This morning I had the chance to present a text that has meant a lot to me to the White Mountain community at morning meeting. In 2005, Steve Jobs delivered a well-received Commencement Speech to the graduating class of Stanford University, challenging them to find and dedicate their life to doing what they love. Below is the text from my morning reading.
Today, I am going to be reading from the transcript of the 2005 Commencement Speech given by Steve Jobs to the graduating class of Stanford University. Although geared towards seniors as we embark upon the last week of the year, I believe it’s message is applicable to everyone. A short, yet powerful, address his words brought me much solace and comfort as I worked to figure out my place in this world shortly after my graduation from college.
As with most people, my parents had plenty of expectations for me. My father, a doctor, and my mother, now a retired teacher, had dreams of me following in my father’s footsteps. Clearly that did not happen. And I felt that I had let a lot of people very close to me down when I made that decision including a version of myself.
With my parents, you see, there was a certain level of expectation and pressure for me to live a certain way, to choose a certain life. Now, I’m not saying don’t listen to your parents, go AWOL on them or even to make choices without regard for consequence. Your parents are some of the wisest and most insightful when it comes to you. In most cases, your parents are the ones that know you the best. I am saying that there is value in staying true to who you are, but first you have to know who that is.
My journey towards self-discovery and authenticity has not been an easy one. It has been marred with doubts and concerns, questions and challenges. And I’ve turned many times to parts of this speech to remind me of what’s important: to stay true to myself. I think it was Judy Garland who said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” So it is with that that I begin his speech.
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.
I am actually only going to read the second story and parts of the third because those are the parts that have meant the most to me and to me are the most true. I’ve also edited a bit for content.
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 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4,000 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 the 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 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 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.
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 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 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 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. 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.
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 have 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.
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.
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 Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought 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 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 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 you.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
Thank you all very much.
His speech ends there. And so I want to encourage you to stay true to who you are, believe in and love the work that you do, stay hungry or always be ambitious, stay foolish or don’t be limited or trapped by dogma, always question, always reflect, always be in search of your authentic self. Because you, your gifts, your talents, those are the best things you could ever give this world. Thank you.
By: Sarah Wilfred, Director of Communications