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Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson – Book Review

This originally appeared at http://www.thefreelanceteacher.com

The Jobs book was everything it was supposed to be.

I’ll start at the end.  Walter Isaacson spoke with Jobs right before he died.  Isaacson told Jobs that the book would have many things in it that he wouldn’t like.  Jobs was happy about that.  He realized that it would therefore not sound like a stock biography.  The ‘approved’ biographies are all the same.  They have a little bit about some of the public scandals, perhaps a few things that weren’t released to the public, but not much new or exciting.  The rest is just hagiographic babble.  The Jobs biography avoids this.  There are times in the book where Jobs is such a jerk, I’m glad he died early.  You read that right.  I’m not proud of feeling that way, but in the interest of telling the truth, which this book does, I have to say it.  Isaacson lets it fly when it comes to Jobs’ legendary rancid ability to be an asshole.  The good thing about this?  It brings about the most interesting parts of the book regarding Apple and the business world.  How do you maintain such an arrogant, prickly personality and  simultaneously create, ruin, then resurrect a company?  And not just that, a company that has become a technological leader, an earnings behemoth, and an industry standard?  One would expect a well spoken, polite, friendly guy to make deals and create goodwill.  Isaacson shows with candor how Jobs was a rude jerk while using that trait to move himself and his company forward.  This unlikely scenario is brought to light with granular detail.

Jobs was a relentless leader.  Reading the book, it seemed to be that the was allergic to soft pedaling anything – ever.  Beginning with the ‘start the IT company in the garage’ (true in this case), to the magnificent resurrection of AAPL from 1997-2010, Jobs was the helmsman who was able to get his top engineers to push themselves to create the products we rely on today.  Where the book exceeds expectations is showing that you don’t need a meeting.  There were production delays, design delays, manufacturing delays, disagreements among marketers, engineers, friends all throughout the creation of all the major Apple products.  Jobs would decide which way to go himself.  What would be scheduled in a meeting in other companies and take weeks, would be decided in 15 minutes at Apple.  According to many in management, this simply cannot be the way to go.  Actually, it can.  As a crusading leader, Jobs would, in his rude way, explain why the other companies’ products in the same niche were ‘shit’ (an opinion), or ‘failures’ (quantifiable fact), He’d show how a lack of decisiveness, how the need to make every division of the company happy was keeping the products from being great.  Even though he was a jerk about it, he was right.  Being right doesn’t engender good feeling.  Being right, successful, prickly, and rich alienates many.  I think if Apple had failed, he’d have been pilloried by hundreds.  Two things happened – Apple didn’t have any major stumbles, and Jobs died too soon.

An entrepreneurial take away that will stay with me:  Jobs wasn’t a person to ‘give the customer what he wants’ type of guy.  At the end of the book Isaacson writes about Jobs’ philosophy.  Jobs was always explaining that the customer doesn’t know what he wants.  He’ll know it when it’s put in front of him.  Jobs quoted Henry Ford on this, mentioning that Ford once said that if he’d asked his customers wanted, they’d have said “a faster horse”.  It takes a strong personality and a driven genius level mind to actually pre-empt the desires of your customers.  Jobs was able to do that, from the beginning with his top gun technologist partner, Steve Wozniak, to the very end at the wheel of a multinational technology giant.

It’s an amazing story.


A Common App Supplemental Essay That Worked

This essay preparation piece originally appeared on www.thefreelanceteacher.com
Sometimes an essay has to use an old, tired topic. You have to write carefully so that your essay isn’t also tired.
This supplemental was a classic topic – it asked you to describe a time of difficulty you experienced and how you got through it. This is an easy topic to understand, but it is extremely hard to write well on such a trite topic. This essay got the job done. This essay is here as a guide, to show best practices for when you write your own personilized, individual essay.

Through out my life I had to always work harder than the rest of my peers and I never new why. It wasn’t because of my station in life but because of the way I learned and understood material in school. In what I became a common thread in my life, I found out that I was different than everyone else. Whenever there was a list of directions given out to the class I would always miss one of the directions given. This confused me. When I realized my parents couldn’t be at school with me, I knew I had to take the responsibility of being my best own advocate. I realized in order for me to understand all that was asked, I would have to meet with my teachers two weeks ahead of any major assignments. I began to do things that reflected a level of maturity unnatural for my age. I would schedule my days in advance so I would have time to meet with my teachers everyday so I could understand the material. After new material had been taught and reading assigned I made sure to reread the material two to three times and write down any questions I had in the margins or on a separate piece of paper. The next day I could ask the teacher and full understand the content. (DM: Notice a few things. The author manages to turn a weakness into a strength: he has a hard time processing information and had to work double time to keep up. He also admits that he’s comfortable asking for help from the teacher. It is also specific about what he DID to rectify the situation.)
What I didn’t realize was going on was that I was adapting to my environment, using the skills I did have to offset the ones I lacked. As I got older I realized that the human mind is pliable, and it manifested itself by forcing me to plan ahead. Because I was afraid of getting bad grades and looking foolish in class, I did whatever was necessary to avoid the dark place that peer ridicule can take you. (DM: Notice the language at the end of this paragraph – it’s a smarter way of saying he “didn’t let his peers get him down.” See how this way is more profound)
This was a difficult transition. As I grew older I saw how much of our society won’t let people figure out on their own how to overcome limitations. Under the guise of ‘compassion’ or ‘help’ I see education institutions in particular getting things done for people who have certain limits. Intellectually I now find this somewhat odd. I hear a lot about letting people learn – having an equitable opportunity to learn and excel. If things are done for folks, when will they learn how to do it on their own? Had I had someone to make my schedule for me, to give me extra time for completing a task, I would have never figured out how to operate on the same plane as my peers. (DM: Notice the rhetorical questions, and the old question about letting people sink or swim on their own, but without using that kind of tired language.)
I often get accused of being crass or unkind with views like these. I see it the other way. I think I am being more kind than most. I look at the old ways of sending young people through a rite of passage. If someone failed it wasn’t the end of the world. In fact, it was seen as a boon to that person. He learned from that failure, and began to grow a thick skin that would block frustration. This sets people up for more success in life, and gives them useful tools. I know what it did for me. It was a transition that contained some bad memories and caused some hurt feelings, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. (DM: The last paragraph is the best one. The use of ‘rite of passage’, ‘boon’, ‘I know what it did for me’ all show vocabulary fluency and the ability to admit loss. It follows the question of the application well and ends with a clear, concise sentence.)


500 plus words. Mission accomplished. An incredibly common topic handled with originality and skill. This applicant got into a small private college in Westchester County, NY.

The essay topics are usually similar throughout the years, especially on the Common App. Use this as a guide to mix in clear wording and fresh phrases in order to get the essay you want. Do not copy it – use the style and the structure.

My Site: The Freelance Teacher

My students have been asking where I’ve been all these months.  The answer is my new site: thefreelanceteacher.com

Do you want to be able to write clearly, with words that get attention and make others think? Don’t you want your college essay to register with the adminssions department at your desired school? Do you want to get your SAT or ACT scores higher, and learn a few things that you never get in school? You have come to the right site.

Here is what members get:

College Essay / Supplemental / and General Essay Writing Help

I will go through your college application writing materials and proofread and improve them. How badly do you want to get into the school of your choice? The college essay can be intimidating. I will see to it that your THREE (Your main essay and 2 supplementals) essays have a good tone, contain well-written English and show off your writing skills. I’ve proofread hundreds of these things and am well aware of what the universities are looking for. The supplemental compositions are shorter, more vague pieces of writing, and I can work you through those as well. I can also help you get started, with large amounts of help on the first paragraph. The universities look for indivuality and leadership qualities. I will go through your list of attributes and build a template for you to use – much of your introductory paragraph. Again, how badly do you want to get into the college of your choice?

Exam Prep

$140 a year for exam prep on the English sections of the examsis a steal. The verbal sections of the two exams (SAT and ACT) should be unintimidating and familiar to you after you’ve studied the screencasts, tutorials and connected with me for online individualized help. There are sound files available where I explain the exam basics and give you the layout of the test. All that stuff in the beginning of the prep book — I’ve read it and will explain it to you in an easily understood manner so you don’t have to. You also get access to me via the Internet and I can work with you on questions or points you may not understand well.

Daily Entries

Every day I write something — a tip, an insight, a fact — something that you could use for school in order to get better grades. This site represents my view of the public school system: hostile. School and schoolteachers rarely get it right, and the institution wasn’t created to make you smarter. My mission is to fill in the large blanks in your education, get your grades up and get you out. My 18 years in the system have allowed me to give you the tools needed to do well and graduate. You have a teacher with nearly two decades of experience at your disposal.


The hidden value is the information sharing in the forums. Students all over the world have knowledge, that when we share it, it becomes part of your knowledge arsenal. Asking questions gets you not just me, but the crowd looking at your need and fulfilling it. Here we work together. The free sites are useless in this regard. The membership cost keeps out the trolls. You get questions answered. This site is for shedding light on things, not trolling and creating an online food fight.

Go to www.thefreelanceteacher.com and subscribe today!

The Truth About…The State Visiting Our School

In this podcast I go into two separate and distinct topics: the value in the freedomainradio series “The Truth About….” and the NY State Education Dept visiting my school. The “Truth” series is particularly useful, as its host, Stefan Molyneux, uses reason, logic, facts and evidence to explain the truth about various topics and people. The section of the podcast about the State (Overlords) visiting is pure dark comedy, as it is a lot of sound and noise and fury and dollars that will, in the end, create no change.

Access to Capital, Cell Phones, and China – 3 C’s Changing the World

In this podcast, I go over how access to capital via crowdfunding or micro lending will bypass the large banks. The bank official used to be the blockage to the fulfillment of an idea, but now those days are over. With the internet allowing the changing of the guard with regard to getting an idea up and running, the free market will flourish, and the gatekeepers will no longer be able to control the flow and growth of ideas.

A huge thanks / hat tip to Gary North.

School failed me, and I failed the school. It bored me. – Einstein

“School failed me, and I failed the school. It bored me. The teachers behaved like Feldwebel (sergeants). I wanted to learn what I wanted to know, but they wanted me to learn for the exam.” _- – – – Einstein and the Poet (1983)


Einstein was not only not a fan of school, he was late to speak, and the authorities of the day were sure he was what today would be called “special ed.”

Everyone learns at his own pace.  People have individual interests. Being good or bad in school does not correlate directly with success – wealth or otherwise.

My message has always been this.  You can do better at school and use it as a tool to advance, but it isn’t something that locks you in or determines your future.

Why do people say there is only one way?

Who are these people?

Phonebloks – Someone with an idea for a product / service and little technical skill….

This video has gotten an unreal number of views: 21 million.

If you’ll notice, the guy with the Phonebloks idea wasn’t technically savvy.  His site crashed.  He asked for help via Twitter – and got it.

I think this is a great idea.  I was talking about entrepreneurship with some students 8th period yesterday – coincidentally about cellphones.  This guy had a good idea and because there is a www he was able to get his message out there.  15 years ago this would have been impossible. There are many permutations to ideas, social media, information movement and speed, knowledge of the web.  This is counter to the idea that ‘the good ideas are all taken, or ‘I don’t have any tech skills so I am doomed’.

No you’re not.  Here is the update.  What’s your idea or product or service you’d like to sell?  Perhaps you can get involved with these people via social media and learn from them?

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