Cover image for Becoming Steve Jobs
Becoming Steve Jobs
Brent Schlender

Rick Tetzeli
Biography Autobiography Memoir
Business Economics
The #1 New York Times bestselling biography of how Steve Jobs became the most visionary CEO in history. Becoming Steve Jobs breaks down the conventional, one-dimensional...
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The #1 New York Times bestselling biography of how Steve Jobs became the most visionary CEO in history.

Becoming Steve Jobs breaks down the conventional, one-dimensional view of Steve Jobs that he was half-genius, half-jerk from youth, an irascible and selfish leader who slighted friends and family alike. Becoming Steve Jobs answers the central question about the life and career of the Apple cofounder and CEO: How did a young man so reckless and arrogant that he was exiled from the company he founded become the most effective visionary business leader of our time, ultimately transforming the daily life of billions of people?

Drawing on incredible and sometimes exclusive access, Schlender and Tetzeli tell a different story of a real human being who wrestled with his failings and learned to maximize his strengths over time. Their rich, compelling narrative is filled with stories never told before from the people who knew Jobs best, including his family, former inner circle executives, and top people at Apple, Pixar and Disney, most notably Tim Cook, Jony Ive, Eddy Cue, Ed Catmull, John Lasseter, Robert Iger and many others. In addition, Schlender knew Jobs personally for 25 years and draws upon his many interviews with him, on and off the record, in writing the book. He and Tetzeli humanize the man and explain, rather than simply describe, his behavior. Along the way, the book provides rich context about the technology revolution we've all lived through, and the ways in which Jobs changed our world.

A rich and revealing account, Becoming Steve Jobs shows us how one of the most colorful and compelling figures of our times was able to combine his unchanging, relentless passion with an evolution in management style to create one of the most valuable and beloved companies on the planet.

Author Notes

BRENT SCHLENDER is one of the premiere chroniclers of the personal computer revolution, writing about every major figure and company in the tech industry. He covered Steve Jobs for the Wall Street Journal and Fortune for nearly 25 years.

RICK TETZELI , executive editor of Fast Company , has covered technology for two decades. He is the former deputy editor of Fortune , and editor of Entertainment Weekly .

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

The late Apple CEO changes from brilliant, erratic, insufferable jerk to steady, perspicacious, tolerable jerk in this shrewdly admiring biography. Journalist Schlender and Fast Company editor Tetzeli focus on the years after Jobs's 1985 ouster from Apple and then on his 1997 return to guide the company's resurgence with a string of hit iProducts. They depict a spiritual journey, with Jobs wandering in the wilderness at NeXT Computer, where his confused, tyrannical fiats almost sank the company, and then at Pixar, where he learned the art of not interfering with talented subordinates; he emerged a more patient man with a tempered strategic outlook and an ability to listen to underlings when they screamed back at him. Schlender and Tetzeli's account is unusually intimate thanks to voluminous interviews and Schlender's many personal encounters with Jobs over decades of covering him, and a reverential tone sometimes surfaces-as when Jobs's lieutenant Tim Cook offered Jobs his own liver for a transplant-in this corrective to Walter Isaacson's more jaundiced biography. But the authors are clear-eyed about Jobs's flaws and give lucid, detailed analyses of his maneuverings and product initiatives; theirs is one of the most nuanced and revealing assessments of Jobs's controversial career. Photos. Agent: Kris Dahl, ICM. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

A reframing of the biographical narrative of the late Apple visionary, from the perspectives of business journalists Schlender and Tetzeli and the associates of Jobs' they interviewed. Written by two colleagues, one of whom had been close to Jobs as both a subject and friend for a quarter-century, this biography is intended to serve as a corrective to what they see as an overly simplified stereotype, one that they consider perpetuated by Jobs' anointed official biographer, Walter Isaacson: that "Steve was a genius with a flair for design" but "a pompous jerk who disregarded everyone in his pursuit of perfection." The "I" in the narrative reflects the long relationship Schlender had with Jobs, one through which "none of this gibed with my experience of Steve, who always seemed more complex, more human, more sentimental, and even more intelligent than the man I read about elsewhere." Too much of the legend, they write, focuses on the early years and rise of Apple, which fired the man who had founded it because of clashes of vision (and his difficulty with people), and then on his triumphant return to lead Apple to even greater glories with the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and other paradigm-shifting innovations. What's missing, write the authors, is the transformation in the middle, the "wilderness years," when Jobs learned so much from what went wrong between him and Apple. Schlender and Tetzeli draw from many Apple colleagues, present and past, who say they wouldn't have continued to work with a guy who was as big a jerk as Jobs was often portrayed. Yet even this biography depicts a man who could be insensitive, disloyal, and delusional, and the authors' business perspective goes lighter on the personal and family details that might have humanized their subject more, while reinforcing the perspective that Jobs could have blinders on when it came to work. Less truly revelatory and more just a difference in tone and spirit than previous accounts. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

New York Review of Books Review

IN EARLY 2009, Tim Cook presented Steve Jobs, his cancer-stricken mentor and friend, with a surprise offer: Cook wanted to donate a portion of his own liver to his ailing boss, who was stuck in dangerous limbo on California's waiting list for liver transplants. Cook had researched the surgical procedure known as a living-donor transplant, even traveling to visit hospitals outside the San Francisco Bay Area to avoid media attention. He apparently concluded that his blood type was the same as Jobs's and that the operation was safe (the donor's remaining liver and the portion transplanted to the recipient each grow to a functional size). But Jobs immediately shot down the stunningly generous proposal. "No," a bedridden Jobs angrily replied, according to Cook's recollections in "Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart Into Visionary Leader," by the journalists Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli. "I'll never let you do that." That moving anecdote is one of several that will quicken the pulse of even obsessive Apple watchers. "Becoming Steve Jobs" enters a crowded body of work devoted to Apple and its idiosyncratic co-founder, dominated of course by Walter Isaacson's 2011 best seller, "Steve Jobs." Although it drags and feels unnecessary for large stretches, this new addition to the Apple pantheon redeems itself with access to key players and their previously untold accounts, thereby presenting a layered portrait of the mercurial Jobs, whose style and personality, the book argues, were constantly evolving, right up to his early death. Schlender was a longtime writer for Fortune and, before that, The Wall Street Journal. He ably co-writes the book with Tetzeli, the executive editor of Fast Company, but this is essentially Schlender's tale - a first-person memoir from the technology journalist who arguably got the closest to Jobs over the last 30 years of his life. Jobs was a skillful manipulator of the media, pitting reporters against one another and doling out favors to those who hewed closest to the party line, and Schlender was an ace at this game. He interacted with Jobs over 150 times by his own count, visited the Jobs house with his young daughters to watch a rough cut of Pixar's "Toy Story" before its release, and even persuaded Jobs and Bill Gates to sit together for a joint interview for Fortune in 1991. He was such a reliable Jobs ally that Gil Amelio, Jobs's erstwhile adversary and predecessor as Apple chief executive in the '90s, called Schlender a "literary ax murderer" in his own memoir. So it isn't surprising that the book strives to paint a more sympathetic picture of the difficult, brilliant Jobs. The authors assert that "stagnant stereotypes" from Jobs's early years as an entrepreneurial enfant terrible have ossified in the public mind and don't fairly capture how Jobs grew as a manager, or explain why he evoked such selfless loyalty in top lieutenants like Cook. "Steve developed a reputation as an egomaniac who wasn't willing to learn from others," they write. "It's a fundamental misunderstanding of the man, even during his youngest, brashest and most overbearing years." The authors tiptoe around challenging Isaacson's book directly, but Cook himself doesn't pull any punches. "It was just a rehash of a bunch of stuff that had already been written, and focused on small parts of his personality," Cook, who is now the Apple C.E.O., tells the authors, in an unfair critique. The new book doesn't really succeed in improving Jobs's posthumous reputation. Isaacson showed Jobs as an incorrigible perfectionist who often demonstrated cruel disregard for others. Freshly unearthed anecdotes, like a tantrum Jobs threw in 1979 at a meeting of Silicon Valley bigwigs for a foundation to eliminate blindness in India, don't do much to soften the picture. In fact, many of the early chapters of "Becoming Steve Jobs" cover events that have already been well chronicled. There is Jobs's listless Reed College period, his early disregard for his oldest daughter, Lisa, and his self-inflicted ouster at Apple and failed comeback at NeXT. A movie on this period in his life, starring Michael Fassbender and based on Isaacson's book, is scheduled to be released in October. Readers may feel compelled to watch these events play out on the big screen rather than on the printed page. But anyone who prematurely dismisses "Becoming Steve Jobs" as a retread will miss the best stuff. The later chapters of the book show how Jobs cared for his colleagues and took an interest in their lives. For example, worried by Tim Cook's lack of a personal life, Jobs once concocted a bogus reason to call Cook's mother in Alabama so he could learn more about his protégé. And during his final days, Jobs invited Cook over to watch the underdog high school football film "Remember the Titans," a movie choice Cook found inexplicable at the time, but which now seems appropriate, considering Apple's own cinematic comeback. New material also emerges from interviews with the Pixar vets Ed Catmull and John Lasseter, and the Disney C.E.O. Bob Iger, whose perspectives weren't as prominent in Isaacson's account. Back in 2006, colleagues cautioned Iger against letting Jobs on the Disney board, via an acquisition of Pixar, warning that Jobs would interfere with management of the company. Iger trusted his gut and plowed ahead anyway. Then an hour before Jobs and Iger announced the Pixar purchase, Jobs asked Iger to take a walk. As they sat on a bench on Pixar's campus in Emeryville, Calif., Jobs put his arm around Iger and told him that his cancer was back. No one else knew at the time. "I'm telling you because I'm giving you a chance to back out of the deal," Jobs said. Iger didn't, of course, and the account here of their growing friendship and productive alliance feels moving and fresh. But Jobs could turn on friends and colleagues if they no longer served his needs. "I agree he's really smart. But he's decided he doesn't want to work," Jobs is said to have told Cook about a former Apple vice president. After learning that the man had taken up golf - not exactly a felony - Jobs carped, "Golf?! Who has time for golf?" That was the frustrating complexity of Jobs: He was a control freak who seemed to care deeply for the people around him, except when, suddenly, he didn't. Schlender relays his own experience with Jobs's erratic affections. The author became seriously ill in 2005, after catching meningitis on vacation in Nicaragua. His employer, Time Inc., airlifted him from Central America to the intensive care unit of Stanford Hospital, where he remained for three weeks. As a result of his ailment, he lost most of his hearing. Jobs visited him in the hospital several times, even while Schlender was hallucinatory, and instructed the hospital staff to give him V.I.P. treatment. It was a sign of their unusual relationship and the endearing humanity that Jobs could express toward the people around him. But after Schlender spent several years recovering from his ordeal and began stepping away from Fortune magazine, Jobs refused to work with him on any more articles. Schlender implies he was mystified and hurt by this; maybe he simply wasn't useful anymore to Apple's chief executive. "No one I have spoken to has a unified theory for the staying power of Steve's childish behavior, not even Laurene," the authors write at one point, referring to Jobs's widow, basically throwing up their hands in the face of his still unresolved contradictions. Perhaps Steve was just being Steve. Jobs was a skillful manipulator of the media, pitting reporters against one another. BRAD STONE, a senior writer at Bloomberg Businessweek, is the author of "The Everything Store : Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon."

Choice Review

There are many books about Steve Jobs, but this title is the first to center primarily on Jobs's evolution as a business leader. Schlender (formerly, Fortune and the Wall Street Journal) and Tetzeli (Fast Company; formerly, Fortune) draw on interviews and conversations that Schlender had with Jobs between 1986 and 2011 as well as numerous interviews with Jobs's contemporaries to effectively support their thesis that Jobs's failures at NeXT and successes at Pixar were growth factors. By the time he returned to Apple in 2001, Jobs had become a contemplative, intuitive leader; he was not the perpetually brash, impulsive, uncaring individual frequently presented in other accounts. The authors contend that Jobs's preoccupation with the aesthetics of product design, though unparalleled in the PC sector, occasionally led to miscalculations, production delays, and the eventual derailment of NeXT. This characteristic is featured in other titles, including the biography by Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs (CH, Apr'12, 49-4500), but the authors here present further insights from Jobs's colleagues and competitors, including Bill Gates. Extensive detail and the unique perspective of this title make it a valuable addition to all business and history of technology collections. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels. --Kyle D. Winward, Central College

Library Journal Review

The highlights of Jobs's story are well known: the fruitful partnership with Steve Wozniak, the founding of Apple Computers, Jobs's early successes, and his arrogant, irascible, and charismatic personality that won both admiration and loathing. Less well known is how Jobs spent the 12 years between his stints at Apple: founding NeXT Inc.; buying the Graphics Group, which became Pixar Studios; and gaining patience and maturity. Jobs never learned to eradicate his volatile impulses completely, but he did learn to control them better. From John Lasseter and Ed Catmull at Pixar, Jobs learned to listen to others, temper his abrasiveness and tantrums, and better manage people. These skills would be instrumental on his return to Apple, where Jobs formed and led a team that stabilized the company and later launched the consumer mobile tech revolution. George Newbern's deliberate and soothing narration allows the remarkable story to take center stage. -Verdict This considered and balanced effort is recommended for public libraries and business collections.-Cynthia Jensen, Gladys Harrington Lib., Plano, TX © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.