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three stories

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  • Heather A Hannam
    Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and Pixar Animation Studios, delivered a truly inspirational commencement address to some 5,000 Stanford University
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 5, 2005
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      Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and Pixar Animation Studios, delivered
      truly inspirational commencement address to some 5,000 Stanford
      graduates. Without further adieu, his message:

      "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
      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.

      I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed
      around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So

      why did I drop out?

      It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed
      college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She

      felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so
      everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his


      Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they
      really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a
      call in the middle of the night asking: 'We have an unexpected baby boy;

      do you want him?' They said: 'Of course.' My biological mother later
      out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father
      never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption

      papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised
      I would someday go to college.

      And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college
      was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents'

      savings were being spent on my college tuition.

      After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I
      wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me
      figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had
      saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would

      all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was

      one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could
      stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin
      dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

      It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the
      in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5ยข deposits to buy
      with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get

      one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of

      what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out
      be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

      Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy
      in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every

      drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed.

      Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I
      decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned
      about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space
      between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography

      great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that
      science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

      None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But

      ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it

      all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the
      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.

      If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this
      calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful
      typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots

      looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear
      backwards ten years later.

      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,
      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.

      I was lucky--I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started

      Apple in my parents' garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10
      Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion
      company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest
      creation--the Macintosh--a year earlier, and I had just turned 30.

      And then I got fired.

      How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we

      hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me,

      and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of
      future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did,

      our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very
      publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone,
      and it was devastating.

      I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let
      the previous generation of entrepreneurs down--that I had dropped the
      baton as it was being passed to me.

      I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for
      up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about
      away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me--I still
      loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one
      bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to
      start over.

      Fired From Apple

      I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was

      the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of
      successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less

      sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative
      periods of my life.

      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 world's first computer
      animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful
      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
      of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family


      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


      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


      My Third Story is About Death.

      When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: 'If you live each

      day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right.'

      It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I
      looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the
      last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And

      whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I
      need to change something.

      Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever
      encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost
      everything--all external expectations, all pride, all fear of
      embarrassment or failure--these things just fall away in the face of
      death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are
      going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you
      something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to
      your heart.

      Diagnosed With Cancer

      About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer.

      I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my

      pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me
      was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I
      expect to live no longer than three to six months.

      My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is
      doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids
      everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just
      few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it
      will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your

      I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy,
      where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into

      my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the

      tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they

      viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it

      turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable
      with surgery.

      I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

      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
      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 other's opinions drown out your own
      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.

      When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth

      Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by
      fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he
      it to life with his poetic touch.

      This was in the late 1960s, before personal computers and desktop
      publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and Polaroid
      cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before
      Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and

      great notions.

      Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog,
      and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue.

      It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their
      issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you
      might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it

      were the words: 'Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.' It was their farewell
      as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished
      that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for


      Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

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