The huge success of Walter Isaacson’s book, Steve Jobs, shows the scope of our fascination for one of the top industry visionaries ever. While most people have come to realize the meaning of Steve Jobs almost in retrospect, for entrepreneurs starting in the eighties, he was already a thought-leader, and the Macintosh was already a metaphor for entrepreneurial audacity. One of the very first books to acknowledge this fact was Guy Kawasaki‘s The Macintosh Way in 1990. This was Guy’s first book. His French publisher, Diateino, just published abstracts, Le Style Macintosh, and I wrote the French preface whose English translation you will find below.
How do you write a book?
One morning in 1989, I arrived at the ACIUS offices in Cupertino, CA, and, as usual, I went to say hello to Guy, then serving as President of the company we had co-founded.
That day, the conversation was not quite business as usual; Guy had other things on his mind:
“How do you write a book?” he asked me.
“You start on page 1 and finish on page 200 or 250,” I replied.
“Really? If it were that easy, everybody would be a writer…”
“But not everybody has something to say.”
“Do you think I have something to say?”
I told him yes, at which point he smiled from ear to ear: “I want to write a book.”
“Perfect – go for it!”
I don’t think Guy was ever afraid that I would object to his writing a book, but he may have wanted to make sure I knew he was embarking on a project that would take up a chunk of his time away the company. It was clear to me, however, that if work kept him away from writing, he would regret it; I told him he constantly would be thinking of what might have been, and therefore would be less productive. He asked me if I had taken creative writing classes to write my own books, and I amused him greatly when I didn’t even understand to what he was referring.
“So how will I know if it’s good?” he asked me.
“It’s just like any other product: either people want it, or they don’t. You’ll know if people read it.”
After he had written about sixty pages, he showed me the manuscript to get my opinion. I don’t remember making a great deal of comments – I simply found it good. What I had on my desk were the first chapters of the The Macintosh Way.
The timeless manifesto of the entrepreneurial spirit
Twenty-five years later, I find myself rereading this book with pleasure. In it, I truly recognize the Guy Kawasaki I knew in 1985, and the Guy I still know to this day.
It is said that the best authors write just one book, over and over, and in most cases this is true. The Macintosh Way contains the seeds for a good deal of the ideas that Guy has explored and developed over the course of his subsequent books, some of which I have translated for Diateino Publishing in France. Every book is informed by an author’s previous works, which allow readers to find and trace enduring themes. Read and judge for yourself whether I am wrong in thinking that The Macintosh Way is pure Guy Kawasaki.
For fans of Apple, this is a return to the source, and for fans of computers, it’s a return to the origin of personal computing — to the root of the curated and comfortable technology experience we have all come to expect today. A few weeks after the death of Steve Jobs this book is obviously à propos, as it serves both as an historical account and a timeless manifesto of the entrepreneurial spirit.
Taken as a piece of history: Even if Guy’s goal is not the chronicle of his life in the Macintosh division for which he was recruited in 1983 by a college friend, Mike Boich, his role in the group is present on nearly every page, as the book has an anecdotal backbone. In the French translation, we have removed some references that are firmly lodged in a bygone era, yet there are still a number of details that bring back to mind the incredible ebullience of the Silicon Valley in the eighties. Genius, just as now, waited for nothing; the overwhelming feeling that everything was changing around us urged people who have now become historical icons to push themselves to the limit – so far that even twenty years later some have retained this energy and vision to reimagine the world. It was certainly the case with Steve Jobs, but also with Bill Gates, who grew from genius programmer and industry leader into one of the most fascinating philanthropists in our world today.
When Guy told me in 1989 that he would title his book The Macintosh Way, I liked the name but feared it would not age well over time. I understood his reasoning, of course, as the Mac represented the beginning of his professional life, the same way it represented mine as an entrepreneur. At the same time, however, the Apple world had already changed, and despite our faith in the Macintosh’s power and beauty, we could not help fighting a certain feeling of Paradise Lost. The original stars that had created the Apple aura, Steve Jobs at the helm, had almost all left, and the subject of conversations at cocktail parties all around the Valley dealt at least as much with the continual Apple reorganizations as with Macintosh software updates and new capabilities. In fact, many of us believed that the spirit of Macintosh now lay outside of Apple. We were proud, yes, but I for one could not shake the feeling that our loyalty was partly born out of nostalgia even though the “Macintosh way” had largely shaped our entrepreneurial style.
Enchantment: Make your “Macintosh” successful…
Looking back, the title is far more powerful than I ever imagined in 1989. The Macintosh Way is not merely a series of tips collected in the Mac original heydays. In fact, as Guy reminds us in all his books and notably this one, experience can be a false guide: “Be wary of experience […] It is better to work with raw, enthusiastic potential than an old pro from a competitor who will merely transfer his old habits to a new product and company. ” The Macintosh Way is more of an existential experience, a manifesto for entrepreneurs who have the skill and guts to believe in their vision and do what they must in order to change the world for the better by bringing people something they didn’t even realize they needed.
In 1989, while the Valley looked on the evolution of NeXT with skepticism and had not yet seen the scale of radical change that Steve Jobs could bring about in the film industry by investing in Pixar, Guy Kawasaki already summarized the symbolic significance of Jobs for all entrepreneurs: “Steve challenged the status quo and put something into motion that grew larger than anyone envisioned. Macintosh started as a computer. It became a cult. Then a phenomenon. Then a standard. Now it is a way of doing business. The development and introduction of Macintosh provides many examples of doing the right thing and doing things right.”
Over time, and with the announcement of Steve Jobs’ departure from Apple, then his subsequent death, the Macintosh has become a metaphor for entrepreneurial audacity and the will to transform vision into reality. This is what Guy expressed in The Macintosh Way and, again, most recently, in his preface to Enchantment: “By reading this book, you will learn how to apply my experiences as an evangelist, entrepreneur, and venture capitalist to make your “Macintosh” successful.”
Menlo Park, January 2012