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Inspiring Three Stories of Steve Jobs Featured

23 October 2011
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Steve Jobs said these three stories at a presentation of diploma at Stanford.

I am honored to be with you today at the presentation of diplomas to one of the best universities in the world. I did not graduate from any university. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's all. Nothing grand. Just three simple stories of my life.

Steve Jobs

The first story - about connecting the dots.

I threw the Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a guest for about 18 months until he finally left. 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 insisted that I be adopted by college graduates, so I was destined to be adopted by a lawyer and his wife. However, for a minute before I got out into the light, they decided they wanted a girl. Therefore, they called at night and asked suddenly, a boy was born. You want it . They said, Sure. My biological mother later found out that my mother - never graduated from college, and my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the adoption papers. And only a few months later relented when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I went. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my parents were being spent on him. After six months, I have not seen value in it. I did not know what I want to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that everything will be fine. It was pretty scary, but looking back, I understand that this was the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop talking about the required classes that did not interest me and attend the ones that looked interesting.

It was not all romantic. I did not have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for 5 cents to buy food and 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 a lot of of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.

Here's an example

Reed College has always offered the best calligraphy. Throughout the campus every poster, every label was written calligraphy by hand. Since I dropped out and did not take the normal classes, I decided to calligraphy. I learned about serif and sans serif, a different 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 not would be able to understand.

None of this seemed to be useful for my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back. And Mack 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, its likely that no personal computer would have them there. If I had not dropped out, I would have never dropped in on that 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 ten years later it was very, very clear. Again, you can not 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 changed my life.

My second story - 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 after ten years Apple had grown from two people in a garage into a $ 2 billion company with 4,000 employees. We just released our finest creation - the Macintosh - a year earlier, and I just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started Well, as Apple grew we hired talented people to help me run the company and the first five years all went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. The Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was fired. And publicly. What was the meaning of my entire adult life was gone.

I do not know what to do for several months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton when I was being passed. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. It was a very public failure and I even thought about how to escape to hell. But something slowly began to dawn on me - I still loved what I did. The course of events at Apple had slightly changed everything. I had been rejected, but I loved. And in the end, I decided to start over.

Then I did not realize it, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could happen to me. The burden of being successful was replaced by the lightness beginner again, less sure about everything else. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started company named NeXT, another company named, Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar has created 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 the current revival of Apple. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I had not been fired from Apple. Was awful tasting medicine, but the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Do not lose faith. I am convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved his work. You need to find something you like. And that is as true for your work, as well as for the relationship. Your job is to fill a large part of life and the only way to be truly happy - do what you think is great work. And the only way to do great things - to love what you do. If you have not found it yet, keep looking. Do not stop. As happens with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any good relationship, it just gets better and better with age. So keep looking until you find it. Do not stop.

My third story - about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote - something like this If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right. Quote impressed me and since then, 33 years, I look in the mirror every morning and ask myself If today were the last day of my life if I wanted to do what 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 - the most important tool that helps 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 face of death, leaving only what is truly important. The memory of death - the best way to avoid thinking that you have something to lose. You are already nak_d. You have no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 730 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor in the pancreas. I did not even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me that this type of cancer is incurable and that I should 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 children what would you say in the next 10 years. It means to make sure that everything is buttoned up so that your family was as easy as possible. It means goodbye.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy - they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, said that when doctors viewed the cells under a microscope, they began to cry, because I was a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and now I'm all right.

Death then came to me the closest, and hopefully closer for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this with more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept Nobody wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven do not want to die. And yet death - the destination for all of us. No one has ever escaped it. So it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It - the reason for change. It clears out the old to make way for new. Right now the new you - but once (not too long from now) - you'll be old and be cleared. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it's true.

Your time is limited, so do not waste it living someone else's life. Do not be trapped by dogma which is living with other people's thoughts. Do not 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 who you want to be in reality. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, I read an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog (Catalog of the Earth), which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was written by a fellow named Stewart Brand, who lives not far from here in Menlo Park. It was the late Sixties, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and Polaroid cameras. Something like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google. It was idealistic, and overflowing with big ideas.

Steward and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and eventually published the final number. It was the mid 70s and I was your age. On the back cover was a picture of the road early in the morning, like the one on which you may find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. It was their farewell message. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I always wished that for myself. And now, when you graduate to begin a new, I wish that for you. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. Many thanks to all.

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