All the Valuable Worklife Lessons in This Autobiographical Ode to Pixar

October 20, 2016, 2:10 PM UTC
Interviews Executives From Pixar Animation Studios
Employees and visitors sit outside at the Pixar Animation Studios headquarters in Emeryville, California, U.S., on Friday, June 21, 2013. Walt Disney Co.s Pixar animation "Monsters University" took first place at U.S. and Canadian theaters this past weekend with $82 million in ticket sales, overcoming Brad Pitts zombie apocalypse tale "World War Z," which was second with $66 million. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg via Getty Images

In his new book, excerpted in the new issue of Fortune magazine and posted online Wednesday, Lawrence Levy wisely ties his experience as the chief financial officer of Pixar to his boss, Steve Jobs. Five years after his death and with millions of words typed about him, we remain fascinated by every aspect of the life of the business and creative genius who upended so many industries.

Yet the best parts of Levy’s book aren’t really about Jobs. And they aren’t about making animated films or the power of innovative technology. In fact, To Pixar and Beyond: My Unlikely Journey With Steve Jobs to Make Entertainment History is a lovely and surprising discourse on topics business books rarely touch. Levy is a rare humanist in the world of finance and technology. In describing the pre-IPO, pre-Toy Story Pixar, he captures the fragile and wonderful workplace dynamic anyone who loves their (difficult) job can appreciate.

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Levy’s experience was unique. Tasked by Jobs to take public a company that fit no one’s norms of an IPO prospect, Levy shows his diligent quest to learn how to position Pixar to investors. He also learned valuable lessons on the job about how to be an intermediary between a powerful but not-always-present leader and the people whose sweat equity made Pixar what it was. You wouldn’t be wrong in assuming there was tension between the great man and his employees. Reading how Levy played go-between is eye-opening and inspiring.

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So let’s see: This delightful book is about finance, creative genius, workplace harmony, and luck. (Levy never does explain exactly why Jobs chose him to be Pixar’s CFO.) That’s a lot for one volume by a first-time author with a legal and financial background covering exceedingly well-trod material. At the very end, Levy’s book takes a totally unexpected turn toward being about life itself, and I won’t spoil the ending for you. Life obviously is about more than business, but few books discuss both so well. To Pixar and Beyond goes on sale Nov. 1.

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