Saturday, 3 December 2011

Quotes from Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson

The Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson is actually very good. I wrote a few thoughts about it straight after I read it.

I read it on Kindle, and here's some of the quotes I marked in there.


'Jobs revolutionized six industries: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing. You might even add a seventh, retail stores, which Jobs did not quite revolutionize but did reimagine.'

Steve Jobs: "Edwin Land of Polaroid said something about the importance of people who could stand at the intersection of humanities and sciences, and I decided that's what I wanted to do."

'He knew that the best way to create value in the twenty-first century was to connect creativity with technology, so he built a company where leaps of imagination were combined with remarkable feats of engineering.'

Jobs: "When I realized that I was smarter than my parents, I felt tremendous shame for having thought that. I will never forget that moment."

The calf, and hardware and software

'He saw a calf being born, and he was amazed when the tiny animal struggled up within minutes and began to walk. "It was not something she had learned, but it was instead hardwired into her," he recalled. "A human baby couldn't do that. I found it remarkable, even though no one else did." He put it in hardware-software terms: "It was as if something in the animal's body and in its brain had been engineered to work together instantly rather than being learned."

Jobs: "People who are serious about software should make their own hardware."

On intuition

Jobs (on his visit to India in 1974): "The people in the Indian countryside don't use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead, and their intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the world. Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That's had a big impact on my work."

Jobs: "If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does there's room to hear more subtle things - that's when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before. It's a discipline; you have to practice it."

Written on the back cover of Buckminster Fuller's Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of Jobs' early influences: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish."

Jobs: "Your thoughts construct patterns like scaffolding in your mind. You are really etching chemical patterns. In most cases, people get stuck in those patterns, just like grooves in a record, and they never get out of them."

Apple philosophy

Jobs: "You should never start a company with the goal of getting rich. Your goal should be making something you believe in and making a company that will last."

Jobs: "The journey is the reward."

From Markkula's formative one-page paper titled "The Apple Marketing Philosophy", outline three guiding principles:
Empathy: "We will truly understand [the customer's] needs better than any other company."
Focus: "In order to do a good job of those things that we decide to do, we must eliminate all of the unimportant opportunities."
Impute: "People do judge a book by it's cover. We may not have the best product, the highest quality, the most useful software etc.; if we present them in a slipshod manner, they will be perceived as slipshod; if we present them in a creative, professional manner, we will impute the desired qualities."

Jobs: The aim of Apple, from the beginning, was to "make a dent in the universe."

Jobs: "The best way to predict the future is to invent it."

From Inc Magazine, the first magazine to put Jobs on the cover: "When Steve Jobs speaks, it is with the gee-whiz enthusiasm of someone who sees the future and is making sure it works."

Drive for perfection

'Jobs's father had once taught him that a drive for perfection meant caring about the craftsmanship even of the parts unseen. ... This passion for perfection led him to indulge his instinct to control.'

Jobs: "When you're a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you're not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You'll know it's there, so you're going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality has to be carried all the way through."

Jobs: "Picasso had a saying - 'good artists copy, great artists steal' - and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas."

Conception and execution are equally important

'There falls a shadow, as T.S. Eliot noted, between the conception and the creation. In the annals of innovation, new ideas are only part of the equation. Execution is just as important."

Bill Atkinson, lead developer of Apple's GUI: "I got a feeling for the empowering aspect of naivete. Because I didn't know it couldn't be done, I was enabled to do it."

'At age 25, Jobs was worth $256 million.'

Naming Apple products

'Since Jeff Raskin thought it was sexist to name computers after women [like the Apple Lisa], he redubbed the new project [codenamed Annie] in honor of his favorite type of apple, the McIntosh.'

'Jobs had been referring to computers as a bicycle for the mind; the ability of humans to create a bicycle allowed them to move more efficiently than even a condor, and likewise the ability to create computers would multiply the efficiency of their minds. So one day Jobs decreed that henceforth the Macintosh should be known instead as the Bicycle. This did not go over well.'

Management style

Nolan Bushnell of Atari: "I taught him that if you act like you can do something, then it will work. I told him, 'Pretend to be completely in control and people will assume that you are.'"

Hertzfeld on Jobs: "The reality distortion field was a confounding melange of a charismatic rhetorical style, indomitable will, and eagerness to bend any fact to fit the purpose at hand."

Jobs used his infamous 'reality distortion field' as 'a tactic for accomplishing something.'

'Jobs's tendency was to see the world in binary terms. A person was either a hero or a bozo, a product was either amazing or shit.'

Chrisann Kottke on Jobs: "He was an enlightened being who was cruel."

Jobs: "It's too easy, as a team grows, to put up with a few B players, and they then attract a few more B players, and soon you will even have some C players."


Leonardo da Vinci's maxim, that became 'the defining precept of Jobs's design philosophy': "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

Jobs: "The was we're running the company, the product design, the advertising, it all comes down to this: Let's make it simple. Really simple."

Jobs: "It would be better to miss [the scheduled completion date] than to turn out the wrong thing."

Jobs on why Apple never conducted market research prior to product development: "Did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research before he invented the telephone?"

Think Different

Advertising copy to support Apple's Think Different campaign:
"Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."

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