Harry Wolff

You can't escape my laugh.

Becoming Steve Jobs

Recently finished reading Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader, the latest book to profile Steve Jobs' career and life. Like most books it spends a good amount of time detailing the moods and behaviors of Jobs when he first founded Apple, at the incredibly young age of 21. For some reason this fact never stuck with me before. I knew that Steve Jobs created Apple when he was young, but to be barely out of his teenage years is pretty incredible.

The book does a good job explaining (or trying to explain) why Jobs acted the way he did. Age definitely played a part of it - one is hardly mature at that young age - but so did Jobs' personality. The book portrays him as always seeking perfection, both around from himself and those around him.

The part of the book I found most interesting though was not the early years of Jobs' career. Those stories have been hashed and re-hashed countless times. What was of most interest to me were the years that Jobs was in exile so to speak. The years after he was ousted from Apple and working on NeXT.

Yet even more interesting than the years Jobs spent working on NeXT were the years Jobs was involved with Pixar. Until this book I had never given Jobs involvement with Pixar that much thought, other than it was a bad initial investment that turned into one of his greatest.

What I so loved about Becoming Steve Jobs was the focus it gave to Jobs' effect on Pixar, and the even greater effect Pixar had on Jobs. I came away from this book believing that if it had not been for Pixar then Jobs would not have been able to create Apple into the company we know today.

Through watching a tight-knit team of creative individuals work collaboratively Jobs was able to learn many managing techniques that he would later bring to Apple. Ed Catmull, cofounder of Pixar, served as a great unspoken mentor to Jobs, showing him what it takes to lead a team of creatives:

Steve listened to Catmull. Though he could often come across as a know-it-all, Steve was constantly trying to learn. Trim and professorial, Ed was ten years older than Steve, making him as much of a mentor as a colleague...And he could explain his managerial decisions with a sincerity, depth of feeling, and rationality that Steve respected. Ed had made it a point for years to try to hire people who he felt were smarter than he was, and the effort showed. “The collection of people at Pixar is the highest concentration of remarkable people I have ever witnessed,” Steve told me. For all that he gained from knowing Catmull , however, Steve never quite acknowledged to Ed how much he had learned from him. “The closest he got,” says Catmull, “is that he said he valued what I did, and knew it was very different from what he did.”

The impact Pixar and its team had on Jobs was one that I never truly understood until this book. Were it not for Pixar would Jobs have been able to lead Apple with as much skill and success? There's no way to know, but this whole chapter in Jobs life was eye opening to me.

Becoming Steve Jobs was one of the better books about Steve Jobs' life that I have read. It delved into aspects of Jobs' life that I had not previously known much about. The writing is straight forward and informative, remaining within the journalistic style of the author. I found it engaging and informative and I do recommend giving it a read if you are at all interested in Steve Jobs.