STEVE JOBS: Stanford Commencement
I'm hornerd to be with you today for your commencement from one of the finest universites in this world. Truth be told, I never graduated from college. 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, umwed 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 is all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped up 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've got an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?". They said: "Of course." My biological mother found out later that my mother had nerver graduated from college and my father had nerver graduated from high school. She refused to sign at the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would go to college. This was my start in my life.
And 17 years later, I did go to college. But I naivety chose a college that was almost expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' were being spent on my college tuition. After 6 months later, I couldn't found the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. and no idea how college were 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 began dropping in on the ones that looked far more interesting. It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the $0.05 deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one food 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 to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:
Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction 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 10 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 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 the 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 looking backwards 10 years later. Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connected them looking backwards. So you have to trust the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road, it will give you the confidence to follow your heart. even when it leads you of the well-worn path, and what will make all the difference.
My second story is about love and loss.
I was lucky. I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I stated Apple in my parents' garage when I was 20. We work hard, and in 10 years Apple has 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 compony you started? 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 the our vision began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sides 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 genaration of entrepreneurs down that I had dropped the baton as it was beging passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to down 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. I didn't seen 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 being 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 compony named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would became my wife. Pixar went on to create the world's first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turned events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the techonology we developed at NeXT is the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together. I'm pretty sure none of this would happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it.
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 imporession on me, and since then, for the past 30 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the alst 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 day in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I'll be dead soon is most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything, all external expactations, all prides, all fear of embarrassment of failiure, these things just fall away in 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 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, ant it clearly showed a tumor on my pencreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctor told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and 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 doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try and tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be easy as possible for your family. It means to say you goodbyes. I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomache and into my intestines, put a needle into my pencreas and got a few cell from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscrope the doctor was crying, because it turned out to be a very rare from of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery, and thankfully I am fine now. This was the closest I've been to faceing death, and I hope it's the closest I get for a few more decades. Having live through it, I can now say this to you, with a bit more centainty that when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept: No one wants to die. Even people who want to go 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 at 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 to 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' options drawn out your own inner voice. And most impotantly, 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 a fellow named Steward Brand, not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life which his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before persional computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, overflowing with neat tools and great notions. Steward and his team put out sevaral issues of The Whole Earch Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970's and I was your age. On the back cover of their final 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 message as they sign 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 you. "Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish."
Thank you all very much.