top of page



"i always thought of myself as a humanities person as a kid, but i liked electronics," he said. "then i read something that one of my heroes, EDWIN LAND of POLAROID, said 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." [...] the creativity that can occur when a feel for both the humanities and the sciences combine in one strong personality was the topic that most interested me in my biographies of FRANKLIN and EINSTEIN, and i believe that it will be a key to creating innovative economies in the twenty-first century.


JOBS announced that he didn't want to have anything to do with worshipping such a god, and he never went back to the church. he did, however, spend years studying and trying to practice the tenets of ZEN BUDDHISM. reflecting years later on his spiritual feelings, he said that religion was at its best when it emphasized spiritual experiences rather than received dogma. "the juice goes out of christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than living like JESUS or seeing the world as JESUS saw it," he told me. "i think different religions are different doors to the same house. sometimes i think the house exists, and sometimes i don't. it's the great mystery."


JOBS found himself deeply influenced by a variety of books on spirituality and enlightenment, most notably BE HERE NOW, a guide to meditation and the wonders of psychedelic drugs by BABA RAM DASS (rip), born RICHARD ALPERT. "it was profound," JOBS said. "it transformed me and many of my friends."

JOBS began sharing with KOTTKE other books, including ZEN MIND, BEGINNER'S MIND by SHUNRYU SUZUKI, AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A YOGI by PARAMAHANSA YOGANANDA, and CUTTING THROUGH SPIRITUAL MATERIALISM by CHÖGYAM TRUNGPA. they created a meditation room in the attic crawl space above ELIZABETH HOLMES's room and fixed it up with indian prints, a dhurrie rug, candles, incense, and meditation cushions. "there was a hatch in the ceiling leading to an attic which had a huge amount of space," JOBS said. "we took psychedelic drugs there sometimes, but mainly we just meditated."

JOBS's engagement with eastern spirituality, and especially ZEN BUDDHISM, was not just some passing fancy or youthful dabbling. he embraced it with his typical intensity, and it became deeply ingrained in his personality. "STEVE is very much ZEN," said KOTTKE. "it was a deep influence. you see it in his whole approach of stark, minimalist aesthetics, intense focus." JOBS also became deeply influenced by the emphasis that BUDDHISM places on intuition. "i began to realize that an intuitive understanding and consciousness was more significant than abstract thinking and intellectual logical analysis," he later said. his intensity, however, made it difficult for him to achieve inner peace; his ZEN awareness was not accompanied by an excess of calm, peace of mind, or interpersonal mellowness.

JOBS honed his trick of using stares and silences to master other people. "one of his numbers was to stare at the person he was talking to. he would stare into their fucking eyeballs, ask some question, and would want a response without the other person averting their eyes."

"FRIEDLAND taught STEVE the reality distortion field," said KOTTKE. "he was charismatic and a bit of a con man and could bend situations to his very strong will. he was mercurial, sure of himself, and little dictatorial. STEVE admired that, and he became more like that after spending time with ROBERT."

"taking LSD was a profound experience, one of the most important things in my life. LSD shows you that there's another side to the coin, and you can't remember it when it wears off, but you know it. it reinforced my sense of what was important—creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as i could."


"coming back to AMERICA was, for me, much more of a cultural shock than going to INDIA. the people in 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.

western rational thought is not an innate human characteristic; it is learned and is the great achievement of western civilization. in the villages of INDIA, they never learned it. they learned something else, which is in some ways just as valuable but in other ways is not. that's the power of intuition and experiential wisdom.

coming back after seven months in indian villages, i saw the craziness of the western world as well as its capacity for rational thought. 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.

"if you trust him, you can do things," HOLMES said. "if he's decided that something should happen, then he's just going to make it happen."

"pretend to be completely in control and people will assume that you are."


this fusion of flower power and processor power, enlightenment and technology, was embodied by Steve Jobs as he meditated in the mornings, audited physics classes at standford, worked nights at ATARI, and dreamed of starting his own business.


MARKKULA wrote his principles in a one-page paper titled "THE APPLE MARKETING PHILOSOPHY" that stressed three points. the first was empathy, and intimate connection with the feelings of the customer: " we will truly understand their needs better than any other company." the second was focus: "in order to do a good job of those things that we decide to do, we must eliminate all the unimportant opportunities." the third and equally important principle, awkwardly named, was impute. it emphasized that people form an opinion about a company or product based on the signals that it conveys. "people do judge a book by its cover." he wrote. "we may 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 manner, we will impute the desired qualities."

atop the brochure MCKENNA put a maxim, often attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, that would become the defining percept ofJOBS's design philosophy:



in ASPEN he was exposed to the spare and functional design philosophy of the BAUHAUS movement, which was enshrined by HERBERT BAYER in the buildings, living suites, sans serif font typography, and furniture on the ASPEN INSTITUTE campus. like his mentors WALTER GROPIUS and LUDWIG MIES VAN DER ROHE, BAYER believed that there should be no distinction between fine art and applied industrial design. the modernist INTERNATIONAL STYLE championed by the BAUHAUS taught that design should be simple, yet have an expressive spirit. it emphasized rationality and functionality by employing clean lines and forms. among the maxims preached by MIES and GROPIUS were "god is in the details" and "less is more". as with EICHLER homes, the artistic sensibility was combined with the capability for mass production.


why do we assume that simple is good? because with physical products, we have to feel we can dominate them. as you bring order to complexity, you find a way to make the product defer to you. simplicity isn't just a visual style. it's not just minimalism or the absence of clutter. it involved digging through the depth of the complexity. to be truly simple, you have to go really deep. for example, to have no screws on something, you can end up having a product that is so convoluted and so complex. the better way is to go deeper with the simplicity, to understand everything about it and how it's manufactured. 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.

"in most people's vocabularies, design means veneer," JOBS told FORTUNE shortly after retaking the reins at APPLE. "but to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers."


JOBS quoted the hockey star WAYNE GRETZKY's maxim, "skate where the puck's going, not where it's been."


"for most things in life, the range between best and average is thirty percent or so, the best airplane flight, the best meal, they may be thirty percent better than your average one. what i saw with WOZ was somebody who was fifty times better than the average engineer. he could have meetings in his head. the mac team was an attempt to build a whole team like that, A players. people said they wouldn't get along, they'd hate working with each other. but i realized that A players like to work with A players, they just didn't like working with C players. at PIXAR, it was a whole company of A players. when i got back to APPLE, that's what i decided to try to do. you need to have a collaborative hiring process. when we hire someone, even if they're going to be in marketing, i will have them talk to the design folks and engineers. my role model was J. ROBERT OPPENHEIMER. i read about the type of people he sought for the atom bomb project. i wasn't nearly as good as he was, but that's what i aspired to do."


there were no tech stores in the mall, as JOHNSON explained why: the conventional wisdom was that a consumer, when making a major and infrequent purchase such as a computer, would be willing to drive to a less convenient location, where the rent would be cheaper. JOBS disagreed.


"STEVE prefers to be in the moment, talking things through. he once told me, 'if you need slides, it shows you don't know what you're talking about.'"


perhaps the oddest meeting was when DR. DRE came to visit JOBS at APPLE headquarters. JOBS loved the BEATLES and DYLAN, but he admitted that appeal of rap eluded him. now JOBS needed EMINEM and other rappers to agree to be sold in the ITUNES STORE, so he huddled with DR. DRE, who was EMINEM's mentor. after JOBS showed him the seamless way the iTunes store would work with the iPod, DR. DRE proclaimed, "man, somebody finally got it right."

CHRISTENSEN was one of the world's most insightful business analysts, and JOBS was deeply influenced by his book THE INNOVATOR'S DILEMMA.


JOBS also used the meetings to enforce focus. at ROBERT FRIEDLAND's farm, his job had been to prune the apple trees so that they would stay strong, and that became a metaphor for his pruning at APPLE. instead of encouraging each group to let product lines proliferate based on marketing considerations, or permitting a thousand ideas to bloom, JOBS insisted that APPLE focus on just two or three priorities at a time. "there is no one better at turning off the noise that is going on around him," COOK said. "that allows him to focus on a few things and say no to many things. few people are really good at that."

in order to institutionalize the lessons that he and his team were learning, JOBS started in-house center called APPLE UNIVERSITY. he hired JOEL PODOLNY, who was dean of the YALE SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT, to compile a series of case studies analyzing important decisions the company had made, including the switch to the INTEL microprocessor and the decision to open the APPLE stores. top executives spent time teaching the cases to new employees so that the APPLE style of decision making would be embedded in the culture.

"he's a very, very sensitive guy. that's one of the things that makes his antisocial behaviour, his rudeness, so unconscionable. i can understand why people who are thick-skinned and unfeeling can be rude, but not sensitive people. i once asked him why he gets so mad about stuff. he said, "but i don't stay mad." he was still very childish ability to get really worked up about something, and it doesn't stay with him at all. but there are other times, i think honestly, when he's very frustrated, and his way to achieve catharsis is to hurt somebody. and i think he feels he has liberty and a license to do that. the normal rules of social engagement, he feels, don't apply to him. because of how very sensitive he is, he knows how to efficiently and effectively hurt someone. and he does do that."


"living with a disease like this, and all the pain, constantly reminds you of your own mortality, and that can so strange things to your brain if you're not careful," he said. "you don't make plans more than a year out, and that's bad. you need to force yourself to plan as if you will live for many years."

it's important that we make this transformation, because of what CLAYTON CHRISTENSEN calls "the innovator's dilemma," where people who invent something are usually the last ones to see past it, and we certainly don't want to be left behind.


*the entire chapter is important

the nasty edge to his personality was not necessary. it hindered him more than it helped him. but it did, at times, serve a purpose. polite and velvety leaders, who take care to avoid bruising others, are generally not as effective at forcing change. dozens of the colleagues whom JOBS most abused ended their litany of horror stories by saying that he got them to do things they never dreamed possible. and he created a corporation with A players.

as a result he launched a series of products over three decades that transformed whole industries:

• the APPLE II, which took WOZNIAK's circuit board and turned it into the first personal computer that was not just for hobbyists.

• the MACINTOSH, which begat the home computer revolution and popularized graphical user interfaces.

TOY STORY and other PIXAR blockbusters, which opened up the miracle of digital imagination.

• APPLE stores, which reinvented the role of a store in defining a brand.

• the iPOD, which changed the way we consume music.

• the iTUNES STORE, which saved the music industry.

• the iPHONE, which turned mobile phones into music, photography, video, email, and web devices.

• the APP STORE, which spawned a new content-creation industry.

• the iPAD, which launched tablet computing and offered a platform for digital newspapers, magazines, books, and videos.

• iCLOUD, which demoted the computer from its central role in managing our content and let all of our devices sync seamlessly

• and APPLE itself, which JOBS considered his greatest creation, a place where imagination was nurtured, applied, and executed in ways so creative that it became the most valuable company on earth.

*page 567 to 570 should be re-read often too

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 profit, because that allowed you to make great products. but the products, not the profits, were the motivation. SCULLEY flipped these priorities to where the goal was to make money. it's a subtle difference, but it ends up meaning everything: the people you hire, who gets promoted, what you discuss in meetings.

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.

that's the ante for being in the room: you've got to be able to be super honest.

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.

bottom of page