Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Address

This is the text of the Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest
universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the
closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three
stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as
a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?
It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college
graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very
strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set
for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped
out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents,
who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an
unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological
mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that
my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final
adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised
that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost
as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being
spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had
no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help
me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved
their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK.
It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I
ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that
didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends'
rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would
walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at
the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following
my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you
one example:
Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the
country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was
beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take
the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I
learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space
between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great.
It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture,
and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years
later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me.
And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful
typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac
would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since
Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have
them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy
class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they
do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in
college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.
Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them
looking backwards. 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.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in
my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had
grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000
employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year
earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from
a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was
very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went
well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a
falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was
out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was
gone, and it was devastating.

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. And so I decided to start over.

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. 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.
During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company
named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife.
Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy
Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a
remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the
technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance.
And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from
Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. 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. And 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. As with all
matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship,
it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find
it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if
it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on
me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every
morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want
to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No"
for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever
encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything
— all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these
things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
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.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning,
and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas
was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is
incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My
doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code
for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd
have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure
everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It
means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they
stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines,
put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated,
but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a
microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare
form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm
fine now.
This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for
a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit
more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:
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.
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. Right
now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become
the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
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. Everything else is secondary.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth
Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow
named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life
with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and
desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid
cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google
came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.
Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then
when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I
was your age. 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.
Thank you all very much.



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