Steve Jobs: A Modern-Day Da Vinci


Español His individuality, character, genius, and determination can’t be doubted. Steve Jobs was one of those key modern entrepreneurs who revolutionized the way we see and use technology. It wasn’t only what he did to create new technologies that many people never even knew they needed — discovering problems and creating solutions simultaneously — but also in making his products to an exactingly high standard, a tribute to a job well done.

Los triunfos y fallos de Steve Jobs son reflejados en el libro de Walter Isaacson. (Amazon)
The triumphs and failures of Steve Jobs are faithfully reflected in Walter Isaacson’s biography. (Amazon)

The Apple brand has revolutionized the planet. It’s facilitated the use of technology around the world, making the once-complex something simple. The experience of using a computer, listening to music, or accessing to the internet, will never be the same again. Making telephone calls is now the last thing consumers consider when buying a cell phone.

Jobs has simplified our lives, putting technology at our fingertips that barely even existed 25 years ago, often combining 20 or more tools in a single device that fits in a pocket.

Such perfectionism could only come from a person that, in other contexts, would be described as neurotic, obsessive, and even cruel.

The tech innovator was no saint, and his complex personality — leading him to triumphs and failures in equal measure — is rendered in great detail by Walter Isaacson, a journalist who turned his hand to writing the only authorized biography of Steve Jobs.

Isaacson began to write the book upon Jobs’s request, an idea which he initially rejected. He felt that Jobs had many battles left to fight, stories which would be told in due time in a future book when the Apple CEO retired. But Isaacson didn’t know that Jobs’s time was running out.

The entrepreneur insisted again on the issue, but the journalist still resisted. That is, until Laurene Powell, Jobs’s wife, told Isaacson bluntly that Jobs had cancer, possibly terminal.

Isaacson set about investigations immediately. He spoke with figures from Jobs’s past and present, and interviewed the Apple boss himself some 40 times to sculpt a precise picture of the founder of a technological empire that now bestrides the globe.

Steve Jobs, the Adopted Genius

Jobs’s identity was shaped by being adopted, and although his parents never hid his origin from him, it always made him feel different. “Abandoned. Chosen. Special.” This is the image that Jobs had of himself. The uncertainties surrounding his birth injected in Jobs the desire for complete control over his life.

The influence of a booming Silicon Valley was huge in the future innovator’s infancy, molding his love for electronics and technology. Being in contact with the US tech boom was decisive in shaping his personality.

Jobs’s biological mother, a well-brought up woman who gave her son up for adoption due to family conflicts, insisted that the adoptive parents were university graduates, in an attempt to ensure that her son would also go to university.

Jobs’s adoptive guardians, although not graduates themselves, put all their efforts into ensuring their son received the best possible education, above all when they realized he was formidably intelligent.

Yet his university career never took off. He quickly abandoned formal classes and dedicated himself to learning about calligraphy and design — elements which would later define Apple products — rather than the subjects on the curriculum. Despite his humble origins, Jobs would soon begin with minimal capital a business that would later become worth some US$700 billion — from which, along the way, he would be fired.

Issacson suggests that Jobs, beyond his dedication to electrical engineering, was also a genius in marketing and discovering new opportunities. Years later, after learning from various mistakes, Jobs would give a simple but moving graduation speech, Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish, in which he encouraged listening graduates to follow their dreams, and find what they loved through trusting their intuition.

John Tamny, an economics journalist with Forbes, argues that the biography Steve Jobs could be considered an economics manual. Jobs’s love of music was also vital to the transformations that he generated in his work, with the creation of the iPod and iTunes fundamentally changing the way in which music is purchased and consumed. He also cofounded and innovated the animation studio Pixar, opening the way to a new generation of ground-breaking films.

Apple has remained the vanguard of high-quality portable computing, its market share consistently growing despite the high cost of its products: a well-made product isn’t cheap. Apple boasts a history of technological innovation, the creation of new markets, and unveiling audacious designs.

The book manages to convey Jobs’s complex personality with precision, describing the many huge mistakes he made along the way. He wasn’t an easy person to live with, often falling out with friends, and known for his domineering personality, failing to admit his mistakes, and believing himself to be infallible. In some respects he was an anti-hero, often paying for his fits of anger, but his excessive determination saw him stick to his own path.

In the office, he was a hard taskmaster, and for years he abandoned his first daughter, only later recognizing her existence and establishing a relationship with her.

Some might say that Jobs’s genius could have been put to better use. In the 56 years that he lived, Jobs didn’t find a cure for cancer, nor did he extinguish poverty. But he helped humanity by creating wealth — the road to reducing poverty — thousands of jobs, and improving the lives of others through revolutionizing and democratizing advanced technology forever.

Translated by Laurie Blair.

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