Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and Pixar Animation Studios, gave very substantial advice to graduating students at Stanford University today. At age 50, Jobs has gone through a lot of ups and downs in life, and one of the biggest examples of this was him being fired from the company he started almost 10 years later. Jobs addresses the challenges he’s had, how he overcame them, and how the lessons learned in his experiences can be applied to daily life in his commencement speech.
Jobs delivered his speech in three different themes, each of which having something to do with a major shift in his life. One of the biggest obstacles in his life came in 1985, when he was forced out of Apple after getting the organization up and running for 10 years. He called this segment of his speech a story about love and loss. He felt devastated afterwards and shared his thoughts with the graduating students:
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.
Bob Noyce, nicknamed “the Mayor of Silicon Valley” and David Packard were renowned technological innovators in Silicon Valley at the time. After meeting with them, Jobs felt that he could still do what he loved. His passion kept him going and years after founding his NeXT Company, he found his way back into Apple and where he is today. Jobs wanted the students to know that finding what they love is a very important part of life. “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.”
Another lesson that Jobs wanted the Stanford students to know is that the road to success isn’t immediate or lined up for anyone. He addressed this in another theme, which he called “connecting the dots”. Jobs dropped out of Reed College during his freshman year, to “drop in” on courses he found interesting and that would benefit him in the future. He specifically spoke on a calligraphy course that he took that didn’t have any application to his life at the time that he took it, but it helped him 10 years later when he designed the first Macintosh computer. He couldn’t connect those dots looking forward in college, but it became very clear to him once it needed to be. “Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. 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.”
The last piece theme that Jobs spoke on was regarding death. In October 2003, he was diagnosed with cancer and was not expected to live as long as he has. Jobs knows that no day is promised for him, or anyone for that matter, and he uses that as a tool to make some of his very important decisions. It is a natural part of life, and rids of the old to make way for the next generation. “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.” The major piece of advice that Jobs had for the graduates is that in order to be the best person he or she could be, they must follow their hearts and intuitions no matter what obstacles get in the way.