I just finished listening to the 15 minute commencement address Steve Jobs gave at Stanford University in May 2005, downloadable for free from Stanford on iTunes.

Wow. Podcasting really is “infomation” rather than “automation,” to use the parlance of Alan November. It allows us to do things with technology that we simply couldn’t do otherwise. I was not at the Stanford commencement in May, and without this recording it is doubtful I would have had an opportunity to hear these words from the heart of Steve Jobs.

His approach to the speech was simple and powerful: he told three stories from his own life experiences. The stories revolved around the wish of his biological and adoptive parents for him to go to college, the experience of being fired from Apple Computer (the company he invented and started with Steve Wozniak) and as a result– having the opportunity to begin again and start life over– and his perspective on life which comes in a large part from his awareness of his own mortality. Very powerful and touching messages.

Steve doesn’t mention having a faith in God, and I think I have read elsewhere that he is not a Christian. Listening to his story, it is clear to me that God’s hand has been active and visible in Steve’s life. I can relate very directly with his story of devastation in losing a job– but also in the incredible blessing which can come from the opportunity to start over in life. Steve has a wonderful wife, family, and several very successful companies to regard with justifiable pride, happiness, and thanksgiving. Despite the challenges in my own life and the obstacles which remain in the way of many goals I still have, I am overwhelmed today at this very moment by the scale and bounty of blessings which God has given me.

We are watching and listening to Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University” on DVD, based on his excellent book ““Financial Peace: Revisited” on Wednesday nights at church currently, and I really think many of the messages Dave talks about in that series are meant for me specifically in this season of my life. Dave has a saying that I really like, when people call him on his radio show– when they ask how he is doing, he responds, “Great, better than I deserve!” That is me too. And apparently it is for Steve Jobs as well.

Many thanks to Steve for sharing these touching personal stories of his own life, and to the folks at Stanford University who have the foresight and vision to share content like this for free via podcasting.

Here are my brief notes from Steve’s May 2005 commencement address. Don’t just read my textual summary, however, go to Stanford on iTunes, download the file, and listen to Steve yourself in his own words. Doing otherwise would not do justice to the simple elegance and power of his message.

Notes follow:

3 stories from Steve Jobs’ life

– story of how his biological mother wanted him to go to college
– dropped out of Reid college

Started dropping in on classes he liked
– much of what he stumbled into turned out to be priceless later
– example: Reid College offered great calligraphy classes
– Steve learned about Seriph and SanSerif type fonts, learned about what makes great calligraphy
— 10 years later when they designed the Mac, they made it with multiple type faces and proportional type faces

It was impossible to connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards
– you have to trust in something that the dots will connect sometime in the future
— (Steve didn’t mention God here)

story about love and loss
– when he was 20, started Apple in his garage with Woz
– at 30 Steve was publicly out of Apple, and it was devastating
– felt that he had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down, was a public failure
– thought about leaving Silicon Valley
– he still loved what he did
– so he decided to start over
– the heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again
– started NEXT, PIXAR, and met his wife
– pretty sure none of this would have happened unless he had been fired from Apple

Sometimes life is going to hit you like a ton of bricks

– you have got to find what it is that you love, do what you believe is great work, the only way to do that is to love what you do
– if you haven’t find out, keep looking, don’t settle
– you’ll know when you find it

3rd story about death
– for past 33 years, has asked if tomorrow is the last day in my life, would I want to do what am doing today?
– remembering that I’ll be dead soon is one of the best tools to use in keeping perspective on life
– pride, fear of embarrassment, falls away in the face of death
– avoid the trap of thinking that you have something to lose
– you are already naked, you have nothing to lose
– Doctors recently told Steve he had pancreatic cancer, and he had 3-6 months to live
– was told to go home and “get his things in order” (say his goodbyes)

It turned out to be a very rare pancreatic cancer that is curable by surgery

death is the destination we all share
– death is life’s change agent, it clears out the old to make way for the new
– some day you will become the old, and be cleared away
– your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life
– don’t be trapped by dogma
– follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you want to become

Story of the “whole earth catalog”
– words “stay hungry, stay foolish” were on an ad on the back cover
– Steve has always wished that for himself as a motto

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