Faridoon Shahryar's Blog

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"Products, Not The Profits, Were The Motivation": Steve Jobs

As I had promised earlier, I would now share my thoughts on Steve Jobs in detail. Walter Isaacson has very succinctly given the account of a genius who had a huge share of personal and professional idiosyncrasies. In fact, in the later part of the book, Walter mentions how Steve suspects that there will be many things in the book that he may not like. Jobs didn't want his biography to look like an "in-house" book. In the course of reading this book, you come across many warts and blemishes mercilessly dissecting the peculiar weirdness of the 'Apple' man.

Steve Jobs was a Fruitarian, a Vegetarian...hence the origin of the name 'Apple' for his company that he founded along with his genius friend Wozniak. He was an adopted kid, who loved his adopted parents till the end of his life. He never forgave his biological father, even though he was nice to his biological mom and loved his real sister Mona whom he met for the first time after becoming famous.

He formed Apple, ensured it reaches dizzying heights of success but in 1985 he was was stripped of almost all his powers by the Board due to his high handedness with the employees. He quit Apple, formed NeXT (which didn't really do wonders) and also went into movie business with Pixar (succeeded to a great degree). Life took a filmi turn, and he was back at 'Apple' after 12 years of having quit his own company. He was reluctant about being wholeheartedly part of Apple once again and chose to become iCEO (interim CEO, Its obvious where the 'i' in iPhones, iPad, iPod came from, even though it was said that the 'i' stood for 'internet'). For the first two years after rejoining, he was drawing a salary of 1$ a year. He revived Apple from the verge of being busted completely. Two years later he asked for an air plane (he didn't like the procedure at airports) for himself as compensation and a whopping sum of money. He immersed himself completely. He realised, he loved 'Apple' more than anything else in the world.

There's a theory behind the 'bite' in the Apple Logo which is as interesting as Jobs' personality. He mastered the art of advertising. He approved the catch line 'Think Different' for Apple after being back at the helm of affairs in 1997. 'Think Different'...they did and brought in a digital revolution. He laid a lot of emphasis on 'Design' of any product. The user experience on all Apple products has to be 'simple' and 'easy'. A hell lot of effort went into making Apple products sleek (Jobs was proficient at using words like 'gorgeous', beautiful', 'incredible' for all his products at his very famous Presentations). He loved poetry, music, arts, movies. There was a constant quest to search for the inner soul. His love for Arts resulted in creation of some fine movies, courtesy Pixar and his love for music (he adored Bob Dylan) was the catalyst in the creation of iTunes (saved the music industry).

Steve Jobs Presents The iPhone To The World

At the end of the book, in the 'Legacy' section, Isaacson lets Steve have the last word. I will quote a few sections in Steve Jobs' own words about his thoughts on technology and the integration of 'humanities and science' and more....

My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. Everything else was secondary. Sure, it was great to make a profit, because that was what allowed you to make great products. But the products, not the profits, were the motivation.

Some people say, "Give the customers what they want." But that's not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they're going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, "If I'd asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, 'A faster horse!'" People don't know what they want until you show it to them. That's why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.

Edwin Land of Polaroid talked about the intersection of the humanities and science. I like that intersection. There's something magical about that place. There are a lot of people innovating, and that's not the main distinction of my career. The reason Apple resonates with people is that there's a deep current of humanity in our innovation. I think great artists and great engineers are similar, in that they both have a desire to express themselves. In fact some of the best people working on the original Mac were poets and musicians on the side. Great artists like Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo were also great at science.

I don't think I run roughshod over people, but if something sucks, I tell people on their face. It's my job to be honest. I know what I'm talking about, and I usually turn out to be right. You've got to be able to be super honest. Maybe there's a better way, a gentlemen's club where we all wear ties and speak in this Brahman language and velvet code-words, but I don't know that way, because I am middle class from California.

You always have to keep pushing to innovate. Dylan could have sung protest songs forever and probably made a lot of money, but he didn't. He had to move on, and when he did, by going electric in 1965, he alienated a lot of people. His 1966 Europe tour was his greatest. He would come on and do a set of acoustic guitar, and the audience loved him. Then he brought out what became The Band, and they would all do an electric set, and the audience sometimes booed. There was one point where he was about to sing "Like A Rolling Stone" and someone from the audience yells "Judas!" And Dylan then says, "Play it fucking loud!" And they did. The Beatles were the same way. They kept evolving, moving, refining their art. That's what I've always tried to do-keep moving. Otherwise, as Dylan says, if you're not busy being born, you're busy dying.

What drove me? I think most creative people want to express appreciation for being able to take advantage of the work that's been done by others before us. I didn't invent the language or mathematics I use. I make little of my own food., none of my own clothes. Everything I do depends on other members of our species and the shoulders that we stand on. And a lot of us want to contribute something back to our species and to add something to the flow. It's about trying to express something in the only way that most of us know how-because we can't write Bob Dylan songs or Tom Stoppard plays. We try to use the talents we do have to express our deep feelings, to show our appreciation of all the contributions that come before us, and to add something to that flow. That's what has driven me.

I strongly believe someone ought to make a film on Steve Jobs. This book provides ample fodder for a solid script. This life ought to be celebrated on silver screen and reach many many more people... What a man. What an inspiration!


  1. Not having read the book yet I can imagine he draws quite a following. Not only of admirers and curiosity seekers but those who are genuinely and sincerely seeking like he did. Laying all else aside to discover what they are made of and willing to take risks. He not only dealt with adversity but also dealt with success both equally important..and most of all..never forgetting his roots..a small town kid from from southern California.

  2. Steve Job is amazing Margaret...do read the book if you can


  3. I got the book for my birthday and am about 200 pages into it. I'm hooked on it. Not only does it give fascinating insights on the complex personality of Jobs, it's also an interesting history lessson about the beginning of personal computers. I've already learned a lot of things I hadn't been aware of (despite being old enough to have owned a Commodore as a teenager :D)

  4. Its a great book Calena...lemme know what you think of it


  5. I'm a bit over 300 pages now and loving it. I'm tempted to read Mona Simpson's "A Regular Guy". Have you read that one?