I’ve wanted to post this video for a few years because it’s an amazing 15 minutes. If you haven’t seen it, you must. If you have, it’s worth seeing again.
Flying home today not only gave me time to write, but it’s impossible to leave a college graduation without feeling at least a little inspired. Congrats to my sister for earning her bachelor’s degree!
The three lessons:
It’s impossible to connect the dots looking forward
When I first heard Steve Job’s commencement speech, this comment didn’t really sink in. I didn’t understand just how true this was. In 2007, I found this speech when I was searching for ideas for my own MBA graduation speech.
I had just left my career as a police officer to take a year away from work to earn an MBA. I had a rough idea why I was returning to school, but in all honesty, my primary motivation was that I just wanted to. I was following my heart more than my head.
It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made, but I wouldn’t understand exactly why for several years. As it turned out, the degree and the things I learned, were not the benefits of my education.
Instead, it was discovering the confidence to do what I wanted—not necessarily what “should.” That led me to discovering Steve Job’s second lesson.
The only way to be truly happy is to do what you believe is great work
At some point in life we’re told to stop following our dreams and instead to be realistic. Never in those words, but the message is the same.
Perhaps it’s around high school we’re taught that being a rock star or an astronaut is not as practical as being a prisoner in a cubicle. We learn it’s more important to buy a house, cars, have 2.3 kids, and chase carrots—» the ladder in your field?
College graduations are so inspiring because the students are not yet beaten down with the “realities” of life. Those realities when employees stop feeling they contribute to a greater cause. It’s when they begin punching a clock or just serving their sentence in between weekends.
It’s inspiring to wake up each morning believing that what you do matters. That your contribution is important.
The enthusiasm of youth disappears the day we accept we are replaceable cogs in a giant machine. This is why most “lead lives of quiet desperation,” as Henry David Thoreau so accurately put it. (Circa 1800’s)
Instead, as Jobs says, “Don’t settle” and instead:
Live each day as if it’s your last
One of my greatest strengths happens to be one of my weaknesses. My natural tendency is to forgo today for something greater tomorrow. The benefits of forward thinking are not always obvious, but it happens to be one of the top 10 distinctions between millionaires and the middle class.
However, like everything in life, balance is important. I didn’t always understand this, and sadly, it’s often death opens people’s eyes most. For Steve Jobs, it was the false alarm of his pending death. Hearing him speak of his own death now is a bit eerie, but the lesson is even more powerful.
Children often take unnecessary risks because they haven’t witnessed the consequences. As you grow and experience life, the risk becomes more real, especially when it hits home with friends and family. As scary as this may be, it can also be a source of liberation.
Ask yourself each day, if you knew you were going to die tomorrow, next month, or next year, would you do anything differently today? If yes, then you should probably change what you’re doing. That’s a game changer.
Now, I hope you’ll enjoy the video.
“Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”