PALO ALTO, Calif. – Passion for one’s work, willingness to take risks and to learn from failure, and an awareness of life’s brevity are keys to success and satisfaction, computer legend Steve Jobs told Stanford University graduates today.
The Apple Computer Inc. co-founder, himself a college dropout, spoke of his numerous successes but also told graduates that he had learned the most from the troubles in his life. Jobs, who is 50, recently survived a bout with pancreatic cancer, and in 1985 he was fired from the company he helped create.
Adopted as an infant, Jobs grew up in California and attended Reed College in Portland, Ore. He dropped out after six months, unsure of his direction. When he “dropped in” to audit a calligraphy class, he discovered a passion for typography that would later inspire the multiple fonts on the first Macintosh computer.
“It’s impossible to connect the dots going forward,” he said, adding that life’s choices often pay dividends in ways that are recognized only years later.
“You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, karma, life, whatever – because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path,” Jobs told the graduates.
He and Steve “Woz” Wozniak founded Apple Computer in Jobs’ parents’ garage in 1976. The Macintosh, introduced in 1984, catapulted Apple into computing’s major leagues, and Jobs wooed John Sculley from Pepsi-Cola to help him run what had become a $2 billion company. Their management styles clashed, and Jobs was forced out by the board in 1985.
It was a catastrophic humiliation for a man who saw himself as heir to Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial tradition, and he even considered leaving the area. “But something slowly began to dawn on me,” he said. “I still loved what I did. … I’d been rejected, but I was still in love.”
Freed from Apple’s corporate infighting, he could enjoy “the lightness of being a beginner again” at age 30. “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that being fired from Apple was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Jobs said.
He channeled his energies into a new computer company called NeXT, which built high-end workstations. He bought a small computer-animation outfit and turned it into Pixar Animation Studios, which has scored a string of hits beginning with “Toy Story” in 1995.
In his years away from Apple, Jobs also met and married Laurene Powell. Apple bought NeXT, hired Jobs back, and in 1997 he became chief executive again. In his dozen-year odyssey away from the company, his zeal for life and work kept him going, he told the graduates.
The lesson from his ordeal? “The only way to love what you do is to do great work – and if you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle,” Jobs said.
A year ago, Jobs was diagnosed with cancer after an early-morning scan revealed a tumor on his pancreas. He spent a day thinking he had just months to live, but a biopsy that evening showed that the cancer was operable. Jobs has since recovered.
That close encounter with mortality underscored another lesson: that the inevitability of death is a powerful incentive to seize and savor each day, Jobs said.
“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking that you have something to lose,” he said. “You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Jobs’ last bit of advice to the graduates was a quote from the Whole Earth Catalog, a bible of the hippie era that he said still resonates with him in the 21st century. Its last issue included a picture of a country road, symbolizing a journey, and the words “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”
He concluded: “And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that all for you: Stay hungry. Stay foolish. Thank you all very much.”