Informative, and General Reading
Commencement Address of Steve Jobs
Stanford Report, June 14, 2005
Text of Commencement address by Steve Jobs.
This is the prepared text of the address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer
and of Pixar Animation Studios, who spoke at Commencement at 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 bigdeal. 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
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 patents 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 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 5c 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 retuned 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 your 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
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 other's 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.