The Jobs’ le­gacy, take two

An­other bi­og­ra­phy of the Ap­ple boss casts a dif­fer­ent light on his per­son­al­ity

The Australian - The Deal - - Firts up -

Brent Sch­len­der and Rick Tet­zeli Ha­chette Australia Hard­back $49.99; Pa­per­back $ 35.00

BY any mea­sure, Ap­ple founder Steve Jobs is one of the ge­niuses of our time. He was a bril­liant, dif­fi­cult, pas­sion­ate, ob­ses­sive man who smashed tech­no­log­i­cal bar­ri­ers and trans­formed our lives. In only a few years, he turned the world into a gen­er­a­tion of smart­phone-read­ing zom­bies, their work and per­sonal lives in­ex­tri­ca­bly tied to the hand-held de­vice he launched in 2007.

Any book that seeks to tell the “real story” about the late Jobs, based on a long pe­riod of in­ter­views with the man dur­ing his life­time, de­serves to be read, if not plun­dered for lessons about cre­ative ge­nius.

Be­com­ing Steve Jobs has been writ­ten by two jour­nal­ists who cov­ered him ex­ten­sively. Brent Sch­len­der cov­ered Jobs for 25 years, in­clud­ing 10 years writ­ing for The Wall Street

Jour­nal and two decades for For­tune mag­a­zine. Rick Tet­zeli is ex­ec­u­tive edi­tor of Fast

Com­pany mag­a­zine. The pun­dits have had a field day con­trast­ing the new book with the first ma­jor study of Jobs since his death in 2011, Steve Jobs by jour­nal­ist Wal­ter Isaac­son. While Isaac­son’s book was of­fi­cially au­tho­rised by Jobs, Sch­len­der and Tet­zeli re­ject its de­pic­tion of him as “half ge­nius-half jerk”, an al­most bi-po­lar per­son­al­ity whose char­ac­ter was shaped by his feel­ing of re­jec­tion af­ter find­ing out he was adopted.

The lat­est book is bent on show­ing a kin­der, gen­tler Jobs who was driven and dif­fi­cult, but a man who grew dur­ing his life time, whose rough edges were smoothed over by his decade “in the wilder­ness” af­ter he was pushed out of Ap­ple. The Jobs that re­turned to the com­pany he founded was a changed man who helped to trans­form the ail­ing Ap­ple into one of the world’s most suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies – re­leas­ing first the iPhone and the iPad in the fi­nal years of his life as he bat­tled can­cer.

The book gets the ap­proval of the Ap­ple hi­er­ar­chy, led by Jobs' suc­ces­sor, chief ex­ec­u­tive Tim Cook. Cook dis­misses the Isaac­son book as do­ing Jobs “a tremen­dous dis­ser­vice … just a re­hash of stuff that had al­ready been writ­ten” that painted Jobs as a “greedy, self­ish ego­ma­niac.”

In con­trast, Sch­len­der and Tet­zeli ar­gue that Jobs “could be a jerk, but he wasn’t an ass­hole”. Jobs, they say, wasn’t bit­ter about be­ing adopted. He was a spoiled brat in­dulged by par­ents, who were pre­pared to spend what lit­tle funds they had into sup­port­ing him.

Be­com­ing Steve Jobs has lots of new gos­sipy tidbits about Jobs, in­clud­ing his ob­ses­sion with keep­ing the ex­tent of his can­cer a se­cret and his ten­dency to hold long-term grudges against crit­ics in­clud­ing singer Neil Young who crit­i­cised the sound qual­ity on iTunes.

We also learn that at one stage to­wards the end of Jobs life, Tim Cook of­fered to let him take part of his liver for a trans­plant. Ex­actly how this would have worked bi­o­log­i­cally is not ex­plained. Jobs quickly re­jected the idea. There is a lot of “I” in the book as the main writer, Sch­len­der, seeks to prove that he was the jour­nal­ist who knew Jobs bet­ter than any other (aka Isaac­son).

But the real value in the new book is read­ing an­other take on the life of a ge­nius. As they say, real change is only brought about by un­rea­son­able peo­ple who can’t abide the sta­tus quo and have a deep pas­sion to im­prove things. We see how the tech-savvy Jobs, from a young age had no qualms about ap­proach­ing all sorts of peo­ple for help or ad­vice or to tap their ex­per­tise. He was an ob­ses­sive, impatient worka­holic who could not abide what he saw as lazi­ness in any­one he worked with.

He never wanted to be a busi­ness­man but was driven by a de­sire to make tech­nol­ogy more ac­ces­si­ble to or­di­nary peo­ple. His work was his life and “ev­ery­thing about work was per­sonal for Steve.” That said, the young Steve Jobs was so off the nor­mal per­son­al­ity scale that he had to change, and change he did.

This bi­og­ra­phy is well sourced, fast paced and de­tailed. None of us will ever be Jobs, but we can learn much by study­ing the fu­ri­ous­life of some­one who rev­o­lu­tionised our daily lives.

Be­com­ing Steve Jobs: How a reck­less up­start be­came a vi­sion­ary leader

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