In a 2005 speech, Steve Jobs summarized his philosophy of life and death
Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me
The commencement address delivered by the late Steve Jobs, then CEO of Apple Computer
and of Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 2005, at Stanford University.

 Steve Jobs gives a speech on Jan. 10, 2006. Behind him is an early picture of himself, right,
and Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple.
I am honoured 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 six 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 lives. 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 interesting.

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-cent deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the seven 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 10 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, it’s 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 10 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 4,000 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 world’s 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 settle. 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 tumour 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 tumour. 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 it’s 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 1960s, 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 notions.

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.

Steve Jobs saved technology from itself
Part of Steve Jobs' genius was his drive to put easy-to-use devices in as many hands as possible.
CNN ~ October 7, 2011 
(CNN) -- Just imagine, for a moment, a world in which Steve Jobs had never lived. How might daily life be different?

Computers are still around, but not as you know them. They're complex, hateful things, mostly used in the office for spreadsheets and other business applications. Nobody bothered to sell a good-looking user interface with a desktop and mouse, because nobody could be sure there was a mass market for it.

Thousands of people use PCs at home, but they're mostly hobbyists and amateur programmers. If you want to have fun with electronics, you hook up a videogame console to your TV. The Internet still exists, but it never really had as much of a platform to take root on.

There's a thriving market in trading MP3s online, but all of it is illegal. The record labels never got their act together on selling digital copies of songs. MP3 players are large, clunky things with too many buttons. No movie studio makes really good computer-animated films. Smartphones are bulky bricks with thick keyboards. Touchscreen tablets exist -- as prototypes in a few computer labs.

Okay, so maybe things wouldn't have been quite that bad without Jobs. Perhaps Xerox PARC's management would have figured out it was sitting on a goldmine in its Graphical User Interface and early-model mouse. Microsoft might have come up with Windows without the example of the Macintosh. Maybe Steve Wozniak would have found another compadre to help him design, sell and market the Apple II, the PC that started it all.

But none of that seems very likely.

Many words have been written attempting to distill the magic of Steve Jobs. To my mind, it boils down to this: He saved technology from itself. He stopped it from being scary to a mass audience. He took the excitement and optimism that Silicon Valley already felt about computing, and never ceased to find new ways to communicate that to the world.

For all of his celebration of crazy revolutionaries who liked to "think different," Jobs was a champion of the mainstream. His business idols, he liked to say, were the Beatles. That wasn't just because the way their four personalities balanced each other was a good model for management. It was also because what they made was accessible -- and enjoyed by everyone on the planet.

I've written about my experiences interviewing Jobs for Time magazine here, but the first time I ever spoke to him was a prime example of his mainstream approach. This was shortly after his return to Apple, in an interview for a now-defunct supplement called Time Digital. After a handful questions, Jobs suddenly lost his temper. "I know hundreds of people who read Time Magazine," he fumed. "I don't know anyone who reads Time Digital." With that, the interview was over.

Thankfully, we had dozens of pleasant encounters after that. But I would always understand that he knew exactly who he was talking to, and that he was always laser-focused on reaching as wide a readership as he could. He gave great quotes -- quotes that didn't talk down to the reader, but rather let them peek behind the scenes at Apple. "The dirty little secret of the iTunes store is that there's no way to make money," he told me when it launched on the PC. "We do it because we're selling iPods."

iPods, iPhones, iPads -- Jobs had his product road map worked out way in advance, and it was all about getting supremely easy-to-use products into the hands of as many users as possible. Compromised, committee-designed devices, such as the ho-hum Motorola Rockr iTunes phone, only served as examples of what Apple shouldn't make.

So what now? Is there another visionary in the world with that kind of drive, ambition, focus and zeal? Plenty of pundits have said we'll never see the likes of Jobs again -- but I hope they're wrong, and I think Jobs would hope that too. Because who wants to see a world without the mid-21st century equivalent of the Macintosh, or the iPod, or Pixar?

If someone does pick up that baton and champion mainstream-friendly, fear-free technology, think where we'll go next.

Just imagine.

What Everyone Is Too Polite to Say About Steve Jobs ~ October 7, 2011
In the days after Steve Jobs' death, friends and colleagues have, in customary fashion, been sharing their fondest memories of the Apple co-founder. He's been hailed as "a genius" and "the greatest CEO of his generation" by pundits and tech journalists. But a great man's reputation can withstand a full accounting. And, truth be told, Jobs could be terrible to people, and his impact on the world was not uniformly positive.

We mentioned much of the good Jobs did during his career earlier. His accomplishments were far-reaching and impossible to easily summarize. But here's one way of looking at the scope of his achievement: It's the dream of any entrepreneur to effect change in one industry. Jobs transformed half a dozen of them forever, from personal computers to phones to animation to music to publishing to video games. He was a polymath, a skilled motivator, a decisive judge, a farsighted tastemaker, an excellent showman, and a gifted strategist.

One thing he wasn't, though, was perfect. Indeed there were things Jobs did while at Apple that were deeply disturbing. Rude, dismissive, hostile, spiteful: Apple employees—the ones not bound by confidentiality agreements—have had a different story to tell over the years about Jobs and the bullying, manipulation and fear that followed him around Apple. Jobs contributed to global problems, too. Apple's success has been built literally on the backs of Chinese workers, many of them children and all of them enduring long shifts and the specter of brutal penalties for mistakes. And, for all his talk of enabling individual expression, Jobs imposed paranoid rules that centralized control of who could say what on his devices and in his company.

It's particularly important to take stock of Jobs' flaws right now. His successor, Tim Cook, has the opportunity to set a new course for the company, and to establish his own style of leadership. And, thanks to Apple's success, students of Jobs' approach to leadership have never been so numerous in Silicon Valley. He was worshipped and emulated plenty when he was alive; in death, Jobs will be even more of an icon.

After celebrating Jobs' achievements, we should talk freely about the dark side of Jobs and the company he co-founded. Here, then, is a catalog of lowlights:

Censorship and Authoritarianism

What Everyone Is Too Polite to Say About Steve JobsThe internet allowed people around the world to express themselves more freely and more easily. With the App Store, Apple reversed that progress. The iPhone and iPad constitute the most popular platform for handheld computerizing in America, key venues for media and software. But to put anything on the devices, you need Apple's permission. And the company wields its power aggressively.

In the name of protecting children from the evils of erotica — "freedom from porn" — and adults from one another, Jobs has banned from being installed on his devices gay art, gay travel guides, political cartoons, sexy pictures, Congressional candidate pamphlets, political caricature, Vogue fashion spreads, systems invented by the opposition, and other things considered morally suspect.

Apple's devices have connected us to a world of information. But they don't permit a full expression of ideas. Indeed, the people Apple supposedly serves — "the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers" — have been particularly put out by Jobs' lockdown. That America's most admired company has followed such an un-American path, and imposed centralized restrictions typical of the companies it once mocked, is deeply disturbing.

But then Jobs never seemed comfortable with the idea of fully empowered workers or a truly free press. Inside Apple, there is a culture of fear and control around communication; Apple's "Worldwide Loyalty Team" specializes in hunting down leakers, confiscating mobile phones and searching computers.

Apple applies coercive tactics to the press, as well. Its first response to stories it doesn't like is typically manipulation and badgering, for example, threatening to withhold access to events and executives. Next, it might leak a contradictory story.

What Everyone Is Too Polite to Say About Steve JobsBut Apple doesn't stop there. It has a fearsome legal team that is not above annihilating smaller prey. In 2005, for example, the company sued 19-year-old blogger Nick Ciarelli for correctly reporting, prior to launch, the existence of the Mac Mini. The company did not back down until Ciarelli agreed to close his blog ThinkSecret forever. Last year, after our sister blog Gizmodo ran a video of a prototype iPhone 4, Apple complained to law enforcement, who promptly raided an editor's home.

And just last month, in the creepiest example of Apple's fascist tendencies, two of Apple's private security agents searched the home of a San Francisco man and threatened him and his family with immigration trouble as part of an scramble for a missing iPhone prototype. The man said the security agents were accompanied by plainclothes police and did not identify themselves as private citizens, lending the impression they were law enforcement officers.

Sweatshops, Child Labor and Human Rights

Apple's factories in China have regularly employed young teenagers and people below the legal work age of 16, made people work grueling hours, and have tried to cover all this up. That's according to Apple's own 2010 report about its factories in China. In 2011, Apple reported that its child labor problem had worsened.

In 2010, the Daily Mail managed to get a reporter inside a facility in China that manufactures products for Apple and the paper shared a bit about what life is like:

    With the complex at peak production, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week to meet the global demand for Apple phones and computers, a typical day begins with the Chinese national anthem being played over loudspeakers, with the words: 'Arise, arise, arise, millions of hearts with one mind.'

    As part of this Orwellian control, the public address system constantly relays propaganda, such as how many products have been made; how a new basketball court has been built for the workers; and why workers should 'value efficiency every minute, every second'.

    With other company slogans painted on workshop walls - including exhortations to 'achieve goals unless the sun no longer rises' and to 'gather all of the elite and Foxconn will get stronger and stronger' - the employees work up to 15-hour shifts.

    Down narrow, prison-like corridors, they sleep in cramped rooms in triple-decked bunk beds to save space, with simple bamboo mats for mattresses.

    Despite summer temperatures hitting 35 degrees, with 90 per cent humidity, there is no air-conditioning. Workers say some dormitories house more than 40 people and are infested with ants and cockroaches, with the noise and stench making it difficult to sleep.

A company can be judged by how it treats its lowliest workers. It sets an example for the rest of the company or in Apple's case, the world.

In Person and At Home

Before he was deposed from Apple the first time around, Jobs already had a reputation internally for acting like a tyrant. Jobs regularly belittled people, swore at them, and pressured them until they reached their breaking point. In the pursuit of greatness he cast aside politeness and empathy. His verbal abuse never stopped. Just last month Fortune reported about a half-hour "public humiliation" Jobs doled out to one Apple team:

    "Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?" Having received a satisfactory answer, he continued, "So why the fuck doesn't it do that?"

    "You've tarnished Apple's reputation," he told them. "You should hate each other for having let each other down."

Jobs ended by replacing the head of the group, on the spot.

In his book about Jobs' time at NeXT and return to Apple, The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, Alan Deutschman described Jobs' rough treatment of underlings:

    He would praise and inspire them, often in very creative ways, but he would also resort to intimidating, goading, berating, belittling, and even humiliating them... When he was Bad Steve, he didn't seem to care about the severe damage he caused to egos or emotions... suddenly and unexpectedly, he would look at something they were working on say that it "sucked," it was "shit."

Jobs had his share of personal shortcomings, too. He has no public record of giving to charity over the years, despite the fact he became wealthy after Apple's 1980 IPO and had accumulated an estimated $7 billion net worth by the time of his death. After closing Apple's philanthropic programs on his return to Apple in 1997, he never reinstated them, despite the company's gusher of profits.

It's possible Jobs has given to charity anonymously, or that he will posthumously, but he has hardly embraced or encouraged philanthropy in the manner of, say, Bill Gates, who pledged $60 billion to charity and who joined with Warren Buffet to push fellow billionaires to give even more.

What Everyone Is Too Polite to Say About Steve Jobs"He clearly didn't have the time," is what the director of Jobs' short-lived charitable foundation told the New York Times. That sounds about right. Jobs did not lead a balanced life. He was professionally relentless. He worked long hours, and remained CEO of Apple through his illness until six weeks before he died. The result was amazing products the world appreciates. But that doesn't mean Jobs' workaholic regimen is one to emulate.

There was a time when Jobs actively fought the idea of becoming a family man. He had his daughter Lisa out of wedlock at age 23 and, according to Fortune, spent two years denying paternity, even declaring in court papers "that he couldn't be Lisa's father because he was 'sterile and infertile, and as a result thereof, did not have the physical capacity to procreate a child.'" Jobs eventually acknowledged paternity, met and married his wife, now widow, Laurene Powell, and had three more children. Lisa went to Harvard and is now a writer.

Steve Jobs created many beautiful objects. He made digital devices more elegant and easier to use. He made a lot of money for Apple Inc. after people wrote it off for dead. He will undoubtedly serve as a role model for generations of entrepreneurs and business leaders. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing depends on how honestly his life is appraised.

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