‘Stay hungry, stay foolish’ – A lesson from the life of Steve Jobs

(This piece of writing is based on Steve Jobs’s legendary Stanford commencement speech of 2005. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hd_ptbiPoXM. It is addressed to all my batch mates at Centennial who begin their new lives as interns shortly in the world of public relations and communications. Originally written during my public relations writing course at Centennial, it has been modified from its original version).


“Failures are the pillars of success”- have you ever thought of this saying as a truism? If not, take note.

The most celebrated entrepreneur of our era, Steve Jobs, gave this adage new life and meaning at the Stanford University commencement speech seven years ago. Born to a single mom who put him up for adoption, a drop-out from university in his teenage years, publicly kicked out of the company he founded and built when 30 and diagnosed with cancer at 50, many would have said his life was unfair. However, in between, Jobs became known as the “Father of the digital revolution,” founded “Apple,” “Pixar” and “NeXT” and became a household name. Without the inventions in smart phone and tablet technology he pioneered, the social media revolution would not have been what it is today.

Jobs’s life-story is one of great resolution and fortitude. It is a story of adversity overcome through sheer perseverance and creative ingenuity. But one thing stands out – he did what he loved. It is a lesson for all- to follow your heart and do what you love and to trust your instincts even if some things do not make sense at the time, such as dropping in on a calligraphy course after dropping out of Reed College. But Jobs says, “It was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later.” That was after he used his lessons in calligraphy to design the beautiful typography in the Macs we use.  “If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them,” Jobs added tongue-in-cheek.

Jobs’s insights on love and loss are refreshing. His call for people to believe in something and live with the notion that some day we will all die is a marked contrast to the notion of the materialistic American entrepreneur we have come to know. “You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” It is this trust that enabled Jobs, after being fired from Apple, to found the world’s most successful animation company “Pixar” and “NeXT” whose innovations, Jobs says, “ are at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance.” “Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that happened to me,” says Jobs, a bracing idea for a young graduate to fathom. He attributes his success to his realization that despite the setback he still loved what he did. “I had been rejected, but I was still in love,” comments Jobs perhaps with a pun intended for he met his future wife, Laurene, during this time.

Coupled with the trust in doing what he loved is his insight into death and its inevitability. For Jobs, it was a call to follow the heart, “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,” Jobs advised.

Friends! As we end our studies at Centennial and begin our internships, it is worth reminding ourselves of the lesson Jobs imparted – follow your heart. I end with Jobs’ parting wisdom to the Stanford graduates, a timeless quote and inspiring truism valid as much as the one that began this essay – “Stay hungry, stay foolish.”


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