Stay hungry; stay foolish – How relevant is the Steve Jobs Stanford speech for graduating students today?


Convocation’s are special for graduating students for more than one reason; as it’s the final day for students in the imaginative corridors of their learning temples away from the harsh reality of outside world. Summarizing this harshness and sharing insights on how best to address these challenges is the best way for an educational institution to wrap up and put into perspective everything, ever taught by them. In 2005, Stanford University called the late Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, to deliver commencement address to serve the same purpose only.

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Steve ended up well serving this purpose by sharing three stories from his life that provided students with much needed motivation and insight into how best to tackle every possible challenge that they could face in their careers, going ahead.

“It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made” said Steve recalling his decision to drop out from college. Steve, however, also carefully warned the students to not take decisions hastily and pointed out that he actually kept reconsidering his decision for as long as 18 months before finally deciding to drop out of college. What was great about this period, though, was that Steve also utilized this time by actually doing something that he really enjoyed.

“And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition, turned out to be priceless later on”, said Steve giving example of taking Calligraphy classes at college after dropping out and later integrating this knowledge, 10 years later, while designing typefaces for his first “Macintosh” computer. The said example, throws light on, why it is important to follow your heart, as all of us face the dichotomy of to be or not to be but not all of us have the courage to pick one. “Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards” said Steve underlining his faith and cluelessness about all those decisions he had made back then.

Another story shared by Steve talks about his failure in business and how he dealt with it. “But something began to slowly dawn on me, I still loved what I did, the turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit, I’d been rejected but I was still in love and so I decided to start over,” said Steve, reflecting on his thoughts after being fired from Apple, aged 30, and deciding to start afresh. The story exemplified character and perseverance when nothing’s seems to be going right. It’s important to be consistent as finding something that you truly love doing and then beginning to do it considerably well is no easy task. Success does not come to those who keep switching.

It is interesting to see Steve’s approach to public embarrassment and being kicked out of the company for which he toiled so hard. “It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life” said Steve recalling his stint at Next and Pixar. Steve projected his expertise at what he did by once again propelling these fresh endeavours to new heights, restoring people’s faith in him. Years later, life comes full circle for Steve as Next is bought by Apple bringing Steve once again at the helm.

Steve ended his speech with a strong message recalling his tryst with cancer. “This has been the closest I’ve been to facing death and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades” said Steve of his experiences after getting diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and successfully recovering from it. “Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” said Steve calling out students to act on it. Steve sums up his call by quoting from the final issue of the magazine called Whole Earth Catalogue saying: “stay hungry, stay foolish”.

Image Courtesy: Business Insider

(This article was written for a PR writing class)

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