The words on the page were hard to comprehend. Steve Jobs – one of the great entrepreneurs and innovators of the modern era – died this week at the age of 56. Jobs had battled cancer for many years.
In a time when medical science has boosted the average life expectancy into the 70s, a death at age 56 just seems so incomprehensible. It is only harder to imagine when that person is an icon of your era, one of our inspirational leaders and cultural heroes. Aren’t those people supposed to live forever?
Many shared stories and musings about the man. Many common themes emerged. Although I have written many posts about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness over the years, the news served up a vivid reminder once again of how fragile our lives really are.
Fortunately, Jobs provided us not only with some great technical innovations, but some insightful thoughts of his life experiences as well.
In 2005, Jobs gave the commencement address at Stanford University. It was within this 15 minutes that Jobs provided his perspectives not only to graduates, but lessons that could be used by all of us. This video stands as a small yet integral part of his legacy.
Jobs starts with some thoughts on “connecting the dots”.
“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.”
It really is a simple truism: we need to learn to trust ourselves. We all have the power within each of us to become more than we can imagine, yet fear prevents us from taking the opportunity to do so. The power lies within – we simply need to learn how to listen to that power, that voice within us. And as Jobs notes, it is only when we look back that we can actually “connect the dots”.
Jobs then speaks of what he calls “love and loss”:
“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.”
In a parallel universe, Stevie Wonder told the crowd at the Austin City Limits Music Festival that it was important to “put your best love into your day”. Interestingly enough, if you put love into your world, your world will typically reciprocate more often than not. And if you love what you do, and you live with passion, you can change the world.
But perhaps the strength of Jobs’ speech – and perhaps its dramatic irony – is when he speaks of death. It is his thoughts and perspectives on this that are most profound and leave us with so much to learn.
“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.”
In our day-to-day, it becomes exceedingly easy to lose sight of what is truly most important in life. Is it the work deadline? The big home? Or is it the legacy that we leave with those that travel our path with us, or those that follow behind us? Is it the love that we put into the world? Or the arguments that cloud our workday?
As Stevie Ray Vaughan once noted, live each day like it is your last performance. If you were ever blessed to see him perform, you would know that he took that seriously, infusing his world with love and fire and passion.
Jobs carries on with his thoughts on death, noting that
“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.”
The power lies within – again.
It always sounds so mundane to say that we only have the present. But the meaning contained within the statement is significant. We really can’t allow ourselves to dwell on the past or live in remorse. We really can’t consume ourselves with worrying about what lies around the next corner. We can’t be concerned with what other people think. We can only take what we have right now, and make it as good as it can be.
We can be forever thankful that Jobs left us with a legacy of incredible innovations and entrepreneurship. But he also left us with these thoughts – thoughts which we would all do well to take to heart. There is no better time but now to live life, fully, completely.
You can find the complete transcript of this amazing speech here.
Photo credits: mrlins