This morning I woke to the news that Steve Jobs has died. At first I thought it was another ghastly Twitter hoax, but then I saw the links coming through and I realised that no, this time #iSad was anything but a sick joke.
I thought immediately of the quote I keep on my Facebook profile, one I’ve turned to many times to remind me to keep perspective when I’ve suffered a setback and I’m depressed. “Sometimes life’s going to hit you in the head with a brick,” he said during a Commencement address at Stanford University in 2005. “Don’t lose faith.”
I loved that quote, because it acknowledged that life has a way of punching you in the solar plexus when you least expect it — but you have to believe that things will get better. Coming from Steve Jobs of all people, that made sense. It was genuinely comforting.
Steve Jobs said a great many things over a career lived in the spotlight. Not all of them especially rousing — “It’s rare that you see an artist in his 30s or 40s able to really contribute something amazing” is one of the things he said once — but that Commencement address was intended to inspire, and it does.
You can read the entire text here, but in the meantime, these are the sections that resonated most with me, and to which I’ve returned again and again.
On figuring things out:
“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. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
On work (this is so, so true):
“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.”
On death (he had been diagnosed with cancer, but believed himself to be cured when he gave this speech):
“Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.”
And finally, on being true to yourself:
“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 most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
I’m giving a prize-giving speech at a boy’s school in early November. I’ll be talking to them about how to manage the balance between our digital selves online and our authentic selves — the people we are when nobody’s watching — and I don’t think it’s possible to say it any better than Steve did there. Perhaps we won’t achieve as much as he did living our own lives — but imagine what might be possible if we tried.
RIP Steve Jobs, the one crazy enough to think he could change the world, and did.