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Stay hungry.Stay Foolish

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The words in this blog’s title are the last words in Steve Jobs’ brilliant commencement speech for Stanford’s graduating class of 2005. I think we will all do well to give it a read.

At one point in the speech he said “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.”  My own encounter with this quote occurred much later in life, in my 30s. It showed up as a thought for the day, in one corner of the landing page, on our company intranet and it was more prescriptive. It read “Live each day as if it were your last”.  It instantly appealed to me. One it draws attention to the fact that your time here is finite. Two, it urges you to prioritize and focus on what’s important and relevant. But to make this your credo does require enormous mental discipline given the very noisy environment of daily commerce.

Again here, there are some gems in Jobs’ speech. It is his story on death. Read these excerpts carefully

“…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…”

“….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.

(My comment : Put another way, as somebody said, the leading cause of Death is Life).

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…”

Jobs is not highlighting something macabre or being very dramatic. Instead I think what he is trying to do is establish a frame of reference for how you can maximize your potential, be useful, make a meaningful exit.  I want to believe I have followed this in my own journey so far (more recently augmented through the lens of Lechi’s death) . Maybe not as erudite but it can be captured simply as “maintain and follow your own internal yardstick”. We all face enormous pressures to keep up or do better than the Joneses. But that is not a winning strategy.

I want to mention one more thing. Jobs talks about connecting the dots.  In practice, this translates to not limiting your life experiences. This is very important, especially, in this age of intense specialization. Cross pollination is an essential ingredient for game changing innovations.

I want to end with a Mark Twain quote, which exhorts us to stay hungry and foolish, in his own brilliant, witty way. He said ” I did not let my schooling interfere with my education…..”

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Written by asterix98

October 8, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Posted in life choice

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