I asked Jobs why he wanted me to be the one to write his biography.
“I think you’re good at getting people to talk,” he replied. That was an unexpected answer.
I knew that I would have to interview scores of people he had fired, abused, abandoned, or otherwise infuriated,
and I feared he would not be comfortable with my getting them to talk.
And indeed he did turn out to be skittish when word trickled back to him of people that I was interviewing.
But after a couple of months, he began encouraging people to talk to me, even foes and former girlfriends.
Nor did he try to put anything off-limits.
“I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of, such as getting my girlfriend pregnant when I was twenty-three and the way I handled that,”
he said.“But I don’t have any skeletons in my closet that can’t be allowed out.”
He didn’t seek any control over what I wrote, or even ask to read it in advance.
His only involvement came when my publisher was choosing the cover art.
When he saw an early version of a proposed cover treatment, he disliked it so much that he asked to have input in designing a new version.
I was both amused and willing, so I readily assented.
I ended up having more than forty interviews and conversations with him.
Some were formal ones in his Palo Alto living room, others were done during long walks and drives or by telephone.
During my two years of visits, he became increasingly intimate and revealing,
though at times I witnessed what his veteran colleagues at Apple used to call his “reality distortion field.”
Sometimes it was the inadvertent misfiring of memory cells that happens to us all;
at other times he was spinning his own version of reality both to me and to himself.
To check and flesh out his story, I interviewed more than a hundred friends, relatives, competitors, adversaries, and colleagues.
His wife also did not request any restrictions or control, nor did she ask to see in advance what I would publish.
In fact she strongly encouraged me to be honest about his failings as well as his strengths.
She is one of the smartest and most grounded people I have ever met.
“There are parts of his life and personality that are extremely messy, and that’s the truth,” she told me early on.
“You shouldn’t whitewash it. He’s good at spin, but he also has a remarkable story, and I’d like to see that it’s all told truthfully.”
I leave it to the reader to assess whether I have succeeded in this mission.
I’m sure there are players in this drama who will remember some of the events differently or think that I sometimes got trapped in Jobs’s distortion field.
As happened when I wrote a book about Henry Kissinger, which in some ways was good preparation for this project,
I found that people had such strong positive and negative emotions about Jobs that the Rashomon effect was often evident.
But I’ve done the best I can to balance conflicting accounts fairly and be transparent about the sources I used.