Stay Hungry, Stay Weird

Entrepreneurial icon Steve Jobs gave Stanford University graduates a masterclass on creative vision and living during his commencement address, last Sunday. Jobs, CEO and co-founder of Apple Computer and Pixar Animation Studios, shared three stories about life, death and love, imparting insights he gained from pivotal moments in his life upon the new graduates.
These critical moments were not all pleasant. Steve Jobs told graduates of his high profile firing from the company he helped create.
“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,” said Jobs. “It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”
Jobs was forced to leave Apple Computer in 1985 after a falling out with John Sculley, former president of PepsiCo, who was selected to help run the company. The board of directors sided with Sculley and Jobs was subsequently “very publicly out,” as he put it in the commencement speech.
During this transitional period, Jobs started NeXT and Pixar. Jobs returned to Apple Computer in 1997, Pixar created the first computer-animated feature film, “Toy Story,” and the technology of NeXT is now central to what Jobs has called Apple’s current renaissance.
Jobs urged students to find what they love, that while life will sometimes be difficult, they should never lose their faith.
“You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers,” Jobs told the graduates. “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.
“I never graduated from college,” Jobs said, prefacing a story about dropping out. “Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation.”
Jobs dropped out of Reed College in Portland, Oregon. During this period, Jobs was free to “drop-in” on classes that interested him such as calligraphy, giving him an understanding of design which has informed the aesthetic of Apple Computer technology:
“If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts,” Jobs said. “And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.”
The story was about connecting the dots, which is only possible looking back, Jobs said:
“You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future,” he said. “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.”
Jobs also spoke of mortality, a topic imbued with his personal experience of being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Through accepting the inevitability of death one is freed to acknowledge that he or she has nothing to lose and that there is no reason not to follow your heart.
Jobs called death life’s “change agent” and “very likely the single best invention of life,” adding that while the fresh batch of graduates are the “new” now, in the future they will be cleared away. The point of this was not to be dramatic, Jobs said, but to compel the graduates not to be trapped by dogma and convention, not to live someone else’s life, because their time is limited.
The pancreatic cancer Steve Jobs was diagnosed with nearly a year ago was originally thought to be incurable, but upon further inspection doctors discovered that it is a rare form of the cancer that is curable with surgery. Jobs has had the surgery and reports that he is now fine.
Steve Jobs ended the commencement speech with one piece of advice, a phrase which was coined by The Whole Earth Catalog in its farewell issue in 1974. The phrase left an impression on the young Steve Jobs, who now at the age 50 has passed it down to the current generation of graduates:
“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

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