Steve Jobs: Commencement Speech

Steve Jobs: Commencement Speech

In the spring 2005, Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, delivered a commencement speech to the graduating class of Stanford University. The speech connected with the audience, as well as the broader pubic due to the advice and perspective given by Jobs from his personal and professional life. The speech has increased in popularity in recent months with reports about Jobs’ current health. In 2010, when asked by journalist, Walter Mossberg, what he would add to the speech today, Jobs said, “I would turn up the volume on it.” Below is a summary of the speech’s three key themes.

Death – Every day ask yourself, if today was the last day of my life . . . my last day on earth, would I want to do what I am about to go do (e.g., job)? If the answer is no too many days in a row, you need to change something. Remembering that you will be dead soon is the most important tool to help you make the big choices in life. Almost everything in life falls away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap of thinking that you have something to lose. No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven do not want to die to get there. Yet, death is the destination that we all share. Your time on earth is limited, so do not waste it living someone else’s life. Do not be trapped by dogma, which is living with the limitations and results of other people’s thinking. Do not let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. Most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, as they somehow already know what you want to become. Everything else is truly secondary.

Love – I have been fortunate because I have always loved what I have done for a living. I started Apple when I was 20. We launched the Macintosh when I was 30. I was fired the same year. The turn of events did not change the fact that I still loved what I was doing. Ultimately, the heaviness of being successful left me and the lightness of starting over came over me. It was one of the most creative periods of my life, including starting NeXT and Pixar. Apple subsequently bought NeXT and I returned to the company. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Do not lose faith. The only thing that kept me going is that I loved what I did. You have got to find what you love to do. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to feel truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you have not found what you love to do, keep looking and do not settle. As with all matters of the heart, you will know when you find it. Like any great relationship, it will only get better with time.

Trust – By chance, I attended a calligraphy course where I was exposed to fonts that ended up greatly influencing the user interface of the Macintosh. In life, you cannot connect all of the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backward. As you make choices, you have to trust in something, including destiny, gut, karma, etc. Believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to trust in your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path and that will make all the difference.

ADD-ON (10-05-11)
Steve Jobs (1955-2011). RIP.

All contents copyright © 2011, Josh Lowry. All rights reserved.

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