Christian Long

Steve Jobs: How to Live Before You Die

In TED Talks on May 13, 2010 at 9:35 pm

Extra credit reflection by KATIE R.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Steve Jobs: How to Live Before You Die

This is a truly remarkable speech: short, inspirational and so true.

How do we live before we die?

The main thing we have to remember is that death is the ultimate end for all of us. How we choose to spend the time between birth and death is played out in a series of personal choices. Steve outlines some basic ideas to keep in mind as we go forward in taking control of our future. The three basic principals are connecting the dots, not settling, and remembering that death is inevitable. At my age, I am still not sure what lies ahead or even what choices I will be facing in the near future, but the advice in this video is something that can apply to any age not just those at the Stanford graduation ceremony.

Do we know how the choices we make today going to affect us in the future? Not as we make them, but we have to trust that eventually they will turn out for the better. In hindsight it is easy to look back and see where we committed errors or made the wrong choices. However, as Steve points out, it is better to pave your own path, make your own errors, then waste time conforming to the norm. We, in today’s culture, are programmed to graduate high school, go to college, and follow an approved course of study. We are required to take classes that may not interest us, or we may not be good in, just for the sake of getting a higher education. At the end of at least sixteen years of schooling, we set out into the workforce looking for a job in our chosen field. While all of us may not be as successful as Steve, it is clear that he chose to follow his instincts and, for him, the gamble paid off. Was it coincidence that he dropped out of college, just happened to take calligraphy class that led to the typography in his software? Maybe not, but he was certainly laying some of the groundwork for his future success. We have to allow ourselves to pursue what interests us and rely on our intuition that ultimately, we will come out ahead. In the future we will look back and see the choices we made, where those choices led us and at that time we will be able to connect the dots.

One of the most important things to look for in choosing our career path is being able to identify what we are passionate about. If we have a love for what we do, we will be more willing to work hard and be more successful. Work will take up the majority of our days so it would be much better to wake up and look forward to the day ahead. Even if we start out with great enthusiasm, Steve says, eventually the daily grind will make us loose our passion and weigh us down with responsibility. His wake up call came when he was fired from his own company and forced him to take stock of his life. If that should happen, we should not look at it as a failure, but as an opportunity to begin again. Failure should be looked at as a chance to regroup, get re-energized and start loving what we do again. Being free of the structured business regime can let us be creative and be open to new possibilities we had overlooked. If we still love what we do, then we can rebuild as long as we do not lose faith. We should never settle for just any job, we should continue looking for that thing that makes us want to be inquisitive and look forward to the challenges that may come our way.

Steve has a very interesting outlook on death. As he said, his philosophy on death came about long before he faced the possibility of his own death from pancreatic cancer. Knowing that death is something we cannot escape, in Steve’s opinion, should make us want to live every day to the fullest. Usually, it takes facing the real possibility of death that makes us reflect on our lives however, at our age, we think of death as more of a theoretical concept than an actual reality. Our lives have just begun and we think we are invincible…death is for the old. I think that in order to accept Steve’s outlook on death we need to accept that death is an unknown quantity. When you look at things, what can be worse than death? Fear of failure and failure itself are insignificant in the scheme of things. Once you get that fear out of the way, the world is open to all dreams and possibilities. We can devote our time and energy to doing those things we enjoy the most. As Steve said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

We should all follow the message from The Whole Earth Catalog: “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”. You need to stay hungry, so that you will pursue your dreams and never settle for the kind of life that society has established. Staying foolish gives you the freedom to have those dreams without worrying about what others may think or say about you. It is after all our life to live before we die.

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