Excerpts from Becoming Steve Jobs

Becoming Steve Jobs is an excellent book. You should drop what you’re reading and read it instead. I loved it; I expect to reread at least one more time in my lifetime. Here are the excerpts I highlighted:

  • Negotiation

    • Lasetter, Catmull, and everyone at Pixar, on the other hand, fully realized that making a movie for Disney was probably their only change to survive as a company. The negotiations were their last stand, and their fate was in the hands of Steve. Catmull and Lasseter were very comfortable with this. For years, Steve had been the point man on Pixar's negotiations. "He was tough," remembers Lasseter, "He'd walk into the room and say, 'Which one of you has the authority to buy our computers?' If they said no one, he would just dismiss them. 'I only want to negotiate with someone who can make the deal,' he'd say, and leave. We always said that Steve would take a hand grenade, toss it into the room, and then walk in. He'd get everyone's attention right away.

    • Susan Barnes has observed that Steve entered every negotiation knowing exactly what he had to get, and what his position was versus the other side. In negotiating with Lucas, he had been able to exploit Lucans's need for cash. This time Steve went in knowing that Katzenberg had the power, and that Pixar needed a deal to survive.

    • "It was classic," remembers Gates. "I'd been negotiating this deal with Amelio, and Gil wanted six things, most of which were not important. Gil was complicated, and I'd be calling him on the phone, faxing him stuff over the holidays. And then when Steve comes in, he looks at the deal and says, 'Here are the two things I want, and here's what you clearly want from us.' And we had that deal done very quickly."

  • People and relationships

    • Would Steve, in that case, be "mean" to fire, or at a minimum, yell at people for shipping a louse product? Or is it the people who made the lousy product that are being "mean" to the rest of the world?

    • "If you weren't good at your job, he owed it to the rest of the team to get rid of you. But if you were good, he owed you his loyalty."

    • Steve would not indulge any laziness, entitlement, or overreaching ambition from members of his core team. He regularly pitted one against another in order to see whose ideas or intelligence would prevail. Everyone had to be in top form, solidly contributing and fully engaged, or they would find themselves subtly marginalized by Steve. His relationships with Avie Tevanian, Jon Rubinstein, Fred Anderson, and Tony Fadell, among others, demonstrated how quickly Steve could revoke the special insider status that was his to grant.

    • [Steve] put the needs of the company ahead of any work relationship. He became even more pragmatic about this kind of thing during his later years. In important ways, his assessment of the team-- measured by the same high standards he applied to himself-- was clear-headed and brilliant. Losing employees, colleagues, and personal friends was hard on a personal level, for Steve and for everyone else involved in the transitions. But Steve had always believed that when the time came for a change in personnel, a company should move on as quickly as possible. It will soon find that circumstances change, and that it can do just fine without the old heroes.

    • Steve cared more about potential buying power of his customers than he cared about propping up departing veterans whose contributions he deemed wanting. Avie and Ruby should never have expected anything different.

    • Steve on Avie Tevanian: "I agree he's really smart. But he's decided he doesn't want to work. I've never found in my whole life that you could convince someone who doesn't want to work hard to work hard."

    • [Steve] wanted everyone to do their best work. He believed that small teams were better than large teams, because you could get a lot more done. And he believed that picking the right person was a hundred times better than picking somebody who was a little short of being right. All of those things are really true.

  • Marketing

    • Steve didn't have Woz's innate talent, but he did have a native hunger to put really cool stuff into the hands of as many people as possible.

    • "I came up with this elaborate marketing strategy, and he said, 'Nope. The only thing that counts is picking a fight.' And he was right."

    • The "think different" message was the advertising equivalent of an ideal Apple product-- bold and aspiration and accessible to all at the same time. It was heartfelt. ... [it] was focused outward, defining the quality of an Apple buyer, rather than of a particular machine itself.

    • Steve understood that every interaction a customer had with Apple could increase or decrease his or her respect for the company. As he put it, a corporation "could accumulate or withdraw credits" from its reputation.

    • "What message are you sending to your customer when they walk through the door? What statement are you making?" -- This is going to be the best twenty or thirty minutes of your kid's day. [on what message the Disney stores sent]

    • You could buy a separate, external floppy disk drive to plug into the iMac. [Steve was] betting that users would accept a slightly uncomfortable move into the future, one that would force them to convert their data to a new format. [I find this part interesting because it's surprising-- the future is free, if you want to hold on to the past you have to pay.]

    • [The "new" Apple offered] four basic products: two separate models of desktop PCs, one for consumers and one for professionals; and two separate laptop versions aimed at those same constituencies. That's it. Four quadrants, four product lines.

  • Creative process

    • But you just had to know that if you kept your head down, kept working, kept trying to do the right things, it would work out.

    • We trust if we do a good job and the product's good, people will like it. And we trust that if they like it, they'll buy it. If we're competent operationally, we will make money.

    • "On almost every film they made, something turns out to be not quite right. And they have an amazing willingness to turn around and do it again, till they do get it right. They have always had a willingness to not be governed by the release date. It's not about how fast you do something, it's about doing your level best."

    • It was only then that the iPhone was truly finished, that it had all its basics, all its organs. It needed to grow, to muscle up, but it was complete as a child is complete." [Gassee on adding the app store to iOS]

    • When you're on the edge, some things go right and some things go wrong. If nothing's going wrong, you're fooling yourself. Steve believed that.

    • Steve himself was more willing to reshape his goals as the development process revealed either limitations or new opportunities.

    • Jony Ive: "I've always thought there are a number of things that you have achieved at the end of a project. There's the object, the actual product itself, and then there's all that you learned. What you learned is as tangible as the product itself, but much more valuable because that's your future. You can see where that goes and demand more of yourself, being so unreasonable in what you expect of yourself and what we expect of each other, that it yields these even more amazing results, not just in the product, but in what you've learned."

    • Most breakthrough products result from a long cycle of hit-and-miss prototypes, the steady accumulation of features, and a timely synthesis of existing technologies.

    • If iMovie had been a sort of exploratory mission into the world of digital applications for consumers, iTunes would prove to be the expedition itself. Armed with a leadership team he trusted more and more, his keen aesthetic sensibility, a belief that the intersection of the arts and technology could lead to amazing things, and the growing understanding that great ideas develop in fits and starts, Steve was ready to see what Apple could bring to the world of music. In hindsight, of course, this seems like such an obvious course of action. But as in all of the most challenging and eventually rewarding journeys, there was little certainty at the outset of where they would end up. Steve would just have to follow his nose.

  • Steve 2.0

    • Now that Steve was beginning to sense the merger of consumer electronics and computers was emerging as a critical growth market, Apple's metabolism, and many of Steve's old habits, would have to shift.

    • It was a first step of a leader who would now progress only in steps, not by leaps and bounds. "He was so focused," remembers Fred Anderson, "He was intense and both patient and impatient at the same time." Steve had begun to move incrementally.

    • Now he was willing to walk slowly down a path, and if following his nose led him somewhere better than where he thought he was headed, that's where he would go.

    • What the quadrant strategy wasn't is equally important. It was not an effort to solve all problems with one insanely great machine. Steve had been twice burned by that strategy.

    • In the decade after founding Apple, Steve was hell-bent on shaping the future to his vision. He believed he could connect the dots as he moved forward. ... Steve had grown comfortable with only seeing the connections between the dots after the fact. Maturity, and the extraordinary talents of the team he had build, made that possible.

  • Life

    • "I watched Bob Dylan as I was growing up, and I watched him never stand still," Steve would tell me about a year later, in a circuitous attempt to explain why he finally dived back into Apple. "If you look at true artists, if they get really good at something, it occurs to them that they can do this for the rest of their lives, and they can be really successful at it to the outside world, but not really successful to themselves. That's the moment that an artist really decided who he or she is. If they keep on risking failure they're still artists. Dylan and Picasso were always risking failure. "This Apple thing is that way for me. I don't want to fail, of course. When I was going in I didn't know how bad it really was, but I still had a lot to think about. I had to consider the implications for Pixar, and for my family, and for my reputation, and all sorts of things. And I finally decided, I don't really care, this is what I want to do. And if I try my best and fail, well, I tried my best."

    • [Steve] wasn't beholden to anything except a set of core values. Anything else he could walk away from. He could do it faster than anyone I'd ever seen before. It was an absolute gift.

    • With [Lee] Clow Steve didn't spend much time looking back, or looking into dark corners of the future.

  • Misc

    • Steve was capable of extraordinary compartmentalization. ... It allowed him to maintain his focus despite the cacophony of worries that came with knowing he had cancer.

    • Jony Ive: "But one of my problems is that I'm not always as articulate as I would like to be. I can feel things intuitively, and Steve could sense the full meaning of what I was getting at. So I didn't have to justify it explicitly. And then what would happen was I would then see him articulate those ideas but in a way that I was completely incapable of doing. And that's what was so amazing. I learned, I got better at it, but obviously I was never ever in his league."

    • Within one year the company that was accustomed to selling a dozen Apple I's every few weeks was selling 500 or so Apple II's every month.

    • The great technology CEOs could impose rigor on their companies and yet accept the fact that all this rapid change would eventually disrupt their operations anyway. Mike Scott was not a great CEO. He had the skills and personality of a COO-- a chief operating officer. When he didn't get the stability he so avidly tried to engineer, he became frazzled. And, thanks in great part to Steve, Scotty didn't achieve a whole lot of stability at Apple.

    • As the headline of one of my Fortune stories put it, he was the graying prince of a shrinking kingdom.

    • "They felt the thrill of success again."

    • Jim Collins: "There are three things you need to be considered a truly great company. Number one, you have to deliver superior financial results. Number two, you have to make a distinctive impact, to the point where if you didn't exist you couldn't be easily replaced. Number three, the company must have lasting endurance, beyond multiple generations of technology, markets, and cycles, and it must demonstrate the ability to do this beyond a single leader."

    • Jim Collins: "I don't see it [Steve] as a success story, but a growth story. I wish I could have seen Steve Jobs 3.0. Seeing him from age fifty-five to seventy-five would have been fascinating. If you're in good health at that age, 3.0 should be the best. But we don't get to see that."