Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mix in mortgage backed securities...

collateralized debt obligations, greed and excess and you have Wall Street at it's worst.  Throw in murder and you have Andrew Gross at his best in his book, Reckless  More intense than the volatility of  the stock market today. 

Speaking of reckless, time to read with reckless abandon.  42 books in the bank with one month to go before 2012, way behind 101 from last year, but I have my sights set on reading 18 more by end of the year.

Received alot of recommendations this past year, some I've read The Help, Unbroken, Heaven is for Real, just to name a few and many that I've yet to read, The Butcher's Boy by Thomas Perry, Michael Crichton's Pirate Latitudes;along with several non-fiction, just haven't had time. But do promise I will.

With that said...back to the wonderful world of reading!

the "I" in Interview

As Walter Isaacson went on the talk show circuit the past couple of weeks promoting his latest book, Steve Jobs, I happened to catch him on Piers Morgan Tonight on CNN. After a few moments, my intellectual taste buds tasted something sour -  The word "I".

What do you mean, you may ask?

Several years ago, Larry King was being interviewed and when asked how he's been so successful or what does he contribute his success to, his response was quite enlightening.

I'm paraphrasing here, but it went something like this:   A good interviewer never becomes part of the story. People want to know or listen to who the interviewer is questioning, not the interviewer themselves. When the questioner states, I read where...or I feel..or I did this/saw, making some reference to themselves, they become a part of the story. It comes back to them.

If you were to review his interviews, King rarely if ever, mentions himself in an interview.  Keeps his questions short and succinct and listens, letting the subject speak, because thats the purpose of the interview, hearing what the subject has to say.

So, as I watched Piers Morgan interview Isaacson, I couldn't help myself but count the word "I" over forty times and it wasn't in reference to iPad, iPod, iTunes, but to Piers himself, at times interrupting Isaacson to read a passage of Isaacson book while at other times, speaking more than Isaacson.   Piers Morgan will never be Larry King. Nor will Matt Lauer who routinely makes the story about him.  When watching these types of talk shows, I find myself yelling out loud, " But , it's not about you though, is it. Shut up and let the person speak!"

To whomever invented the mute button on a TV remote, thank you.

Listening is becoming more of an art form than speaking!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Has the Apple fallen too far from the tree...

Updated - - -

Has the Apple fallen too far from the tree?  Back in November 2011 after reading Walter Isaacson's bio on Steve Jobs, we wrote about the momentum that Apple could sustain now that Jobs had passed. Although the stock has risen to all time highs since his death, it has since fallen, dramatically.  Was the rise in price due to the short term innovation that Jobs had put in place and the fall due to that lack of ferocious intensity that Jobs personified? Only time will tell, but the latest earnings reports  and with RIMM set to launch Blackberry 10, some investors are wondering if the Apple has been Cooked?

Oct. 5, 2011, death of Steve Jobs: 378.25
Sept 21, 2012  All time high: 705.07
Jan 24, 2013    Pre-Market:  $464.05 and falling

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, it's all about Jobs!

No, this isn't a political rant about the economy, but jobs were prevalent in 1955. Unemployment was 4.4%; which is less than half what it is today, a small restaurant with golden arches opened and Mr Potato Head received its patent a few years prior...and the world welcomed onto this planet a boy named Gates and another named Jobs. The former in October, the latter in February. No Potato Heads here. Gates and Jobs would change our world. Columbus discovered the Earth to be round. Jobs transformed it into the shape of an Apple.

Walter Isaacson opens our eyes to the core of Apple, revealing the politics of one of the worlds largest and most successful companys. Politics that we who live in the corporate world have come to love and hate, more so hate, but it's the nature of the beast.  Isaacson, through detailed interviews and access to friends, enemies and Jobs' himself, reveals the petulant personality of Steve Jobs, his family life and the wrath of his work ethic.

From his chastising of subordinates during one on one meetings or in front of an audience to his slashing criticism of  ideas only to return a week, sometimes a few days later explaining an idea he thought of, when in fact it was theirs to begin with.  Jobs held a unique perspective on management, style and vision. One day berating people, the next, crying, literally, over the simplest things.

By providing Gates' opinion after each Apple product release, Isaacson perpetuates the friendly yet competitive and contentious relationship between Jobs and Gates, helping the reader understand their different personalities, motivations and philosophies.

Jobs' had a way of willing things or ideas to fruition. Ideas that his best engineers said couldn't be accomplished but then miraculously would. A concept throughout the book called, reality distortion field. One could argue this way of thinking led him to struggles, particularly in his battle with cancer, that he couldn't overcome. Electing not to be more diligent in health matters and continue his eccentric diet and lack the common sense to follow the direction of medical professionals as well as close friends and family.

Job's clearly is a genius. Not smart, as Isaacson states, but a genius and there's a difference. History will define Steve Jobs in the same category of those before him. Those that had such an impact on how we live that leaving him out of the mix would be an insult to his legacy. Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Ben Franklin, etc.

Did Apple promote a God-like complex with Steve Jobs?  This notion passed my way during a discussion with a friend and fellow reader.  Let's look at Coke for instance, do you readily know who their CEO is?  IBM? Pepsi? Proctor and Gamble? If the CEO of Proctor and Gamble quit, would P & G fail? Not likely, nor will Apple, but it is an interesting concept where as the CEO of a company becomes so prominent that  it becomes more about the CEO than it does the company or its product.  So, is it all about Jobs or all about Apple? As Jobs goes, does so go Apple?   But what is the future of Apple? Is his innovation and vision for the future ingrained deeply enough to sustain the growth Jobs' drove during the last decade?

Take for example, Sam Walton. Walton was clearly the face of Walmart. But there was so much more to Walmart than Sam Walton. Walton was a retail visionary and changed how America and the world shopped.  Walmart has lasted beyond Sam's passing.  Full disclosure, I worked for Walmart (Sam's Club) during Sam's tenure and after. It did change. Changed in respect to employee benefits and workplace environment. Gone with Sam were many employee benefits, a less employee friendly environment.  Will the vision and innovation of Steve Jobs diminish at Apple now that he's gone? Will the tense, volatile environment change now that he has passed and will the innovation and growth sustain itself. Was his management style the catalyst that drove Apple to success?

Two other examples, Howard Schultz and Michael Dell. Dell's last name alone gives you a hint at what company he founded. Schultz?  Starbucks.  Both executives and founders left the company as did Jobs, albeit involuntary, but each came back after the company struggled only to rejuvenate their respective companies.  Starbucks to all time high stock price.

Comparing Jobs with those mentioned maybe like comparing apples and oranges. But in Jobs' case, only time will tell how far the Apple falls from the tree.

His college acid dropping days, personal hygiene and diet, illegitimate child and coincidental, serendipitous encounter with his biological father are anecdotes you would expect from a biography but much more intriguing and fascinating here. Author of classics on Einstein and Franklin, Isaacson brings much credibility to his book,  it's very believable, where as some biographies fail  due to access or salacious innuendos.

Steve Jobs always wanted the last word and Isaacson allowed him to do so. In reading the biography, you'll never view Apple products the same way again.