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Steve Jobs


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  • hard cover book with dust jacket
  • Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2011: It is difficult to read the opening pages of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs
    without feeling melancholic. Jobs retired at the end of August and died about six weeks later. Now, just weeks after his
    death, you can open the book that bears his name and read about his youth, his promise, and his relentless press to
    succeed. But the initial sadness in starting the book is soon replaced by something else, which is the intensity of the
    read--mirroring the intensity of Jobs’s focus and vision for his products. Few in history have transformed their time
    like Steve Jobs, and one could argue that he stands with the Fords, Edisons, and Gutenbergs of the world. This is a
    timely and complete portrait that pulls no punches and gives insight into a man whose contradictions were in many ways
    his greatest strength. --Chris Schluep

    Amazon Exclusive: A Q&A with Walter Isaacson

    Q: It's becoming well known that Jobs was able to create his Reality Distortion Field when it served him. Was it
    difficult for you to cut through the RDF and get beneath the narrative that he created? How did you do it?

    Isaacson: Andy Hertzfeld, who worked with Steve on the original Macintosh team, said that even if you were aware of his
    Reality Distortion Field, you still got caught up in it. But that is why Steve was so successful: He willfully bent
    reality so that you became convinced you could do the impossible, so you did. I never felt he was intentionally
    misleading me, but I did try to check every story. I did more than a hundred interviews. And he urged me not just to
    hear his version, but to interview as many people as possible. It was one of his many odd contradictions: He could
    distort reality, yet he was also brutally honest most of the time. He impressed upon me the value of honesty, rather
    than trying to whitewash things.

    Q: How were the interviews with Jobs conducted? Did you ask lots of questions, or did he just talk?

    Isaacson: I asked very few questions. We would take long walks or drives, or sit in his garden, and I would raise a
    topic and let him expound on it. Even during the more formal sessions in his living room, I would just sit quietly and
    listen. He loved to tell stories, and he would get very emotional, especially when talking about people in his life whom
    he admired or disdained.

    Q: He was a powerful man who could hold a grudge. Was it easy to get others to talk about Jobs willingly? Were they
    afraid to talk?

    Isaacson: Everyone was eager to talk about Steve. They all had stories to tell, and they loved to tell them. Even those
    who told me about his rough manner put it in the context of how inspiring he could be.

    Q: Jobs embraced the counterculture and Buddhism. Yet he was a billionaire businessman with his own jet. In what way
    did Jobs' contradictions contribute to his success?

    Isaacson: Steve was filled with contradictions. He was a counterculture rebel who became a billionaire. He eschewed
    material objects yet made objects of desire. He talked, at times, about how he wrestled with these contradictions. His
    counterculture background combined with his love of electronics and business was key to the products he created. They
    combined artistry and technology.

    Q: Jobs could be notoriously difficult. Did you wind up liking him in the end?

    Isaacson: Yes, I liked him and was inspired by him. But I knew he could be unkind and rough. These things can go
    together. When my book first came out, some people skimmed it quickly and cherry-picked the examples of his being rude
    to people. But that was only half the story. Fortunately, as people read the whole book, they saw the theme of the
    narrative: He could be petulant and rough, but this was driven by his passion and pursuit of perfection. He liked people
    to stand up to him, and he said that brutal honesty was required to be part of his team. And the teams he built became
    extremely loyal and inspired.

    Q: Do you believe he was a genius?

    Isaacson: He was a genius at connecting art to technology, of making leaps based on intuition and imagination. He knew
    how to make emotional connections with those around him and with his customers.

    Q: Did he have regrets?

    Isaacson: He had some regrets, which he expressed in his interviews. For example, he said that he did not handle well
    the pregnancy of his first girlfriend. But he was deeply satisfied by the creativity he ingrained at Apple and the
    loyalty of both his close colleagues and his family.

    Q: What do you think is his legacy?

    Isaacson: His legacy is transforming seven industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet
    computing, digital publishing, and retail stores. His legacy is creating what became the most valuable company on earth,
    one that stood at the intersection of the humanities and technology, and is the company most likely still to be doing
    that a generation from now. His legacy, as he said in his "Think Different" ad, was reminding us that the people who are
    crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.

    Photo credit: Patrice Gilbert Photography

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