Steve Jobs: How to live before you die
This June 2005 commencement address from Steve Jobs to the graduates of Stanford University is quite refreshing to hear. In it, he clearly discusses three pivotal times in his life:
- "Dropping Out" of college and taking a calligraphy class (which affected fonts on the personal computer) Image via CrunchBase
- Getting Fired by Apple (which led to his founding of NeXt, Pixar Animation studios and meeting his wife and one of the greatest things that happened to him, he says)
- His diagnosis and recovery from cancer.
We look at someone like Steve Jobs and see him at his pinnacle - at the apex of his career and one that everyone wants to be. But let me ask you this. What would happen if:
- Your child came to you and said they were dropping out of college?
- You or your spouse got fired?
- You got cancer?
Add to it being unwanted by your mother and then not adopted by those who planned to adopt you because they wanted a girl -- also Steve Jobs.
The Perfect Life
We want all these "things." We want perfection. The "perfect" life. The "perfect" events.
Awakening in the Ashes of Failure
But what we fail to realize is that greatness often emerges from the ashes of failure.
The Indians used to burn off the forests because they knew they would be healthier and most good farmers do this as well. There has been a movement in some places to ban the burning of forests and what has happened is an incredible underbrush that chokes out life and everything in the forest and a dense, dead undergrowth that is like kindling for a fire. Many foresters tell me that humans are safer when forests are "managed" and that often means burning, although that is counterintuitive.
"Don't be Trapped by Dogma"
Steve says not to be "trapped by Dogma." In a lot of ways, that is like the forest that isn't burned.
Failure often clears the underbrush and we start over.
But a lot of it depends on your perspective.
"You Cannot Connect the Dots Until you Look Back"
Jobs also says "you can't connect the dots until you look back" as he discussed how dropping out of college and that one calligraphy class influenced the very PC I'm typing this computer on. (Since, he so cheekily says - "Since PC's just copied the MAC." ;-)
One day, I'll be able to connect the dots in my own life and understand why Kip and I lost our life savings on a pecan grove going under water in a flood, or the other stresses and struggles of life. It will make sense.
The Winds of History
As I was grading until late and then working on the Flat Classroom wikis the other night, I admit, I was struggling with some personal circumstances in my life. As is my habit, I had a movie playing in the background and on Tuesday it was Gone with the Wind.
Scarlette O'Hara was trying to come up with the $300 to pay for Tara and was doing everything she could to find the money. She was completely distraught and beside herself.
I was surprised at how I could not empathize and it didn't bother me at all to see her plight, a far cry different from the times Kip and I had to run through the house to find change to get milk when we lost the farm. Then, it was devestating.
When I realized this, I said to myself,
"But so many people couldn't pay bills after the civil war, it was everyone."And then it hit me.
"But so many cannot pay their bills now, it is almost everyone."John F. Kennedy was right when he said;
"A rising tide raises all ships."In times of prosperity, many of us have prospered. In tough times, many have upsetting things happen. "Things are tough all over" as many say. And in some ways they are.
Victim or Victor?
We are part of an age. We are part of changes that are happening. There are two choices as we deal with change -- have it done by you or two you. Be the victor or the victim. That is the way change is.
As my Computer Science class and I were discussing the obstacles to change, we began discussing a hypothetical man who ran a CD-making factory that stamped CD's and how his job would have been 10-15 years a go and what it might look like now after the winds of change and mp3 players have hit the market.
We study history in a way that often depersonalizes the humans that lived it. Sometimes I wonder who we think we are?
People in the depression had it much tougher - I don't see many of us with our families wandering the streets looking for jobs or shanty towns of unemployed unhoused people cropping up in every city. Some are there, but not everyone.
Sure, things are tough. But listen to the end of Jobs speech and you'll hear a very freeing thought.
The End of it All
Jobs talks about the inevitability of death and that it comes to us all. If we realize that fact and realize that we are "naked" we might as well decide to have the "courage to follow our heart and intuition" or "stay hungry, and stay foolish" as he says.
I think I've often been guilty of taking myself, my problems, and my own life way too seriously. Sure, I'm tired and exhausted so much of the time and have my problems like all of you reading this -- but really, I think it is time to burn some brush.
I read and re-read a certain section of Brian Tracy's wonderful book, Focal Point, where he talks about the Seven R's of Simplication:
- Regaining Control
"Whenever you find yourself overwhelmed with too much to do and too little time, stop and think about your work. Stand back and ask yourself, "Could their be a better way?"Burn the Underbrush
So, today, think about it. Think about your life. What is working. What is not. Are you willing to reinvent? Are you willing to admit something is not working?
Sometimes we cannot live a life because we are paralyzed by the underbrush of circumstance and an unwillingness to move from where we're planted -- an unwillingness to burn away the things that aren't working -- so we become planted in our thoughts and lives and just let it go by -- we spend it where we are instead of evaluating if we really want to be where we are. Some things we cannot change -- one thing we can - our own attitude.
Today is a new day and you have one life to live.
I think many of us would rather spend a life than live a life.