October 11, 2011

Ever since Steve Jobs’ death last week, I have been watching and re-watching the YouTube video of his 2005 Stanford University commencement speech. And it makes me weepy every single time — because it’s so damn inspiring.

While snippets from the speech have appeared in various obituaries, his talk deserves a space all its own. You’ll want to hear and watch Steve Jobs explain how to live and how to die. He shares about being adopted (his biological dad was an immigrant from Syria). He describes his cancer, his failures, his loves. He is funny, sincere, passionate. By posting this 2005 moment on my blog, I hope to receive the blessing of Steve Jobs’ artistic energy.

I can’t bring myself to call him Steve because I didn’t personally know him. But clearly, he knew me — and exactly what I needed. Where would I be without the Apple products that rescued me from tech despair? I’m blogging this post on my MacBook Pro. The iPad and iPod Touch are charging next to my desk. We recently bought our first Mac desktop. As soon as my BlackBerry phone contract expires in December, I’m gonna get me an iPhone. And I can’t say enough about the Apple Store trainers and the One-to-One program.

This man dared to make beautiful and powerful machines. He turned his back on trends and conventional wisdom. New York Times tech columnist David Pogue put it best:

Over and over again, he took away our comfy blankets. He took away our floppy drives, our dial-up modems, our camcorder jacks, our non-glossy screens, our Flash, our DVD drives, our removable laptop batteries.

How could he do that? You’re supposed to add features, not take them away, Steve! That’s just not done!

Here’s the video. Every precious word counts. The message will help keep you on your path:

If you’re in a hurry, you can read the commencement speech by the college drop-out who changed our world. A poor substitute for the video, quite frankly, especially since he subtly deviates from the text in key moments.

Still, if you’re in a super hurry and need a fix right now, I’d like to share two of his quotes from the speech. Just so you’ll have something to hold onto in this moment:

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. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road 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. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

And one more quote:

You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for 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 — and 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. Don’t settle.

I also love the closing advice from his speech. What he says at the end makes it plain why he is being remember for many things — but especially as an artist.

Stay hungry. Stay foolish. Watch the video and you will now exactly what these two sentences mean.