Becoming Steve Jobs – Summary

Becoming Steve Jobs – Summary


Learn about the fascinating evolution of Steve Jobs

Karl’s commentary: This biography distinguishes itself in that it shows a more humane, perhaps more realistic perspective of Steve Jobs. In contrast to other authors who have written about him, this author was very close to Steve which is the reason he is better able to write about Steve’s real character than other people who have only researched third party accounts.

Steve Jobs was highly talented from an earlier age but struggled with his character

Perhaps in part, because his father was a car mechanic and craftsman, Jobs developed an interest in design and technology. He also was very smart. Steve skipped sixth grade and was naturally drawn to math and science.

His interest in computers started when he was accepted to the Explorers Club, a group of kids who worked on electronics projects on the Hewlett-Packard campus. Despite being talented, it was not until he connected with Stephen Wozniak that his passion for design and computers flourished. Steve had the vision of how a computer should be and Wozniak had the technical knowledge to build one.

With just 21 years Steve together with Woz founded Apple in Job’s parents’ garage. They build a mini assembling line and got help from the kids from the neighborhood.

Despite being highly talented, Steve sometimes struggled with his temperamental character. On one occasion while giving a talk at the garden of Allah the audience kicked him out and he went crying in the parking lot. He went back to apologize and left.

As Apple grew bigger, Steve had to learn to deal with the grown-ups

Steve once said to the author: “I didn’t want to be a businessman, because all the businessmen I knew I didn’t want to be like.” This statement reflects Steve’s character, he was naturally inclined to position himself as the critic, the rebel, the visionary. He wanted to move Apple from his father’s garage to a bigger corporate space but he wanted to do in on his own terms.

Job’s first tenure at Apple was a rollercoaster

In the late 1970’s Job’s time at Apple was highly moved. It was the time when the cliché that Steve Jobs was half genius, half asshole was built. His hights would shine most famously and his lows were reprehensible. He was out of control, he developed followers and he created enemies. His contradictory qualities unraveled leaving him and his company at loose ends. Ultimately his character and the failure of the initially highly celebrated Macintosh to reach the sales mark, got him exiled from Apple in 1985 after the CEO at the time convinced the company board to take that measure. Jobs, of course, was deeply struck but he moved on to the next big thing.

Steve continued to revolutionize technology and eventually came back to Apple

Steve wasn’t going to give up, instead, he continued his tech revolution by creating his next company called NeXT. His goal was to develop a computer geared toward the needs of the higher-education market. His target clients were Universities and academic professionals.

But despite professionals telling him that they couldn’t afford anything above $3.000 NeXT’s first computer ended being $6.500-$10.000. Jobs was so driven by innovation and his visions that he wasn’t good at noting certain trade-offs that his choices had, for instance, such a high price that nobody could afford it.

Meanwhile, Jobs was becoming a mayor owner at Pixar, a computer animation subdivision of Lucasfilm. It had created the special effects in Star Trek ll and Young Sherlock Holmes. The company caught Steve’s attention because of the high-tier software they developed to manipulate 3D images. It was his experience at Pixar that would eventually lead him back to Apple.

In the 1990 Microsoft rose to be the leading software company. This happened for several reasons, while Apple didn’t license their operating system for other manufacturers, Microsoft’s OS could be installed on any other manufacturers computer. Jobs focused on aesthetic and innovative machines while Gates showed great business genius by capturing the biggest market share and focused on gradual improvements.

Steve Jobs got a big boost after Pixar launched with Disney its first animated film Toy Story. He became a billionaire overnight by having 80% of the company’s shares. But perhaps most importantly he learned to control his temperament during his time at Pixar and improved his management skills thanks to John Lasseter and Ed Catmull who ditched micromanagement and created the perfect conditions and freedom for their creative employees.

By the mid-1990’s Apple was stagnating. It had no promising products and failed to modernize its OS. In the first quarter of 1996 the company lost $750 million. Jobs watched painfully the downfall of Apple when an unforeseen opportunity raised. Apple acquired NeXT in search of a shortcut to a more advanced OS and a way out of the crisis. As a result, Steve was back at Apple and got offered the position of CEO after Gil Amelio’s forced resignation. He converted Apple once again into a profitable computer-industry leader.

Steve’s illness didn’t stop his innovation

After being diagnosed with Cancer Steve had to go through surgery and he endured pain but all that didn’t hold him off of innovating at Apple. Products like the iPod, iTunes, and iPhone were all huge successes. The iPhone remains the most successful consumer electronics product in history with over half a billion items sold since 2007. After the iPhone came the iPad and the MacBook Air which were Jobs final accomplishments. He had an incessable drive and passion which led him to continue innovating until finally, his fight with illness came to an end on October 5, 2011.

His legacy

Other than his great products, he left us with great inspirational material such as his commencement speech at Stanford. After being asked about it he said yes despite having refused speaking engagements constantly. To quote the book directly:

“In fact, he was asked to do so many commencement addresses that it became a running joke with Laurene and other friends who had college or graduate degrees: Steve said he’d accept one just to make an end run around them and get his PhD in a day, versus the years and years it had taken them. But in the end, saying no was simply a question of return on investment—conferences and public speaking seemed to offer a meager payoff compared to other things, like a dazzling MacWorld presentation, working on a great product, or being around his family.”

His fifteen-minute speech became the most-quoted address of all time. It ended with “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” which describes Steve Jobs essence perfectly.

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Also published on Medium.