Thursday, June 16, 2005

Changing the world - starting with yourself

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!


  1. Now here is a good post.

  2. Wow, you are good writer

    I wrote about the speech as well and after reading your post had to add a link to your post. All readers deserve that.

    The link is here

  3. I'd like to hear about your dots. I'm only 21, just graduated and starting out.. I want to know that there are success stories, like yours out there.
    Do tell about your dots.

  4. enakshi5:21 PM

    I read ur profile-where in, u r scanning the horizon for fresh blood,i think i have what it takes to infuse a certain amount of creativity-i tried emailing u but failed.
    Cud u leave behind ur email id on this po

  5. shilpi sharma6:55 PM

    Hey Rashmi
    Good post. I admire self made people and look upto women who break the glass cielinglike Laila Ali and Condoleeza Rice.I'm 20 yrs old and still waiting for my dots to are also an inspiration because you took a chance on something you believed in and it worked.

  6. shilpi sharma6:55 PM

    Hey Rashmi
    Good post. I admire self made people and look upto women who break the glass cielinglike Laila Ali and Condoleeza Rice.I'm 20 yrs old and still waiting for my dots to are also an inspiration because you took a chance on something you believed in and it worked.

  7. If somebody is interested in seeing the video of Steve Jobs speech, you can find it here

  8. i liked the death thing which Jobs said.
    "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose"
    My funda in life is a partial derivative of this one line. To get rid of this fear of losing something, I tend to think as if I am the bottommost point. The only way I can go is UP.

  9. hi rashmi
    the speech by Jobs was truly amazing.
    Everything done by him, his entire life it seems has turned out to be perfect. the speech is inspiring and moving, apt for the world in general

  10. Hi Rashmi,
    I had just read about the article yest. It really did have a good impact on me.
    And probably that was the catalyst i needed.
    I hav finished my exams just a few days back of final yr engg.
    Also i hav a job to look fwd to in PUne at TIL.
    But the article has pushed me back to my second thoughts phase.
    I 'll probably go for an animation cousre in Mumbai or Pune.
    I mean i thot , wud i realy like to sit in a cubicle for the rest of my life.
    I mean at least if i m doin anim and sittin in a cubicle yet atleast its worth it. and i m enjoyin.
    For evryone readin this i'd like to tell u that maybe it sounds easy hearing sucess stories like these ( Steve Jobs and Rashmi , if u hav read here profile)
    But its difficult much more than u can imagine, only ur inner most desire can get u thru it.
    But dont stop just for that.
    As an actor in movie once said
    "I dont want it to be easy, I just want my chance"
    So i'd like to add that, yes try your chance, may be it wont happen but dont decide until u have tried.
    here's a quote by someone
    "U dont know how far u can go for somthing until u do"

    I have a gud article , a speech by Mr. Azim Premji ( Wipro )
    posted on my blog
    Trust me its good.

  11. here's the link for Mr. Azim Premji's speech
    Respond Instead of Reacting

    Do Respond!!

  12. Hello Ma'am

    I could go on and on about how wonderfully you've managed to "connect your dots" and how JAM is definitely not just another magazine,but I'll spare you the idle worship and get to the point which is that your story, unique in itself, is an inspiration to people like me, who are starting to find themselves after 20 years of just drifting through Life.It's a little scary and uncertain now, but I hope I translate inspiration into action soon...

    Keep JAMming!

  13. Your story, do tell! The 'life' link isn't working for me for some strange reason. I'm completely missing out on the story! Also, is there an online verson of Jam for us unlucky ones overseas?

  14. Nice Speech. I admire Steve Jobs . Its amazing how everytime he has bounced back from failure !

  15. Steve Jobs is a great leader and a visionary, someone who has contributed much more than Bill Gates. Having said that, he is also very highly secretive. Another interesting facet about him, he is totally veg and enjoys Indian Cuisine. He is supposedly a regular customer to KomalaVillas in the BayArea, California, USA.

    Have you read the book "iCon", Steve Jobs business biography?

  16. rashmi..actually u have added an extra dot(.) in the 'life' link (your article on buisnessworld) Thats why some readers are not able to open it. pls fix it.

  17. Anonymous12:09 PM

    hey the change the world quote is cool. i think infy has flicked it in one of their (monkey) recruitment ads!

    do you want to change the world? blah blah

  18. Jinal, I will wait a while before sharing my story (coz it's still being written :). Shashank, glad that you are making a leap of faith - faith in yourself. Of course it won't be easy... and at times when things really don't seem to be going yr way (and there will be many of them) re-reading Steve Jobs - and Azim Premji - might be a good idea. Everything Premji said makes really good sense but the bit I think is MOST important is focus on strengths - in yourself and others. And remain humble.

    P.S. Have removed the extra dot in the link - thanks to all who pointed that out

    Premji's speech is also

  19. Great post and thanks for pointing to the speech text.

  20. Hi rashmi;
    Its a great post.Keep rocking.

  21. Nice post on Steve Jobs speech. There are lot of Mac Users in India also. Hey do you use iPod.

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