October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs: Have The Courage To Follow Your Heart

On June 12, 2005 Steve Jobs made a commencement address to the graduates of Stanford University. As I was watching the evening news, they played a number of excerpts from the speech, and what he had to say really resonated with me.

He talked about three stories he wanted to share with the graduates. He started by saying:

“I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.”

In connecting the dots, he spoke about being adopted, growing up with his adoptive parents, and dropping out of college after studying calligraphy. He mentioned that his calligraphy studies influenced the first Mac design..

“And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them.

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.”

He spoke openly about how he was fired from the company he founded at 30, and that he then had to look for new challenges.

“During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.”

Steve talked about receiving a cancer diagnosis, and how it affected him, and his view of life and living.

“This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”

If you ask anyone how they feel when a medical professional gives you a prognosis, that will likely result in your untimely death, your immediate reaction is fear, coupled with sadness. The cancer has already afflicted your body - you don’t feel great - and you’ve just had to undergo a battery of tests and scans.

You worry about work, and think about your health insurance coverage, and wonder if you’ll be able to endure the prescribed treatment. You think about who you need to tell, and contemplate the best way to do it. You wonder if you’ll be around for a day, months, or a few more years. You know intellectually that you should be living what life you have left to the fullest, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s impossible. You need to preserve your funds for medical bills, and you don’t know if you’ll be physically able to travel, or celebrate your life, in the way that you would like to.

So you wait and you listen and you hope and you pray. If you’re lucky you get to blog about it, and remind yourself of what Steve Jobs said on that June day in 2005.

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

And if truth be told, that's another reason why I’m here.

Thanks Steve. Rest in peace.

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