The Tao of Jobs
Steve Jobs 2005 Stanford commencement is a meditation on life, love, business and death.
In barely 15 minutes of talking he covers it all. Steve Jobs is a storyteller. He weaves the threads of his life into the fabric of the universe. Anyone who is trying to figure out their path in life could read this speech and realize you are already on it and you always have been.
I was never really a huge Apple fanatic but have had their products in my home since 1984. They have been a backdrop to my life that I never really thought about. Steve Jobs meant little to me. The only details I could tell you about his life was that he was a mad genius who ate fruit all the time. Sounds like an extremist. And not very interesting to me. Until this year.
A very close friend insisted I read the Jobs biography. His recommendation was incredibly strong. This book changed my life and I hope it changes yours. Ok, ok, but isn’t it like 900 pages? On Steve Jobs?
I finished it in 2 weeks. I literally could not put it down. The story of his life was intense and compelling. The biographer, Walter Isaacson was given unfettered access to Jobs’ life, family, business associates and friends. The nature of telling the story of your own life is so colored by our own perceptions of events. Having the perspective of a biographer look at Jobs life through the lens of everyone who knew him was revealing in an honest and objective way.
The book sent me down a rabbit hole. Throughout the book, there were so many other books mentioned that had inspired Steve as he moved through life. His perspective shifted when presented with new information. He was a seeker. Experience was his guide. He let his internal feelings be his teacher. When it was time to go he moved. When he hit a dead end he stopped. It was as if he lived knowing time was finite and he couldn’t waste any of it living a life he did not feel completely inspired to experience. I bought the books he read, I found the commencement speech online and I read every article written about the man. I found myself completely inspired. His extremist ways were much more than just that. They were an absolute commitment to a vision. He never waivered. And he never stopped working.
You can look at his level of success and marvel. But in reality, he had at least as many major failures as he did successes. He lost control of his own company and was kicked out. He struggled through personal relationships. Acceptance of the circumstances of his life was not an easy path for him.
His highs were high and his lows were low. Just like the rest of us. Perhaps the difference between people who find a life they love and those who don’t is the willingness to persevere in the face of adversity. An unrelenting pursuit of exactly what fills them with joy. The guy never stopped reaching. He always pushed forward and took the next hill.
“You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your 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. 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 until you find it. Don’t settle.”
Speaking to the Stanford graduating class of 2005, Steve was a year removed from his cancer diagnosis. In just 6 years, he would pass away. This in-between time yielded the incredibly inspirational Stanford speech. Isaacson spent two of these years researching and interviewing for the biography. Sharing the lessons of his life had clearly become an imperative.
Jobs related stories of dropping out of college. It is fascinating to see where his winding path led him. His ability to study things like calligraphy were a direct result of dropping out, and then not leaving school. He spent 18 additional months just dropping in on classes and sleeping on his friends dorm room floors. He never stopped learning. Relentless pursuit characterized his entire life. You can draw a line from his college dropout days to the importance of Apple Computer typeface inspiration. If he were to attempt to map a path that took him to each stop he needed, he could never do it. It is this meandering path, the one that seems off-course that actually makes complete sense.
Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. 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. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
The true path in life is yours and yours alone. It is so easy to say things like, you shouldn’t care what anyone else thinks. But the truth is, that is nearly impossible. We are so inundated with expectations and requirements of how we should move through the world that most of the time we cannot even recognize the ways in which we are being affected by the external. People like Steve Jobs are way out of the box thinkers. He did not care if you thought he was wrong. His sense of himself and the attention he paid to his inner guidance was not just an important aspect of his character and his business acumen. It was absolute. Resolved. Unwaivering.
It struck me how he spoke about finding what he wanted. There was this relaxed way he described his life achievements. Don’t worry. Just wait. Everything you want will be presented to you. Just don’t settle in the meantime. I need to absorb that one.
As I embark on a new business venture, I am struck by his words and the life he lived. When what he needed didn’t exist, he created it. His journeys throughout the world yielded every piece he needed to assemble his genius creations. He didn’t settle. He demanded perfection. He didn't care if you thought he was crazy and he wasn’t going to play by your rules. Ever.
And as it turns out, life is too short to play by any rules but your own.