Diary of a Financier

Bookshelf Update: Steve Jobs (Biography)

In Bookshelf on Sat 10 Dec 2011 at 15:05

It’s been so long since I’ve honed in on one book recently read. I just finished Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, which I added to my Bookshelf moments ago. I don’t usually make these “Bookshelf Update” entries reminiscent of book reports, but I wanted to record a few thoughts and some valuable passages.

First, I found it disappointing that so many of the biography’s most precious lines were leaked by the press before the release. That reminded me of a bad comedy like The Cable Guy, which draws you to theaters because the commercials unleash two funny jokes… the only two funny jokes in the entire movie.

Steve Jobs was better than a bad comedy. It was great, in fact. I’m not a Jobs worshiper, but I felt like the book was enveloped in some kind of majesty–partly because of its proximity to Mr. Jobs’ death and partly because he was a living legend. People use that term too often, “living legend,” especially in sports world where FOX riddles broadcasts with superlatives. Mr. Isaacson puts Steve Jobs in perspective toward the end of his script, mentioning his subject in the same breath as Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. It gave me shivers, because it’s true.

Nevertheless, I already knew almost everything related about Mr. Jobs throughout that story. Yet, it ended powerfully. I’m reminded of the last scene in American History X, where a character, Danny, mentions, “it’s always good to end a paper with a quote… someone else has already said it best, so if you can’t top it, steal from them and go out strong.” Mr. Isaacson admits as much, leaving his readers with a powerful concluding chapter from a philosophical, summarial diatribe Mr. Jobs uttered during one of his conversations with his biographer.

On that note, I want to share some of my favorite excerpts that affect me as a professional. If ever you read the “About” page of this Diary, you start to understand a bit about me as a professional, my philosophical attitude toward the financial industry, my vision for the utilitarian banker, and the resulting crown jewel of my own business. In the following, I think Steve Jobs communicates certain values of mine, a testament to the fungibility of principles among businesses and life…


When Steve Jobs returned to an Apple that had lost its way, he decided to simplify everything. The first question he asked was:

“…which of these products would I recommend my friends use?”


“Some people say, give the customers what they want, but that’s not our job. Our job is to figure out what the people are going to want. I think Henry Ford once said, ‘if I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse.’

…That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page… [we’re at] the intersection of humanities and science; I like that intersection, there’s something magical about that place… Microsoft never found that intersection of the humanities and liberal arts.”


“People pay us to integrate things for them, because they don’t have the time to think about this stuff 24/7.”


  1. […] Henry Ford said: “if I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me a faster […]


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