Compassionate Accountability

In April the Leadership Now blog posted an article on a book by Nate Regier called Conflict Without Casualties. Regier believes that conflict consumes far too much of our time, energy and money and needs to be managed more effectively. His focus is on conflict throughout the world. He offers some intriguing ideas.

Regier’s argument is that we should practice what he calls “compassionate accountability” to resolve conflict in ways that cause the least damage at the least cost. This approach resists the “I gotta win” drama that characterizes most conflict. This drama focuses our energy on self-justification which is contrary to resolving conflict.

“To be compassionate is to struggle alongside with others; to struggle with instead of against. “Compassion is the result of people taking ownership of their feelings, thoughts and behaviors, and choosing to spend the energy of conflict pursuing effective solutions that preserve the dignity of all involved. Compassion is more than care and concern for others. It’s about the willingness to get in the trenches and struggle together as an equal with others.””

Regier says that his approach to conflict depends on three skills: Openness, Resourcefulness and Persistence. He then outlines how to use these skills to promote a compassionate and constructive resolution of conflict. He argues that a failure to use these skills sets up a self-defeating cycle that Steven Karpman has identified as the “drama triangle”.

“Regier writes: “Drama inevitably pushes us into corners, where we cling to distorted worldviews that compel us to do the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Compassion, on the other hand, keeps us moving, searching, nimble, effective, and capable of adapting to change.” It also keep us from being mired inside our own head and thus limiting our responses and our ability to reframe the conflict. We get stuck.”

What is missing from this discussion is the role that emotion plays in this cycle. If people could remain objective and act outside of their emotional limitations use of these skills would be easier. People in conflict are typically emotionally involved. Emotions including fear, jealousy, and anger among others interfere with our ability to be objective and to use the skills Regier suggests.

Emotion does not necessarily mean that we cannot benefit from using the skills that Regier teaches. If we can get beyond our emotional responses and use these skills we could be much more effective at resolving conflict. This does require a level of maturity and self-confidence that many people do not have however and conflict often is a result of that very problem.

Learning and applying these skills to positively resolve conflict can be very useful if we can get beyond the limitations that emotions and immaturity often impose on our responses. This is an intriguing idea and one we would all benefit from developing. People do not behave mechanically though and the emotional responses that affect our behavior in conflict remain an obstacle, especially in very high conflict situations.

Read the entire blog post from Leading Blog here.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

What Can We Learn from WWI?

San Diego Air and Space Museum

One hundred years ago one of the greatest wars in human history was killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians and laying desolation to much of Europe. WWI as it is now called was the first total war on a grand scale. Today’s analysis of that war is a study in failed leadership in many if not all the participants.

James Strock created an excellent blog post on the leadership lessons we can gain from this awful war. They are mostly lessons in leadership failure. It reads like a list of what not to do as a leader. Strock identifies 13 lessons we should learn from this war. While these lessons have great import in the world of international relations and diplomacy, they can also be applied to our personal lives.

  • Leadership is important – good leadership skills are important whether you are the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom ore president of your local service club. Historical analysis of the causes of WWI almost all point to the failures in leadership that contributed to this disaster. To influence and lead others in a positive way we must all develop good leadership abilities.
  • Shared interest can be overcome by other considerations. We like to think that if we share common goals or principles with others that conflict is lessened. They thought that in 1914 as well when Europe was culturally and economically linked. Shared interests can promote good will and peaceful resolution of differences but it never guarantees those things. Good leaders must recognize this and act accordingly.
  • Leaders must take care of themselves and maintain good health. Many of the most influential leaders at the beginning of WWI were either physically, psychologically or in both ways weak or sickly. Strong and effective leaders must be healthy and well adjusted.
  • What has worked in the past may not work in the future. The world is constantly changing. It was changing in 1914 but is changing much more rapidly today. Effective leaders must understand this change and manage it. They cannot rely on “the way we’ve always done this”.
  • Management failures can lead to greater over all failures. Good leaders must know how to manage well.

There is much more to Strock’s 13 principles. Many of them apply more directly to national and international activities. But we can learn from them and apply many of them to our lives to avoid the kind of mistakes that led to the Great War.

To learn more about the 13 principles and the lessons of WWI see James Strock’s blog article.

Learn how you can achieve more and realize your goals as well as lessons in leadership in my book, The Success Essentials.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

The 1 Percent Rule

James Clear recently wrote about why a few people get most of the rewards. He referenced the one percent rule first identified and written about by Vilfredo Pareto. This is also called the Pareto Principle.

Pareto was an Italian economist who wondered why a tiny number of pea pods in his garden produced the majority of the peas. He wondered if the same thing that was happening to his peas was also happening elsewhere in life. He studied statistics and found that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the people. He learned that in Britain 30% of the population earned 70% of the income.

He continued his research and found that while the exact numbers varied from one topic to another the pattern held firm to almost everything. The majority of rewards seemed to always accrue to a small percentage of people. This became known as the Pareto Principle. It is also called the 80/20 rule. And it has been called the 1% rule.

This principle is seen in various places today. In the 2015-2016 National Baseball season 20% of the franchises won 75.3% of the championships. Two teams, the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers won half of the championships in NBA history. Clear’s article cites many other examples.

Why does this happen? There may be more than one reason but one reason is the power of accumulative advantage. Once something starts to win it gains advantages over those that are not winning. It becomes stronger. It works in nature as well as Clear describes. This advantage plays out in each contest between the players or people.

Clear’s 1% rule is an application of the Pareto principle. If you can be 1% more effective than the competition you can win. Sustaining the habits that create that advantage leads to sustained success. This is just as applicable to the individual as it is to the business or other organization. Win by just a bit each time and you can build the momentum of being in that 20% that wins 80% of the return.

This observation explains why winners become bigger winners and why those who do not win find it harder to succeed. To sustain success then requires initial wins. You have to succeed to succeed. Success breeds success. A good thing to remember in any competitive endeavor.

Read James Clear’s complete article here.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

The Corporate Soul Handbook by Ron Mercer

Book Review by Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author: The Corporate Soul Handbook by Ron Mercer

Synopsis of Content:

In this little book of 117 pages including appendices the reader will find a wealth of insight into what makes organizations succeed and fail. In the end Mercer tells us that how our organizations treat people defines their success. The business or other organization that treats people well will succeed because it has a soul. The organization that does not treat people well has no soul and will fail.

The book has seven chapters:

The Benefits of Nurturing a Healthy Corporate Soul

The Four Structural Pillars of Your Organization

Zombies or Zealots?

Walk the Talk

Working Together Using Balance and Harmony


Inspiration Not Just Perspiration.

The book then ends with a Conclusion followed by an Appendix on the essence of the corporate soul and a Guide on assessing the soul of your organization.

The Corporate Soul Handbook is both a discussion of the concept of a soul for an organization, and this applies to nonprofit organizations just as much as for profit, and a handbook to introduce the reader on how to assess your organization for its soul and what actions one can do to improve it.

As with so many books on corporate success and management there really is nothing new in this book. Mercer takes long understood principles and reframes them in the context of this concept of a corporate soul.

Mercer explains that every organization has four pillars: Capital, Management, Employees and Customers. How an organization treats those four pillars and maintains a balance between them defines the corporate soul.

He provides examples of businesses like Southwest Airlines that have a healthy and vibrant soul and thrive. He offers other examples of organizations that short change those pillars and fail. He explains what each of these four pillars need to thrive and how they all equally support the successful organization. He teaches how we must nurture them all to survive and thrive.

This book focuses on the intangible ingredient for organizational success. It focuses on the positive and the cooperative. It explains how the way we treat the people (pillars) or our organization define its soul and its success.

What I found useful about this book:

This book provides insight into the how we do what we do and why the how makes such a difference. It identifies the importance of how we treat the people who make our organizations succeed or fail. It goes beyond the bottom line and defines the ultimately important line. For all of us who lead organizations and for those of us working in those organizations these ideas are critical and give us hope.

It is probably no accident that Ron Mercer is a banker. Banks fuel and drive much of the commercial activity in the world. Modern commercial enterprise would not be possible without banks for the most part. Yet banks and bankers have suffered much in their reputation in recent years with the failed banks, the stories about self-serving over paid executives more interested in extracting wealth than creating it. In this book Mercer offers a refreshing viewpoint about what healthy corporate should look like. He offers good examples of corporations that possess this “soul” and offer their customers excellent service and their employees a great place to work.

Readability/Writing Quality:

The book is very well written. It is easy to read and contains many good examples to flesh out the principles espoused.

Notes on Author:

Ron Mercer is a senior executive in the banking industry. He has advised startups and Fortune 500 companies. He maintains a website and blog.

Related Website: 

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

Every organization is supported by four pillars: capital, management, employees and customers. How we treat each of these pillars leads to the organization’s success or failure.

It is critical for everyone, but especially leaders, to walk their talk. We must set the example. We must act in the way we teach or we lose all effectiveness.

It is important to understand that how we treat others defines the soul of our organization. That soul is an intangible and largely unmeasurable essence that everyone recognizes when they see it and when it is missing. We must nurture that soul to achieve success as an organization.

Publication Information:

Title and Author: The Corporate Soul Handbook by Ron Mercer

Copyright holder: 2013 by Ron Mercer, Jr.

Publisher: Prime Your Pump Publishing, LLC, Texas

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Leading at the Edge, Second Edition by Dennis N.T. Perkins with Margaret P. Holtman and Jillian B. Murphy

Subtitle: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shakleton’s Antarctic Expedition

Title and AuthorLeading at the Edge, Second Edition by Dennis N.T. Perkins with Margaret P. Holtman and Jillian B. Murphy.  Subtitle: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shakleton’s Antarctic Expedition

Synopsis of Content:

In 1913 Canadian explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson led an expedition to explore the Arctic between Canada and the North Pole. He used a ship called the Karluk. In 1914 Sir Ernest Shakleton led the British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition which aimed to be the first men to cross the Antarctic continent. They used a ship called the Endurance.

In both cases the ships were trapped in ice and ultimately destroyed by ice. In both cases the surviving explorers and their crews had to battle unimaginable ice and cold to survive and return to civilization.

Leading at the Edge chronicles these two expeditions and how two very different men led their teams. The book contrasts the leadership styles of these two men and how it affected their teams. The Canadian team deteriorated into squabbling chaos and suffered numerous deaths. Their leader adhered to a strictly hierarchical and authority based leadership model that did not serve him or his men well. In the end Stefansson deserted his own team leaving them to die or survive on their own. He did survive.

Shackleton adopted an entirely different leadership style. He put the welfare of his men first. He endured tremendous personal suffering and sacrifice to save them. His team remained united and exhibited repeated acts of courage and self-sacrifice for their team mates.

Drawing primarily on these two epic stories but also on other survival stories, his experience in Vietnam and in business Perkins develops ten leadership strategies that lead to success “at the edge”, that is in extreme conditions where men’s abilities are put to the ultimate test of endurance and the struggle is for survival. Perkins then explains how these same strategies can be used by anyone in a leadership position to more effectively lead their team, company or institution. The ten strategies are:

  1. Never lose sight of the ultimate goal and focus energy on short term objectives.
  2. Set a personal example with visible, memorable symbols and behaviors.
  3. Instill optimism and self-confidence, but stay grounded in reality.
  4. Take care of yourself: maintain your stamina and let go of guilt.
  5. Reinforce the team message constantly: “We are one – we live or die together”.
  6. Minimize status differences and insist on courtesy and mutual respect.
  7. Master conflict – deal with anger in small doses, engage dissidents, and avoid needless power struggles.
  8. Find something to celebrate and something to laugh about.
  9. Be willing to take the Big Risk.
  10. Never give up – there’s always another move.

At the end of the book Perkins provides “tools” to help the reader apply the lessons learned in the book including inventories and methods to develop one’s own leadership skills to include the ten strategies and he explains how this can apply to everyday business.

What I found useful about this book:

Few of us will ever have to survive in hostile life threatening environments or be responsible for the lives of a team of other people. Yet from these adventures on the edge we can learn the leadership strategies that not only have served adventurers in these extreme situations but can serve us as well in more normal conditions.

The ten strategies are easy to understand and to apply to the everyday working world. While luck can play a role in any venture the best leadership skills can make the ultimate difference.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

Much like Perkin’s second book, Into the Storm, Leading at the Edge is a page turning adventure story which also teaches valuable leadership lessons applicable to all of us. It is well written and easy to read. It is well organized.

Notes on Author:

Dennis N.T. Perkins is CEO of The Syncretics Group, a consulting firm. He graduated from the Naval Academy and served in Vietnam as a Marine company commander. He has taught at the Yale School of Management. He is passionate about his work and actually went to Antarctica and retraced Shackleton’s route on the ice. Margaret P. Holtman and Jillian B. Murphy are consultants specializing in leadership skills and coaching.

Related Website:

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. It is critical to never lose sight of your ultimate goal while focusing on short term objectives to get there.
  1. Optimism is essential to keep a team motivated but it must be grounded in realism; when it is necessary to change direction the leader must do so.
  1. An effective leader minimizes status differences on the team to forge a united group all working toward the same goal.

Other Books by This Author:

Into the Storm

Publication Information:   

Title and Author:  Leading at the Edge, Second Edition by Dennis N.T. Perkins with Margaret P. Holtman and Jillian B. Murphy

Copyright holder: 2012 by Dennis NT Perkins

Publisher: Amacom (American Management Association)

Note: “Leading at the Edge” is a registered trademark.

Book of the Month, November 2013.


Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

A Book Review by Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author:  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Subtitle: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Synopsis of Content:

The seminal book on personal development and leadership of the 1980s this book, first published in 1989, was a #1 best seller and continues to be a popular book. In it Covey divides personal development into seven categories and assigns to them a habit or set of habits that will improve one’s life.

First Covey discusses the importance of principles and of leading one’s life according to principles. He also discussed our perceptions and how we can change the way we look at things through shifting a paradigm. Then he moves to the seven habits.

The seven habits are Be Proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, Put First Things First, Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood, Synergize and Sharpen the Saw. Covey labels the first three habits as the Personal Victory, how we master our own lives. The last four are called the Public Victory, how we become more effective with others.

He maintains that one must first achieve effectiveness for ourselves, the private victory, before we can attain effectiveness with others. The habits are presented in an order based on what we need to work on first, second, etc.

Covey’s analysis of perceptions and paradigms was a novel approach to a self-help book at the time it came out. The brilliant aspect of the book was not so much the content of the seven habits, there was little new in that, it was the way he organized these ideas and related them to one another. His reliance on principle centered thinking was also unique.

A second unique aspect of the book is the emphasis on basing one’s decisions on principles, which Covey maintains are universal. He argues that principles are timeless, they have always existed and always will, and are universal; they apply equally to every culture and place. He emphasizes that because principles are universal and inherently true they serve as a sound basis to guide one’s life.

What I found useful about this book:

I can still remember the day I bought this book in 1994. I cannot say that about any other book I purchased nearly twenty years ago. I can remember standing in front of the bookstore bookshelf and looking over the book, wondering if it was worth the price and the time to read it. In time I read the book six times and am now reviewing it for the seventh time. Each time I read it I learn more.

I must admit this is my favorite book on personal development and improvement. It is comprehensive in scope, covering every important aspect of personal development. It challenges you and informs you. To the extent you can apply the principles and habits Covey teaches you realize great benefit. This book contains valuable lessons about how to organize your time and your life.

I highly recommend this book. If you read only one book on personal development this year this should be the book.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

The book is written in an easy and very readable style. It has excellent examples and illustrations of the lessons he teaches. It is very well organized.

Notes on Author:

Dr. Stephen R. Covey was a university professor, writer and lecturer. He was very influential. He was co-founder of the Franklin-Covey Co. Dr. Covey died in 2012.

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. Live out your imagination, not your history. Know that you have full control over what you do. Accept full responsibility for your life. The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.
  1. A cardinal principle of Total Quality escapes too many managers: you cannot continuously improve interdependent systems and processes until you progressively perfect interdependent, interpersonal relationships.
  1. The bottom line is, when people are crystal clear about the most important priorities of the organization and team they work with and prioritized their work around those top priorities, not only are they many times more productive, they discover they have the time they need to have a whole life.

The Books2Wealth Book of the Month for October 2013

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Copyright holder: 1989 by Stephen R. Covey

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Rumsfeld’s Rules by Donald Rumsfeld.

Book Review

Title and Author:  Rumsfeld’s Rules by Donald Rumsfeld.

Synopsis of Content:

Donald Rumsfeld has had a tremendous career in the military, business and government. He served as a flight instructor in the US Navy from 1954-1957, Administrative assistant to two Congressman, Stock Broker, and Representative from Illinois to Congress from 1962-1969. He served four Presidents as Director of the Office of Economic Opportunity, Director of the Economic Stabilization Program, Counselor to the President, Ambassador to NATO, White House Chief of Staff, twice as Secretary of Defense, once under President Ford and later under President Bush. He was CEO of two large corporations, special envoy for the President to for the Law of the Sea Treaty, Special Presidential Envoy to the Middle East, and Chairman of the Ballistic Missile Threat Commission. His experience covers the period from 1954-2006 – five decades in business and government.

In the course of this rich experience he collected a series of principles, rules of conduct, executive tips, government tips, and leadership lessons. This book is a compilation of those rules and some interesting insight into where their use or lack of use led to success and failure.

The book though is also a peek inside the White House during four presidencies (Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush) as well as government outside those administrations. The rules are set out under some rubrics, including On Business and Management, On Serving in Government, On Politics and Congress, On the Press, Serving in the White House, For the Department of Defense, On Intelligence, and On Life and Other Things.

The rules include quotes and lessons learned from many of the key leaders around the world during the 20th century, many of whom Rumsfeld knew and his own experience and lessons learned.

This book is also a political commentary of sorts. Rumsfeld is a lifelong Republican and does not hide that fact. He peppers his stories with political commentary.

However whether you agree or disagree with Rumsfeld’s political views you can benefit from learning about his rules and lessons on a large number of subjects under the general heading of effective leadership – both in business and in government.

What I found useful about this book:

First this is a rich collection of anecdotes and lessons from a lifetime of service in government and business. The list of “rules” is very long but is very instructive. It was also interesting to see government through the eyes of a long time insider in Washington.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

The book is very well written, easy to follow and entertaining as well as instructive.

Notes on Author:

Donald Rumsfeld served in government and business for five decades and under four Presidents. His experience is broad. He is a thoughtful man who has collected the best lessons about leadership he could find over a lifetime.

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. You never really lose until you quit trying (Mike Ditka).
  1. When you are skiing, if you are not falling, you are not trying.
  1. Simply because a problem is shown to exist it does not necessarily follow that there is a solution.

Books2Wealth Book of the Month for September 2013.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: Rumsfeld’s Rules by Donald Rumsfeld.

Copyright holder: ©2013 by Donald Rumsfeld

Publisher: Broadside Books, Harper Collins Publishers. Available on Kindle.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Good Habits, Better Habits and Change

Good Habits are always good, right? Well, maybe not always. Stephanie Vozza recently wrote at the Fast Company blog about how some good habits may be holding you back. How can this be?

It can be because of change. We face change more and more today. It happens in places it did not used to happen. It happens faster than ever before and often it is more disruptive than in the past. As a result what worked well yesterday will not necessarily work well tomorrow. It may not work at all.

Vozza cites arguments made by Rod Favaron, CEO and president of technology company Spredfast. He came in to lead a startup and now that they have some sustained success he finds he is leading a different kind of company. He finds that what worked for the startup does not necessarily work for the more established business.

Vozza also points out that what might have worked well in one company may not work well at all in another company. People move from one business to another more often these days so this could be very important.

All these points are well made but I suggest they only tell part of the story. There are some universal habits based on unchanging principles that do not change. Habits based on acting with integrity for example serve one well regardless of the change around us. Acting with integrity may well be more important in a rapidly changing world.

I suggest that the challenge is to discern between those habits that still serve you well and those that may not. To help make that distinction I suggest these steps:

  1. Is the habit based on a timeless principle such as integrity or honesty? If it is it will not likely lose effectiveness regardless of what else changes.
  2. Is the habit still working? Does getting up and running every morning still contribute to your fitness?
  3. Has the habit failed to keep up with technology? Can email better communicate to an organization than a paper memo?

Although Vozza’s article was directed at young companies transforming from startups to a second stage growth the principles involved in evaluating the continuing value of a habit can apply equally to other situations including our private lives.

Learn how you can achieve more and realize your goals in my book, The Success Essentials.

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

How Did That Happen? by Roger Connors and Tom Smith

Books2Wealth Book of the Month for April 2013 

Title and Author:  How Did That Happen by Roger Connors and Tom Smith

Synopsis of Content:

The subtitle of this book, Holding People Accountable for Results the Positive, Principled Way, is a good description of the book’s purpose. The book starts with questions about How Did That Happen – first focusing on the financial crisis which began in 2007. Financial markets melted down, billions of dollars were lost, banks faced bankruptcy and many other businesses were in trouble. Using this as a starting place the authors ask the frequently heard question, how did that happen, and then discuss how to avoid the need for that question by using proper accountability systems.

The authors have devised a graphic presentation of their work consisting of two concentric rings: an inner ring and an outer ring. These rings define what they call the accountability sequence.

The outer ring includes the basis for establishing expectations, a foundation to insuring accountability. The outer ring includes a focus on Form, Communication, Alignment, and Inspection. They explain in great detail how these functions should be used to create clear expectations for employees and others.

Inside the outer ring is the inner ring which focuses on the four solutions: motivation, training, culture and accountability.

Together these functions create clear expectations and then provide the basis for accountability for the execution of those expectations. They also stress the importance of doing this work in a positive principled way.

The book is a very thorough examination of what goes wrong with accountability and why. These reasons include a failure to clearly define expectations, properly communicate them, provide proper positive and principled feedback, and holding everyone from the top to the bottom of an organization accountable for following through. The authors use both a detailed theoretical explanation as well as a rich palette of examples of what can go right and wrong depending on how you implement these solutions.


Anyone who works in any organization where people’s performance is critical to success can benefit from this book. It is equally applicable in business, nonprofits, and government. It provides a framework for how to clearly establish a foundation for accountability and making it work. It will prove particularly valuable to those in management and control of an organization but elements of it would be useful to anyone working with others where expectations and accountability are important. It is difficult to imagine any organization where these things are not critical.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

The book is well organized and well written. It is moderately difficult and builds on a sequence of concepts that require some study and review.

Notes on Author:

The authors are well established advisors and consultants who have written other best seller business books including The Oz Principle and Journey to the Emerald City. Their business is Partners in Leadership, Inc.

Related Website:

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. It is most useful to assume that people are trying to do the right thing. Searching for flaws in the system which establishes expectations is more productive then finding fault.
  1. It is critical to clearly define and communicate expectations to insure accountability.
  1. It is equally critical to manage expectations and focus attention on that process throughout any business operation.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: How Did That Happen by Roger Connors and Tom Smith

Copyright holder: 2009 by Roger Connors and Tom Smith

Publisher: Penguin Group

Get the book here:

Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.

Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson

A Book Review by Daniel R. Murphy

Title and Author:  Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson

Synopsis of Content:

This is an in depth study of the life of Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer and one of the most instrumental people in the development of the personal computer and other digital products.

Jobs was a genius, an artist, a successful businessman, a corporate leader, a thought leader, an innovator, a rebel and an eccentric. In the late 1970s he dropped out of Reed College in Oregon and founded Apple with his friend Steve Wozniak in 1976. He developed the concept of a fully integrated personal computer with software and hardware that Apple controlled exclusively. He was forced out of Apple in 1985 and went on to form his own company to build the NeXt computer. He then became a key player in Pixar and helped launch it as the most successful digital animation producer in the world. Apple eventually purchased Pixar.

In 1994 he returned to Apple at their invitation when the company was not doing well. What followed was one product success after another with the iMac, the iPod, iPhone, iTunes and iPad. On October 5, 2011 Jobs died of pancreatic cancer which he had struggled with for over six years. He was 56.

In addition to telling the story of Apple and Job’s influence on it and its products, the book delves into his personal life and his personality. Few punches are pulled. Jobs is depicted as narcissistic and often brutal in his relationships with colleagues, friends and family. He generally put his work before everything else. His relationships with his children were often troubled. He had little contact with his first daughter, Lisa.

In 1991he married Laurene Powell, a business student. Their marriage is described as successful though Powell had to learn to live with someone who was often difficult.

Jobs was known for being brutally honest in his work. He would declare a proposed idea or product “shit” and demean the people involved in it. He claimed his single aim was to assemble A class people to build A class products to serve the public in the best possible way. He had a unique ability to get the most performance out of people who respected him despite his often difficult inter-personal style. He also would lavish praise on people and their work when he liked it. People often found themselves liking him despite his rough edges.

He was famous for perfecting the “launch” of a new product with a carefully planned stage presentation. New products were kept secret until he unveiled them at these presentations. He was a master at public relations and marketing. He did not believe in asking the customer what they wanted. Rather, he believed it was his role to discover what the next big thing should be and then educate the public about it. He would tell them what they needed and this was almost always successful.

His artistic and design emphasis kept a focus on hardware and software that was elegantly designed. At the same time he possessed a vision of the future while paying excruciating attention to detail.

The computer industry developed along two separate tracks: the open system where software was licensed on different computers, championed by Bill Gates at Microsoft and the totally controlled and integrated model that Jobs maintained at Apple. He would rarely license any Apple software for other manufacturers. If you wanted Apple software and products you had to get them from Apple. Apple became the largest computer company and the most profitable on Job’s watch.

The book does a masterful job of showing us who Steve Jobs was as a person, a CEO, a designer, visionary and businessman. He was a complex man with a genius for knowing what the public would want before they knew what they would want.

This is an outstanding book both as a biography and a study of what makes success in business.


Reading about successful people is always useful. You can learn a lot about the importance of focus, simplicity, dedication to detail and devotion to quality from this book. You will also learn some aspects of a CEO personality which probably would not be wise to emulate.

Readability/Writing Quality:  

The book is very well written. It holds your attention and is well organized. The author juggles lots of characters and time lines well. You never feel lost.

Notes on Author:

Walter Issacson is the CEO of the Aspen Institute. He has been chairman of CNN and managing editor at Time magazine. Issacson also wrote bestselling biographies of Benjamin Franklin, Henry Kissinger and Albert Einstein.

Three Great Ideas You Can Use:

  1. It is critical to maintain focus to be successful. It is as important to know what to say no to as to what to say yes to. Jobs always focused on perfecting a few products rather than being weighed down with too many.
  1. Attention to detail is as important as attention to the grand vision. Jobs understood this and launched a series of high quality products that generated customer loyalty and lots of revenue. He said he was not interested in making money but in changing the world. If he made money in the process that was fine.
  1. To get the most out of people you must challenge them. A high quality company needs high quality people and some ruthlessness in maintaining quality is essential to product success.

Publication Information:  

Title and Author: Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson

Copyright holder: 2011 Walter Issacson

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Book of the Month for July 2013

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Wishing you well,

Daniel R. Murphy
Educating people for building wealth, adapting to a changing future and personal development.