Book Review: iCon Steve Jobs : The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business (2005)

Posted by prla1983 on March 22, 2006 • 0 commentsEmail This Post

I just finished Steve Jobs' latest unauthorized biography aptly titled "iCon" and there's three simple words stuck in my mind: "millions of dollars". Pretty much everything in this book is measured in millions of dollars. That's an awful lot of dollars and it goes around in Silicon Valley the same way you and I buy chewing gum.

Most of the time, when I read a biography I tend to get enamored with the subject almost unconditionally and I think that's true to most people. The writer of a biography usually admires whoever he's portraying and that sort of feeling almost always gets impressed in the reader too. In this particular case though, "iCon" instils mixed feelings. You can't be indifferent to a man who changed three different major industries - computers, film animation and music - forever, yet so many of his decisions along the years are questionable and debatable, to be candid about it. Others make you shudder.

Jeffrey Young and Bill Simon wrote a fantastic book which not only goes a long way to describe and attempt to explain Jobs' persona, it also gives invaluable insight into the foundry of Apple, NeXT and Pixar Animation Studios as well as inside views on major influence wars not only around Silicon Valley but also in Hollywood - mostly about Disney. What's really interesting though is that "iCon" doesn't shy away from pointing its finger to the bad guys and putting them out in the open, even when often that means Jobs' himself doesn't look too good in the picture. We learn that in the highest end of technology there are no good guys. There are only bad guys and not-that-bad guys.

Perhaps except for one person: John Lassetter, arguably the single most responsible person for precisely "the second act". He's the guy behind every great Pixar animation movie - think Toy Story, A Bug's Life or Nemo for instance - and basically who's been pulling the strings the whole time, outpouring talent and genius while infecting others with it along the way. In "iCon" every reference to Lassetter is filled with appreciation and rightly so.

Steve Jobs is one of the most important people in the world we live in, someone who has spent his life basically changing the way we live, work and entertain ourselves - to something he believes is the best he can offer. As with everyone else, he's far from perfect but I believe everyone should take the good things out of everyone else and learn valuable lessons from that. Jobs has been mean and unfair to many people oftentimes in the past, but that's doesn't evaporate all the incredibly great things he's achieved. Like him or not.


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