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What would Steve Jobs do?
How the Steve Jobs Way Can Inspire Anyone to Think Differently and Win
By PETER SANDER
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2012Peter Sander
All rights reserved.
What a computer is to me is the most remarkable tool that we have ever come up with. It's the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.
—Steve Jobs, 1991
Without doubt, the whole Apple story began with the birth and growth of Steve Jobs, whose birth preceded the birth of Apple Computer by just 21 years. His early years were formative and revealing, and are definitely a big part of the Apple story and the development of Steve's leadership style.
Apple's early years obviously represented a very creative and entrepreneurial phase in Steve's life and career. His salesmanship was vital to getting the new product off the ground. His counterculture vision helped the entire enterprise steer clear of the prevailing wisdom of the day: that computers were things that belonged in the data center and were handled only by professionals. Steve saw beyond the status quo, recognized what computers could do, especially if they were combined with the right software, and knew how to sell the idea to the public.
What Steve was leading in this era was essentially a garage enterprise, but he also showed his mettle at managing large groups to produce technical and product accomplishments. While he seemed to know that he needed experienced business leaders alongside of him ("adult supervision"), he didn't necessarily share their views.
He grew suspicious of corporate-style thinking and bureaucracy, and eventually left Apple in a feud with then-CEO John Sculley and the board of directors, even though many of the directors had been picked by Steve himself. But did that end Steve's career as an innovator, entrepreneur, and leader? Hardly. It led to an amazingly successful "rebirth" 10 years later (which will be covered in Chapter 2).
Steve Jobs's entry into the world was anything but mainstream from the start. He was born in San Francisco on February 24, 1955, to a pair of unwed 23-year-old University of Wisconsin graduate students. His father, a native Syrian named Abdulfattah "John" Jondali, went on to become a political science professor, while his mother, then Joanne Simpson, became a speech language pathologist. Although the couple would later marry—and produce the novelist Mona Simpson as a biological sister—they placed their first and then unborn son up for adoption.
Adopted he was, by Paul and Clara Jobs of Mountain View, California, an emerging suburban community about 45 miles south of San Francisco, 10 miles south of Stanford University, and at the edge of what would eventually become the heart of Silicon Valley.
Now, Steve's biological parents had one condition for the adoptive parents: that they be college graduates. It's unclear why this condition was ignored, but neither of his adoptive parents had finished college; in fact, his adoptive father had never graduated from high school. But they did pledge their life savings to send Steve to college. They were loving parents and supported everything the curious and energetic Steve wanted to do.
And yes, Steve did go to college—to Reed College, an intellectually charged private liberal arts college in the forested southern inner suburbs of Portland, Oregon. He went for one semester, then dropped out.
But before that, Jobs had attended the mainstream local schools, Cupertino High School and Homestead High School, both less than two miles from what is now Apple headquarters. In the early 1970s, the South Bay Area was changing rapidly from fruit orchards to attractive and clean new suburbs with beautiful streetscapes, plenty of trees, and earth-toned homes for everyone.
Not everything was modern; the local landmark Moffett Field had (and still has) two large hangars that were originally built for dirigibles. The major street corner closest to where Apple's headquarters is today featured a huge prune processing plant. But for the most part, there was a newness and excitement about the area, close to Stanford University, where some of the original research and development that led first to the transistor, then to the semiconductor and printed-circuit board took place. The high-tech boom was beginning.
Steve enjoyed the South Bay Area weather and "vibe" just as any teen would. But he also developed a fascination with electronics. Before he reached his teen years, he attended a demonstration of computers (really just terminals) at the NASA Ames Research Center, co-located at Moffett Field (the site of the dirigible hangars). From that point on, Steve really thrived on being around the many engineers and professionals in the high-tech business.
While in high school, curious Steve attended after-school lectures at the Hewlett-Packard Company in nearby Palo Alto (the home of Stanford). In 1970, a mutual friend introduced him to his early partner and tech whiz, Steve Wozniak (known as Woz), who was five years his senior. Woz, who had also gone to Homestead High School, was in college, but also worked at HP. In the summer of 1972, Steve Jobs worked as a summer employee alongside Steve Wozniak.
Steve Wozniak was working as a technician on what would eventually become a minicomputer. Steve Jobs wondered whether a computer on a single printed-circuit board could be made and sold.
But that idea took a long time to bear fruit. Steve graduated from high school and headed off to Reed for that fall semester in 1972. But Steve was a creative guy back then, and he had already adopted his long-serving motto, "Do what you love to do." College structure really wasn't something that Steve loved. He started exploring other possibilities. He wanted something that he could get passionate about.
At that point in his life, he had no idea what that something really was. But it was pretty clear even then that it wasn't going to fit the mainstream path that most people in that era aspired to: go to college, get a degree, take a job, and rise through the ranks. Steve was different.
Instead, Steve hung on in the Reed area and hung out with friends, reportedly raising cash by collecting soda bottles and getting some free meals at the local Hare Krishna temple. He audited a few classes he was interested in. He was what most people at the time would have called a hippie.
Most famously, he audited a calligraphy class. That class piqued his interest in graphic design, especially in the beauty, appeal, and proportion of different type fonts. It was an epiphany in disguise, for later Steve would draw on that experience to define the Macintosh as a graphics-based machine. "If I had never dropped in on that course, the Mac would have never have had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts," he shared years later.
By 1974, Jobs had been exposed to a lot of new things, among them the spiritual life and culture of India. He returned to the Bay Area and, circling back to his interest in electronics, took a job at video game maker Atari, then a booming Valley outfit. His goal: to earn enough money for a trip to India, a spiritual retreat.
Never one to stop short of a goal, Steve traveled to India. He traveled with Reed College buddy Daniel Kottke, who eventually became the first employee at Apple. The purpose of the trip was to gain spiritual enlightenment from the popular Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba, but he had passed away before Steve and Daniel managed to get there. It's not completely clear what Steve and Daniel did in India, but they came back Buddhists with shaved heads and traditional Indian clothing.
One thing that is clear is that they experimented with psychedelics, notably LSD. Perhaps we really
Excerpted from What would Steve Jobs do? by PETER SANDER. Copyright © 2012 by Peter Sander. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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