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Life lessons from the founder of Apple
Do what you love, love what you do, is the message from technology and design guru Steve Jobs. What can you learn from someone who dropped out of studying for a college degree after only six months? Plenty, if that person is Steve Jobs, the legendary inventor of the Apple Macintosh computer.
Lesson number one: Learn what interests you. It will probably come in useful later in life.
"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever."
Steve Jobs quit his college course after only six months, because he felt he was selfishly squandering his working class parent's slender life savings to gain a diploma.
But although Jobs quit his course, he did not quit college. Instead, the 17-year-old teenager hung around the campus for another year and a half, sleeping on friends? floors and dining with the Hare Krishnas, while unofficially attending only those lectures he was interested in.
Did this all add up to a wasted two years? No, says Jobs, because as soon as he dropped out, he no longer had to study subjects he wasn't interested in, and was able to study only those he was interested in. Much of what he learned just by following his curiosity and intuition turned out to be really useful, even though it didn't seem to have any practical application at the time.
One example of a quirky course that paid dividends was a course in calligraphy, the art of beautiful handwriting, which taught him the rudiments of typography and letter spacing.
Job relates how, 10 years later, when designing the first Apple Mac computer, he built his typographic knowledge into it: ?If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts,? says Jobs. ?If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do.?
Lesson number two: The end of the world can be transformed into a new beginning.
"I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life."
Steve Jobs and his partner started Apple in his parents? garage when he was only 20, and invented the first Macintosh computer before he was 30. By then the company had grown into a $2 billion corporation with 4,000 employees. Along the way, it had also picked up a formal management structure and a board of directors who turned on Jobs and fired him, shutting him out of his own company in disgrace.
Jobs was devastated for months before he realised that he still loved the creativity of computers, and that nobody could take away his expertise and experience. He decided to carry on doing what he loved, and during the next five years he created an IT development company called NeXT, and bought and developed Pixar Studios.
Pixar produced ?Toy Story?, the first computer animated feature film, and became the world's leading computer animation studio. Around that time, Apple found they had lost their way without Jobs, and bought NeXT to get him back on board. A smart decision, since NeXT technology was incorporated in the Imac, the new generation of Apple Mac computers that saved the company.
?I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple,? recalls Jobs. ?Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did.?
Lesson number three: There is a fate worse than death.
"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle."
Steve Jobs remembers reading a quote when he was 17 that has stayed with him all his life: ?If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right.? But even if you understand this, it's a shock when you are faced with your own mortality.
At the age of 50, Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest of all cancers. He spent a day getting used to the idea of death while the doctors did a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. And then a miracle happened. The biopsy revealed that his was one of the tiny fraction of cases of pancreatic cancer that could be operated on. The operation was a success, and he survived.
This experience of surviving cancer has made Jobs even more convinced that his belief in doing what you love is right. ?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,? explains Job. ?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.?
Lesson number four: Don't live someone else's 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."
Steve Jobs has always lived life on his own terms. Doing what he loves to do, which is to explore the creativity opened up by the world of computers - whether it is used to make animated films, or make the personal computer an essential a part of our lives.
He started with nothing and invented an idea so big it grew into a multibillion dollar company, and was thrown out of that company in disgrace at the peak of its success. He had the faith to start again from scratch and build two more successful companies, once again doing what he loved best.
His conviction that doing what you love is the only way to live your life is so important to him, that his brush with cancer simply made him believe in it more strongly.
The truth is that we do not know when we are going to die, and we cannot really live our lives as if every day was our last day on earth. It simply wouldn't be practical. But the essential truth of Steve Jobs? personal philosophy is surely worth thinking about: if you hate what you do every day, you will hate your life. If you love what you do, you will approach it with joy, and enjoy most of your days on Earth.
This article is based on a speech made by Steve Jobs to a graduating class at Stanford University in June 2005. All quotes are from this speech. To read the full text, go to http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html