I hesitate to use the word 'hero' to describe the influence this person has had on my life. Because heroes - inevitably - let you down. Suffice it to say that of the many public figures with wide and varied achievements one can possibly look upto, Steve Jobs is the one whom I have admired the most.
When in college I read 'Odyssey: From Pepsi to Apple' and that one line Jobs used to persuade Sculley to join him has stuck with me ever since. 'Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life - or, do you want a chance to change the world?'
It became a kind of guiding principle for my life. Not 'changing the world' in the literal sense but what I think Jobs really meant was you must look for passion - and meaning - in what you choose to do as 'work'.
Which is the point he made in the amazing speech he delivered to the graduating class of Stanford earlier this week. An absolute must-read-and-think-about.
Connect your dots
In his speech, Jobs tells three 'stories'. The first is 'connect your dots'. Where he explains how a calligraphy course he took after officially dropping out of college had a profound impact on his future - and ours.
None of this (calligraphy) had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. 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.
Imagine that! Everything you do - in the end - was somewhoe meant to be. It may not be immediately or practically applicable. It may do nothing for your CV at this moment. But you are the sum total of all your life experiences combined with your inherent talents. Which is why - like I said earlier - we all need to add some zig to our zag.
So, have those 'irrelevant' experiences. Pursue 'useless' interests. Because you never know where those dots may lead you.
As Jobs says: 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. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
The Second Coming
Elsewhere in his speech Jobs talks about how 'getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.' It forced him to reinvent himself - freed him to enter one of the most creative periods of his life.
Both the companies he started - Pixar and Next led to their own revolutions. Pixar became the pioneer in animated movie-making while Next was bought out by Apple. And the technology developed at Next ultimately led to the rebirth of Apple with the iPod.
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. You've got to find what you love. ... If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle.
Even if the great Indian mantra is beta, settle down :)
Live each day as if ...
The third 'story' Jobs shared was about death. A few months ago, doctors told him he had merely months to live. Turns out he had a rare - and curable - form of pancreatic cancer. So the death sentence was repealed.
But, he says once more the point hit home: Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life... Don't let the noise of other's 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.
As a tidal wave of students in India pass out of class 10, 12 and with bachelor's degrees - that's what they really need to sit still and listen to. Their own inner voice.
I can say that with conviction because I'm old enough to 'connect my dots' - and know exactly what Jobs means. But, that is a story I'll save for another day.
Jobs signs off with 'Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish'. You may not want to take that literally - but everything else he said you certainly should!