Greatest Commencement Speech Ever
As I’m sure many of you know the late Steve Jobs was co-founder and CEO of Apple among other things and a pioneer on the personal computer revolution in the 70’s and 80’s. Sadly he died of pancreatic cancer in 2011 at the age of 56. Six years before that he was the commencement speaker at Stanford University and delivered what may be the best graduation speech ever and one I have hung up in my office. He shared three life stories with students on that day in June of 2005 and time and space will only allow me to share a very small part of his speech.
“Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories. I dropped out of Reed College after the first six months but stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. 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. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out okay. 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 5-cent deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 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.”
At the time of his speech Jobs had already been diagnosed but had a form of pancreatic cancer that was curable with surgery which he had and he thought he would be fine. With that knowledge here is another portion of his speech.
“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like, If you live each day as it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right. It made an impression on me, and since then, 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.”
At the time of his death Jobs was said to be worth between $7-10 billion.
For those of you so inclined you can read the text of the entire speech here. It is worth your time for sure.