Steve Jobs

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In the interest of improving my knowledge on matters beyond fiction novels and reality TV, I have decided to indulge in the reading of some non-fiction books. To begin with, I decided to try a Biography and picked up a copy of Steve Job’s Biography by Walter Isaacson. At first, I found it difficult to read as it was big change from the easy flowing storylines of most novels I am used to. However, I kept plodding through the difficult parts and eventually, I was riveted and I literally could not put it down. Steve Job’s life was very interesting with dramatic highs and lows. He was a vibrant man with an intense dedication to his companies and the products he developed in conjunction with the fortunate or unfortunate people who worked with him.  I typically do not like blogging using the ‘Listing Points’ format but in this case, I prefer to draw up a list as a summary of the key lessons I learned  and highlight areas where I disagreed with his values.

  • It is important to be passionate and enjoy the work you do.

Jobs was extremely passionate about the work he did and always sought to improve whatever he was working on. It was interesting to read how he began a hobby of working with gadgets as a young boy in high school. His passion was evident from the beginning and he developed his passion and skills and formed friendships with like-minded people. I don’t think making a business out of the products he and his friends developed was a negative thing. He was using his skills to make a living and to become financially independent. As a lesson for the world and particularly Africa, we really need to develop the technical skills of our people. It is not enough to teach children the theory behind technology, it is important to help them develop their skills practically. Jobs was building computers in high school! He even pointed the issue to President Obama when he said that the U.S had limited engineers with practical hands-on hardware skills and therefore, technology firms resulted to using Chinese labour. (cheaper labour issues aside).

  • Pick yourself up when you are knocked down

I find it astonishing that anyone could get kicked out a company that they founded but Jobs was one of the distinguished members of this infamous club. Granted, he was kicked out while still holding a substantial stake in the company, but he could not work there as an employee on the products he loved so much. In the book, it seems he had a brief period where he allowed himself to feel sadness and be down in the dumps but, he managed to pick himself up, dust himself off and begin working on new ventures and projects. He quickly found other areas of interest to himself and moved on with his typical passionate energy. Following his exit from Apple, he started a new company called NEXT and he also bought into Pixar which was a struggling animation technology company at the time. Through NEXT, he developed an operating system that was actually used in later years at Apple. At Pixar, Jobs found another group of passionate and creative people who he really believed in. He kept pumping money into the company as it was making losses until it finally succeeded beyond even what he had envisioned. In fact, I don’t think Jobs himself predicted the success of Pixar in the animation film industry because he had bought into what he thought would be the success of an operating system to be used by graphic designers and animation. Without his investment into Pixar, the world would not have the movies Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, Monsters Inc, among other fabulously delightful films.

  • Style is not necessarily separate from substance

The artistic angle to everything he did was probably what made Jobs’ products unique and exceptional. In the technology industry, his passion for art and style particularly as a leader, was second to none. Many of the technological firms prefer to hold function with higher regard than style. With Jobs, style was just as important as the function of the product which likely lead to painstaking iterations in the design of the same product in order to have the function fit the form. By valuing beauty in all of the products they developed, Apple appealed to the visual and human side of consumers and attracted a group of people who would have otherwise never used a personal computer or a mobile phone. Therefore, art and beauty are actually very important in life and should be regarded with high esteem. This is a key lesson particularly in African schools where the arts are not celebrated and considered inferior to more scientific subjects. Personally, I consider science to be critical for development of humans and society but the arts equally have a significant role to play.

  • Treat others with respect and dignity

I think the downside of Job’s genius was that he would treat people brutally with very little consideration for their welfare or feelings. For him, the end justified the means. One line in the book states that his rough and prickly nature hurt him more than it helped him. I tend to believe this. Had he treated people with more respect and compassion, who knows what greater products he could have developed? For me, treating others with dignity and respect and indeed showing love to others is something that is critical in humanity or we will end up a failed world. (current wars and violence is a clear result of the lack of empathy and love in the world.)

Also, success can be measured in various ways and like beauty, it depends on the eye of the beholder. Just because he was successful in developing amazing products, doesn’t mean he was successful in other areas of life which others would consider more important. I hope to appreciate the positive aspects in his life and learn for the negative aspects. As stated in the book, his life is a both an inspiring and cautionary tale.

I really tried to compress this one but didn’t manage to loll…. There’s a lot more in the book so I would recommend it!

Kite Runner! Amazing Story

KITE RUNNER

After endless procrastinating, I decided to get down to reading the Kite Runner. I was reading a lot of junk rom coms and decided to enlighten myself with a more serious book. I have no idea what took me so long! I should have read this book years ago. Then again, I find that books come at the times in my life when I can best understand and experience them. I suppose if I had read the book when I was younger I probably wouldn’t understand much of what was taking place. The book begins in Afghanistan in the 1970s. Honestly speaking, I didn’t know much about Afghanistan’s history but this book got me researching and looking at what Afghanistan used to be.

The story in the book is about friendship, it’s about character, it’s about betrayal and it’s about forgiveness. Hassan and Amir share a friendship that is deep and they are pretty much brothers from another mother even before they know the truth. Hassan is servant to Amir and Amir’s father and his integrity and character are unforgettable in the book. He is both humble and noble despite his low social status in life. Hassan is full of love and loyalty to his friend and even when he is better that Amir at some activities, he gives Amir much of the credit. If Hassan was a real person and I would really love to believe that people like him exist in the world, I would be blessed to have him as a friend.

Sadly, his world is shattered in more ways than one. Perhaps the pain that he suffered most is the betrayal of his friend. However, even when he was betrayed, he still stood by his friend, he still reached out to him. Even later when Amir was unkind to him and pushed him away, he still wanted to be friends. In the end, he had to leave because it all became too much and his honour was questioned.

The book for me, is really about how to love unconditionally. It’s about how to have inner integrity and confidence even though society considers you of little or no value. Sadly, it’s also about how mistakes in the past can haunt you for years if not for a lifetime. Taking responsibility and seeking forgiveness from others and from yourself is very difficult but not impossible. In the end, there’s always redemption.

Reading the book, I had to keep reminding myself that it was not a true story. However, it is heartbreaking to be reminded that millions of little boy and girls around the world are having their innocence stripped away from them and they have to live with the experience their whole lives. They are doomed with such a heavy burden at such a young age. I wish there was a way to erase the pain from the little kids who go through these horrible experiences or a way to shield them from the negatives effects that they endure in future. The book did show that these instances are life-shattering but with a lot of support, a lot of love and a lot of reassurance, the little kids can grow up to lead a normal life. With the pain felt, maybe they can help others who would be facing similar problems.

One other thing I got from the book, was how someone who you can look up to and who you think the world of can greatly let you down. Amir’s dad let him down by not telling him the truth. The truth which he always said was the most important thing human beings have. It reminded me how in life, we need to remember that we are all human and even the most ‘invincible’ person can make mistakes. This outlook is really essential when forgiving people who disappoint and let you down. There’s so much to this book and all in all, it was an immensely thought-provoking book and I would urge anyone who hasn’t read it to do so. (i haven’t really spoiled the story that much :-p ).  I’m gonna look out for the movie. I hope it does justice to the book although I highly doubt it.

The beginning of a story…

It was a cold chilly night in Naivasha. Rita was home alone surfing and researching various idiocies on celebrity lives. This was the only entertainment she had for the night. Her parents had left for a trip to Mombasa and her sister was out on the town and would probably end up crashing at one of her friend’s places.

 Rita had just graduated and her idea of independence and freedom did not translate into being stuck house-sitting for parents who were out having more fun than she was. As she ogled at the screen wondering what other piece of mindless gossip she could surf, the phone rang.

“Hey Rita.What are you up to?”

“Oh Hi Kat. Nothing much, just passing the time googling the news on brad and Angelina..” Rita said limply.

It was her friend Katana. No doubt she was out having a good time.

“Well, I knew you’d be your usual grumpy self. Honestly Rita, since you graduated you need to take a chill pill. If only for the simple reason that you do not have to bury yourself in the books anymore. Anyway I have the greatest news! I hope you’re sitting because you will scream! Eeek!” Katana screeched over the phone making Rita pull away from the headpiece.

“Jeez Katana. You’re going to make me deaf. What is it?” she asked vaguely curious.

“Well, you know the Travel society at Uni..?” Kat began

“Yes, the one that plans trips but they never actually go on them?” Rita asked

“Yes that one! Anyway, they’re going to Liema in West Africa . This time they’re actually going to go. They’ve been sponsored by Escape travel magazine and they have tickets! You know how me and Roko have been talking lately, well he asked me to go!and he said I could bring a friend!eeeek. This is a chance of a lifetime Rita. Adventure, mystery, romance and partying like rockstars!!!.”Katana finished barely able to contain her excitement.

“Wow Katana that sounds great but…”

“But what? Rita? This is an opportunity of a lifetime. This is the adventure your always looking for..get excited babes!!” said Kat

“Ok Ok Jeez. I was just going to say that Roko and his crowd are a little too party hardy..You know Kirimi was caught with cocaine and stuff recently. Can we really trust them?” Rita inquired

“Aii Rita we’re adults and we can take care of ourselves. You know me and Roy have been seeing each other for a long time I trust him. Oh c’mon Rita what’s excitement without a little danger anyway?” said Kat.

Rita weighed her options. Either sit at home watching rubbish television or see the world and experience something new. Katana had been seeing Roko, the head of the Travel society for a while now so maybe it wasn’t such a risk.

“Well, I’ve been saying I need to leave the house. What better way to start eh?”” said Rita

“Yay!! Eeekk! Rita this is going to be more than amazing. Ok I’ll email the details to you right now! Gotta go Bye!”

Katana hang up the phone abruptly leaving Rita alone with her thoughts. She imagined the sun, the nightlife and the new culture she would experience. The more she thought about it, the more excited she became. A little doubt creeped up in her mind about the crowd they were going with. The travel society was a made up of a small group of close friends that spent most of their nights partying and going wild. Rita liked to party as much as the next person but these were not the ‘next people”.

“It doesn’t really matter.” She thought to herself, ‘Just because they party hard doesn’t mean I have to either’ Besides, Kat will be there and I can out hang out with her. She’s just as mellow as I am sometimes.

This distilled her fears and she started thinking about what she would wear…

Revolution!

 Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

 I was feeling pretty down and decided that a book could cheer me up. I am one of those rare breed of individuals who judge a book by the cover. For me, the cover of a book attracts me to the book and provides insight into what that the story is about. Think about it; why would a publisher or writer take the time to hire someone to do the illustrations and graphics for a book? The cover is the gateway to the story and can draw someone in.

So I was feeling down and decided to go up to the bookshop and immerse myself in a bunch of novels. I saw this one book with an interesting cover. Half of it has a modern day picture of a girl and the other side has a vintage medieval painting turned upside down. I thought that this was a mysterious cover and looked like a cool coming-of age novel.

The down side of judging a book by its cover is that you might end up with a genre you don’t really read. The book is young adult literature!! Honestly, I had stopped reading young adult books at the ripe old age of 21 and did not want to go back to that! I couldn’t do anything about it though. I had already bought the book.

At the beginning the books was morbid because it begins to introduce the reader to a girl, Andi, who’s going through a lot of problems. Her brother past away, her parents split up and her mum is half-crazy. I think the writer was trying to create a character that is relatable to people going through hardships and showing them that there can be light at the end of the tunnel. However, the first few chapters of the book just made me more sad than I already was. I also didn’t like the fact that the main character was a high school kid and the dialogue is geared to teenagers.

As I kept reading the book though, I enjoyed it more and started liking the character and relating to her. She goes off to Paris with her dad because he forces her. He explains that she needs some time away to work on her school project and that her mother needs to get some specialised help. i.e. check her into a hospital..

Don’t you just wish you could get away sometimes? I loved reading about the streets of Paris and how she went to cafes and shopped for vintage items. I especially loved how she spent time in a small café/bar.. It was an open-mic night sort of place and music was a constant! Here, she met a free-spirited musician. They both shared a love for music and were pretty much a perfect match. It’s also a romantic story so that was nice.

The other side to this story involves a girl similar to Andi’s age who lived during the French revolution. Andi  finds an old diary of  this girl named Alex. By reading the diary, Andi takes a journey through Alex’s world and reads about Alex’s struggle to save a little prince trapped in brutal imprisonment. I think that reading through the diary is a way for her to recover through the pain she had  been going through.

What I don’t get is why Andi never gives any appreciation to her father. She would not have healed if it was not for her Father’s actions.

The book actually achieved what it set out to do. It showed this girl going through problems and coming out of it just fine. Her love and gift for music was a source of strength for her and her mum got the care that she needed. ‘Revolution’ can be a morbid read but at the end, the light really is at the end of the tunnel. It shows that no matter what, it is possible to come out strong and standing.  There is also some really deep poetry and words in the book. (I lost my bookmarks for those parts  :-p

Unbowed!

One Woman's Story

UNBOWED: Wangari Maathai

I read this book a while back and I may not remember all my thoughts on it but i know it was amazing!! I didn’t really know Wangari Maathai’s story. All I knew was that she was an activist and environmentalist and that’s probably one of the main things about her. I think she is an example of a person who found out what she was good in and excelled greatly! Her life has been full of adventure and excitement. She’s obviously gone through more difficulty than the average person but she has also achieved more than the average person. She always stood for what she believed in and was comfortable in her skin.

These days most people don’t get to know what they are good at or what their passion is. They don’t stand up for what they truly believe in and would rather be a part of the crowd than stand alone. These days, image is everything. We’re so concerned about how we look, what the latest night club is, what the new hit song is, what the celebs are doings…The list endless and shallow. Her story is inspiring in that it makes you look into your life and see what resources you have to help make this world a better place or at least help others. And enjoy what you do as you do this!

One of the things I loved in this book was the amazing scenery she described as she grew up. She was born and raised in rural Kenya and the scenery description is breathtaking. I could just imagine the rivers and streams she played in when she was a kid, the green meadows she would walk through. I couldn’t forget the majestic  Mt.Kenya she would see every morning. Makes me appreciate Africa a lot more and the rich natural beauty we have at our disposal. The sad part is that human activity etc..is making that beauty fade away. So it’s best to soak up all the beauty before…..well I hope environmental awareness increases so we won’t have to suffer the undesirable consequences of our current actions. Next time I go to my rural home, I’ll take some pictures and post them up here. For posterity’s sake and for sharing with anyone possibly trapped in a concrete jungle.

The book also has some pictures of her in university in the 1960s. The thing that strikes me in the pictures is the elegance and style carried by the ladies in the 1960s. I know everyone is obsessed with fashion these days but theirs was more style than simply fashion. The ladies in their dinner dresses and gloves. The ladies in the lab with the well cut lab coats and heels. I’ve worked in a lab before and trust me the lab coats are nothing to write home about. Usually two sizes too large and making the wearer look very square indeed. Maybe it’s just the pictures but the labcoats she and her friends are wearing look tailored!

So her and her friends look very stylish and graceful. Definitely not hootchie and showing off tramp stamps or piercings everywhere possible. I might sound like i’m ranting and raving about how society has completely degenerated in recent years. I know a lot of people see that and there’s no point going on about it. I would just love to see women to take back that elegance, that style and mystery. Treat ourselves well and hold ourselves in high esteem. Not all this grind, grind, shake, shake. I’m certainly no miss. style and elegance myself but I’m gonna try and take care of myself better.

As ascertained from the fact that she wore a labcoat, Dr.Maathai is a scientist. I’m a scientist or at least I did a science subject. For the life of me I cannot imagine doing a PhD in a science subject!! PhD! (i’m not even sure if that’s how it’s spelled). This lady is an academic and extremely intelligent. I really salute her for that. Just going through university and getting a PhD in a science subject! High Five Dr.Maathai! I was to speak to a bunch of high school girls about the importance of doing science. I still haven’t actually found out what I’m gonna say! But Dr.Maathai’s life is a testament to the fact that girls can excel in sciences and do well and make a difference in our world.

Why her husband left is beyond me. Maybe someone else who’s read the book can better explain that. Oh yaa she met her hubby later in life didn’t she?don’t know how she got through all the ‘how come your not married yet??’ comments..but thats probably a story for another day :-p

So all in all the book is an inspiration to women and everyone out there who has a passion to change the world for the better.