Yesterday I listened to a very inspirational talk on TED by Steve Jobs ’How to live before you die‘. By telling 3 stories from his life Steve is urging people to pursue their dreams and trust their intuition.
Connecting the dots
Steve always followed his intuition. He never graduated from the university. He didn’t know what he wanted to do in his life and didn’t think that college would help him figure it out. He dropped out of Reed College just after 6 months. By dropping out he could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest him and join the ones that looked interesting. For example he took calligraphy class to learn about typefaces, about what makes great typography great. 10 years later when designing the first Macintosh computer he used his knowledge and skills to design the first computer with beautiful typography. Much of what he stumbled into by following his curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Key learning points:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards”
“You have to trust in something, like your destiny, life, karma, etc. Believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even if it leads you off the well worn path, and that will make all the difference.”
Love and loss
He found what he loved early in life. He started Apple with a friend in his parents’ garage when he was 20. In 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of them into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. As Apple grew, his visions of the future of Apple began to diverge and he got fired by the Board of Directors. This was a devastating experience for him. What had been the focus of his entire life was gone.
He felt rejected, but slowly he began to realize that he still was in love with the work he did. He decided to start over again:
“The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again”
Now he entered one of the most creative periods of his life. During the next 5 years he started a company named NeXT, and then Pixar, which turned out to be the most successful animation studio in the world, creating the world’s first computer animated feature film ‘Toy Story’.
Ironically Apple bought NeXT, and that is how Steve returned to Apple. The technology they developed at NeXT is now ‘at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance’. Key learning points:
“Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.”
“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. 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. You’ll know when you find it. Like any great relationship it gets better and better as the years roll on.”
When he was 17, he read this quote: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.”
Since then, he has looked in the mirror every morning and asked himself: “If today where the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?” Whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, he knew that something needed to change. Key learning point:
“Almost everything, all expectations, 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 to avoid the trap of thinking that you have something to lose. There’s no reason not to follow your heart.”
When he was diagnosed with cancer, at first the doctors told him that he should expect to live no longer than 3-6 months. He lived with that diagnosis for a whole day, until later that evening when he had a biopsy. It turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that was curable. This was the closest he’s been to facing death. Key learning points:
“Death is the destination that 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 result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
I found Steve’s talk very inspiring. I think it’s important that we don’t forget in our everyday life to follow our passions and that we take the time to often look back at our life to make sure that we do what we love. Otherwise we should keep searching until we find the right path. Hopefully we’ll be as lucky as Steve!