Reading Isaacson’s Steve Jobs has been a pretty amazing experience. I JUST FINISHED LAST NIGHT, AND LIKE Gordon MacDonald, who recently wrote a piece on Jobs, I regretted getting to the last page. He has to be one of the most unique men who has ever lived. Maybe history will place him in the pantheon next to Edison and Ford, for he truly built the world’s most creative company, Apple. He launched a series of products that transformed whole industries—
- the Apple II
- the Macintosh
- Toy Story
- Apple Stores
- The iPod
- The iTunes Store
- the iPhone
- the App Store
- the iPad
So here are some takeaways from his life—
1-Be as meticulous with the unseen as you are with the seen. Jobs grew up as an adopted child, and lived in a working class home. His father loved to work with his hands, and work in his garage. He was meticulous with detail. He taught his son to craft the backs of things like cabinets and fences, even though they are hidden. The important lesson he learned was to do things right, to care about the parts you cannot see. It led him to despise carelessness in a product. He applied this to everything he created at Apple.
2-Never underestimate the formative influence you can have with a middle schooler. This part of the story scared me, as I think about the words I say as a pastor. Jobs attended a Lutheran church as child, but it came to an end when he was thirteen. He confronted his pastor with a question regarding human suffering and the sovereignty of God, and the pastor’s answer led him to reject Christianity. He went on to practice the tenets of Zen Buddhism, mixed with meditation and spirituality, acid and rock. He followed the basic precepts of Eastern religions. Until his final days, he never had any real assurance about the things of God. He concluded that different religions have different doors to the same house, and maybe the house exists and maybe it doesn’t.
3-A fly in the ointment can spoil the perfume. Jobs had an amazing, creative mind. He was a genius. He could absorb information and sniff the future winds. He inspired and challenged the very best from people, and attracted the very best minds in the world. He won people to a cause, and it moved CEO’s from major corporations (like Sculley of Pepsico-“Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?”). He attracted the brightest and bests artists and engineers. He could be charming, charismatic, and even mesmerizing. But he could also be manipulative, brutally cold, and rude. There was no regulator between his mind and his mouth. He created unnecessary fears because of his spontaneous temper tantrums and his proclivity to tell people exactly what he thought. Ultimately, his profane and nasty edge hindered more than helped him.
4-There is great power in intensity and focus. Isaacson, after all of his research and interviews came to the conclusion that Jobs’ most salient trait was his intensity. He set priorities and aimed his laser attention on them. He could filter out all distractions. Jobs believed that deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. Because Jobs brought intensity into everything he did, it created its own tension. He was tightly coiled and impatient. His silences could be as searing as his rants. He either praised you or cursed you. It was either a great product or it was crap. Whatever he was interested in, he almost always took to an irrational extreme. But this is a huge part of what made his accomplishments great. One is left wondering if one can truly achieve at a level of greatness without this.
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