Thursday, December 22, 2011

Commencement speech delivered by late Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple Computer,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 
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, 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 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 
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 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 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 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 
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 
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 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.