Sunday, November 27, 2005

Ten-and-a-Halfth Bulletin--A Must-Share Item

My friend Anvar Alikhan sent me this by e-mail.

Stay hungry

The address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and Pixar Animation
Studios, at the Stanford University Commencement, June 2005.


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.

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
eve

rything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his
wife. 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
found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my
father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final
adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents
promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college
that 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
floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy
food 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
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 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
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. 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 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,
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.

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 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 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 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.

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. 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, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even
know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was 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 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 a 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 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 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
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 other's 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 1960's, 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.

4 comments:

√úbermaniam said...

Old one. Good one. But as relevant as ever. Nice blog. My first time here. Regards

Mrudula said...

People who are successful (ethically, that's the operative word) are creative and courageous. Wonderful post.

Tiny Black Cat said...

that, right there, is one of the very best forwarded messages i've seen. extremely inspiring.

and... oh, incidentally, my first time here as well.

Marginalien said...

Thanks, all.