the greatest things since sliced bread. But my opinion of Steve Jobs has changed now that I’ve read Isaacson’s book. For too many years, I thought Bill Gates was the leader of the evil empire. But I was wrong. Apparently, it was Jobs who was the evil one – at least when it came to the way he treated people. He may have been a genius when it came to marketing (I’ll let the experts debate his technical skills when it comes to software and hardware design) but he could be classified a tyrant when it comes to the way he treated most people – even those closest to him.
I can’t imagine running my PR firm the way he ran Apple. Perhaps that’s why I’ll never achieve the levels of greatness that he did – or even come fractionally close. But that’s okay because nothing he did, nothing he created, and nothing that he ever imagined, could make it worthwhile to me if I had to treat people the way he did. From denying he fathered his daughter Lisa (whom he secretly named on of his first computers) to backstabbing some of his most loyal employees and supporters, I was appalled by the way he is said to have mistreated so many. Some of those quoted in Isaacson’s book fault his genius. Others say he was a product of childhood abandonment when his parents gave him up in his formative years. I’m no psychiatrist and I don’t pretend to know if he had psychological issues – all I know is this – he was spoiled and he did everything he could to get his own way in everything he did.
So what’s the lesson learned? After he passed, I guess I should have just let my sleeping hero lie. Instead, I read a book that I really didn’t have time to read, and now, in my mind, one of my biggest heroes has turned into a goat.