I Knew I Liked Steve Jobs
June 21, 2005

I'm not a fan of commencement speeches. In fact, I think commencement in general should be entirely revamped. The graduates should be given their diplomas first and then be dismissed to party while parents, relatives and faculty partake of the pomp and listen to the rambling commencement addresses which are generally wrought with cliches, and "feel good" messages that couldn't motivate me to move my couch let alone move my life.

So understand that it is with a relative amount of cynicism that I listened to Apple and Pixar CEO Steve Jobs' recent Stanford University commencement address. In a detour not typical of these types of speeches, Jobs avoided the bland talk of the responsibility that comes with a college degree and went in for the kill:

You've got to find what you love (an excerpt)

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.

Now that will preach. He ends:
"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 secondary."
Mr. Jobs, I'm taking notes. Read the speech in its entirety. The liberation of failure is unparalleled.

Posted by Ambra at June 21, 2005 3:00 AM in Education
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Welcome back, Nykola. I'm glad I waited.

I knew you would return. It made my day to see you posting again. Welcome back

I bet you were typing while atop your new bearskin rug. ;)

So glad to see you back in action!

Thanks for posting this. It has some tasty morsels of wisdom. Welcome back..well, sorta. :)

College is overrated, actually. I graduated from and learned to think at one, but it's overrated. I do think I benefitted from it, though. But not everyone needs to go.

Aw man, you missed your chance!
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