Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and Pixar
Animation Studios, delivered a truly inspirational commencement address
to some 5,000 Stanford University graduates. As you read his address,
consider the setbacks you may have encountered in your life. What
lessons have you learned from them? Have they reaped rewards that you
may not of come upon any other way? Steve Jobs reveals how to look back
on your life and "Connect The Dots". Let me introduce Steve Jobs....
(Dr Redard's comments follow the address)
"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
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
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
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, it's likely that no personal computer would have
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
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.
Fired From Apple
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 world's 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
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
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.
Diagnosed With Cancer
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
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 it's 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 other's 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 1960s, 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
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."
The Stanford (University) Report June 14, 2005
Dr Redard's Comments:
Sage words from a sage man. Do what
you love and every step of your life will have a positive meaning, even
if the meaning is derived while you look back and "Connect The Dots". I
have had at least four horrendous experiences in my life which at the
time seemed as meaningless ploys for the universe to inflict pain. Now, as I look back, these were pivotal learning experiences,
offering valuable lessons which I doubt I would have gleaned any other
way. Make no mistake, I would have loved to learn these lessons in a
much more enjoyable fashion and I would never voluntarily go through
them again. However, the saying is still true; sometimes in life you
don't get what you want, but you get what you need. Something to