One person can have an impact on another, on millions of people, on a country, on the world, on the universe. One person can make a difference. One insignificant measure of this, is that today, with all of the infinite number of huge and miniscule things happening on our planet, some huge portion of the human race is watching, reading, or thinking about Steve Jobs – and probably doing so via a device that he envisioned or created.
I don’t have much to add to the discussion of his life. But, I have noticed that many people are watching, sharing, re-tweeting, etc. his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address (embedded below). It’s worth it – it is a concise, 3-story triptych that moves from birth, to learning love and loss, to death. He tells it much like the way his Apple products are designed: his talk rings with clarity, it is elegant in its simplicity, it is different, it is important.
I was struck by his first story – about his birth, adoption and education. His life was different from his first breath – as are the lives of all of us. But, as an adoptee he had to recognize that fact – and possibly, in some part, that recognition may have led to his willingness to live differently.
One way that he actively chose to live differently was his “scary” decision to drop out of Reed College after 6 months. By that point, he realized that he “had no idea what [he] wanted to do with [his] life, and no idea how college was going to help [him] figure it out.” But upon dropping out, he didn’t just do nothing. Rather, the decision was a watershed moment that freed him to stop taking required classes that he wasn’t interested in – and to sit in on classes that he was interested in – and to start thinking about, learning and doing things that mattered to him. It wasn’t easy or romantic. He scrounged for money, food and a place to sleep – while sitting in on classes that might have seemed frivolous and completely impractical at the time, like calligraphy. He learned about fonts, proportional spacing, and the making of great typography – all of which years later became a cornerstone of the very first Macs.
The story is not about choosing whether or not to go to college; at any given time, college may or may not be right for any given individual. Rather, the story is about developing and gaining trust in yourself. He calls it ‘connecting the dots.’ As you grow and change, you can’t know where all the dots of your life may lead in the future. It’s about being willing to trust in something within yourself, “your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever,” and developing the belief that you can find things you care about and that you can pursue those things . He believed that having the self-trust that the dots will connect and make sense when you look back on your life will “give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path… and that will make all the difference.”