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July 2005

Points to ponder: Steve Jobs

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 retuned 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 news 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 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.


Goal setting

It is almost impossible to overestimate the value of goal-setting as a positive habit. It is recommended as a primary habit because it can truly be life changing.

Research studies have shown that people who regularly set goals are far more likely to be successful then people who do not. Napoleon Hill, author of the best-seller, Think and Grow Rich, once said, “Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement, and its lack is the stumbling block for ninety eight out of every one hundred people because they never really define their goals and start toward them.”

A study was done to determine the importance of goal setting. College students who had gone on to achieve great success in business were asked to list their habits. The students who had made a habit of setting goals were in the top 3% of earnings in the population!

Goal setting is simple, yet 97% of the population never do it. By making goal setting a habit, you can start placing yourself in the top 3% of the population of successful people. Your goal-setting habit can help you reach any of your goals, regardless of whether they are for business, personal, relationships, and so on.


When Stress hits, Count it to ten

Make it a habit to slowly count to ten the moment you encounter a stressful situation. This slow, ten-second countdown may be just enough to cool you down.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University say that men who respond to stress with anger are three times more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease and five times more likely to have a heart attack before the age of 55. As you count down, take a few deep breaths; this will also help calm your nerves and relieve stress.


Working on the fundamentals

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I was on the way to my families home for festive celebrations and stopped into my favourite Starbucks. Saw a poster that really got me thinking…

There was a tree and words were inside the branches, trunk and roots. Underneath the roots was a simple statement, but powerful.

“The deeper the roots, the higher the reach.”

Brilliant.

Isn’t that the truth. If we spend more time working on the basic foundation in which we grow from, the higher (the better) we will be. If you work on those habits that you know will make you a better human imagine how great you will grow.

Love it.

What are those habits you must instill into your daily life? What will you do this year to grow your reach?

 


Look for the gifts

"In school you get the lesson and then take the test ... In life you take the test and then get the lesson."

-- Unknown Source

"When it is dark enough, you can see the stars."

-- Charles Beard

How is a problem in your life really an opportunity?

Problems invite us to go inside to recognize a bigger picture of ourselves and of life. This bigger picture brings meaning to what is unfolding. When you feel trapped in a problem, see if you can shift your perspective. Ask yourself, “What is my soul inviting me to learn from this situation?” The answer will always revolve around a quality or value, like gratitude, freedom, compassion, love, will, humour or acceptance. The answer will also always promote union rather than separation.

As soon as we find the meaning in our challenge, our resistance to it melts away. Often, awareness of the lesson is all that is needed to resolve the problem. If not, the awareness brings us courage and ways to work through it.

"The period of greatest gain in knowledge and experience is the most difficult period in one’s life."

-- Dalai Lama


Living your own life

"We don't always know what makes us happy. We know, instead, what we think SHOULD. We are baffled and confused when our attempts at happiness fail...We are mute when it comes to naming accurately our own preferences, delights, gifts, talents. The voice of our original self is often muffled, overwhelmed, even strangled, by the voices of other people's expectations. The tongue of the original self is the language of the heart."

-- Julie Cameron

We are each unique beings with a unique path in life. If we wish to be fulfilled, we need to go to our own hearts for direction. We might regularly ask ourselves:

- "What do I really want to do?"

- "What brings me greatest happiness?"

- "How can I bring more of these into my life?"

Life wants us to go for what brings us most joy and meaning.

"It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. ...I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing."

-- Oriah Mountain Dreamer

"Let me listen to me and not to them."

-- Gertrude Stein

"What you must dare is to be yourself."

-- Dag Hammarskjold


Struggling with a decision?

"You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn't exist anywhere except in the mind."

-- Dale Carnegie

My anxiety level spiked the other day as I wrestled with whether to choose option A or option B. I was so afraid of making the wrong choice!

And then I remembered, with deep gratitude, Susan Jeffers’ sage advice: There are no wrong decisions! Whatever we might choose in life will bring valuable experiences if we are open to receive them.

“Lighten up! Whatever happens as a result of your decision, you’ll handle it!”

-- Susan Jeffers


Leadership Glitches

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I constantly read about the leadership qualities that can take you to the top. It is good to work on those and develop those and add to your personality trait portfolio to develop a strong you. At the same time while we are moving up there are few traits which we have to watch out for and if we are not careful can bring you to the bottom. I am guilty of making some of these mistakes, some of them I have seen other people doing the same. The best way to learn is to learn from other people's mistakes. My dad always used to say, "Learn from the mistakes of others. You won't live long enough to make them all yourself."

Some of these mistakes may be obvious; some may be a bit more obscure. They are all critical.

  • Pride and Arrogance.The downfall of many leaders is that their early successes begin to inflate their egos. Never forget your roots, don’t think you are invincible or infallible, and don’t put yourself above anything or anyone. An ancient script says, “Pride goes before destruction,” and it behooves leaders to tattoo that on their forehead.The trappings and power of the office can give a false sense of security. It is easy to get the thinking that you are  superior to other people and institutions, and that you could do no wrong.
  • Negative Influences.There is no lack of advice in this world. Some voices offer valuable counsel that can help keep you on track. Other voices will nudge you ever so slightly until one day you wake up and find yourself way off course. Tune in to the voices of value and tune the others out.I had plenty of people surrounding me, all eager to give advice. My challenge was, sifting through the ones worth listening to, and ignoring the others. How can you tell the difference? Listen to different perspectives from divergent sets of people, and then pay attention to the still small voice inside of you. The longer you listen, the better listener and discerner you will become.
  •  Lacking Integrity.There are many things one can lack and still steer clear of danger. Integrity is not one of them. It is important to establish a set of sound ethics policies, integrate them into all business processes, communicate them broadly to people around us. We have to make it clear that we will not tolerate any deviation from any of them. Then live by them.We have to carve out time to set the “integrity agenda,” for our own edification, and then to make it clear to the organization. The important thing is, it always starts from us.
  • Majoring in Minors. There are a handful of things that are important enough to account for the greatest impact. Take a cue from Steve Jobs and get rid of the distractions. Tie your vision and strategy to the truly impactful things and execute those to the best of your ability. Lot of us try to do it all. You can’t. You will hit the wall, and so will your mission. I became mediocre at a large number of things. 
  • Lacking Values. Core values are principles without which life (or business) wouldn’t be worth living. . Establish a set of Core Values that can unite the organization, and then create resonance around them.I am now convinced that Core Values become the foundation of a well-oiled, world-class, customer friendly, ethical organization. 
  • Short-Term Focus.Lot of us are focused on short term gains.  Don’t cannibalize future results to satisfy the present. If your strategy is solid, stick to your guns, let it work, and remind everyone that you are in it for the long run.We became so obsessed with making the immediate quarter, that we severely impacted future business. As a result, we started the following quarter already behind. This continued to compound until we dug such a hole for ourselves, it was impossible to climb out.

A Tune into the inner critic

"A critic is a legless man who teaches running."

-- Channing Pollock

Are you aware of your inner critic? We all have this voice that tells us we are bad, stupid, clumsy, cowardly.... Although its intent is to help us succeed, the harsh self talk of our critic just serves to drain our energy and lower our morale and immune system.

To defuse the inner critic, we need to recognize when the critic is speaking. We need to know that this voice does not necessarily speak for who we really are. This is an old pattern that may no longer be serving us. We want to open to the possibility that the words are not likely true. We can ask ourselves, "Are these words helpful?"

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

-- Eleanor Roosevelt

"Abilities wither under faultfinding, blossom with encouragement."

-- Donald A. Laird

"Never react emotionally to criticism. Analyze yourself to determine whether it is justified. If it is, correct yourself. Otherwise, go on about your business."

-- Norman Vincent Peale


Conscious communication

“If we want to be compassionate we must be conscious of the words we use. We must both speak and listen from the heart.”

-- Marshall B. Rosenberg

Conscious communication requires us to be truly present to what is occurring. When we are unconscious, we both speak to and react to others out of habit. And in the face of what we perceive as someone’s judgment and criticism, we automatically (and unconsciously) defend, withdraw or attack.

To communicate consciously requires attention to two areas:

I need to speak from awareness of what I am perceiving, feeling and needing, and

Through watching and listening, I need to be aware of those same needs in others.

“When we focus on clarifying what is being observed, felt, and needed rather than on diagnosing and judging, we discover the depth of our own compassion.”

-- Marshall B. Rosenberg