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What Steve Taught Me

October 05 2011 – 10:04pm

Just hours after the official announcement, it’s probably not news to you that Steve Jobs has passed away. His family has lost a husband and father; Apple has lost their founder and leader; and we have all lost one of the greatest minds the world has known. I’ve lost one of my heroes.

I know I’m not alone when I say that I can’t quantify the number of ways that Steve’s work has made my life better. Besides the fact that he made incredible products that have inspired and enabled me to explore my own creativity, the way that he approached work and life has served as a roadmap whenever I doubted my own convictions.

I was first introduced to Steve’s famous Stanford Commencement Address around the time that I began my own creative journey. I had recently come to terms with the fact that I had such a burning desire to follow my own curiosities and passions that I couldn’t possibly – in good faith – work for someone else. I wasn’t quite sure what I would wind up doing, but – scary as it was – I was looking forward to finding out. I cashed out a bunch of Apple stock that I had made a healthy profit from (thanks for that, too, Steve), and vowed to obey whatever made my heart beat a little faster.

I honestly don’t recall the very first time that I saw the video, but I know that it rang true enough that I have watched it dozens of times since then. Any time that I doubted myself or felt frustrated with the entrepreneurial process, I watched the video. If a friend ever needed motivation, I told them to watch it. I was jealous of them for having, still ahead of them, the experience of watching it for the first time. Steve put into clear words what had been merely a high-volume murmur in my head.

If I were to quote every phrase that has echoed through my head at some point in the past few years, I’d end up transcribing the whole thing. Here are a few of the principles – which now inform my every action – that I’ve taken away from Steve’s wisdom.

You are already naked

Life is too short to not do what you love. You are here temporarily, and in the grand scheme of the universe, you are really less significant than a grain of sand. It sounds dramatic; and maybe by pure faith, you simply disagree. Your brain will try to trick you, filling you with “fear of embarrassment or failure.” People around you will off-load these fears onto you, trying to “drown out your inner voice” with doubts that are really of no consequence.

At the same time, life is long enough (if you’re lucky), that you should build something that matters to you. One little thing you do today, you may be thanking yourself for 10 years from now.

You can’t connect the dots moving forward

The world is constantly changing, with seemingly disparate subjects occasionally serendipitously colliding to create innovation. While the obscure topic that arouses your curiosity today may seem insignificant now, it may bring a new perspective in your approach to another challenge. The only way you’ll find out is if you heed its call.

The lightness of being a beginner again

Sometimes we become so familiar with our main domain of expertise that we can’t possibly see it in a new way. When you’re presented with something unfamiliar, embrace the lightness of being a beginner again. Seek out new things of which you have no knowledge. The new dots may later connect, after all.

Stay hungry, stay foolish

It’s easy to get too comfortable: to rest upon your past achievements, and stay the conservative course. This can be a nice reward for a job well done, but it’s a dangerous place to stay for too long. If you haven’t felt “hungry” for awhile, look hard for something to be hungry for – it’s out there. Don’t be afraid to be “foolish” – to risk what you’ve earned to once again follow your stomach.


That’s what Steve taught me. If you haven’t seen his talk, do yourself the favor of a lifetime and watch it. Live your life by these words, and you won’t regret a moment.

Thank you so, so much, Steve.

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