Input: Yu Pin
Source: By Steve Jobs
Commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs
at Stanford University on June 12, 2005
I’m honored to be with you today for your commencement from one of our finest universities. Truth be told, I never graduated from college and this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life.
The first story is about connecting the dots.
I dropped out of college after the first six months but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months before I really quit. So why did I drop out?
It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so when she found out that my mother-to-be had never graduated from college and that my father-to-be had never graduated from high school, she refused to sign the adoption papers. She only relented when my parents promised that I would go to college. This was the start in my life.
And 17 years later, I did go to college. 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 of how college was going to help me figure it out, and here I was, spending all the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. 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 far more interesting.
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 sans-serif typefaces, about varying the 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 them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on that 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. Believing that will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.
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 ten years, Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4,000 employees. We’d just released our finest creation, the Macintosh, a year earlier, and I’d 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 to run the company with me, but 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, and so at 30, I was out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating. 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. 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 in my life.
During the next five years I started a 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.
I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. Sometimes life’s going to hit 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 work as it is for your lovers. 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, and don’t settle.
My third story is about death.
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. 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.
I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening they stuck a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. When they viewed the cells under a microscope, the doctor 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, thankfully, I am 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. 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. 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 have the courage to follow heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalogue, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by Stuart Brand and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. It was idealistic, overflowing with great notions. Stuart and his team put out several issues, 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 hitch-hiking 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.