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Entrepreneurs continue to reflect on the lessons of Steve Jobs—is his story ultimately a cautionary tale about a person obsessed with the wrong things in life?

Soon after Steve Jobs returned to Apple as CEO in 1997, he decided that a shipping company wasn’t delivering spare parts fast enough. The shipper said it couldn’t do better, and it didn’t have to: Apple had signed a contract granting it the business at the current pace. As Walter Isaacson describes in his best-selling biography, Steve Jobs, the recently recrowned chief executive had a simple response: Break the contract. When an Apple manager warned him that this decision would probably mean a lawsuit, Jobs responded, ‘Just tell them if they fuck with us, they’ll never get another fucking dime from this company, ever.’
The shipper did sue. The manager quit Apple. (Jobs ‘would have fired me anyway,; he later told Isaacson.) The legal imbroglio took a year and presumably a significant amount of money to resolve. But meanwhile, Apple hired a new shipper that met the expectations of the company’s uncompromising CEO.
What lesson should we draw from this anecdote? After all, we turn to the lives of successful people for inspiration and instruction. But the lesson here might make us uncomfortable: Violate any norm of social or business interaction that stands between you and what you want.

"The Story of Steve Jobs: An Inspiration or a Cautionary Tale?" — Ben Austen, Wired
More Austen

Entrepreneurs continue to reflect on the lessons of Steve Jobs—is his story ultimately a cautionary tale about a person obsessed with the wrong things in life?

Soon after Steve Jobs returned to Apple as CEO in 1997, he decided that a shipping company wasn’t delivering spare parts fast enough. The shipper said it couldn’t do better, and it didn’t have to: Apple had signed a contract granting it the business at the current pace. As Walter Isaacson describes in his best-selling biography, Steve Jobs, the recently recrowned chief executive had a simple response: Break the contract. When an Apple manager warned him that this decision would probably mean a lawsuit, Jobs responded, ‘Just tell them if they fuck with us, they’ll never get another fucking dime from this company, ever.’

The shipper did sue. The manager quit Apple. (Jobs ‘would have fired me anyway,; he later told Isaacson.) The legal imbroglio took a year and presumably a significant amount of money to resolve. But meanwhile, Apple hired a new shipper that met the expectations of the company’s uncompromising CEO.

What lesson should we draw from this anecdote? After all, we turn to the lives of successful people for inspiration and instruction. But the lesson here might make us uncomfortable: Violate any norm of social or business interaction that stands between you and what you want.

"The Story of Steve Jobs: An Inspiration or a Cautionary Tale?" — Ben Austen, Wired

More Austen

Steve Jobs pledged to go “thermonuclear” in Apple’s battle against Google’s Android and device manufacturers like Samsung who he claimed ripped off the iPhone and iPad designs. But bringing a patent fight to court comes with significant risks:

Several Asian manufacturers were noodling around with similar-looking rectangular smartphones before the iPhone came to market. Tipping its hat to a fellow Korean manufacturer, Samsung notes that in 2006, nearly a year before the iPhone appeared, LG Electronics (066570) announced the round-cornered LG Chocolate, with ‘virtually all of the [design] features Apple claims’ to have patented. In December 2006, before Apple released images of the iPhone, Samsung itself filed a design patent in Korea for a similar rectangular phone called the F700. Smartphone and tablet-computer design was ‘naturally evolving’ in the direction Apple claims it has exclusive rights to use, according to Samsung. If true, that matters because basic patent law states that if an idea is ‘obvious’ to an ‘ordinary observer’ at the time of its invention, it doesn’t deserve patent protection. By attacking Samsung, Apple has inadvertently put its own patents into play.

"Apple’s War on Android." — Paul M. Barrett, Bloomberg Businessweek
See also: "Google Android: on Inevitability, the Dawn of Mobile, and the Missing Leg." — Mark Sigal, O’Reilly Radar, Dec. 3, 2009

Steve Jobs pledged to go “thermonuclear” in Apple’s battle against Google’s Android and device manufacturers like Samsung who he claimed ripped off the iPhone and iPad designs. But bringing a patent fight to court comes with significant risks:

Several Asian manufacturers were noodling around with similar-looking rectangular smartphones before the iPhone came to market. Tipping its hat to a fellow Korean manufacturer, Samsung notes that in 2006, nearly a year before the iPhone appeared, LG Electronics (066570) announced the round-cornered LG Chocolate, with ‘virtually all of the [design] features Apple claims’ to have patented. In December 2006, before Apple released images of the iPhone, Samsung itself filed a design patent in Korea for a similar rectangular phone called the F700. Smartphone and tablet-computer design was ‘naturally evolving’ in the direction Apple claims it has exclusive rights to use, according to Samsung. If true, that matters because basic patent law states that if an idea is ‘obvious’ to an ‘ordinary observer’ at the time of its invention, it doesn’t deserve patent protection. By attacking Samsung, Apple has inadvertently put its own patents into play.

"Apple’s War on Android." — Paul M. Barrett, Bloomberg Businessweek

See also: "Google Android: on Inevitability, the Dawn of Mobile, and the Missing Leg." — Mark Sigal, O’Reilly Radar, Dec. 3, 2009

A review of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, and a different perspective on the dark side of Steve:

Sometimes the repetition serves a purpose: The drug LSD, referred to 33 times, is clearly important to Jobs. (The FBI thought the same, according to documents released this month.) “How many of you have taken LSD?” Jobs taunts an audience of Stanford business school students. “Are you a virgin? How many times have you taken LSD?’ he demands of an Apple interviewee. Bill Gates would ‘be a broader guy if he had dropped acid.” Tripping was “one of the two or three most important things he’d done in his life.” People who had never dropped acid ‘would never fully understand him.’ The generations that followed his own were more ‘materialistic’ and less ‘idealistic’ for not having tripped; also, they all looked like ‘virgins.’ In the binary world within Steve’s reality, having consumed LSD was the key determinant of whether a colleague or employee was deemed “enlightened” or “an asshole.”
To iSummarize: Steve Jobs had a litmus test for evaluating workers: It was a lot like a literal litmus test.


"The Book of Jobs." — Moe Tkacik, Reuters
See more #longreads about Steve Jobs

A review of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, and a different perspective on the dark side of Steve:

Sometimes the repetition serves a purpose: The drug LSD, referred to 33 times, is clearly important to Jobs. (The FBI thought the same, according to documents released this month.) “How many of you have taken LSD?” Jobs taunts an audience of Stanford business school students. “Are you a virgin? How many times have you taken LSD?’ he demands of an Apple interviewee. Bill Gates would ‘be a broader guy if he had dropped acid.” Tripping was “one of the two or three most important things he’d done in his life.” People who had never dropped acid ‘would never fully understand him.’ The generations that followed his own were more ‘materialistic’ and less ‘idealistic’ for not having tripped; also, they all looked like ‘virgins.’ In the binary world within Steve’s reality, having consumed LSD was the key determinant of whether a colleague or employee was deemed “enlightened” or “an asshole.”

To iSummarize: Steve Jobs had a litmus test for evaluating workers: It was a lot like a literal litmus test.

"The Book of Jobs." — Moe Tkacik, Reuters

See more #longreads about Steve Jobs

How the U.S. lost out on iPhone manufacturing work, and what it means for the future of job creation in the United States: 

But as Steven P. Jobs of Apple spoke, President Obama interrupted with an inquiry of his own: what would it take to make iPhones in the United States?
Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.
Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.
Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.


"Apple, America and a Squeezed Middle Class." — Charles Duhigg, Keith Bradsher, The New York Times
See also: "The Untold Story of How My Dad Helped Invent the First Mac." — Aza Raskin, Fast Company Design, Feb. 14, 2011

How the U.S. lost out on iPhone manufacturing work, and what it means for the future of job creation in the United States: 

But as Steven P. Jobs of Apple spoke, President Obama interrupted with an inquiry of his own: what would it take to make iPhones in the United States?

Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.

Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.

Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.

"Apple, America and a Squeezed Middle Class." — Charles Duhigg, Keith Bradsher, The New York Times

See also: "The Untold Story of How My Dad Helped Invent the First Mac." — Aza Raskin, Fast Company Design, Feb. 14, 2011


Was Steve Jobs a Samuel Crompton or was he a Richard Roberts? In the eulogies that followed Jobs’s death, last month, he was repeatedly referred to as a large-scale visionary and inventor. But Isaacson’s biography suggests that he was much more of a tweaker. He borrowed the characteristic features of the Macintosh—the mouse and the icons on the screen—from the engineers at Xerox PARC, after his famous visit there, in 1979. The first portable digital music players came out in 1996. Apple introduced the iPod, in 2001, because Jobs looked at the existing music players on the market and concluded that they “truly sucked.”

"The Tweaker." — Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker
See more #longreads from Malcolm Gladwell

Was Steve Jobs a Samuel Crompton or was he a Richard Roberts? In the eulogies that followed Jobs’s death, last month, he was repeatedly referred to as a large-scale visionary and inventor. But Isaacson’s biography suggests that he was much more of a tweaker. He borrowed the characteristic features of the Macintosh—the mouse and the icons on the screen—from the engineers at Xerox PARC, after his famous visit there, in 1979. The first portable digital music players came out in 1996. Apple introduced the iPod, in 2001, because Jobs looked at the existing music players on the market and concluded that they “truly sucked.”

"The Tweaker." — Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker

See more #longreads from Malcolm Gladwell


I grew up as an only child, with a single mother. Because we were poor and because I knew my father had emigrated from Syria, I imagined he looked like Omar Sharif. I hoped he would be rich and kind and would come into our lives (and our not yet furnished apartment) and help us. Later, after I’d met my father, I tried to believe he’d changed his number and left no forwarding address because he was an idealistic revolutionary, plotting a new world for the Arab people. Even as a feminist, my whole life I’d been waiting for a man to love, who could love me. For decades, I’d thought that man would be my father. When I was 25, I met that man and he was my brother.

"A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs." — Mona Simpson, The New York Times
More Mona Simpson: “Philip Levine, The Art of Poetry No. 39.” Paris Review

I grew up as an only child, with a single mother. Because we were poor and because I knew my father had emigrated from Syria, I imagined he looked like Omar Sharif. I hoped he would be rich and kind and would come into our lives (and our not yet furnished apartment) and help us. Later, after I’d met my father, I tried to believe he’d changed his number and left no forwarding address because he was an idealistic revolutionary, plotting a new world for the Arab people. Even as a feminist, my whole life I’d been waiting for a man to love, who could love me. For decades, I’d thought that man would be my father. When I was 25, I met that man and he was my brother.

"A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs." — Mona Simpson, The New York Times

More Mona Simpson: “Philip Levine, The Art of Poetry No. 39.” Paris Review


It’s intriguing, if depressing, to imagine what the digital world would have been like if Kobun had given Jobs the opposite advice, along the lines of Jobs’ own now-infamous challenge to Pepsi CEO John Sculley: “Do you want to sell stylish electronic gadgets for the rest of your life, or come with me and vow to save all sentient beings from suffering?”

"What Kind of Buddhist was Steve Jobs, Really?" — Steve Silberman, NeuroTribes
See more #longreads about Steve Jobs

It’s intriguing, if depressing, to imagine what the digital world would have been like if Kobun had given Jobs the opposite advice, along the lines of Jobs’ own now-infamous challenge to Pepsi CEO John Sculley: “Do you want to sell stylish electronic gadgets for the rest of your life, or come with me and vow to save all sentient beings from suffering?”

"What Kind of Buddhist was Steve Jobs, Really?" — Steve Silberman, NeuroTribes

See more #longreads about Steve Jobs


It had taken a while for the world to realize what an amazing treasure Steve Jobs was. But Jobs knew it all along. That was part of what was so unusual about him. From at least the time he was a teenager, Jobs had a freakish chutzpah. At age 13, he called up the head of HP and cajoled him into giving Jobs free computer chips. It was part of a lifelong pattern of setting and fulfilling astronomical standards. Throughout his career, he was fearless in his demands. He kicked aside the hoops that everyone else had to negotiate and straightforwardly and brazenly pursued what he wanted. When he got what he wanted — something that occurred with astonishing frequency — he accepted it as his birthright.

 
"Steve Jobs, 1955 – 2011." — Steven Levy, Wired
See also: "Steve Jobs Was Always Kind To Me (Or, Regrets of An Asshole)." Brian Lam, The Wirecutter

It had taken a while for the world to realize what an amazing treasure Steve Jobs was. But Jobs knew it all along. That was part of what was so unusual about him. From at least the time he was a teenager, Jobs had a freakish chutzpah. At age 13, he called up the head of HP and cajoled him into giving Jobs free computer chips. It was part of a lifelong pattern of setting and fulfilling astronomical standards. Throughout his career, he was fearless in his demands. He kicked aside the hoops that everyone else had to negotiate and straightforwardly and brazenly pursued what he wanted. When he got what he wanted — something that occurred with astonishing frequency — he accepted it as his birthright.

"Steve Jobs, 1955 – 2011." — Steven Levy, Wired

See also: "Steve Jobs Was Always Kind To Me (Or, Regrets of An Asshole)." Brian Lam, The Wirecutter