Having read Walter Isaacson’s new biography of Steve Jobs, I’m not sure whether to think a lot more or a lot less highly of the man who founded Apple, got thrown out of his own company, then transformed it into one of the world’s most valuable brands.
Jobs was a narcissist and a visionary; he was a hippie billionaire who pursued success ruthlessly but had absolutely no interest in accumulating riches.
Jobs was an often mean-spirited brat, who abandoned his own child yet was capable of giving speeches that moved millions. As the book shows, he was also someone who pursued perfection with a relentlessness that is, literally, almost impossible to believe
Consider this incident, near the very end of Jobs’s life: while he lies in a hospital bed, deeply sedated, a surgeon tries to fit him with an oxygen mask. According to Isaacson, “Jobs ripped it off and mumbled that he hated the design and refused to wear it. Though barely able to speak, he ordered them to bring five different options for the mask and he would pick the design he liked.”
Jobs’s perfectionism extended to the way his products were marketed: he drove his ad agency half-mad when they worked, first, on the groundbreaking “1984” TVC for Macintosh (which the company’s Board of Directors tried desperately to cancel) and then throughout the endless iterations of the “Think Different” campaign for the iMac.
Each successive high-profile launch – when Jobs would stride across a broad stage in his trademark black turtleneck, concluding, always, with the product unveil – was just as carefully managed.
With his complete faith in his own personal taste and obsessive-compulsive management style, Jobs is simply too idiosyncratic to be remembered as a role-model entrepreneur. Yet, in the end, he remains an inspiration. Why? Because, I think, he believed so incredibly deeply in everything he did.
In our disposable society, in this throw-away age, Jobs felt that every choice we make is important, and that no detail is ever too small to spend years considering.
That is why, unable to find the perfect couch, dining table or chairs, Jobs spent most of his life living in barely furnished homes. That’s also why he was able to create so many achingly beautiful objects that have forever changed the way we live, work, communicate and play.