What skills are necessary to have a successful career? Time and time again I’ve read that the jobs of the future are jobs that don’t even exist; that today’s students will have to be tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. My reading of World Class Learners and Outliers led me to be curious to learn more about the career of Steve Jobs. So I followed those two books by reading Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, the official biography. Some months later this was the choice for my book club. Instead of rereading Steve Jobs, I decided to gain an alternate perspective by reading Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli. Following is a comparison of the two books, Becoming Steve Jobs vs. Steve Jobs the official biography.
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Becoming Steve Jobs vs. Steve Jobs the official biography, a comparison
The two books are interesting compliments to each other. While they’re both good books, I would summarize the differences by saying that Becoming Steve sticks to the business aspects while Steve Jobs contains all the juicy gossip.
Steve Jobs details Jobs’ drug use, personal relationships and the open sexuality of the 60’s he grew up in, his travels in search of enlightenment, strange health and diet theories, and his – to put it politely – quirky hygiene practices that I can only guess improved as he got older and married. (Quite simply, Jobs was a stinking hippie of the 6o’s that took even longer than normal to grow out of it. I will admit; I would not have recognized his brilliance from my vantage point across the room, that my nose would have required, if I had met him when he was younger.) The Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson was also more likely to quote “colorful” language.
Steve Jobs is rather long; it is the “official” biography after all, so it of course has a lot of details. But especially in the middle, during Job’s NeXT years, it’s easy to get lost in all the people and force yourself to push through all of the technical details. Maybe it’s appropriate since it was a time that Jobs was lost as well. It was long and detailed enough that it was all I could do just to get through it. Most of my notes are from Becoming Steve. It focuses on the evolution of Jobs’ business career, it’s more compact and easier to follow.
Becoming Steve does touch on his personal life, and certainly someone’s personal life does always influence their career. Several times it mentions wanting to correct a perception that many friends and associates of Jobs’ felt the first biography had been misleading about.
It was interesting to then to hear from people in my book group, who had only read Steve Jobs, because at least one of them agreed with the summaries of Becoming Steve, even though the official biography, Steve Jobs has been criticized as being misleading by people who knew Jobs. I’m not sure if she was just extraordinarily perceptive, had a unique perspective from being married to en entrepreneurial engineer, or if it was because Steve Jobs does show the evolution of Jobs, although not as much as many of his friends and family liked. Maybe it’s harder to see among all the details, especially if you knew Jobs primarily during the second half of his career, when he had changed quite a bit.
To understand the life of Steve Jobs, you have to know a bit about the history of computers and the roll of Steve Jobs in it. I’ll go over that in my next post.