Home » A Memoir of My Life with Steve Jobs by Chrisann Brennan (Transcript)

A Memoir of My Life with Steve Jobs by Chrisann Brennan (Transcript)

Chrisann Brennan @Talks at Google

The Bite in the Apple: A Memoir of My Life with Steve Jobs – An intimate look at the life of Steve Jobs by Chrisann Brennan, the mother of his first child providing rare insight into Jobs’s formative, lesser-known years…


Chrisann Brennan 

I just wrote this. It wasn’t a part of my talk. And I want to say that I know a lot of people have profound feelings about Steve Jobs. He was a gem and a rare one. And I want to ask you to please only take what’s of value of my talk today and let the rest go. This is such a new world to me.

So many people have so many thoughts. There are so many angles of perception on him. But today, I’m simply talking about my perceptions. And I hope you’ll feel it’s a valuable contribution in total.

I also want to say that I don’t really know the technical world that you guys live in. I don’t know what he created. So this is a new experience for me. And please forgive me for my naivete at certain points. So I’ll begin.

Today, I wanted to talk about creativity and initiative, first mine in writing my book and then Steve’s in creativity as I perceived it. And thirdly, about Creativity, with a capital C, into the future.

Because whether we’re talking about children, new technology, the arts, companies, countries, or the whole world, now more than ever we need to be more conscious in our creating. We’re all so creative that I think we need a metalevel of considerations, councils even, to figure out where we’re going and what we want our outcomes to be.

Here I am at Google, and you have the unofficial byline of “don’t be evil.” And this is what I’m talking about, except more of it, a long list of ethical considerations that people can cross-check because everything is affected by our creating.

Before I start diving into my story, I want you to know that I’m predominantly right brained. I wrote this book cinemagraphically because I’m first and foremost an artist. And the practices of filming help me bridge my experience as a painter into writing. I think in a combination of images, symbols, metaphors, and words. In fact, I don’t even think there’s a big difference between symbols, images, metaphors, and words because they’re as much an energetic fact as this podium is for me. Mainly, I think in terms of energetics.

And I see energy and I have found visualization to be a force for actualization. This is one of my most recent paintings. It was commissioned. And yet when I paint for someone else, I also paint for myself. The painting lay the ground for my book. This was my version of an outline. I didn’t know what it fully meant until I was well into the writing. In fact, I’m still discovering what it means.

I think the future is about left and right brain integration too. It’s the evolutionary next step for people everywhere. And it’s, of course, already started. If I have time, which I don’t think I will, I’ll do a quick decode on the painting at the end of the talk.

And if I don’t, I’ll post the image and a decode on my book’s website, thebiteintheapple.com, by the end of February.

So there were three things that I decided I would never do in this life. I had enough self-knowledge by the time I was 35 years old to know what I wasn’t interested or good at. One was study of history. I’d gotten crippling migraines, at least once a week, in my US history classes when I was young. I wasn’t interested in so much focus on men’s wars, politics, and treaties.

Number two is that I would never play the drums because my sense of rhythm was so reliably wonky.

Number three is that I’d never write a book, since writing was not my strength and because I knew it was way too much information to organize and be accountable to.

Yet here I’ve written a book, and its own history, and it was in part due to the rhythms in the language that I became interested in the craft of writing for its own sake. I’d written a couple of good papers in art college. But prior to writing this book, that was my only experience of real concentrated writing. Writing is traumatic and stressful for me. I love the ideas, but they seem to bottleneck if I have to sequence them on a page.

Yet I decided I had to write this book myself because the process of writing was the only way I could drop down into a depth of memory and manage my own message.

I started in 2006. And it took me over six years of full-time work to complete. Now I tell myself pay attention to what I would never do, because writing this book has been one of the most important things I’ve ever done.

I also want to emphasize that if I can write this book, I’m really sure almost anybody can do anything. Over the years, a few people had suggested I write my story. Yet many more warned me off of it, even going so far to suggest that I didn’t have the right to speak about my life or my history since it involved Steve Jobs. And I think many people were assuming the worst and implying that it was bad form for a woman to speak about the personal life of a man who was a public figure. But I did not write this as a tell-all.

Instead, I felt my story was important, one, because I knew Steve before it all happened and also because we came of age together in a certain way. Two, because I witnessed firsthand Steve’s changes as Apple began. And three, because we co-parented the child through all the years. Also four, I have a universal message and there’s a universal message in my book.

Steve and I met when we were 17. And I was his first love and I’m the mother of his first child and my only child. We knew, loved, and admired each other. And when things got difficult between us as Apple took off, I witnessed his incremental changes from sweet, mystic, poet, super-bright, goofy guy into a ruthless, stunningly successful business tycoon. In the end, it is precisely because of my direct experience with him that I feel I have important contributions to make on the body of knowledge with him.

And the other thing is I never intended to pull him from hero status. I know so many people love him. And it would’ve been a balanced approach. I was always more interested in the human side of him.

Did I understand everything that happened with Steve Jobs? Absolutely not. But I still think I have an unusual vantage point of some things that I think are unique and will be valued, may be valued, will be valued. So much seems to hang on my memory, my integrity, and my insight.

In 2006, I became sick and it lasted for years. I had one of those undiagnosable illnesses that probably came from a combination of exhaustion, mold in the apartment I was living in, and too much exposure to fumes from painting. With a compromised immune system, I got one terrible illness after another and had to spend a lot of time doing nothing. Bored and languishing, I slowed way, way down and became willing to consider and then to decide to write my story.

So with nothing else to occupy my time and in the most tremulous, naive, childish first steps that I began by writing a list of chapters and some good ideas in a cafe in Tiburon, California. To say I was reluctant to be public about Steve and my long history is an understatement. It’s nuanced and a difficult story. And it was hard to sort through.

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