That Time I Saw Walter Isaacson Speak and Spent 8 Days Trying to Write About It

steve jobs book

Obviously, this is when it happens.

I meet the man who basically invented inspiration and my ability to write about it resembles a kindergartener on the first day of typing class. (But a really advanced one!)

For seven days I’ve been wrestling (physically) with writers block, trying to figure out how to put this evening into words.

I’ve been trying to relay the luck I felt to be in this right place at the right time to get some perspective during a hell week at work that included an all-nighter, a boss that thinks “this is shit” is constructive feedback and instructions to my team to redo all the work.

I’ve been struggling to come up with a sequence of words that conveys the extent to which I was nerding out during this speech about the corporate dictator/lunatic genius himself, Steve Jobs, and the things true passion can build.

After all, you don’t hear every day from the man who spent two years taking long walks and discussing Jobs’ life, the legacy he wanted to leave, his regrets, his formative years and insane stories that could only come from someone who started and saw through the very thing that lead to the iPod/iPhone/iPad situation (The situation being their existence, of course).

My eyes were glued to the stage for the entire hour-long speech.  Somehow Isaacson squeezed in what felt like Steve Jobs’ whole life story, added his own personal feelings and threw in examples of bringing in strengths from those around you as demonstrated by Benjamin Franklin and the team of leaders that wrote the United States Constitution (yep).  Isaacson addressed the meanings of “success,” both positive and negative and most importantly, the roads that lead there, the critical interactions that matter and the manner in which these leaders treated those around them.

I’m not sure how he wove these stories together, but strong messages of the entrepreneurial spirit were conveyed.  Knowing about challenges faced by those who achieved greatness gives you appreciation for your own struggles (however small they may seem in comparison).  I felt stronger.  I felt pumped. I somehow felt even more patriotic (??) than usual. (Walt, you sneaky bastard).

A week later, I am still thinking about the messages I heard and the stories that were told.

Clearly the act of conveying these messages is throwing me for a loop.  So I leave you with this.

My main takeaways:

1) Being a successful leader means surrounding yourself with talented and capable people and enabling them to do their best work.  I’m pretty sure Jobs drove 90% of the people he encountered absolutely nuts, but he was smart enough to recognize Steve Wozniak’s technical abilities and the CEO of Corning Glass’ ability to invent a new glass product that would make the iPhone what it is today.  He pushed these people out of their comfort zones because he saw their immense potential and diverse strengths.  In my opinion, this is the sign of true leadership.

2) Even those who reach great success have struggled too.  This might seem obvious, and yet it’s so reaffirming and encouraging to know that the unexpected challenges, road blocks and crossroads we meet are a normal part of the journey.  Jobs was thrown out of the very company he built, and yet, without this turn of events, he would not have found the creativity and innovation that powered the dynamic Apple synergy that exists today

3) How you treat people is important.  Word on the street is that Steve Jobs was kind of a dick.  Although he pushed those around him to greatness, he also broke them down at times.  Whether this type of demeanor is required to achieve the best results is something I’m still mauling over.  I have a feeling that the answer stems somewhere from your own personal values.  As Isaacson put it, not to give Jobs any excuses, but unless you’re planning on re-inventing the face of technology on planet earth, being “lovable” and loving others is a virtue not to shy away from.  (ie don’t be a dick).

He left us with is:

“Stay hungry, stay foolish.”

That’s the plan, Walt.

That’s the plan.

Awesome

Note: At some point during the writer’s block process, I found myself wearing the dress I wore to an 80’s prom party a couple years ago.  TOTALLY NORMAL. The photo shoot just naturally followed.

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11 thoughts on “That Time I Saw Walter Isaacson Speak and Spent 8 Days Trying to Write About It

  1. Pingback: Walter Isaacson | johnadamsarchive

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