Tag Archives: Walter Isaacson

Here’s the July, 2012 New York Times Hardcover Business Books Best Sellers List – Steve Jobs Still at the Top

(Scroll down to see the actual list).

After a few month’s absence, the New York Times has returned with its list of Hardcover Business Books Best Sellers.

As I always note, this is the list that feels “most accurate” to me.  The weekly lists, and the hourly updated Amazon lists, represent too narrow a time horizon, in my opinion.  This list takes a longer, month-long view.

This month, we are seeing some titles that reflect our current political season.  And a couple of others definitely reflect the ongoing financial turmoil.

And, the list demonstrates the lasting power of the Steve Jobs book.  (I presented my synopsis of this book back in the January, 2012, First Friday Book Synopsis gathering.  Here it is, in July, still atop the list).

There are a couple of new titles that will make our list of “possibles” for our First Friday Book Synopsis.  For readers unaware of our event, my colleague Karl Krayer and I have presented one synopsis each of a business book, every month, since April, 1998.  We deliver these presentations at a monthly breakfast meeting in Dallas – open to all.  There aren’t many prominent or influential titles that we have missed over these 14+ years.  You can always check on the titles for the upcoming month’s event by clicking on our home page.  (We usually upload the next month by about the 10th day of the current month).

From this month’s list, we have presented our synopses of the following titles at our First Friday Book Synopsis gatherings:  #1, Steve Jobs; # 2, Imagine; #3, Power of Habit; #5, Thinking Fast and Slow; and #14, Strengths Based Leadership.

You can see the full list, with more description, at the New York Times site by clicking here.  (And, here is the July, 2012 list of the top ten Paperbacks Business Books Best Sellers, also from the New York Times.  We have presented synopses of #1, Outliers; #2, Tipping Point; #3, Freakonomics; #4, Drive; #6, Checklist Manifesto; #8, Moneyball; and #9, The Big Short). 

You can purchase most of our synopses, with audio recordings of our presentations plus our comprehensive handouts, from our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.

Here is the July, 2012 New York Times Hardcover Business Books Best Sellers List.


STEVE JOBS, by Walter Isaacson.


IMAGINE, by Jonah Lehrer.


POWER OF HABIT, by Charles Duhigg.


UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES, by Edward Conard. (Portfolio/Penguin, $27.95.) A former managing director of Bain Capital and a major Romney contributor argues that growing income inequality shows the American economy is working. (†)


THINKING, FAST AND SLOW, by Daniel Kahneman.


CHARGE, by Brendon Burchard.


PRICE OF INEQUALITY, by Joseph E. Stiglitz.


SCREWED!, by Dick Morris and Eileen McGann.


HOW WILL YOU MEASURE YOUR LIFE?, by Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth and Karen Dillon.




$100 STARTUP, by Chris Guillebeau.


REAL CRASH, by Peter D. Schiff.




STRENGTHS-BASED LEADERSHIP, by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie. (Gallup, $24.95.)


WINNER TAKE ALL, by Dambisa Moyo.

Twyla Tharp and Steve Jobs – (There are Good Tough Bosses and Bad Tough Bosses…)

Everybody probably has a bad boss horror story or two.  And there are some genuine horror stories out there.

But, there are good bad tough bosses and bad tough bosses.  What is the difference?  One difference may be this:  is the boss tough because the end result is worth all the coaching, coaxing, demonstrating, demanding, until the people get it right?

I think Steve Jobs and Twyla Tharp are two great exemplars of this kind of tough boss.

Twyla Tharp:

I recently ran across this wonderful 2006 article about the Kennedy Center Honoree Twyla Tharp, To Dance Beneath the Diamond Skies by Alex Witchel.  Here are some key excerpts:

But it is probably time to say this: There was not a person in that theater, including the 19 performers, musicians and production staff, who did not admire Tharp. Those new to her are scared of her, those used to her are over her, because they know that behind the barking lies a devotion to them, to the work — always, always the work — that is religious in its fervor. Yes, she is a control freak, a perfectionist, a zealot in forming a vision and stopping at nothing to see it realized. But when it is realized, when her dances are good-better-best, flying off the stage like some biblical fire on a mountaintop, there is nothing in the world like them. Twenty-three years ago, Robert Joffrey said that Tharp’s work “didn’t look like anyone else’s.” It still doesn’t.

“There is nothing in the world like them.”  The end result may just be worth the cost it took to get there.  She simply made the best better.  And she also made the “average” much better than ever before.  In her book, The Collaborative Habit, Tharp wrote:

As a choreographer, my task is to make the best possible work with the dancers I find in the room on any given day. 

This is simply the greatest description of the day-to-day work of being the boss I have ever read.  It is the job of the boss (manager, supervisor) to make the best possible work with the people in the room, on the team, at any given time.

By the way, there is a wonderful story in the article about the time Twyla Tharp had to show Baryshnikov how it needed to be done:

Huot sat at one of the computers and played footage of Baryshnikov in rehearsal.  “What’s that?” Tharp asked shortly.  “This is the one where he can’t do what you do,” Huot said, his tone gently teasing. “It’s your favorite thing in the world, which is why I kept it for you.” On the tape, Baryshnikov held a cigarette, shirtless, as Tharp demonstrated the steps. Hers were vivid, crisp. His were blurry, indistinct. Impatiently, she showed him again. He turned away.

“That’s right, go pout,” Tharp said mockingly to the screen. The next shots were of him in performance, his steps breathtaking. “Yeah, he got it,” Tharp said.

She knew how to do the steps; she demonstrated the steps, and she pushed Baryshnikov until he “got it.”

…To be a Tharp dancer is to master complex, intricate movements and steps that can defy gravity — in 1975 Baryshnikov told The Times: “It is very difficult to learn her steps.. . .One variation alone took me three weeks to learn, working a few hours every day.”

Steve Jobs:

Regarding Jobs, the stories are endless, and somewhat legendary.  He certainly could be something of a world-class pain to work with.  But, he too could bring out the very best in people – more than they knew they had in them.  Consider these revealing excerpts from the Walter Isaacson book, Steve Jobs:

For all of his obnoxious behavior, Jobs also had the ability to instill in his team an esprit de corps. After tearing people down, he would find ways to lift them up and make them feel that being part of the Macintosh project was an amazing mission. Every six months he would take most of his team on a two-day retreat at a nearby resort.

Jobs had latched onto what he believed was a key management lesson from his Macintosh experience: You have to be ruthless if you want to build a team of A players. “It’s too easy, as a team grows, to put up with a few B players, and they then attract a few more B players, and soon you will even have some C players,” he recalled. “The Macintosh experience taught me that A players like to work only with other A players, which means you can’t indulge B players.”

“What I’m best at doing is finding a group of talented people and making things with them,” he told the magazine.

Business Week asked him why he treated employees so harshly, Jobs said it made the company better.

…and his great talent, Jobs said, was to “get A performances out of B players.” At Apple, Jobs told him, he would get to work with A players.

The literature about leadership is pretty unanimous about this key role a leader plays.  In Liz Wiseman’s book, Multipliers, she writes that the leader has to “multiply” the good effects of the workers, and never diminish them.  A good leader “multiplies’ the results of the workers he/she leads.  In Kouzes and Pozner’s Encouraging the Heart, they argue that for people to be their best, they must be encouraged, in their hearts, by the one who leads them.  And when they are so encouraged, they become more productive, actually better at their jobs.

Whatever Twyla Tharp and Steve Jobs had, or did, it worked.  They both developed quite a track record of bringing out the very best in the people who worked for them.  (Of course, Twyla Tharp is still at it…).

If you are a leader, this is the test, isn’t it?  Are you making your people better?  Are you pushing them to do more than they even knew they could do?  Are you making the average much better, and the best even better still?

If not, you’ve got some leadership skills to develop.

Seven Lessons from the book Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Last Friday, I presented my synopsis of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.  At our monthly First Friday Book Synopsis event, we aim to finish our synopses in 15 minutes.  I missed it this time – going almost 20 minutes.  It was not easy to present this terrific book in such a short time.

I loved the book!

The book is a thorough, flowing narrative of the life and business career of Steve Jobs.  It reveals so much about the culture he grew up in, with a great look at the struggles –the very personal struggles – of a man who never knew his biological father, and only later came to know other members of his “birth family.”  (He loved his adoptive parents!).

Thus, one of Isaacson’s key observations is this:  Steve Jobs always felt
Abandoned. Chosen. Special.”

I want to encourage you to read the book.  And, whether you read it or not, I encourage you to order my synopsis of the book.  (It will be available soon, with handout + audio, on our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com).  I prepared a comprehensive 10+ page handout that has many of my favorite quotes from the book.  But, trust me, you need to read the book – slowly! — to get the full story.

I learned plenty about the genius of Steve Jobs.  He cared deeply about ease of use, simplicity of design, producing good, usable products for the  “regular person” (the “non-techie”).  After I finished reading the book, I tried to come up with the “lessons” – the “business lessons” — to take away from the book.  Here’s my list of seven (it could have been much longer):

1)  Care about the product, not about the money.  The money must – must! — be the by-product, not the focus.
2)  Everything matters.  Everything.  Including what no one can see.  Insanely great cuts no corners!
3)  Do few things.  Do them really well.
4)  Absolute control.  Because such control created consistent quality.  (No “crap”!)
5)  Don’t ship junk!
6) The customer does not know what he/she wants “until we’ve shown them”…
7)  Build a team of A Players – Keep them A PlayersNon-A Players create more non-A players.  (They drag people down…)  A Players are genuinely, truly critical.

Now, putting these lessons into practice will take some work.  If you’re like me, you have some serious work to do…

Steve Jobs, and the latest from Steven Covey – for the January, 2012 First Friday Book Synopsis

We will launch the 2012 First Friday Book Synopsis with the Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs, my selection for January.  I am well into the biography, and it is, as all good biographies are, a terrific look into the life and times of Steve Jobs.  Where did he come from?  It is impossible to understand just what he accomplished, and especially how he accomplished it, without understanding where he came from.  I am, to put it simply, gripped by this story.

Karl will present his synopsis of the new Steven Covey book, The 3rd Alternative: Solving Life’s Most Difficult Problems.  Covey is best known for his The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

If you are in the DFW area, please join us for our January 6 First Friday book Synopsis.  You will be able to register from the home page of this web site soon.







Here is a flier with all the details:

Click for full image

Steve Jobs Took Things Seriously

Serious:  not joking or trifling; being in earnest


Here’s a simple truth about Steve Jobs.  He took things very seriously.

Every task; every word; every presentation; every-thing.  Though he made his presentations fun, you got the distinct impression that they were very important to him.  He took them seriously.

Where did this come from?  Where did this trait, and this practice, come from?

I have read the first couple of chapters of the new Steve Jobs book by Walter Isaacson.  (I hope to present my synopsis at the January First Friday Book Synopsis).  This paragraph grabbed me.  When he was six or seven years old, he told a girl who lived across the street that he was adopted.

“So, does that mean your real parents didn’t want you?”  “Lightning bolts went off in my head, according to Jobs.  “I remember running into the house, crying.  And my parents said, ‘No, you have to understand.’  They were very serious and looked me straight in the eye.  They said, “We specifically picked you out.’  Both of my parents said that and repeated it slowly for me.  And they put an emphasis on every word in that sentence.”  (emphasis added).

We will spend a lot of time, and read a lot of pages, trying to figure out what made Steve Jobs Steve Jobs.  But there is little doubt as to what he was.  He was a serious, curious, creative one-of-a-kind multi-hit wonder.  I’ve long thought that curious and creative were the critical traits.  I think “serious” might be the trait I had not yet grasped, or seen… It might be the true foundation for all the other traits.  (But, I’ve got a lot more to read…).