I was fortunate enough to receive a friend’s email with a link to Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement address at Stanford University. This is the kind of biographical stuff that really matters; the rarely-told stories that catch us by surprise and allow us to end the day a little wiser than when we began it: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html
In it, Jobs told the new graduates three personal stories, about connecting the dots, love and loss, and death, drawing immensely powerful lessons from each of them:
…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…
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…
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.
The usual biographical details that have been offered in the wake of Jobs’ passing, as impressive as some of them are, are merely reflections of who he was—his inner drives and passions, the opportunities and obstacles he encountered, and the powerful insights that he developed along the way. Most of us, when looking at someone like him, realize that our own path is unlikely to lead to such prominence. And the standard reporting on his life, death, and legacy tend to reaffirm that, again and again.
Thankfully, his 2005 speech illuminates the utter irrelevance of such thinking. Jobs’ insights and advice are relevant, available, and actionable to all of us, regardless of our station in life. Yes, he clearly left behind an amazing collection of technological design and innovation, and a historically successful company. But iPads, iPhones, and the rest of the lot will eventually be outdated (and in the world that Jobs helped to create, sooner rather than later). We will eventually have no choice but to let them go, as Hank Stuever so eloquently put it. By comparison, the three lessons that he shared with the world in 2005 are powerful, universal, and timeless. And as such, they are arguably the more important part of his legacy.
IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES: Symmetry Capital Management, LLC (SCM) is a Pennsylvania registered investment advisor that offers discretionary investment management to individuals and institutions. This publication is for informational, educational, and entertainment purposes only. It is not an offer to sell or a solicitation to buy securities, or to engage in any investment strategy. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Neither the firm, nor its principals, nor its clients own securities issued by or directly related to Apple.