“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. 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 before I really quit. Looking back, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
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 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. Here’s one example: Reed College offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Because I had dropped out and I didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class. I learned about serif and sans serif typefaces, about what makes great typography great.
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. If I had never dropped in on that course in college, the Mac would never have had multiple typefaces or for that matter even proportionally spaced fonts.
And since Windows copied Mac, it’s likely no personal computer would have them. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very clear looking backwards 10 years later.
You can’t connect 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 found what I loved to do early in life. Woz (Steve Wozniak) and I started Apple when I was 20. In 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company. And then I got fired. It was devastating.
But something slowly began to dawn on me – I still loved what I did. And so I decided to start over.
The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again. 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 is now the world’s most successful animation studio. Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Lawrene and I have a wonderful family together.
Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. 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.
My third story is about death. About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy. 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: Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone’s life.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalogue. In the final issue, on the back cover they put a photograph of an early morning country road. Beneath it were the words: Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. It was their farewell message as they signed off. I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
Copied from pp. 150-152 of MIND OVER MATTER, a Times of India publication, 2011.
Some notes on the usage of “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” from the Quotes site:
This phrase purposefully uses negative adjectives in a positive way. This is what gives this phrase its “punch.” Taking a word, phrase, or situation and contrasting how it is normally used versus how it is used in a given case is a common rhetorical device.
Hungry here means “wanting something more”, as in “He was hungry for a raise.” Jobs is putting forward that being dissatisfied with what you have and wanting more is a good thing.
Likewise, someone who is foolish acts without thinking and takes unnecessary risks. Jobs is saying that you SHOULD take stupid risks and throw caution to the wind.
Taken together, Jobs is simply saying: “You only live once, so make it count and go after what you want no matter what.”
The phrase is an encouragement to keep a state of learning and open state of mind, perhaps like a child that isn’t spoiled by a rigid mindset.