June 14, 2005
Today, graduates of Stanford University received inspiring words from 50-year-old Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer, NeXT, and Pixar Animation Studios, who was chosen as this year’s commencement speaker. Jobs overcame three challenges that made a huge impact on his future. In his speech he told three stories that changed his life. Jobs named these challenges as connecting the dots, love and loss, and death.
When recalling the days he studied at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, Jobs admits that today was the closest he ever got to a graduation ceremony. According to Jobs, dropping out of school was one of the best decisions he ever made. Not knowing what was to become of his future, Jobs knew that spending his parents’ life savings on tuition money was not the way to get there. After dropping out six months into college, he decided to “drop in” on the classes he favored. Jobs clarifies, “Much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.”
Calligraphy and typography fascinated Jobs. He decided to sit in on a calligraphy class. Jobs and Steve “Woz” Wozniak created Apple in 1976 in Jobs’ garage, originally named Apple Computer. Jobs carefully selected what typography to incorporate in the system. Jobs realized the connection years later when it applied to what he learned in class. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward,” Jobs explained. He also illuminated how important it is to “Trust in something… This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” By 1979, Jobs was a millionaire.
In 1985, 30 year-old Jobs opposed sides with the board of Apple and was phased out; he was then ruled out of his own company. Jobs admits that getting fired from Apple was the best thing for him. From this devastating loss, it gave Jobs the opportunity to pick himself up and believing that he loved what he did. This realization forced him to start over. In doing what he loved, Jobs created NeXT Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios, putting much of his own money into both investments. It paid off, and both companies were extensively successful. The technology created in NeXT became the key to reviving Apple after Jobs was welcomed back years later.
Jobs addressed to graduates of Stanford, “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.” From the story about love and loss, Jobs spread the following words of wisdom, “you’ve got to find what you love”. To Stanford graduates of 2015, Jobs advises that work will take over your life, and loving what you do makes work more fulfilling. He states, “If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle”.
In 1997, Jobs took the role as Apple’s CEO, a year after the company bought NeXT for $429 million. Jobs’ hard work paid off over the years. He tried to live by the saying, “If you live each day as if it were your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” He remarks, “Whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” Living by this quote was not easy for Jobs on the day he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Nonetheless, his experience in facing death taught him to prepare for the unexpected. After Jobs had the surgery in 2004 he received news that he was cancer free, and now continues to live by these words. Jobs states, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
Jobs determination in reaching his successes and accomplishments never lingered whenever life hit him with a brick. Looking back and connecting the dots of your experiences, doing what you love, and living each day abundantly will take you to where you want to go in life. Jobs leaves with his closing remarks, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish”.