Isn’t this the most beautiful bottom of a computer you’ve ever seen?

“There’s not a screw or detail that’s not there for a very good reason.”

According to Jony, the design of the iMac G4 was ingenious not because of its shape but its unexpected unobtrusiveness. Although it looked like a freaky lamp on approach, everything but the screen disappeared when the user sat in front of it.

“With the new iMac, if you just sit there for ten minutes and move the display around, you quickly forget about its design. The design gets out of the way,” Jony concluded. “We are not interested in design statements. We do everything we can to simplify designs.”

You walk outside, you risk your life. You take a drink of water, you risk your life. Nowadays, you breathe and you risk your life. You don’t have a choice. The only thing you can choose is what you’re risking it for.

I would define, in brief, the Poetry of words as The Rhythmical Creation of Beauty. Its sole arbiter is Taste. With the Intellect or with the Conscience, it has only collateral relations. Unless incidentally, it has no concern whatever either with Duty or with Truth.

With borrowed funds, a business can invest, gain leverage, and leverage is a pair of wings. Leverage is flight. Leverage is a way for small to be big and big to be huge, a glorious abstraction, the promise of tomorrow today, yes, a liberation from time, the resounding triumph of human will over dreary, chronology-shackled physical reality. To leverage is to be immortal.

Or if not, your deputy asserts, at least the converse is true.

“If we don’t borrow,” he says, “we’ll die.”

No self-help book can be complete without taking into account our relationship with the state. For if there were a cosmic list of things that unite us, reader and writer, visible as it scrolled up and into the distance, like the introduction to some epic science-fiction film, then shining brightly on that list would be the fact that we exist in a financial universe that is subject to massive gravitational pulls from states. States tug at us. States bend us. And, tirelessly, states seek to determine our orbits.

You might therefore assume that the most reliable path to becoming filthy rich is to activate your faster-than-light marketing drive and leap into business nebulas as remote as possible from the state’s imperial economic grip. But you would be wrong. Entrepreneurship in the barbaric wastes furthest from state power is a fraught endeavor, a constant battle, a case of kill or be killed, with little guarantee of success.

No, harnessing the state’s might for personal gain is a much more sensible approach. Two related categories of actor have long understood this. Bureaucrats who wear state uniforms while secretly backing their private interests. And bankers, who wear private uniforms while secretly being backed by the state. You will need the help of both. But, in rising Asia, where bureaucrats lead, bankers tend to follow, and so it is on befriending the right bureaucrat that your continued success critically depends.

If you look closely at Hyde, you will notice that above him floats aghast, but dominating, a residue of Jekyll, a kind of smoke ring, or halo, as if this black concentrated evil had fallen out of the remaining ring of good, but this ring of good still remains: Hyde still wants to change back to Jekyll. This is the significant point. It follows that Jekyll’s transformation implies a concentration of evil that already inhabited him rather than a complete metamorphosis. Jekyll is not pure good, and Hyde (Jekyll’s statement to the contrary) is not pure evil, for just as parts of the unacceptable Hyde dwell within acceptable Jekyll, so Hyde hovers a holo of Jekyll, horrified at his own worser half’s iniquity.

Bezos insisted the company needed to master anything that touched the hallowed customer experience, and he resisted any efforts to project profitability. “If you are planning for more than twenty minutes ahead in this kind of environment, you are wasting your time,” he said in meetings.

Touristification

My friend Chad benefited from the kind of disorder that is less and less prevalent thanks to the modern disease of touristification. This is my term for an aspect of modern life that treats humans as washing machines, with simplified mechanical responses — and a detailed user’s manual. It is the systematic removal of uncertainty and randomness from things, trying to make matter highly predictable in their smallest details. All that for the sake of comfort, convenience, and efficiency.

What a tourist is in relation to an adventurer, or a flâneur, touristification is to life; it consists in converting activities, and not just travel, into the equivalent of a script like those followed by actors. We will see how touristification castrates systems and organisms that like uncertainty by sucking randomness out of them to the last drop — while providing them with the illusion of benefit. The guilty parties are the education system, planning the funding of teleological scientific research, the French baccalaureate, gym machines, etc.

And the electronic calendar.

But the worse touristification is the life we moderns lead in captivity, during our leisure hours: Friday night opera, scheduled parties, scheduled laughs. Again, golden jail.

This “goal-driven” attitude hurts deeply inside my existential self.

The Secret Thirst for Chance

Which brings us to the existential aspect of randomness. If you are not a washing machine or a cuckoo clock — in other words, if you are alive — something deep in your soul likes a certain measure of randomness and disorder.

There is a titillating feeling associated with randomness. We like the moderate (and highly domesticated) world of games, from spectator sports to having our breathing suspended between crap shoots during the next visit to Las Vegas. I myself, while writing these lines, try to avoid the tyranny of a precise and explicit plan, drawing from an opaque source inside me that gives me surprises. Writing is only worth it when it provides us with the tingling effect of adventure, which is why I enjoy the composition of books and dislike the straitjacket of the 750-word op-ed, which, even without the philistinism of the editor, bores me to tears. And, remarkably, what the author is bored writing bores the reader.

If I could predict what my day would exactly look like, I would feel a little bit dead.

As they say in the mother country, let us eat and then spit on political dissidents!

A hierarchy isn’t responsive enough to change. I’m still trying to get people to do occasionally what I ask. And if I was successful, maybe we wouldn’t have the right kind of company.

Much of modern life is preventable chronic stress injury.

You can’t predict in general, but you can predict that those who rely on predictions are taking more risks, will have some trouble, perhaps even go bust. Why? Someone who predicts will be fragile to prediction errors. An overconfident pilot will eventually crash the plane. And numerical prediction leads people to take more risks.

It’s easier to invent the future than to predict it.

A misquote by Jeff Bezos in a job ad that improved on the original quote from Alan Kay, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

At a management offsite in the late 1990s, a team of well-intentioned junior executives stood up before the company’s top brass and gave a presentation on a problem indigenous to all large organizations: the difficulty of coordinating far-flung divisions. The junior executives recommended a variety of different techniques to foster cross-group dialogue and afterward seemed proud of their own ingenuity. Then Jeff Bezos, his face red and the blood vessel in his forehead pulsing, spoke up.

“I understand what you’re saying, but you are completely wrong,” he said. “Communication is a sign of dysfunction. It means people aren’t working together in a close, organic way. We should be trying to figure out a way for teams to communicate less with each other, not more.”

That confrontation was widely remembered. “Jeff has these aha moments,” says David Risher. “All the blood in his entire body goes to his face. He’s incredibly passionate. If we was a table pounder, he would be pounding the table.”

At the meeting and in public speeches afterward, Bezos vowed to run Amazon with an emphasis on decentralization and independent decision-making. “A hierarchy isn’t responsive enough to change,” he said. “I’m still trying to get people to do occasionally what I ask. And if i was successful, maybe we wouldn’t have the right kind of company.”

Bezos’s counterintuitive point was that coordination among employees wasted time, and that the people closest to problems were usually in the best position to solve them. That would come to represent something akin to the conventional wisdom in the high-tech industry over the next decade. The companies that embraced this philosophy, like Google, Amazon, and, later, Facebook, were in part drawing lessons from theories about lean and agile software development. In the seminal high-tech book The Mythical Man-Month, IBM veteran and computer science professor Frederick Brooks argued that adding manpower to complex software projects actually delayed progress…

[Norman Mailer] did keep certain early experiences secret, but not many. He said he used them as “crystals,” and shined a light through them to illume later experiences. Most of these were from his childhood and adolescence. He called experience “the church of one’s acquired knowledge.” For him, the best experiences were unforeseen, experiences that hit you like a brick tossed over a fence.

The earliest reference I found to Mailer saying “the church of one’s acquired experience” comes from someone quoting him in The New Statesman in 1983.

Fred Van Ackerman: What I did was for the good of the country.
Bob Munson: Fortunately, our country always manages to survive patriots like you.

It was never wise for a ruler to eschew the trappings of power, for power itself flows in no small measure from such trappings.

One of the things I’ve always found is that you’ve gotta start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to try to sell it. I’ve made this mistake probably more than anybody else in this room and I got the scar tissue to prove it.

Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or do you want to come with me and change the world?

“I am not satisfied.” This is the mantra of the leader. As a leader, you are never satisfied with the present, because in your head you can see a better future, and the friction between the “what is” and the “what could be” burns you, stirs you up, propels you forward. This is leadership.

Mistakes will be made by the way. Some mistakes will be made along the way. That’s good good because at least some decisions being made along the way. We will find the mistakes and we’ll fix them.

I used to have a temper. Now I have a passion for justice.

Indeed, all books, each and every book ever written, could be said to be offered to the reader as a form of self-help. Textbooks, those whores, are particularly explicit in acknowledging this…

Kreizler and I are old men now, and New York is a very different place — as J. P. Morgan told us the night we visited him in his Black Library, the city, like the country generally, was on the verge of a tumultuous metamorphosis in 1896. Thanks to Theodore and many of his political allies, we have been transformed into a great power, and New York is more than ever the crossroads of the world. The crime and corruption that are still the firm foundations of city life have taken on ever more businesslike trappings — Paul Kelly, for example, has gone on to become an important leader of organized labor.

Every human being must find his own way to cope with such severe loss, and the only job of a true friend is to facilitate whatever method he chooses.

You are probably not in a position to know, Doctor…that we are at a crossroads, both in New York and in the country as a whole. This city is changing. Dramatically. Ph, I don’t simply mean the population, with the influx of immigrants. I mean the city itself. Twenty years ago, New York was still primarily a port — the harbor was our chief source of business. Today, with other ports challenging our preeminence, shipping and receiving have been eclipsed by both manufacture and banking. Manufacture, as you know, requires workers, and other, less fortunate, nations in the world have provided them. The leaders of organized labor claim that such workers are treated unfairly here. But fairly or no, they continue to come, because it is better than what they have left behind…We are not obligated to provide everyone who comes to this country with a good life…We are obligated to provide them with a chance to attain that life, through discipline and hard work. That chance is more than they have anywhere else. That is why they keep coming…We shall not be able to offer such a chance, in future, should our national economic development — which is currently in a state of deep crisis — be retarded by foolish political ideas born in the ghettos of Europe…Any events which can be prostituted to serve the purposes of those ideas must be suppressed.

And then Laszlo got that look in this eyes, the one that said we had to get out, get into a cab, and get back to our headquarters. He pled pressing business to Wissler, who very much wanted to talk further, and promised to return for another visit soon. Then he bolted for the door, leaving me to apologize more fully for the abrupt departure — which, not surprisingly, Wissler didn’t seem to mind at all. Scientists’ minds may jump around like amorous toads, but they do seem to accept such behavior in one another.

To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.

As usual in the PC business, the prize didn’t go to the inventor but to the exploiter of the invention.

It was the Work-Out program of the early 1990s that gave birth to GE’s voracious appetite for new ideas. This program put to rest the long-held view that only the CEO and GE’s senior management knew what was best for its employees. As chief financial officer Dennis Dammerman observes: “Historically, at GE, inventors and creators, rather than doers, were made into heroes. You wanted to take personal credit for everything good that happened, because that’s how you got to be a hero. Look at Thomas Edison. He wasn’t a very good businessman. It was J. P. Morgan who bailed him out in 1892, but it was obviously Thomas Edison, not J. P. Morgan, who was the hero of our company in the 1890s. Well, today, you get to be a hero not just by inventing but also by recognizing a good idea and having your team implement it.” If GE had to rely on Jack Welch for all its ideas, the CEO remarks wryly, “it would take only an hour for it to sink.

First you win. Then you do good.

Be skeptical of concepts that divorce war from its political nature, particularly those that promise fast, cheap victory through technology.

What is it about the modern GOP that so many of its leaders are correct on the righteousness of either the Civil War or the Iraq War, but rarely both?

Give me sweet lies, and keep your bitter truths.

It was a strange and delicious emotion, an intense dreaming and anguish…I became humanized and lifted out of my youthful savagery….But the fates were unkind and we were not allowed to marry.

In his book “The Lucky Country” (1964), the Australian social critic Donald Horne decried the mediocrity of Australian political and business culture. The book’s most famous line was “Australia is a lucky country, run mainly by second-rate people who share its luck.” The phrase lost its meaning over time, however, as it was widely adopted as a kind of sunny national motto.

[John Jacob Astor III’s] credo, which he passed on to his only son, William Waldorf, along with a scorn for American life in general, was “Work hard, but never work after dinner,” and the equally joyless “Always take the trick. When the opportunity you seek is before you, seize it. Do not wait until tomorrow on the supposition that your chance will become better, for you may never see it again.”

The road to success is paved with mistakes well handled.

True friends stab you in the front.

“Lord help the poor bears and beavers,” said Colonel Davy Crockett, amazed at the amount of money Astor must have taken out of the fur trade to build such a palace [as Astor House].

People duck as a natural reflex when something is hurled at them. Similarly, the excellence reflect is a natural reaction to fix something that isn’t right, or to improve something that could be better. The excellence reflex is rooted in instinct and upbringing, and then constantly honed through awareness, caring, and practice. The overarching concern to do the right thing well is something we can’t train for. Either it’s there or it isn’t. So we need to train how to hire for it.

There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity.

Influence is largely a matter of patience.

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.

Matisse considered it to be a particularly important work and later commented that in this canvas he had used black to paint light.

Interior With a Violin by Henri Matisse

…like the thought of my death, it burns in my private heart with a tiny, brutalizing flame.

Khal Drogo waved him away. “I need no man’s help,” he said, in a voice proud and hard. He stood, unaided, towering over them all. A fresh wave of blood ran down his breasts from where Ogo’s arakh had cut off his nipple. Dany moved quickly to his side. “I am no man,” she whispered, “so you may lean on me.”

There’s a fable about returning Roman generals who rode in victory parades through the streets of the capital; a slave stood behind them, whispering in their ears, “All glory is fleeting.” Nobody does that for professional athletes. Jordan couldn’t have known that the closest he’d get to immortality was during that final walk off the court, the one symbolically preserved in the print in his office. All that can happen in the days and years that follow is for the shining monument he built to be chipped away, eroded. Maybe he realizes that now. Maybe he doesn’t. But when he sees Joe Montana joined on the mountaintop by the next generation, he has to realize that someday his picture will be on a screen next to LeBron James as people argue about who was better.

Paris, needless to say, is quite different from L.A., which in comparison is a newborn city, though they are similar in one crucial way — both are places where people believe they will be able, with a little good luck, to step into the lives they are destined for.