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I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the nest
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 rst story is about connecting the dots.
I dropped out of Reed College after the rst 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
Stanford University
ommencement Address
Steve Jobs
June 12, 2005
Lexile Measure: 880L
graduation, in this case from a
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school. She refused to sign the nal 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 gure 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. 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 oor in friends'
rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk
the 7 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. Let me give you one example:
Reed College at that time oered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country.
Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand
calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I
decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san
serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between dierent letter
combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical,
artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.
gave in; yielded
innocently and unwisely
the art of producing decorative
handwritten lettering with a pen
or brush
san serif typeface
style of typeface with decorative
lines on the letters (e.g., Times)
style of typeface with simple lines
(e.g., Arial)
the style and appearance of
printed matter; the art of arranging
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None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years
later, when we were designing the rst Macintosh computer, it all came back to me.
And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the rst computer with beautiful typography. If
I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had
multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the
Mac, it's likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I
would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not
have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the
dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards
ten years later.
Again, 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 dierence in my life.
My second story is about love and loss.
I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my
parents' garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown
from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees.
We had just released our nest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just
turned 30. And then I got red. How can you get red from a company you started? Well,
as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company
with me, and for the rst year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future
began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of
good or bad luck, seen as resulting
from one’s actions (from Hinduism
and Buddhism)
differ; move away from each other
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Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the
focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.
I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous
generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being
passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for
screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away
from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The
turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in
love. And so I decided to start over.
I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting red from Apple was the best thing
that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was
replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed
me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.
During the next ve 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 went on to create the world’s rst computer animated feature lm, Toy Story, and is
now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events,
Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at
the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family
I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been red from Apple.
It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits
a person who sets up a business,
taking on financial risks to make
a revival or renewed interest in
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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 nd what you love. And that is as true
for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to ll a large part of your life, and
the only way to be truly satised 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 nd it. And, like any great
relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you
nd it. Don't settle.
My third story is about death.
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it
was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me,
and since then, for the past 33 years, 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.
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.
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About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning,
and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas
was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and
that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to
go home and get my aairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to
try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in
just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as
easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.
I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they
stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines,
put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my
wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the
doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer
that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm ne now.
This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest I get for a
few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more
certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to
get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it.
And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It
is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is
you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be
cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
a large gland behind the stomach
which aids in digestion (and can
be affected by cancer)
an examination of body tissue to
discover the presence or cause of
an instrument used to give a view
of the body’s internal parts
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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 others' 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.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth
Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow
named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his
poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop
publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort
of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic,
and overowing with neat tools and great notions.
Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then
when it had run its course, they put out a nal issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was
your age. On the back cover of their nal issue was a photograph of an early morning
country road, the kind you might nd yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous.
Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as
they signed o. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And
now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
Thank you all very much.
a principle or idea presented by an
authority as unarguably true
the ability to understand
something immediately and
aiming or hoping for perfection,
sometimes unrealistically