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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sherlock Holmes, Steve Jobs, and Winston Churchill

I'm fairly certain that I've read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and I typically watch the various interpretations of the Holmes character that repeatedly show up on TV or at the movies. The recent "Sherlock" series out of Britain, which is set in 21st century London, is excellent (but most fans, including myself, are mystified as to how Holmes faked his death in the last episode -- ), but it was while watching "Elementary," which is set in New York (and in which Watson is a woman), that I realized who Holmes reminds me of: Steve Jobs.

I've just finished reading (actually listening) Walter Isaacson's fascinating biography on Steve Jobs. Not only is Isaacson a great story teller, but he captures both the bright and dark sides of Jobs. Jobs was almost certainly a genius, and he could, at times, be a good friend and colleague, but he could also be childlike, cruel, and mean-spirited: much like Sherlock Holmes. The book, of course, is about more than Jobs. It also tells the story of the emergence of Silicon Valley, the birth of the personal computer, the rivalry between Jobs and Bill Gates, the development of the iPod, iPhone, and iTunes (one of the greatest ideas ever!), and how great design and great technology can be brought together in a single package. I commend the book to anyone. It's a remarkable read. 

Jobs actually reminds me of one other person: Winston Churchill. I recently re-picked up the first volume of William Manchester's 3-volume masterpiece on Churchill (The Last Lion) and was immediately struck by the similarities between the two. Like Jobs, Churchill's career passed through three stages: (1) his meteoric rise to fame and fortune (1900 to 1915), (2) his fall from grace "when he achieved little and failed often" (1915-1940), and (3) his vindication when he helped save England from the Nazis (1940- ) and became a legend (Jobs's career can be marked out in three stages as well: (1) the rise of Apple, (2) Jobs's fallout from Apple, and (3) his return and Apple's resurrection.) Like Jobs, Churchill was remarkably bright, and he did not suffer fools lightly. And during his fall from grace, he (like Jobs) was seen by others as being a "genius without judgment," and then he proved them wrong, much like Steve Jobs would do 60 years later.

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