In looking up some resource material last night, I happened upon a video entitled: “How To Live Before You Die”. It was a Stanford University Commencement speech presented by Steve Jobs over a decade ago.
His topic was thought provoking. He talked to the graduating class about the importance of pursuing their dreams, but cautioned them to also be open to seeing the opportunities in life’s setback – including death. He was transparent and upfront as he talked to the graduating class at Stanford. He acknowledged that he never graduated from college.
He shared personal stories from his life. Each of the stories was fascinating. The first story was about connecting the dots. He dropped out of college after the first six months, but stayed around as a drop-in for another eighteen months before he really quit. The reason he dropped out started before he was born. His biological mother was a young, unwed graduate student. She valued education and thought strongly that her child’s parents would have to be college graduates. Everything was in place for him to be adopted by a lawyer and his wife. They decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl.
His parents were on a waiting list and received a call in the middle of the night. “We’ve got an unexpected baby boy. Do you want him?” It was an easy question to answer. Of course they did. When his biological mother found out that the adoptive mother never graduated from college and that the adoptive father never graduated from high school, she refused to sign the final adoption papers. She relented a few months later when his parents promised he would go to college.
As it turned out, the college he attended 17 years later was almost as expensive as Stanford. He connected the dots and determined that all of his parent’s life savings would be spent on his college tuition. Considering the cost, he didn’t see the value in it. He wasn’t even sure what he wanted to become. He decided to drop-out and trust that it would all work out okay.
In looking bck, Job’s said it was one of the best decisions he ever made. As a result, he could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest him and begin dropping in on the ones that looked more interesting.
Reed College offered the best calligraphy instructions to be found anywhere. All the posters across the college were beautifully hand calligraphed. He found it fascinating, though impractical. Yet ten years later when they were designing the first Macintosh Computers, he remembered what he had learned. Consequently, the Macintosh was the first computer with beautiful typography. If he had never dropped in on that single course in college, he would not have had the frame of reference that was revolutionary.
Looking back ten years, he could see how it was beneficial. He didn’t have that same vantage point looking forward ten years earlier. You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. You have to trust that the dots will eventually connect in your future. Jobs says: “Follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path, and that will make the difference.”
His second story was about love and loss. He was lucky. He discovered what he loved to do early in life. He started Apple in his parent’s garage when he was twenty. Ten years later, Apple was a two billion dollar company with four thousand employees. It was then that he got fired.
At the age of thirty, he was out of the company. The loss was devastating for a few months, but then he realized: “I still loved what I did.” He had been rejected, but he was still in love. He decided to start over.
He expressed it this way: “I didn’t see it at the time, but getting fired from Apple was the best thing that ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of beginning again. It became the most creative time in his life and he started a couple of other companies. Apple bought one of the companies he started and then he found himself back at Apple again. Jobs maintains that none of it would have happened had Apple not fired him.
Jobs said: “The only thing that kept me going is that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love and that is true for work as it is for your lovers”. He maintains that you will know it when you find it. Don’t settle until you do.
All My Best!