Stop pressuring me. I’m reading as fast as I can.
I have to say, I’m thoroughly enjoying Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Even more impressive than the writing (which is great) is Isaacson’s ability to weave an incredible number of interviews into one coherent story.
I’m not nearly done yet. But what interested me so much in the first half of the book are the early behaviors/experiences that helped form the mature Steve.
Stop here if you don’t want to hear any spoilers.
1. Visiting a dairy farm in Wisconsin, Steve witnessed a newborn calf struggle to its feet. He thought it was remarkable that she was “hardwired” to accomplish this instinctively. Somehow the brain and body were engineered to work together from the start. Ordinarily, I’d say it’s a stretch to tie this to Apple’s hardware and software working together — except that this story comes directly from Steve. The fact that he remembered it so distinctly is interesting, to say the least.
2. Steve’s father taught him a lesson in craftsmanship when they built a fence together, paying attention even to the details that no one would ever see. Many years later, in creating the first Macintosh, Steve demanded that the internal circuit board be better looking, even though no user could ever see it.
3. Of his time in India, Steve observed that the locals used their intuition more than their intellect. Steve said, “Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than any intellect, in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work.” I’ll say.
4. Steve was barefoot when he pitched the Apple II to Atari’s president, Joe Keenan. He put his feet up on the desk while they talked and Joe didn’t like it one bit. Some 20 years later, I had the pleasure of seeing the same routine at one of our agency meetings, right there in the Apple boardroom. We weren’t grossed out, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen the bottoms of any other CEO’s feet.
5. In 1981, Steve had a “father figure” in then-CEO of Apple Mike Markkula. Steve said Mike is the one who taught him all about marketing — which is a huge deal, since we all know how Steve’s marketing sense permeates everything Apple does. Mike crafted a one-page paper entitled “The Apple Marketing Philosophy.” Isaacson summarizes its three main points. Empathy: establishing an intimate relationship with the feelings of customers. Focus: eliminating unimportant opportunities so they could do a good job of the things they wanted to do. Impute: ensuring that products are presented in such a way that people perceive quality. The 1981 Apple sounds suspiciously like the 2011 Apple.
6. Steve signed up for a booth at the West Coast Computer Faire, where the Apple II would make its debut. He shocked Woz by paying $5,000 for the best location in the hall, next to the entrance. Woz: “Steve decided that this was our big launch. We would show the world we had a great machine and great company.” Of course, over the years Steve would make sure Apple had a commanding presence at every show — until the company was successful enough that it didn’t even have to show up.
7. Everyone knows about Steve being inspired about the graphical interface and mouse he saw at the Xerox PARC facility. The part I never heard before was that Xerox’s mouse had three buttons and cost $300. Steve went to a local design firm, demanding a single-button mouse that cost $15. Not surprisingly, he got it.
Not that I ever suspected that the modern Steve magically appeared from nowhere — but it’s interesting to see how many of his famous behaviors and beliefs were evident so many years ago.