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Three Stories From My Life  - Steve Jobs

This is an exact text of a  speech given by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar
Animation Studios, to the graduating class of Stanford University on June 12, 2005.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities
in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever
gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's
it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in
for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate
student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be
adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a
lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that
they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle
of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of
course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from
college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the
final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I
would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as
expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my
college tuition. 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 how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was
spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out
and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but 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

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms,
I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles
across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I
loved it. 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 san
serif typefaces, about varying the amount of 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, its likely
that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never
dropped in on this 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. 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.

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 10 years Apple had grown from just
the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just
released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had 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 who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and
for the first year or so things went well. But then 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. So
at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was
gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous
generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to
me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly.
I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. 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. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. 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 of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named
Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to
create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most
successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT,
I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's
current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was
awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits 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 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

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was
your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since
then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself:
"If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?"
And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to
change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help
me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all
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 I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already
naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

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. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. 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. My doctor advised me to go home
and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to
tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few
months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as
possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an
endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my
pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there,
told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors 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 I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few
more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty
than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

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. And that is as it
should be, because 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.

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.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which
was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand
not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in
the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with
typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35
years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, 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 hitchhiking 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.