Skip to main content

Biographer: Mortality motivated Steve Jobs

Brandon Griggs, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Walter Isaacson talks about his upcoming Steve Jobs book on CBS' "60 Minutes"
  • Isaacson: Apple co-founder regretted not getting surgery earlier for his cancer
  • The first authorized biography of Jobs hits stores Monday

(CNN) -- Upon being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs put off surgery for nine months against the advice of his doctors while he tried to treat the disease with a special macrobiotic diet -- a decision he later regretted, his biographer said.

When asked why he didn't have the surgery right away, Jobs said, "I didn't want my body to be opened," according to an interview with the biographer, Walter Isaacson, that aired Sunday on CBS News' "60 Minutes." By the time Jobs was finally operated on, the cancer had spread to the surrounding tissue, Isaacson said.

But his mortality also motivated Jobs, who died October 5, to create some of Apple's boldest products in his final years, Isaacson told CBS's Steve Kroft.

"He talked a lot to me about what happened when he got sick and how it focused him," said Isaacson, in a transcript of the show provided by CBS News.

Steve Jobs' take on faith, afterlife
Jobs initially resisted cancer surgery
Remembering Jobs as an innovator
The world remembers Steve Jobs

"He said he no longer wanted to go out, no longer wanted to travel the world. He would focus on the products. He knew the couple of things he wanted to do, which was the iPhone and then the iPad. He had a few other visions. I think he would've loved to have conquered television."

Isaacson's book, "Steve Jobs," goes on sale Monday. In the "60 Minutes" interview, Isaacson described Jobs as a driven, eccentric and sometimes cruel man who grew more reflective and fatalistic in his later years.

"I saw my life as an arc and that it would end, and compared to that nothing mattered," Jobs told him in one recorded interview. "You're born alone, you're going to die alone. And does anything else really matter? I mean, what is it exactly is it that you have to lose, Steve? You know? There's nothing."

Adopted as a baby, Jobs recalled as a child once confronting his parents in tears about why his real parents had rejected him. His parents sat him down and said, "No, you don't understand. We specifically picked you out."

"He said, 'From then on, I realized that I was not -- just abandoned. I was chosen. I was special,' " Isaacson said. "And I think that's the key to understanding Steve Jobs."

Always something of a rebel, Jobs often thought the usual rules didn't apply to him, Isaacson said. He went through a period as a young man where he didn't bathe regularly -- his managers at Atari made him work the night shift because his co-workers complained about his body odor -- and drove a Mercedes with no license plate because he didn't want people tracking him.

Jobs also was a Buddhist and a spiritual person whose religious beliefs were altered by his cancer diagnosis, Isaacson said.

"I remember sitting in his backyard in his garden one day and he started talking about God. He said, 'Sometimes I believe in God, sometimes I don't. I think it's 50-50 maybe.

"But ever since I've had cancer, I've been thinking about it more. And I find myself believing a bit more. I kind of -- maybe it's 'cause I want to believe in an afterlife. That when you die, it doesn't just all disappear. The wisdom you've accumulated. Somehow it lives on.' "

Isaacson's book is based on more than 40 interviews with Jobs conducted over two years, as well as interviews with more than 100 family members, friends, adversaries, competitors and colleagues.

Simon & Schuster says that although Jobs cooperated with the book, he asked for no control over what was written nor the right to read it before it was published.

Isaacson, a former chairman of CNN and the former managing editor of Time magazine, which shares a parent company with CNN, has written biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Henry Kissinger. The 656-page Jobs book retails for $35.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Life of Steve Jobs
October 6, 2011 -- Updated 2029 GMT (0429 HKT)
Friends and colleagues of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs talk about his life and the legacy he leaves behind.
We want to hear your stories. Did you ever meet Jobs? How did he change your life? Share your photos, videos and memories with CNN iReport.
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs introduces the new Power Mac G4 computer in San Francisco in 1999.
Ever since Steve Jobs worked on the first Apple computer, he has strived to make computer products "insanely great."
October 7, 2011 -- Updated 1559 GMT (2359 HKT)
It's well known that the secret to Apple's meteoric success is the creativity of Steve Jobs. But what drove the company's celebrity founder?
From the launch of the iPhone to his meeting with Bill Gates, we look at five of Steve Jobs' best moments as Apple's consummate showman.
October 6, 2011 -- Updated 0330 GMT (1130 HKT)
President Barack Obama hailed Steve Jobs as one of America's greatest innovators, a man "brave enough to think differently."
October 6, 2011 -- Updated 1758 GMT (0158 HKT)
Steve Jobs' enthusiasm and sense of humor were on full display at the launch of some of Apple's greatest hits.
October 6, 2011 -- Updated 0322 GMT (1122 HKT)
Steve Jobs has consistently captured attention with his stage events. On Wednesday evening, the world took to the Web to mourn his passing.
Steve Jobs died Oct. 5, 2011 at age 56. TIME takes a look at the Apple founder's storied, visionary career.
October 6, 2011 -- Updated 1812 GMT (0212 HKT)
As his illness kept him away from the office, it's been clear that we Steve jobs more than just upping the pixels on the phone camera and an ever-faster processor.
October 6, 2011 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Nearly 35 years ago, Steve Jobs and Apple Computers launched into the world of home computing.
ADVERTISEMENT