I have always loved reading. I read a lot back in high school and National Service (NS) but stopped due to a heavy workload in college. Now that I'm done with college and have comparatively more free time than before, I decided to start reading again so I began the new year by reading Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson. I also read The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary by Eric S. Raymond and In the Beginning... Was the Command Line by Neal Stephenson during my sojourn to Singapore. Those books were technically verbose and, while they were interesting with intriguing nuggets of information, I found them a little boring because they were mostly historical accounts of the Silicon Valley folklore which we are all already familiar with (typically the Microsoft, Apple, Linux triumvirate).
It was fascinating to gain insight into the life of a man who built up such a pervasive cult of personality around him. A megalomaniac who was also very much in tune with his emotions as well as attuned to the intricacies of what made good product design, Jobs embodied the perfect CEO of consumer products. I would argue that his emotional qualities were critical to how he developed Apple products. Because he was so aware of how one would naturally and instinctively interact with a particular object, he could create products which consumers wanted. This was in contrast to his archrival Bill Gates, who is well-known for being the quintessential distant, tough and cold executive. It is no wonder Microsoft dominates the enterprise space. These two different management styles, I would argue, were most effective in their respective space.
Jobs was no doubt a shrewed business person as well. He knew how to manipulate and motivate, as well as make the hard decisions when it came to shaking things up at Apple. Many times, it was mentioned that Jobs cried in the boardroom as well as at various meetings. This point particularly struck me as a defining quality in Jobs. You would not see someone like Gates crying in the boardroom, but Jobs exudes passion and an emotional quotient that is unique for a big-time CEO. It would be interesting to see how Ashton Kutcher will act this bit out in the upcoming Steve Jobs movie. Jobs was definitely one hell of a negotiator, but I guess that's a skill all top CEOs need to master in order to bring their companies to great heights.
We take for granted a lot of Apple's products these days. It is hard to imagine that Jobs dreamt all of these up in his head. It was incredible to see how he had the vision to revolutionize an industry that was in the doldrums of innovation as well as create new industries. This is the defining quality that makes a visionary truly great. Jobs' impact was really felt over the past decade. This tortured genius was simply on a roll. His amazing ability to know what people want, impeccable design philosophy as well as strict control were evident in every single Apple product that was produced from the turn of the 21st century. What amazed me was that every product contained his design philosophy.
The world will probably not have another Steve Jobs (or his equivalent) for a while. Jobs definitely made a dent in the world. He definitely left an indelible mark on this earth. I now see why there was such an emotional reaction to his death. Somehow, through his products, Jobs left a little bit of his personality in them and they touched us in one way or another. Through his genius, the world was altered and as I type this out on my MacBook Air, I can only wish that I have such an ability to change the world.
Thanks to Jason Chen, Lucas Tan and Kevin Bao for proofreading this blog post. Feel free to discuss this post on Hacker News, chat about this with me via email or Twitter.