This is a transcript of a welcome speech by Steve Jobs, one of the best motivational speeches, CEO of Apple and Pixar Animation, given to Stanford College graduates. The speech consists of three stories in which Steve describes how he dropped out of college, how he founded Apple, how he was fired from the company he founded and how he eventually returned to Apple as CEO. It talks about ups, downs, life and death.
STEVE JOBS (1955. – 2011.)
“I am honored to be with you today, at your graduation at one of the largest faculties in the world. Truth be told, I never graduated from college, this is the closest I’ve ever been to it. Today, I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it, nothing very important. Just three stories.
The first story is about stacking dice.
I dropped out of Reed College after the first six months, but I stopped by There occasionally over the next eighteen months, before I actually dropped out.
So why did I give up? It started before I was really born. My biological mother was a young, unmarried college student and she decided to give me up for adoption. She had a strong conviction that I should be adopted by those who graduated so that everything was set up for me so that I was adopted by a lawyer and his wife at birth. However, when I was born, they decided at the last minute that they actually wanted a girl. So, my parents, who were on the waiting list, had a call in the middle of the night: “Unexpectedly, we have a male baby, do you want her?”.
They said, “Of course.”
My biological mother later learned that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never finished high school. She refused to sign the final document for adoption. She relented a few months later when my parents promised that one day I would go to college. This was the beginning of my life. Seventeen years later, I went to college. However, I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents ’savings were spent on tuition for my college. After six months, I couldn’t find any value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. And I had no idea how college would help me figure that out. And so I spent all the money of my parents, who saved it all their lives. I decided to give up and believe that everything would be fine. It was pretty scary back then, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The minute I dropped out of college, I could stop going to compulsory classes that didn’t interest me and start going to those that seemed interesting to me. It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in my friends ’rooms. I collected Coca-Cola bottles for a 5 cent deposit to buy food and walk 11km around town on Sunday nights to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna Temple. I loved it. And much of what I came across following my curiosity and intuition turned into something priceless later.
Let me give you one example: Reed College at the time offered perhaps the best calligraphy classes in the country. On campus, each poster and sticker on each drawer was beautifully handwritten. Since I dropped out of college and didn’t have to attend normal classes, I decided to take calligraphy classes to learn it. I learned about serif and beserif font types, about the variations in the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes excellent typography excellent. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science cannot register, and I realized that it was fascinating.
However, none of this offered hope for any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we designed the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. We built it all into a Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never taken that course in college, a Mac would never have had numerous font types or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows simply copied the Mac, it’s likely that no PC today would have that.
If I had never dropped out of college I would never have gone to calligraphy classes and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography they have. Of course, when I was in college, it was impossible to put these cubes together looking ahead. But looking back 10 years later, that is very, very clear. Again, you can’t stack dice by looking ahead, you can only stack them by looking back.
So, you have to believe that the dots will connect in your future. You have to believe in something, your loop, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dice will come together gives you the confidence to follow your heart even when you feel like you have strayed from the beaten path and that will create a decisive advantage in life.
My second story is about love and loss.
I was lucky – I found what I loved to do early in life. Voz and I founded Apple in my parents ’garage when I was 20 years old. We worked hard and in 10 years, Apple has grown from just the two of us into a $ 2 billion company with over 4,000 employees! Our best creation – we made a Macintosh a year earlier and I just turned 30.
And then I got fired! How can you get fired from a company you founded? Well, as Apple grew, we hired someone when I thought he was very talented, to run the company with me, and in the first years, things went well. But then our visions of the future began to separate and we eventually parted ways. When that happened, our top executives sided with him. So, in my 30s, I was kicked out. And that very publicly thrown out. What was the focus of my whole life disappeared and it was devastating. For several months I really didn’t know what to do. I felt like I had let down the previous generation of entrepreneurs – as if I had dropped the baton that had been handed to me.
I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing things up. It was a very public failure and I was even thinking of escaping from the valley. But, slowly, something started to occur to me: I still loved what I was doing! Developments at Apple have not changed that in the slightest. I was rejected, but I still introduced was in love. So I decided to start over!
I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that the dismissal from Apple was the best thing that could ever happen to me! The difficulty of being successful has been replaced by the ease and freshness of a new beginning, less certain about everything. It set me free to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. Over the next five years, I started a company called NeXT, another company called Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar has created the world’s first animated film – Toy Story and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In an amazing turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I went back to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. Lorin 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 a medicine with a terrible taste, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I am convinced that the only thing that forced me to continue was that I did what I loved. You have to find what you love.
This is as true for business as it is for your partners. Your work will take up a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you think is a great job. And the only way to do a great job is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t calm down. As is the case with all things of the heart, you will know when you find it. As with all great relationships, it gets better and better with age.
So keep searching until you find it. Don’t calm down!
My third story is about death.
When I was 17, I read a quote that was something like this: “If you live each day as if it were your last, one day you will surely be right.” It made an impression on me and since then, for the last 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, “If today is my last day in life, do I want to do what I should be doing today?” And whenever the answer is “NO”, for many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
The reminder that I will soon be dead is the most important tool I have ever come across to help me make great choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of shame or failure – these things simply disappear in the face of death, leaving only what is really important. Reminding that you are going to die is the best way, as far as I know, to avoid the traps of thinking that you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
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 the pancreas was. Doctors told me that this is almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable and that I should 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 a medical code to prepare you to die. That meant trying to tell our kids everything we wanted in the next ten years in just a few months. That means making sure everything is arranged so that it is as easy as possible for your family. That means saying your “goodbye.” I lived with that diagnosis all day. Late that evening, I had a biopsy, in which they put an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and intestines, put a needle in my pancreas and took a few cells from the tumor. I was under sedation, but my wife, who was There, told me that when they saw the cancer cells under a microscope, the doctors started crying, because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that could be cured by surgery. I had surgery and now I’m fine.
This was my closest confrontation with death and I hope it is the closest for the next few decades. Having survived that, I can now speak to you with a little more confidence than was the case when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept. Nobody wants to die. Teas and people who want to go to heaven do not want to die to go There. And yet, death is a destination we all share. No one ever escaped. And so it should be because death is very likely the best invention of life. It is an agent of life change. She erases the old to make way for the new. Right now, it is you who is new, but one day not so far from now, you will gradually become old and you will be cleansed. I’m sorry I’m so dramatic, but that’s quite true.
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which means living with other people’s thinking results. Don’t let the noise of other people’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They already somehow know what you really want to become. Everything else is secondary.
When I was young, There was one amazing publication called “Catalog of the Whole Earth,” which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was made by Stuart Brand, not far from here, in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic feeling. That was in the late 60s, before There were personal computers and electronic publishing, so everything was done using typewriters, scissors and Polaroid cameras. It was a kind of Google in paper form, 35 years before Google appeared, it was idealistic and full of neat tools and important concepts. Stewart and his team published several editions of the “Catalog of the Whole Earth” and then decided to publish the latest edition. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back of the book of their latest edition was a photo of an early morning trip, the kind of road you could hitchhike on if you’re adventurous. Below it were the words: “Stay eager (knowledge). Stay frivolous. ” That was their farewell message.
Stay eager (knowledge). Stay frivolous. And I’ve always wanted it for myself, and now that you’re graduating and new again, I want it for you.
Stay eager (knowledge).
Thank you all very much”.
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