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Fast Company: Reporter Brent Schlender covered Steve Jobs for many years, and he recently discovered recordings from interviews with Jobs that had been kept in a storage shed. Re-listening to those tapes convinced Schlender that Jobs' "Wilderness Years," the period between 1985 and 1996 when he didn't work at Apple, were some of the most important of the tech visionary's life. "In fact, this middle period was the most pivotal of his life," writes Schlender. "And perhaps the happiest. He finally settled down, married, and had a family. He learned the value of patience and the ability to feign it when he lost it. Most important, his work with the two companies he led during that time, NeXT and Pixar, turned him into the kind of man, and leader, who would spur Apple to unimaginable heights upon his return."
Schlender adds that the lessons contained in the tapes "are powerful: Jobs matured as a manager and a boss; learned how to make the most of partnerships; found a way to turn his native stubbornness into a productive perseverance. He became a corporate architect, coming to appreciate the scaffolding of a business just as much as the skeletons of real buildings, which always fascinated him. He mastered the art of negotiation by immersing himself in Hollywood, and learned how to successfully manage creative talent, namely the artists at Pixar. Perhaps most important, he developed an astonishing adaptability that was critical to the hit-after-hit-after-hit climb of Apple's last decade. All this, during a time many remember as his most disappointing."