Steve Jobs in Stanford Commencement Speech: “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

This was one of several life lessons imparted upon students of Stanford University today, as CEO of Apple Computer Inc., Steve Jobs orated the annual graduation commencement speech.

Jobs spoke on many subjects to the ambitious youngsters but summarized the most important things that he’s learned in three stories from his own life.

“No big deal,” Jobs assured the crowd, “Just three stories.”

No doubt Steve Jobs has many interesting stories to tell. Jobs co-founded Apple Computer Inc. with Steve Wozniak in April 1976, a company that went on to revolutionize not only the industry of personal computers, but of all consumer electronics.

Jobs left Apple Computer Inc. after a power struggle with former CEO of PepsiCo Inc., John Sculley in September 1985, only to be rehired by Apple after founding two new companies: computer company NeXT and animation studio giant Pixar. Jobs refers to this unlikely turn of events in one of his three stories.

The first anecdote shared by the CEO illustrated the importance of what Jobs calls “connecting the dots.” He went into great detail about how badly his biological parents wanted him to go to college and how he was spending his working class family’s hard earned savings on an education that he wasn’t taking seriously. It was then that he decided to drop out and it was then that he received a more important education.

Jobs mentioned after dropping out, he would “drop in” to whatever class seemed interesting at the time when he came across a calligraphy class that in his words “was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.”

While it was unclear at the time that this could have any practical use whatsoever, the influence of this class reared its head in the typography of the first Macintosh computer, a defining characteristic for the machine.

“And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them,” Jobs quipped to a raucous laughter from the crowd.

This illustrates his first main point of “connecting the dots.” That you have to trust in something that tells you everything will work out, and you never know how your past experiences will become instrumental in your future.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward…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.”

The industry pioneer went on to tell a second story, conveying the importance of love and loss in life.

Jobs recaps his history with Apple Computer Inc., from its creation to when he was forced out in 1985 and details the sorrow he experienced as “a very public failure” who had what he loved most taken away from him.

Without these experiences however, there would be no NeXT, there would be no Pixar, and there would be no Laurene Jobs. Not only did Jobs meet Laurene, his wife, during this tumultuous period, but it seemed to reinvigorate his creative drive and overall worldview.

“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,” Jobs explained, “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.”

What Jobs took from this is that sometimes life gives you medicine that tastes awful going down, but you can’t lose faith in yourself. The most important thing is to find what you love, and do it without compromise.

“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.”

The third of Jobs’ life stories enlightens the audience on using death as a tool. Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2004 and originally given six months to live. While the tumor was surgically removed, this was the closest Jobs had come to facing death and it made a profound impact on him.

“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,” Jobs declared, “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.”

It is for exactly this reason that Jobs insists each individual live their own life, rather than following the status quo.

“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.”

Jobs ends with a poignant tale of a publication made obsolete by the Internet called “The Whole Earth Catalog.” The CEO punctuates his advice to the Stanford graduates with a description of the back cover.

“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.”

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