I finally picked up the Isaacson book on Steve Jobs. Figured enough time has passed to give the proper amount of perspective. It must be a big book because I've spent the past two weekends on it and I am only 50% through according to the Kindle app. As an aside, I am reading it on three devices at the same time, my Kindle Fire, my Nexus 7, and my HTC One. I love how the Kindle app syncs so you can do that easily.

My favorite part so far is how Jobs turned around Apple and did it pretty quickly. He did two primary things as far as I can tell. First, he got his people into the top jobs and got rid of the executives who had been calling the shots before he showed up. And second, he brought focus to the product line, and thus everything else.

There's this great scene in the book where Jobs draws a classic four quadrant chart, consumer and pro on one axis, desktop and laptop on the other. And he says "we are going to make one computer for each quadrant and we are going to kill all of the other product lines".

I am only half way through the book and I am certain that this book should be required reading for any and all entrepreneurs. Jobs is the quintessential entrepreneur and there is so much to be learned from him.

The power of focusing should be at the top of that list. When you focus, you can rid yourslef of extraneous expenses (Jobs laid off over 3,000 people in his turnaround of Apple), you can get your best people focused on the important projects, and you can bring clarity to your marketing and what you want the consumer/customer to think of you for.

Many entrepreneurs and CEOs misjudge how many things they and their team can do well. It is always less than you think. I once was involved in a 75 employee company that was in three different businesses. It took a difficult financing to convince the CEO to exit two of those businesses, but it was the best move that company made. The next three years were a time of explosive growth for that company.

Focus is critical when you are three people, when you are twenty-five people, five hundred people, and ten thousand people. You can always get farther faster by saying no to too many projects and too many priorities. Pick your shots carefully and hit them. That's what Jobs did to turn around Apple and that's what you can do with your company too.

#MBA Mondays

Comments (Archived):

  1. jason wright

    “I am reading it on three devices at the same time, my Kindle Fire, my Nexus 7, and my HTC One.” Jobs would not be happy with this.I’m surprised the book deal didn’t have an itunes & iOS-only distribution clause.

    1. fredwilson

      yeah well he wasn’t happy with muchin addition to being maybe the best entrepreneur ever, he was a big time asshole

      1. jason wright

        was he bipolar?

        1. fredwilson

          i do not think soit just seems like he was a very strong willed narcissist who also happened to be a visionary about computers, marketing, and personal technology

          1. jason wright

            we’re all previously described yourself as socially liberal and financially conservative.does being financially conservative preclude the possibility of you also being a financial libertarian?

          2. fredwilson

            I agree that we are all flawedThat’s what makes us humanI have libertatian leanings but I think I am too much of a conventional thinker to be a true libertarian

          3. jason wright

            but giving the average person greater access to finance and financial products and services (on fair terms) is a good thing, you would agree?

          4. fredwilson


          5. kidmercury

            bitcoin fanboys one up libertarians and enter anarchy territory

          6. LE

            To me applying labels is confining. I just prefer to be whatever makes sense given the circumstances. I can pickup chinese takeout and have a piece of pizza the same night. Whatever works.

          7. JamesHRH

            Libertarianism = Lord of the flies = #lessthanwecanbe

          8. awaldstein

            I’ve worked directly for challenging people who have changed some part of the world around them big time.I never think about how difficult they could be but how much of the world they moved. Maniacal focus is an earth mover.My stint in the tech side of the movie biz, sitting in rooms with name brand directors, I realized that in a world where everyone says no, where you need to raise not $10M but $250M on an idea, you simply plow through space with self belief as the change agent.No way else to do it.

          9. ShanaC

            the self belief thing i think is the differentiator between good and great

          10. awaldstein

            Leaders whose aspiration is to be good are forgettable.

          11. JamesHRH

            Can you post your resume?What have you NOT done πŸ˜‰ ???

          12. awaldstein

            ;)I haven’t looked at my Linked In profile in a very long time. But honestly, I think the best is yet to come.Working, hands on, as an advisor, is something that gives me an opportunity to bring my broad experience as a new perspective to challenges daily.

          13. jason wright

            the terms on which he agreed to for the research and writing of the book are revealing. not a hagiography.

          14. JamesHRH

            Wow, is that bang on.

      2. kidmercury

        ” being maybe the best entrepreneur ever, “Pfft. The warmup act to bezos.

        1. fredwilson


        2. Richard

          That’s debatable

          1. kidmercury

            sure, everything’s debatable. people can debate 9/11 being an inside job. people have debated whether or not the earth goes around the sun. it’s all debatable! πŸ™‚

          2. fredwilson

            Thank god!

          3. kidmercury

            amazon is taking the long strategy. they’ll have dominance in their position much longer than apple. apple is already on the decline. if a company fails after one person leaves — and this will be the second time apple has done that — it has a structural problem. one person simply cannot be that important in a 10,000+ organization.

          4. Richard

            We were talking about great entrepreneurs, not great companies. Sam Walton / there was a great entrepreneur.

          5. kidmercury

            same difference, entrepreneurs are judged by the companies they build. jobs has an element of greatness, that is not deniable. though the best leaders set up the organization to minimize single points of failure.

          6. falicon

            I made that same statement awhile back on my blog as well…Albert pointed out that even though Amazon is getting more of my money, they *may* not be generating more profits off of me than say Apple is right now…Because I use AWS, they probably are…but for the ‘average’ person, I’m not really sure who is winning day-to-day…but I still say long term (as I think you do too), Amazon wins hands-down.

          7. Dave W Baldwin

            Unless you were a supplier trying to get paid on time.

          8. Richard

            Post Sam Walton

          9. ShanaC

            I worked for one of his former suppliers. They basic ally killed competition, and the suppliers are now effectively arms of the company, because they’ve effective killed their suppliers’ margins.Not healthy

          10. LE

            Starbucks is a sugar delivery system it’s not about coffee.Walmart is about cutting costs but it’s also about getting people with little money to impulse buy and overbuy things they don’t need.

          11. LE

            Cost of doing business. Factor it in to the decision to sell or not. That’s the game.

          12. William Mougayar

            But you could also say he killed Main street.

          13. JamesHRH

            Bezos killing publishers. THe suburbs killed Detroit.I just drove across the continent (practically). In small towns you can see how ‘progress’ harmed the town, as you speed by on a major highway (not thru some hamlet).In small cities you can see how progress harmed the downtown, as you see the big box retail power centres outside the tax zones (happened in my hometown and my brother benefitted from part of it).#lifecylce

          14. William Mougayar

            Chain stores are the culprits. We’ve lost individuality, local entrepreneurship (of the non-technical kind), artisanal innovation, etc….Drive by a french small town, and it’s full of vibrancy because it’s made-up of a multitude of local businesses.

          15. JamesHRH

            Great Walton quote about ‘I am not that bright but I have the ability to get Harvard MBAs to work for me.’People skills trump all else (not that other skills are not important).

          16. jason wright

            try telling that to the Vatican

          17. kidmercury

            the vatican is a classic example of what i’m talking about. they didn’t fail when one pope left. they had the organizational structure setup so that they could preserve their scam through many popes. they had great partnerships with the nazis and the CIA to preserve their power, but never put themselves in a position where they were overly dependent upon one ally. thus their position as one of the wealthiest and most powerful institutions in the world for generations.

          18. Richard

            FOCUS πŸ™‚

          19. jason wright


          20. LE

            Agree. Religion is like the perfect brainwashing machine and “farm team” organized to keep everything going and in play. It’s going down hill of course but amazing how that has worked for so long isn’t it?(You understand the analogy to “farm team”, right?)As far as the Nazis and CIA totally makes sense to involve early anyone that you see has potential to disrupt your power or to someone to add to their success before it’s absolute and they don’t need you anymore. [1][1] Like Oprah or a talk show or late night host giving the stage to an up and coming entertainer or politician. Or a VC giving an early ear or meeting to a young entrepreneur. Get ahead of the curve type thing.

          21. JamesHRH

            ‘preserve their scam through many popes’ is a classic.

          22. Dan Epstein

            How are you measuring success–market cap, profits, something else?

          23. kidmercury

            i’ll measure it by a number of factors:1. impact on the world2. free cash flow generation3. ability to last forever — this is one of the biggest criteria and perhaps the most speculative, as obviously we don’t know where these companies will be decades from now

          24. falicon

            I love Amazon as well – but I do fear that they are in danger of ending up like the WalMart of the internet…and the long play is interesting and fine, but you until we get to the future you have to admit that Apple is winning the day-to-day right now (and for those of us that won’t be around in the distant future, today matters a whole lot).

          25. kidmercury

            i reluctantly concede that aapl is beating amzn in all regards — revenue, market cap, profits, cash flow, impact — currently. though i will at least note that amzn gets more revenue from me than aapl or any other internet company does, and i think this trend is growing.

          26. Richard

            Last forever? Take a look at the S&P500 decade by decade.

          27. kidmercury

            by forever i meant a long time — like decades. like wal-mart, GE, IBM.

          28. mikenolan99


          29. Aaron Klein

            Anybody who judges Amazon by net profit is looking through a set of Wall Street glasses.

        3. Ed Freyfogle

          maybe, just maybe, entrepreneurship isn’t zero sum. We can all win.

          1. kidmercury

            sure, second place, aka first loser, can be viewed as winning. perspective is key! πŸ™‚

        4. Andrew Kennedy

          best contemporary tech entrepreneur ever… i vote bezos.

        5. Dale Allyn

          Speaking of Bezos: http://www.washingtonpost.c…Buying Washington Post…cc: @samedaydr:disqus , @baba12:disqus , @andrew_kennedy:disqus

        6. JamesHRH

          Interestingly, totally different people with oddly similar approaches.

      3. William Mougayar

        Besides shredding people to pieces if they didn’t live up to his standards, what was he an asshole about?

        1. fredwilson

          He was not honest at times, not a great husband, father, friend, etcAll of that stemmed from his narcissism and intense focus on his passions/work which were one and the same

          1. William Mougayar

            Hmm. I’ll need to read the book then. Thanks.

          2. baba12

            not honest at times, that is putting it mildly.

          3. LE

            Just want a good product. And good music. In sports just want a winning team not concerned with what happens to athletes bodies, families etc to get there right?Never one to take drugs (or try) but can fully appreciate all the great music that was created because of the illegal drugs others have taken which has ravaged their bodies. Bad for them good for me (unless of course I want to consider the harm from the illegal drug trade and on people and society obviously.)Steroid use a different thing though. Don’t approve of that.

        2. Richard

          From what I remember I don’t think Jeff bezos was a “walk in the park” to work with

          1. baba12

            Yes Bezos is an asshole and not someone who is easy to work with, he has said many times “you don’t work with me but for me” a feudal dictator, also Larry Ellison is a pretty piece of work. I see that tends to be par for the course with most of the guys on Wall Street. Jon Corzine when he ran the Goldman Sachs was labeled the ruthless asshole but got away with it because he delivered profits.

    2. Anne Libby

      I just learned that you can also sometimes listen, also (somewhat) seamlessly, with your reading experience. At purchase, you can partner some Kindle books with the spoken word version, via Audible. Read to a point, listen on the commute, go back to reading.Some are public domain books. So, yesterday I “bought” The Time Machine for Kindle plus the spoken word version for 49 cents. (I can’t wait to tell a cousin who teaches public school…)

  2. JimHirshfield

    It’s a great book. Couldn’t put it down. Glad to hear you finally got to it.

  3. mikenolan99

    One of my favorite Audio books of the past year – a great listen.I so admired his genius, and was torn by his demons – could one exist without the other? By applauding the work of the man, was I condoning his actions?

    1. fredwilson

      Do ends justify means?

      1. mikenolan99

        Exactly – made for some great conversations with my wife.I remember losing a great salesrep to a former sales manager at a competing radio station. At the exit interview, I pointed out the he absolutely despised this person, so why now was he was going to work for them?”Yep, I know, but they get the best out of me.”Like the abusive football coach that drives the team to the winning season, some people need to work for assholes. Maybe we need them in the world.BTW – I talked recently with the owner of the station this manager now works at – and asked how he could stand them. “They get the job done”I pointed out the great thing about owning your own station was you got to pick who you went to work with everyday.Apparently, some owners don’t mind hiring assholes, either.

        1. William Mougayar

          Exactly. It is what it is. Anyone who worked for a large organization knows very well, that the larger a company is, the more shit happens in places. That’s the nature of the beast.So, if you’re Steve Jobs, and you’ve got to turn around a big ship, then you’ve got to use un-conventional methods.

          1. Anne Libby

            One of the things I read, maybe in the aftermath of the plane that landed on the Hudson, is that after a crash landing, the flight attendants “act hysterical” on purpose, to shock people out of their, well, shock, and move them off the plane to safety. (Pilots out there, is this true?)At work, it might mean acting like a jerk. I have been that jerk, where people’s inertia and inaction was going to a) drive the company towards failure, and b) cause the individuals to lose their jobs.It wasn’t pretty, and it worked. Being a jerk can take its toll, though.

          2. William Mougayar

            Yes, but I didn’t mean that you act like a jerk on purpose. You’re doing what is good for the company, and the reality is that people are what make companies, so you can’t but tinker with people in order to move the company.

          3. Anne Libby

            Doing it “on purpose” implies some awareness of your impact on others, though…acting with intention, rather than flailing around and dealing with the collateral damage. I’ve seen both approaches.And I agree: the higher purpose is to make things work.

          4. baba12

            Mr.Jobs was an asshole before he got to turn around the ship. One does not have to be an asshole to turn around the ship.

    2. jason wright

      that’s why i wonder if he was bipolar

  4. Elie Seidman

    Steve was clearly a brilliant businessman and entrepreneur. But I imagine he probably could have achieved just as much had he learned a few lessons from George Saunders on kindness. http://6thfloor.blogs.nytim…No real excuse to be such a nasty person. That he thought it was necessary to behave the way he did shows that as much of a visionary he was, he was a crappy manager. There are other very effective ways to manage people to high performance. I worry that because of his influence, more people come to believe that to be a great entrepreneur and successful business person, you also need to be a nasty person.

    1. fredwilson


    2. William Mougayar

      But as a leader of a large organization, your job is not be 100% liked, but to be respected, and to be effective at getting the best out of your people. With Steve Jobs, everything he did was at a grand scale, so we could argue that his flaws also got magnified.The sum of it is that he did a lot more good, developed people, products, produced wealth, etc… a LOT more than what we hear about the bad stuff. He didn’t do anything illegal or immoral or kill anyone, so let’s give him a break.The movie comes out Aug 13th, in 8 days.

      1. Elie Seidman

        I don’t think that being liked and not being nasty are the same goals. You can’t expect to be liked nor should it be a goal. But you don’t have to be a nasty person. I see the two as different. As for whether its a magnified flaw, you could be right. I’m only going off of what I’ve read. I think Issacson downplays it though it’s clearly there. That being said, he denied the obvious paternity of his daughter. So there is more than just conjecture as to his behavior.

        1. LE

          “he denied the obvious paternity of his daughter”Sure but why does that matter at all? I don’t get into the personal lives of the people who work and/or lead the companies that I buy products from. Should I?If I go to to look at hotels I want to see the hotel and whether I will have a good time there. What the employees do or whether the owners, managers etc. have any weird personal habits means absolutely nothing to me. And I don’t want to know about it either. If you asked me if I wanted to see it I would say “no I don’t”. Don’t spoil my day with someone’s dirty laundry. Don’t care what goes on beneath the kimono.I buy products that are good. With few (obvious) exceptions I don’t really care what goes on that I don’t see that makes the product or the experience good. (Anyone can feel free to bring up some outlier example like child labor overseas to counter my point!)

          1. Elie Seidman

            Yeah – good point. I think what it gets to is “do the ends justify the means” and to what extent does Jobs set an example that it does? Speaking of labor problems, Apple seems to have its share…

      2. Aaron Klein


      3. Lucas Dailey

        “The sum of it is that he did a lot more good” I think that statement really says “the end justifies the means”. From all I’ve read he was successful *despite* being a jerk. I think an instruction manual for inspiration will defy discovery by psychologists, but I don’t believe being uncaring to people is a necessary component.Worse, I see manifestations of the negative aspects of his personality in the company, and it’s one of the primary reasons I don’t like Apple.I believe an Apple with a caring Jobs could have done much better for itself and the world.

        1. Kurt Schrader

          It’s hard for me to believe that “a caring Jobs” could have made Apple do much better for itself.By all accounts Jobs’ hard-driving style brought Apple back from the brink and ultimately created multiple new product categories that made Apple what it is today.A caring Jobs would have let people go home to deal with their lives, not force them to stay and finish their work.I don’t agree with that style, and I wouldn’t put up with it myself, but it’s hard to deny the results of an intensely focused effort of a large group of smart people.

          1. sgns

            I think this is the issue: people seem to read Jobs’ life story as what *you* have to do to get where he was. But it was just his path. He sure did his best.There’s no reason to think that the space of possibles is exhausted – indeed, in a way that is the message of Jobs’ life: he showed that there was another way to do things – and Apple exists to prove it.We can stand on his shoulders. He didn’t have that particular luxury, though he had others.

          2. Lucas Dailey

            Being caring and being focused/hard-driving aren’t mutually exclusive. I’m not suggesting “caring” be the first word people think of when they know the guy, only that if respect, empathy, and understanding for other people were a larger part of his DNA Apple would have been better on all fronts.Also, I think “letting people go home to deal with their lives” is 101 essential, and that “forcing them to stay and finish their work” is a recipe for a crappy, uninnovative company.All the research I know of on the issue points to emotional healthy being central to creativity and focus. Great companies are acting on that by offering perks to make their employees lives easier, not more stressful.

        2. William Mougayar

          Why are we rushing to judge Steve Jobs?Take the good, and leave the bad πŸ™‚ True for anything. (except for some foods, where the bad is good & the good can be bad)

          1. Lucas Dailey

            I’m totally with you, I try to leave the bad, particularly for the living!But we’re ultimately having an academic discussion about management styles and personality. I share Elie’s concern that his canonization encourage poor behavior in others.It’s not just about personalities either. As alluded to above, I think his negative behavior directly led to decisions that hurt the company. There was a lot of cognitive dissonance in the Apple brand that I think was due to his leadership. It certainly cost them me as a customer, and I’ve talked to many others.

      4. kidmercury

        no, he did do illegal activity. off the top of my head, there are two things i can think of:1. illegally backdating options2. illegal no poaching agreementsi would suspect there to be more stuff too.there’s also illegal drug use and illegal hacking he and woz did early on with their tinkering adventures, though i don’t think that counts.

        1. JLM

          .You may add eBook price fixing.JLM.

        2. LE

          Think William was probably not meaning “nothing illegal” probably meaning something large scale. Like dumping pcb’s into a river or not properly inspecting the carnival ride in order to push profits or something like that.Guess what? You go into any restaurant and there are employees there paid “under the table” that aren’t on the books.As far as the drug use I’ve never done that (or ever tried) but I can fully understand why some people do.Look society is not looking to eliminate crime (white collar or petty) just keep it from getting out of hand.

          1. kidmercury

            i think stealing hundreds of millions of dollars and colluding to control wages in silicon valley is pretty large-scale.

          2. William Mougayar

            Yes, thanks for emphasizing that point. In the grand scheme of things, was Steve Jobs ever arrested for breaking the law? No.He was shrewd, charming, smart and badass in his own way. As I said before, we shouldn’t judge him, but take the good, and leave the bad.

          3. Travis Pyykkonen

            In order to take the good or leave the bad judgments need to be made.

          4. William Mougayar

            Good rhetorically, so when we say “I like you for who you are”, are we rushing to judgement or accepting people for who they are?

          5. Travis Pyykkonen

            Ha, didn’t really anticipate a response and created another opportunity for me to see how participating in community refines us; thanks for making the effort…yes, most perspectives are much cleaner in rhetoric as the practical is more complex and much messier, but many times more worthwhile. The value a person inherently holds goes way beyond any actions they take or imperfect perspectives they hold, so I’d like to think that we can properly value someone while also making “judgments” or critiques. Perhaps a fundamental differentiator is whether the communication of the judgment is intended to build or destroy, do you agree/disagree?

          6. William Mougayar

            Build vs. destroy might be a bit radical. How about support vs. critique?

        3. Richard

          In addition, to there being nothing illegal about backdating options, seems like jobs attempt to keep his employees from being poached has some merit.

          1. PhilipSugar

            Are you joking. Sorry for the second one today, but are you joking?Surreptitiously backdating options not illegal where do you live? Where is that?Having an agreement where competitors can’t give an employee a better offer is good for you as an employee? and not illegal?Wow, just wow.

      5. James Ferguson @kWIQly

        Hi William – It depends where you draw lines on morality. Intimidation from a position of social power (bullying) is in my book immoral. I think few would deny that this man fitted that mould on occasion. Questions as to how he exploited manufacturing in third world countries are also a moral minefield – but I dont know enough to judge.

      6. ShanaC

        skipping it unless it gets great reviews


        “…to be effective at getting the best out of your people.”.+1

    3. baba12

      Unfortunately that is what most take away from reading the book, end up being assholes and nothing more. The only saving grace that Mr.Jobs had was that he was able to deliver quality products, and therefore could be accepted by his members of his staff to be a narcissistic schmuck and get away with it.I am told Mr.Gates was a ruthless person as CEO of Microsoft as well and possibly feels that he needs to atone for his behavior by forming the foundation with his name on it.I am guessing in some quarters people believe that to amass wealth one has to be ruthless, nasty, rude and crude. One is made to believe that that is a required set of character traits one has to have to do that. Maybe Mr.Wilson can shed light on his experience dealing with entrepreneurs who he has invested in, if they possess these character traits and does he ever try to tell them to change that aspect of who they are.

      1. fredwilson

        Jobs was not about the money. he was about the impact.many of the best entrepreneurs are like that

        1. William Mougayar

          Yup. Chip on the shoulder helps.

        2. kidmercury

          whatever. he claims he was not about the money. if so, why backdate the options illegally? the largest options grant to an executive ever. this is the equivalent of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from shareholders.

          1. Richard

            As far as I know, there’s nothing wrong with backdating options, nor even with the price at which they are granted: it is purely a problem of how the transaction is recorded, nothing more.

          2. kidmercury

            when options backdating is not disclosed, as was the case with jobs, it is illegal. it frequently is not disclosed, because if it were, shareholders would realize they were being cheated.ultimately, jobs stole hundreds of millions of dollars from shareholders; this was not illegal (though some may say it is immoral), though failure to disclose the theft is illegal in the united states.

          3. Richard

            ” Jobs acknowledged that he had signed a letter sent in October 2001 to Apple’s auditors that claimed that the company had fully disclosed to the auditors all the information they needed to check the company’s books.”But Jobs acknowledged in the deposition that, at the time of the letter, he was essentially ignorant of what the auditors might need to verify Apple’s internal accounting”Seems like a technicality

          4. kidmercury

            when did he acknowledge this? apple didn’t acknowledge the options backdating scandal until 2006. they blamed it on some of their finance people who were charged with crimes; one guy, i forget his name, actually had to give back the millions he stole via backdated options (all the top people were in on it). jobs is of course untouchable, the michael jordan of technology, the refs give him his own rules.he did the same thing at pixar, to recap:1. jobs backdated options and did not disclose this at the time of doing this. this is illegal. 2. backdating options is stealing money from shareholders. jobs granted himself the largest backdated options package ever given to a corporate officer. in doing so he effectively stole hundreds of millions of dollars from shareholders.but hey, he helped design pretty boxes and puts the beatles in ads, so all is forgiven.

          5. PhilipSugar

            Kid we could not agree more.

        3. baba12

          I did not state Jobs was about money. In your experience do you believe to have impact you have to have the qualities Mr.Jobs possessed, you have achieved what you set out for yourself as a person I am gathering, would you say you can/have been an asshole because that was the only way to get things done. Would you recommend/advise your children to imbibe those qualities Mr.Jobs had as a blueprint to have an impact on society. I doubt you would, so as we all agree we are flawed thus we are human, Mr.Jobs was flawed and got away with it so to speak only because he delivered for his shareholders. If failed to do that I don’t think he would be celebrated, no matter how great the products were.

          1. LE

            “you have to have the qualities Mr.Jobs possessed”You’re “compressing”[1] behavior that Jobs did as if he did it every minute of every day to everyone. While I don’t know specifically that was not the case, I am sure it was not the case. Because it defies human nature to believe he could get away being an asshole like that on such a large scale all the time to everyone in every situation. So I believe it is an exaggeration the way it is portrayed. (Like hearing about some star being demanding in a book by an ex employee you get perhaps 10 or even 20 cases over the course of 5 or 15 years.I’m not saying that Jobs didn’t exhibit the behavior detailed in the stories about him. I’m only questioning the extent to which he was like that. The scope has not been defined.Nobody’s arm was twisted and had to work under Jobs. To me the stuff about niceness is just a distraction. I would have loved to work with Steve Jobs. The benefits would greatly outweigh my feelings being trampled on. You know what? It would have been a cost of doing business. In old school business you have many big customers that give you shit. You take the shit and thank them for the business and then feed your family. While the other guy whos feeling are hurt goes hungry (an exaggeration to make a point except for “cost of doing business”)Would you recommend/advise your children to imbibe those qualities Mr.Jobs had as a blueprint to have an impact on society.You are assuming that Jobs was that way because he consciously decided to be that way and could just as easily decide not to be that way. If you’ve ever been around people with anger problems (or other mental issues) you will realize that that behavior is not something they can just “turn off”. Consequently it’s not something that someone can “just do” or learn to do or at least easily unlearn to do. Anger and reaction is which it is. It’s real and convincing. Someone who doesn’t have this tendency trying to act that way isn’t going to be successful at all (being angry) because the emotions are not real they are acted. Consequently any attempt to be that way will fall flat on it’s face and be easily snuffed out by the recipient. One of my ex girlfriends had a big anger problem. When she got angry (at the flip of a switch) you knew it. My wife does not have an anger problem. When she is angry you almost want to laugh. She couldn’t fake it if her life depended on it.On a personal note I treat people nicely and don’t act like Jobs did. I was raised to try to not use anger to achieve what I need. It’s considered a failing to me to use brute to get what you want out of the world. The idea is to use your brain to get what you want not your brawn. I am not the guy making a scene at the ticket counter trying to intimidate I am the guy trying to manipulate the ticket counter person by being nice to them or some other creative technique.[1] Compressing is a concept that I came up with while in school (a long time ago). You sit there on the first day of class and are overwhelmed by all the things a particular teacher tells you you will be doing. Tests, reports, grades, projects and more. It’s delivered in real time but it is something that plays out over the semester. Over time. It’s not happening all at once. The infamous “jobs” stories make it sound like he was that way 24/7. It’s pretty hard to believe that was the case. (If you’ve ever been in an abusive relationship or witnessed one you also realize that it isn’t like that 24/7 or when it gets to be 24/7 that’s when people actually take action.)

        4. JamesHRH

          Gates & Allen.

    4. ShanaC

      Name a really kind businessperson.

      1. jason wright

        i don’t know if he’s kind, but George Soros seems to think beyond merely the getting of money.

        1. ShanaC

          true, but is he kind

        2. Dale Allyn

          Ask the citizens of Thailand, who lost everything as he ravaged their currency in an absolutely hostile and predatory manner, how they feel about Soros. He’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing (with gaping holes in them) who has made a fortune by decimating the economies of others, and then pursuing his destructive agenda under the guise of doing “good”.(sorry, struck a nerve. I wish people would look deeper into Soros’ behavior to better understand the whole picture.)

          1. jason wright

            the getting of his money has been very exploitative at times, generating little of value for anyone but himself and his causes. a predator.

          2. Dale Allyn

            Yes, agreed. He and his methods have hurt a lot of individuals.

          3. jason wright

            and Thailand has become the first country to ban bitcoin activity. a link there possibly.

        3. PhilipSugar

          I’m really sorry but is this a joke?

          1. jason wright

            but he’s a philanthropist

          2. Aaron Klein


      2. PhilipSugar

        There are tons. How about Fred or Jim Goodnight.

      3. Elie Seidman

        your host is, in all of my interactions with him, a very kind person. Maybe it’s just his branding but Warren Buffet seems like a kindly kind of guy. In my personal experience I’ve encountered **sholes and nice people. Successful business people in both camps.

        1. LE

          Totally situational. Put Fred as head for catering for a big event (say the Robin Hood charity dinner) and see whether he can be as calm or collected as he is if he stands to loose his job or the contract if something gets fucked up and things don’t go well. Some businesses lend themselves to being “nicer” (not saying of course that Fred doesn’t stand out in his business to be sure).As far as Buffet he’s totally got the avuncular thing going. Could be natural selection. (Enough people doing something and it works out for one of them for sure. )Or could simply be being nice about the way he puts the axe on people. Perhaps he does fire people or get rid of them in a nice way and is not an asshole about it. But in the end they go home without a job or a deal.When I used to fire people I would always give them “what to tell their wife”. Some little positive statement “he said that I was one of the best paper handlers” that they would repeat when they went home and said they were fired. So I was nice about it. But they still didn’t have a job the next day.

          1. Elie Seidman

            You could have chosen to humiliate them by telling them how incompetent they are… Firing someone is hard to do and it’s important work if you want to keep the bar high. There is no way for that to be fun. But there are different approaches to it, some of them “nicer” than others. Not all people running some big event (or org) choose to get what they need by screaming and insulting people. Even when stuff gets fucked up. I strongly believe that’s not the way to get what you want when things get sideways and screaming and yelling makes stuff worse. I think that being calm and collected when the shit goes bad is actually what leadership is about. Screaming indicates to me that the leader is out of control and acting, at least partially, from emotion instead of reason. People mirror and emulate energy and behavior – especially the leaders. If the leader is screaming and emotional, that’s going to have an impact. There are different philosophies on this kind of thing. I would never work for a screamer or allow them in any organization I run. Life is too short.

    5. LE

      “But I imagine he probably could have achieved just as much had he learned a few lessons from George Saunders on kindness.”Elie – How can you compare someone who needs to run a large corporation and has the pressing interests of employees, profit, stockholders (and a driving ambition) to a guy who is an author and an intellectual? You can’t really compare the stresses of one career with another. And how it effects behavior.It’s like comparing the stresses of being a rabbi or priest to a brain surgeon. The brain surgeon is going to snap at the nurse if she/he fucks up because a life depends on it.

      1. Elie Seidman

        I think the operative was “learn from” vs “be like”. Different roles require different approaches. I never worked for Jobs so I’m clearly operating on limited information (only what I read in the book). But berating people is a really “unusual” approach to managing people. I like to believe I’ve held people to high standards. I’ve never ever felt the need to berate someone to get there.

        1. LE

          I don’t berate people but I can see the applicability.People have to feel that if they upset “Daddy” he will be angry. Not that “daddy” will give them a pass and say “oh that’s ok you tried hard”. Better luck next time! Let’s get a milkshake! Because the world is not like that.Guess what? My parents had very high standards. You had to try really hard to get their approval and I worked hard to get their approval. If I screwed up I knew about it. Even to this day if I give some information to my dad I give it much thought because I need to cover all bases otherwise he will call me out on it. I personally think that has been very helpful as it has given me the ability to think ahead completely and not think “I will just bs if things go wrong”. Because I was never able to do that with him.

          1. Elie Seidman

            Lots of shades of grey, no doubt and lots of approaches to holding the bar high. The stories don’t seem to indicate that Jobs was in the grey area.

    6. awaldstein

      No one equates being a jerk with being successful. And no one equates nice with it either.He changed the world for the better. Taught the tech industry that marketing was both craft and art. Empowered a generation with tools for expression. Made UX the same as design and both beautiful. Made just about everyone in the industry a follower. Created huge wealth for many.In 25 years, entrepreneurs will be downloading videos of him and marveling at the products we had the pleasure of using.The end result within some really grey lines does indeed justify the means.

      1. Elie Seidman

        No debate on his accomplishments. Question in my mind is a more specific one – did he need to behave the way he did to get there. I guess the other question is, “why should anyone care”?. Perhaps we should not. But the stories seem to indicate that he was an a**. The reason I think it matters is because of the example it sets and what it tells people is ok if the ends are great. Do the ends justify the means in your mind? Where does the line get drawn? Tough question.

        1. awaldstein

          Not sure I get this.If you are a total jerk, you don’t have many true friends. If you are a maniacal thankless boss, people quit. If you are a miserable life partner, you end with with the keys to the house, getting changed one day.Building a damn product is just so hard. Building a company that changes life as we know it, it unimaginable honestly.People can dislike and respect you. People don’t hate and respect others.People loved the company, the products and his leadership.What am I missing?

          1. PhilipSugar

            Point is this……If you don’t have FU money.I can pay you so much money, not so much you get FU money, I can abuse you and you will just eat my shit sandwiches.Employees, spouses, friends, yum, yum.If you don’t think its true, you’ve never been a position where you fed somebody one and not had them call you on it.If you are self aware you realize you were a total asshole and somebody ate it because they had to….If not you dish them out all the time.

          2. awaldstein

            I understand that wanting the game changing win is a huge drive.I also understand the patience and poise that success brings.I’ve also been the jerk although less so in the past decade ( I hope). I know that not everyone has liked working for me.But–generally its deeper than the payoff.Inspiration, genius, truly propelling leaderships is amazingly rare. You can build companies that win without it. But I think people put up with/accept weird shit that inspiring people do cause its a thrill to be around them.If you get rich in the process…all the better.

        2. LE

          “I think it matters is because of the example it sets and what it tells people is ok if the ends are great.”I mean along these lines the effect of popular culture on what is acceptable is far greater to society. Does exposure to that have an effect on what young people find acceptable? Sure. But nothing can be done about that (not going to censure things right?)

    7. Adrian Bye

      there’s things here you don’t understand. the mother teresa’s of the world aren’t able to do the kind of innovation steve jobs could. its called “creative destruction” for a reason.

      1. kidmercury

        it’s called creative destruction because it destroys existing industries, not because it requires you to be a destructive person. last year, the company with the 2nd highest market cap/employee was apple. the top spot went to silver wheaton. the founder and CEO of silver wheaton is a guy named nolan watson who by all accounts is pretty much the opposite of the jobs persona; donates a ton of money, goes to africa to get involved at the grassroots level for the charities he’s a part of, etc. wicked smart, incredibly innovative guy. not an asshole.

        1. Adrian Bye

          apple is truly a great example. we had SJ who was quite an asshole. now we have tim cook, who is seemingly a much nicer guy. and the company is slowly going down the drain.sure, there will be plenty of highly successful companies run by nice guys. but the breakthrough innovation will almost always come from difficult people. they are the ones who challenge the world.this “groupthink” around empathy in the US at the moment is not only wrong but highly damaging for the future of the US.

          1. kidmercury

            the example i cited clearly shows the breakthrough innovations can come from kind people.

          2. Adrian Bye

            do jewish people have enough empathy?Nobel Prizes have been awarded to over 800 individuals, of whom at least 20% were Jews, although Jews comprise less than 0.2% of the world’s population.…(i am partially ashkenazi jewish FYI).

          3. kidmercury

            while i am fond of controversial and taboo conversations, i don’t know why you are bringing up jewish people, and don’t see the relevance.

          4. Adrian Bye

            it is absolutely relevant, there is a lot happening with genetics that has not been disclosed to the public. i’ve spent the last several years reverse engineering neuroscience and found many things like this.i am thinking seriously of writing a book about it. don’t believe everything you hear about empathy.

          5. kidmercury

            sounds great, if you care to elaborate on the relevance so we can all learn i’d be very interested.

          6. Adrian Bye

            i won’t be posting everything here online, that would leave nothing for me to write about :)the connection is autism spectrum. it is where innovation comes from. i am on the autism spectrum.

          7. kidmercury

            the conversation we were having in this thread was about whether or not being an asshole is needed to succeed. out of nowhere, you started to talk about jews, and then about autism, refusing to make the connection.that’s fine, but this is clearly grounds for losing a beef.

          8. Adrian Bye

            i’ve made the connection.autism is about innovation which is what pushes the human race forward. we just don’t like it so its been hugely stigmatized, particularly in today’s feminized world.if you really want to talk further we can take it offline.

          9. kidmercury

            all you are doing is saying controversial things, which i appreciate, but you have not tied it back to the original point of whether or not one needs to be an asshole to be innovative. but if you’re too scared and not man enough to have the convo right here and now in front of everyone no worries that’s cool i understand

          10. Elie Seidman

            Well said.

          11. LE

            Time to focus.Bezos just bought the washington post. There’s work to be done thinking about this.

          12. Richard

            For less than the cost of the huffington post. Amazon focused ?

          13. LE

            You have to factor in the true transaction cost including what the company will lose any debts all that stuff. I didn’t study the announcement so I don’t know where it falls.I was just chiding kid mercury since I know he’s a Amazon fan (as I am although less so since they started charging sales tax in my state).

          14. William Mougayar

            He said he wants to experiment moving them to digital. Smart goal. Interesting the price was roughly the same as HuffPo.WaPo: 80 yrs in business.

          15. LE

            I see it as a base to establish Bezos as a legitimate media player. I don’t see it as the end game for him to be profitable with the Post but to parlay it into either access, influence or as a base for other media plays.It gives him a legitimate start after all the Post has access and is established all over the world. Trying to duplicate would take time and money – here he gets a jump start. It’s a great way to get your ticket punched. The price within reason is not really relevant. If he sees value, while he wouldn’t pay to much for it, I don’t think it was “ok if I can get it for 250 yes, 275 I’m out”. (Which is the way you should think when buying you should focus on whether you want something and then, within reason, just try to bargain the best price.)I mean let’s say you want to be a player in the movie business. Do you start your own picture company or do you buy one that has been established forever (even losing money) and launch from there?

          16. William Mougayar

            There are a few business people that I don’t second guess, and he’s one of them. It should be nice to be able to conduct an experiment for $250 million in cash.Well, after disrupting the book industry, it’s fair game that he tries to disrupt or fix the publishing one.

          17. Adrian Bye

            No, i’m explaining facts. You just don’t happen to like them.The reality is that there is a specific brain type which is the most successful at innovation. Steve Jobs is an example.fact 1: Hans asperger (austrian) discovered aspergers (autism spectrum) while working for the nazis during WWII on jewish children.…fact 2: Nobel Prizes have been awarded to over 800 individuals, of whom at least 20% were Jews, although Jews comprise less than 0.2% of the world’s population…As an extra, here’s a list of jewish billionaires:

          18. kidmercury

            Lol no you are assuming I dont like them, when in fact I love the truth, doubly so when it uncomfortable and painful. What I am interested in discussing is the relationship between being an asshole and being innovative. You seem interested in talking about Jews. I dont see the cinnection. For stupid people like me, please communicate as clearly and simply as possible the relationship between being an asshole and being innovative. You can mention jews if youd like, and apparently you do, bit please make it relevant to the discussion regarding assholes and innovation. Also remember that whether or not one is a billionaire does not give us any information as to how innovativr they are or not. You might as well cite stats on the type of colors people like, in fact thats probably more meaningful.

          19. Adrian Bye

            i’ll pass. thanks for the discussion.

          20. kidmercury

            well, if you ever man up and can have the discussion, let me know.

          21. jason wright

            the first genetically engineered burger was eaten in London yesterday. The eater didn’t mutate or die.

          22. kidmercury

            Hahaha! πŸ™‚

          23. SubstrateUndertow

            Do you own a micrometer ?

          24. jason wright

            “there is a lot happening with genetics that has not been disclosed to the public”like what?

          25. SubstrateUndertow

            Can you be more exploit about the inferred causal connection between the question and the statement of fact ?

          26. SubstrateUndertow

            “and the company is slowly going down the drain”Somewhat premature don’t you think ?

    8. kidmercury

      at first i didn’t think your concern about others thinking you need to be an asshole was legit, but after reading some of these comments, it seems your point is spot on. i agree 100%. one does not need to be an asshole. being able to persuade others of your vision and force your will into reality are probably essential, but they do not require being an asshole.

      1. Elie Seidman

        Thanks. And arguably if you need to be an asshole to do it (I.e use fear, intimidation, and humiliation) your argument is not that strong. There were a lot of great people who worked for Apple and made it all happen. How many people – perhaps greater ones – did not work there because they did not want to put up and debate with an egomaniac tyrant who appropriated other peoples ideas willy nilly after telling them that those same ideas were shit?

      2. SubstrateUndertow

        We need to define the term “ASSHOLE”At what level of granularity should that final assessment of a person’s “assholeness” be targeted?We all tolerate some level of negative personality traits by others without necessarily deeming them to be quote “ASSHOLES”. That cut point is very subjective, personal and circumstantial.Defining “ASSHOLE” may be too broad a task for this forum ?

    9. Girish Mehta

      Re – ‘there are other very effective ways to manage people to high performance’ – Absolutely. Great point, thanks.Maya Angelou – “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.

    10. JamesHRH

      You need to be that tough inside.Velvet glove….iron fist.

  5. btrautsc

    I personally set our company up for failure in this regard. 2 projects, 2 teams – both companies growing and hurtling towards the place where they would need more outside capital… the multi-project (pre-major success dream crumbled)we realized, we can do two things very mediocre, or we can try to do one thing fucking awesome.

  6. William Mougayar

    I had a friend who worked directly for Steve Jobs at Next, so I asked him once what it is like to work for Jobs. He said Steve Jobs had this ability to look you close with his piercing eyes, and connect with you and you felt empowered and committed.He had this ability to transfer his passion to those around him that he entrusted.

    1. fredwilson

      that comes out again and again in the book

      1. William Mougayar

        Interesting. That conversation with my friend stuck with me, and we’re talking 25+ years ago. I remember the place we had that lunch in Vancouver as my friend went on talking to me about Steve Jobs, after he left HP.It’s a gift when you can inspire others. You multiply goodwill. Inspiration and motivation moves mountains. There is no other way to do it.

    2. jason wright

      the ‘fuhrer kontact’ phenomenon.

    3. Elie Seidman

      That’s definitely clear in the book.

    4. LE

      Halo effect multiplied by true ability.

  7. William Mougayar

    Re: focus, Mark Twain once said:β€œPut all your eggs in one basket, and watch that basket.”

    1. Elie Seidman

      Great line. I think Buffet says something similar about you can’t diversify your way to great returns. He wants to own amazing businesses and own all of them.

      1. Marshall Hargrave

        “Wide diversification is only required when investors do not understand what they are doing.” – Warren Buffett

        1. jason wright

          i like that.however, to be safe invest in sun cream for if the summer is hot, and umbrellas if wet.

    2. Ela Madej

      He also said: β€œAll generalizations are false, including this one.” πŸ˜‰

      1. William Mougayar

        I didn’t realize that. He’s playing with us.

        1. Ela Madej

          All the best minds of this world are playing with that world around them.

      2. Heather crystallie

        Sexy comment for ages to come

  8. LIAD

    the book left a bad taste in my mouth.Despite his achievements and natural abilities Jobs came off looking like a douche.Woz on the other hand came off looking principled and full of integrity.Given the chance, I’d have opted to have a drink with him over Jobs without question.

    1. William Mougayar

      There’s another good book about Apple by Adam Lashinsky, Inside Apple. I’m told it’s pretty good too, and some say better than Isaacson’s.

      1. Aaron Klein

        Very different books but both were compelling.

        1. William Mougayar

          Haven’t read either. I’m waiting for the movie. Here’s why the movie will be better than the book:

    2. baba12

      I have had a drink the Woz and he lives up to his credentials. Humble and sincere.

      1. ShanaC


      2. Richard

        poor diet though (based in his tweets).

    3. Aaron Klein

      It didn’t leave me with a bad taste as much as make me sympathetic to Jobs. At the end, he realizes that he’s built something beautiful with Apple but he’s neglected some very important things in the process.I am driven to succeed and I love building what is going to be a great company. But I firmly believe I can do a better job of that with a wife, son and daughter who know who I am along the way.

      1. falicon

        This is the path/challenge that I believe in as well.

    4. ShanaC

      meanwhile, you still can. May want to write that email πŸ™‚

  9. JimHirshfield

    I expect that by the time you’re done with the book, there will be 5 more blog posts that reference the book.

    1. Anne Libby

      MBA Mondays: book discussion…

      1. JimHirshfield

        πŸ™‚ Study Hall

        1. Anne Libby

          Hah — I want to avoid Detention!

          1. JimHirshfield

            But that’s where all the disruption happens!!

  10. Guest

    Re. whether Steve Jobs was a tyrant, it may be worth re-reading Mark Suster’s post on benevolent dictators:* http://www.bothsidesoftheta…Last Wed one of my good friends said I was “almost tyrannical in the way you expect professional quality, integrity and reciprocity from others.”I replied, “Funny because I’m a Libra which is the sign of Venus, love, peace, harmony and Gandhi.”

  11. falicon

    Loved the book as well.Too much to grep in just one reading I think, so I’m sure I’ll go back to it every few years (btw – if you want an even more complete picture add the iWoz book into your list [… ]. I think it helps to sort out the fact from the fiction and the hype of the legend a bit)On a personal level focus is something outsiders, or casual friends, often say I am lacking…so I take this subject pretty seriously and have spent a lot of time thinking about it over the years as well.My personal truth is that I’ve been focused on really nothing more than gaining/improving the skills to be able to build products and services people really love (my focus hasn’t really been as much on a given product as it has been on the skills/experience I learn from building a given product — and I feel I could really only get great at this through lots and lots of experience).So after 20 years with that core focus I’m pretty happy with what I can do now (but the truth is I’m not even close to being done learning and improving as well).And it’s only just recently (i.e. the past two months) shifted my core focus from ‘learning how to build product’ to ‘learning how to build a company’….another 20 or so years developing my skills and I’m confident I’ll be an overnight success!

    1. Aaron Klein

      Excited for you. πŸ™‚

    2. PhilipSugar

      What’s important is to know when to focus and when not to focus. That is why Google has personal time, that is why at 4pm on Fridays we have a specialty beer chosen by a member of the team and play video games on our custom built machine that has 60 games from your childhood. Total lack of focus

      1. falicon

        That is very insightful (and I *love* that you have your team each take a turn choosing a specialty beer — from just this little example, sounds like you are doing so many things right!)

        1. PhilipSugar

          I pay but it keeps me from going out and having to buy πŸ™‚

      2. ShanaC

        focusing all the time creates burnout.It isn’t possible to do. People keep trying, but you need space away

      3. LE

        The house we bought has a pinball game in the basement. It’s amazing that something that would have been so cool to have growing up holds not interest at all for the step kids. I think they played it three times. It sits totally unused unplugged. Maybe there was something to having to feed quarters to games that made it feel “scarce” in addition to being replaced by things of obvious higher level fun.

        1. falicon

          Sell it – they still have good resale value as collector items…

  12. PhilipSugar

    Focus is an interesting thing.To get to a goal you are right you have to have 100% focus. What is your core competency, your unique selling proposition. You have to be ruthless on that focus because if you are not people will naturally want to wander and you will not achieve your goal.That ruthless focus does not work in all parts of life. If you are successful enough you can have ruthless focus and treat people not as people but merely as assets and you will get away with it. You can treat your family like a possession.Both are important lessons, Jobs taught us about both.

  13. JLM

    . The thing that is most interesting to me about Jobs is that he DID, in fact, get a second act at Apple.Life very rarely provides a second act to great success.As to his being an asshole, that’s all just insecurity and the inability to reason with folks.When I was in the military I once heard an anecdote about a General who ultimately wore 4 stars reaming out his “3” — operations officer, the guy who converts the commander’s intent into orders for the subordinate units.The General went ugly on an ape and just way over the top criticizing the plan and suggesting a much more daring and risky one in its place.The 3 listened and when the fury was passed simply asked: “OK, General, are we going with the plan which everyone seems to think results in a whole lot of men getting killed or the plan we just briefed you on?”The General went with the plan as briefed. It worked like magic and the attack was a huge success. The General later apologized to the 3.I knew both the General and the 3 and they were both great soldiers. The General was an unbelievable asshole — at moments, not always — but he was an incredible combat commander and when the shit hit the fan this was the guy you wanted to have your son’s life in his hands.Great genius often coexists with great vanity.Don’t get me wrong, you can accomplish great things when you have vision and a size 13 boot and the notion that one has to be liked to be an effective leader is silly.The big “tell” on Jobs was the story of how diligently he used to prepare for his presentations and how he would expose great vulnerability.His ease of presentation?A totally learned artifice which he had cultivated and practiced and perfected. The black, mock turtle — part lucky talisman and part costume. Nothing wrong with that.JLM.

    1. Mike

      JLM,Your are the greatest storyteller! I have been a reader of AVC for years and I still look forward to a JLM story.You need to write a book. You could give a 1-line piece of advice and then a great story to back it up. You kinda remind of Harvey Mackay.Thanks.

      1. JLM


  14. Kate Huyett

    Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia made a similar move– in early 90s their catalog had jumped to nearly 400 products, and stripping it back to a core few saved the company:

    1. Richard

      yep, was involved with a startup, vegan fast casual restaurant, I pleaded to emulate the simplicity of Chipoltee et al., the team insisted otherwise. You can guess what happened …..

  15. pointsnfigures

    Great points on focus. I once was talking to a CEO about their marketing and he said “We have 5 different segments. We are throwing things at the wall to see what sticks.”He didn’t last as CEO.

  16. William Mougayar

    “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”– John F. Kennedy

  17. Tom Labus

    What was so amazing was that he was the same fanatic in the garage as he was in the Boardroom. He was also very fortunate to a get second shot. Best line at Board meeting when he came back. Steve what’s wrong with apple. Steve “products suck”It’s a testimony to a great author in telling and presenting the flow of the story so well.

    1. LaVonne Reimer

      Ah, the other F word–fanatic!

  18. William Mougayar

    “Focus is critical when you are three people”.Just now, my friend Maxime Chaya and his 2 teammates are minutes away from successfully crossing the Indian Ocean on a rowing boat, a 57-day expedition, and they will break the world record by a day.If any one wants some inspiration on focus and perseverance, check out their live website http://www.rowingtheindiano… and the pics they had been posting on Twitter and Facebook are just incredible. There are lessons for each entrepreneur out there.

    1. jason wright

      have they rowed with the current? epic.

      1. William Mougayar

        I think so. He said once they left, they can’t turn back because they’d be going against the current. I’m keeping my eyes on Twitter for that first tweet once they arrive. Fewer people have rowed oceans than landed on the moon or reached Everest. He has done the 7 summits, and North and South Pole already.

  19. BillMcNeely

    Focus. That was the topic of conversation this morning with my Co-Founder/Mentor Brian Williams.He needed me to focus on getting a couple of things done like setting up an LLC, getting a 1 page document outlining the company, management team, market space,margins, projected revenue etc.He needed me to forget about the car repo last week, family separation, empty bank account, the crazy hours trying to sell cars at the dealership and the family naysayers about StartupGuruTV and focus for a period of time, to get this stuff done so we can go out and raise the money we need to get things rolling.It was nice to see that singular word when I came to the community this morning.

  20. im2b_dl

    Fred I just have to say this… Jobs focused Apple. He did not focus himself. He helped oversee those maneuvers with Pixar. A very different goal and business. Apple’s product drive was informed by them understanding processes and incorporating that culture, know how and systems further into, and complicating, what they were doing. But only by complicating how much knowledge they had were they able to streamline the things that mattered. IMHO. I know that he would (and did) argue that Pixar and his experience in creative and it’s breadth of expectation in systems, production & culture management helped him move Apple to where he went.

  21. LE

    The power of focusing should be at the top of that list. When you focus, you can rid yourslef of extraneous expenses (Jobs laid off over 3,000 people in his turnaround of Apple), you can get your best people focused on the important projects, and you can bring clarity to your marketing and what you want the consumer/customer to think of you for.This is specific to the situation at Apple at the time that Jobs was there because of the fact that they sucked and it was a turnaround situation.There are reasons to add products and not focus for example if you already are selling “x” to a particular customer it is easy to sell “y” as well and pick up extra revenue. And also diversification adds to stability. When one business is down the other can take up the slack.Everyone thinks Amazon is great and has no problem that they diversified way past books into general merchandise and even web and cloud services.Why?Because it’s working for them. You could just as easily make an argument that they did the wrong thing if things hadn’t worked out.Comcast shed their cell phone business (Metrophone) [1] and you can either look at that as a good decision (because it freed up focus to clobber cable TV) or bad. If they hadn’t clobbered cable it would look like they really screwed up, right?This is one of the reasons I stopped many years ago reading business magazines. Because they try to summarize things that are really complex trying to reduce the reason for success or failure to something that can be easily written such that “this is the key to success”.[1]… (grep for “cell”)

  22. kenberger

    Just got the new Nexus7 (and Chromecast) in a package from Google PR today.It is gorgeous and oh so svelte!! Pocketability is the game changer here.

    1. William Mougayar

      Badass bragger :)I read the next thing is flexible rollability for smartphone. You saw that?I think after it, they’ll come up with a phone that you can fold and insert in your jacket pocket square and pick a color to match your outfit (@JLM:disqus will like that). And for women, you’ll wrap it around your neck like a scarf. And for those who like pierced ears, there’ll be a Google Ear Ring after the Google Glass that will act as local storage. Then, of course the implantable chips will proliferate for real. You won’t need to punch your garage door opener or key-in your alarm code in the house because the chip will transmit all that info & if you rub your ear lobe 3 times, it will dial 911 automatically.

      1. LaVonne Reimer

        I’d go for the Google Ear Ring. The rub 3 times for 911 is a neat idea but maybe 1 rub to suppress hearing if I’m bored or annoyed and 2 rubs to optimize so I don’t miss anything being said. Maybe also to record what I hear. The rest is all about design.

        1. William Mougayar


      2. kenberger

        i love a good joke, but not sure if this really is one. i did see pretty much what you’re talking about re rollable devices at CES in ’05. I think it was the first non-Comdex show. That tech will indeed be here some day.

        1. William Mougayar

          My imagination carried me away. The 2nd part wasn’t intended as a joke, more like a rant.

    2. fredwilson

      me too


    Good post Gadgeteer. I think it’s good to keep in mind narrow niche strategies don’t cover other areas well. But large coverage startegies can. So if for example you are in communications then you can service most every business out there. But if you are in healthcare billing then you should stick to healthcare..This is one of the problems with doing a very narrow niche startup. Many people go that route because they are really “buying theirself a job” by doing an independent contractor startup. The founder also does the work at these types of startups so has to offer what he/she *knows*..But I’ve worked in the IT industry for 20 years. I started out as a technician doing installation, troubleshooting, and repair work for PCs. Then I spend about 15 years doing software deveopment. I can cover a very wide range of services. But there is no way I can do that if I’ll be doing the work myself..But I can provide numerous solutions to various industries by hiring many different people with different niche skills. The key is to know what tasks you can “aggregate” to make common and which ones you must keep “specialized”..For me it’s a much better fit then doing a niche approach. I can both reduce a client’s cost for a solution and focus on *their* specific needs at the same time.

  24. Dale Larson

    Focus takes courage.It was courageous of Jobs to make that many cuts, to say so many no’s right away. A company Apple’s size could afford to have a product in each quadrant. A startup usually has to pick just one quadrant.The temptation to cover more than one square is great and constant, the justifications myriad and deceptively compelling. Usually it is fear, however, that underlies the temptation of a startup to diversify (“but what if this one doesn’t turn out as big as we hoped,” “this one is harder than we thought, maybe that one will be easier,” “what if someone else gets there first on that one, before we’ve truly dominated and then expand into it”). When you are confident and sure of what you are creating in your quadrant, it’s much easier to ignore the others (and live with the fears) until you’ve first accomplished what you set out to and grown your team and experience and built an awesome beachhead from which to take the others.(Wonderful to pull out this story and post on focus, thanks! Also one of my favorites, I think there is a version where Jobs writes all the current products and projects on a whiteboard and then crosses most of them off saying “we’re not doing this” to each one.)

  25. Christopher Oliver

    Your synopsis of the book emphasizes a critical aspect of strategy that’s often overlooked. Strategy is a series of choices about what you will do and just as importantly, what you won’t do to create value, differentiate, grow fast, etc. That’s focus.

  26. Tag the Bird

    Great post! “Many entrepreneurs and CEOs misjudge how many things they and their team can do well. It is always less than you think.”

  27. Sano Umreth

    ay I suggest you read Sorkins book too. I found that vastly more informative. Thx

  28. LE

    Speaking of focus Bezos just announced bought the Washington Post:http://www.washingtonpost.c…I guess this means he has time on his hands and Amazon is running on auto pilot. (Note Bezos personally bought, not Amazon).

    1. Dale Allyn

      Haha, you posted while I was posting below. Great minds… πŸ˜‰

      1. LE

        Expecting NYT to go higher. Bezos is exploiting the underlying assets and access that the Post will give him. It’s a trinket. He can afford to lose money for years and just throw a few elections. Reach of WP is much greater than it’s circulation.Jack Welsh backed out of buying Boston Globe but that’s a different paper and he doesn’t really need (at his age) to influence anything.

        1. Dale Allyn


    2. fredwilson

      posted some brief thoughts on that today

  29. JamesHRH

    “difficult financing”. Love that phrase.

    1. fredwilson

      yeah, it alludes to so much more. which is what it was meant to do.

  30. andyidsinga

    its not just about say in no though ..its about saying yes to some amount of small new ventures; and let those who run them stay focused.sometimes the focus problem at bigcos isnt about doing too many things but about involving too many people and “leveraging” too many of the company’s existing assets.

  31. jaredran

    I happened to be listening to the Steve Jobs book on tape over the weekend and spent most of yesterday afternoon talking about focus as a result. I’ve experienced this lesson in so many different ways. When you talk about how many ‘businesses’ you’re in, it’s critical to have a clear and cold definition of what constitutes a ‘business.’ It’s very easy to wordsmith your way to not admitting that you’re in multiple businesses, and it takes a lot of discipline to avoid that.

  32. ninakix

    I maintain much of entrepreneurship involves losing terribly; compared to larger, better resourced companies, there will be many ways in which you are losing. The trick is just picking the one thing or two to win at, that makes all the other losing okay.



  33. george

    I’m so glad you endorsed this book, its such a valuable read. Arguably, you point out one of the best lessons taught in this book, staying focused. Steve teaches us, it’s just as important to say no, as it is to say yes!One of kind…

  34. Sanjay Dwivedi

    My “Personal”(same as millions) UX story of Apple (with Steve alive)..bought iPad AFTER using an HCL Android Tablet that sucked so bad that I wrote to their Chairman (no reply as yet…).EVERYONE in our family from 88yr old Dad to 9 yr old daughter’s EXPERIENCE is that the iPad definitely marries science with art so effortlessly that we remember SJ’s genius. No canonisation required..the product is the message πŸ˜‰

  35. Sean Besser

    It’s shocking that Apple’s iBook doesn’t let you sync across devices the way Kindle does. Another example of less focus in the post Jobs’ era?

  36. Eric Friedman

    Focus also lets a Company keep their eye on the ball when they have a million other distractions. A founder that can show and execute on their playbook, regardless of outside forces can show true leadership and resolve in a time where going in many directions could be possible. Picking your direction and sticking to it is a form of focus I respect and hope I emulate.

  37. Michael Elling

    There are many parallels between Jobs and Ford. I stumbled upon this early history of Ford taking on entrenched interests. The article shines an interesting historical light on current patent issues. After reading Isaacson’s book I related the iPhone and Model T.