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Derick David

I Read Steve Job’s Biography Twice So You Don’t Have To, Here’s What I Learned

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Derick David
Derick David
Steve Job's bookPhoto by Md Mahdi on Unsplash

You can go to college, spend 4 years of your life, spending more than $100K, or you can just read Steve Jobs’ biography.

So, I just finished reading “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson, twice now.

I first started reading back in 2016, in Italian. Although I wasn’t paying much attention in detail, I still learned several insights and wisdom from the book.

The second time I read it is this year, but this time in English.

It hit me differently. Everything was clearer and the stories stuck longer. The last time I read the book, I was an amateur in the world of startups and technology.

Along with this reading experience, I learned a lot of invaluable stories, lessons, and insights that I want to share with you as well.

In 40 years in business, Steve Jobs helped revolutionize 6 different industries.

  1. Personal computers
  2. Animated films
  3. Music
  4. Mobile phones
  5. Retail
  6. Digital publishing.

Jobs was clearly a creative genius and a modern intellectual with an enormous amount of passion, creativity, and ambition for life.

Also, there was a relentless focus that was ingrained in Jobs's personality that had been honed by his Zen training experience which enabled him to adopt a certain philosophy to see life differently.

You can go to college, spend 4 years of your life, spending more than $100K, or you can just read Steve Jobs’ biography.

Having read his biography twice in 5 years. Here’s what I can tell you about startup, marketing, creativity, career, and life that you should know about.

Customers don’t know what they want until you show it to them.

When Jobs unveiled the Macintosh in 1984, a reporter asked him what type of market research he had done. Do you know what he replied?

Jobs replied,

“Did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research before he invented the telephone?”

Jobs also simplified the products by focusing on their true essence and eliminating unnecessary components. With this methodology, Apple has created a reputation for creating elegant solutions that enabled people to just do things with simplicity.

As a matter of fact, it was such an important value for Apple that an early Mac manual opened with a Leonardo da Vinci quote that said,

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Build the product that you want to use.

Apple knew the iPod was going to be successful because they could see how badly they each wanted one personally. With the iPhone, they were excited about building a phone that they would personally want to use.

It’s the best motivator.

The goal of any product or service is to create memorable experiences for customers.

You must enrich their lives intangible and real ways they value.

Apple didn’t sell products.

He sold experiences and status.

He gave customers new and better ways to think about problems and how to solve them, oftentimes before they realize it by themselves.

Before its launch in 2001, people struggled with organizing their digital music collections. So Apple built the iPod with the catchphrase,

“1,000 songs in your pocket.”

Steve Jobs wasn’t also a big fan of traditional retail, so Apple completely re-engineered the retail experience to deliver a distinctive customer experience.

  • Customers can come and touch the products with their hands
  • No salespeople, but rather experts

5 years after the first Apple store, Apple reached $1 billion in annual sales — faster than any other retailer in history.

Make progress by eliminating things.

Jony Ive, who was the Chief Design Officer at Apple explains,

“To be truly simple, you have to go really deep. You have to deeply understand the essence of a product in order to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential.”

You have to say no to a thousand things

In the words of John Sculley, former Apple CEO:

“What makes Steve’s methodology different from everybody else’s is that he always believed that the most important decisions you make are not the things that you do, but the things you decide not to do.”

Great companies like Apple typically focus on the one thing the product is made to do and just focus on that, aggressively.

“The way you get programmer productivity is not by increasing the lines of code per programmer per day. That doesn’t work. The way you get programmer productivity is by eliminating lines of code you have to write.
The line of code that’s the fastest to write, that never breaks, that doesn’t need maintenance, is the line you never had to write.”

This brings me to the next point.

Do a few things, really well

Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do. It’s as true for companies, as it’s for products.

“We all have a short period of time on this earth. We probably only have the opportunity to do a few things really great and do them well.”

Make art.

I hate it when people call themselves “entrepreneurs” when what they’re really trying to do is launch a company and then sell or go public, so they can cash in and move on.

Products, not profits, should be the motivation. Thinking differently is easier said than done.

But when it’s done frequently enough by just about anyone, it can transform good ideas into great products.

Most people can actually do this reasonably well if they choose to put in the time and effort that’s required to think differently.

That’s what disruptive innovators do, day after day.

Learn how to tell a story

Jobs was the world’s greatest corporate storyteller.

There are countless memorable moments from his keynotes.

The most iconic came when he pretended the presentation was over, but there’s actually one more thing.

He used it 31 times, before revealing the newest innovations.

As magician David Blaine puts it,

“Steve Jobs is the ultimate showman who keeps the audience excited the whole way leading up to the reveal.”

Jobs turned keynote presentations into an art event. People would queue overnight just to get an opportunity to be one of the first people to witness the new product innovations.

“Let’s go invent tomorrow instead of wondering about what happened yesterday.”

For every idea that turns into a successful innovation, thousands of others never gain traction because they failed to tell a compelling story.

Stories are ingrained in the root of Apple’s culture.

Final thoughts — Living in the Future

Steve always lived in the future.

When designing the first version of the iPhone, Jobs decided he wanted a tough, scratch-proof glass instead of plastic.

So, he met with Wendell Weeks of Corning, who told him that his company had developed a chemical exchange process in the 1960s that led to what it dubbed “Gorilla glass.”

Jobs was sold and ordered a major shipment of Gorilla glass to be delivered in six months.

But Corning was not making the glass at the time and didn’t have that capacity.

“Don’t be afraid,” Jobs replied. He stared unblinkingly at Weeks. “Yes, you can do it,” he said. “Get your mind around it. You can do it.”

Not only himself, but Jobs always pushed his own employees to see themselves as futurists. Fundamentally, everybody at Apple should aim to make the world a better place.

Practice living in the future.

As Woody Allen said,

“We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.”