It’s no secret that Apple founder, Steve Jobs, passed away. It’s a trending topic on Twitter, bloggers are busily tapping on keys to express their condolences and newspapers have plastered the sad news all over websites and on their printed pages. I wondered before writing this post what the point would be for me to chime in, just another voice, why would it matter?
Sure, I use Apple products daily but have always been equally loyal to the PC and never understood the need to pick one over the other because both have their place. That’s why this post isn’t about Apple (the product) or how much I love and rely on my iPhone, rather it’s about how important I think it is to find what you love, have courage, possess talent and then act on it just like the brilliant man the world just lost to cancer.
Have you ever read the text of Steve Jobs’ commencement address to Stanford University? I watched the video years ago and was so touched and inspired by his words and thought that if you’ve not watched it already that now is a good time to do so. Here is the link, it’s a really good way to spend just over 14 minutes of your life. Some points from it that I’d like to share and discuss are below. Perhaps you feel the same or would like to chime in…
* “None of this (taking a random calligraphy class in school) 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.” – Steve Jobs.
My takeaway from his words above is that you have to experiment, get out there, and try new things. Take classes that often feel very unrelated to what you do and that seem to have no practical application, but that simply sound like fun or interest you in some way. An artist may try an astronomy course for kicks and several years later, translate some of that into a body of work that receives an incredible response. You just never know, do you? When I took a random writing workshop one snowy night in January 2006 (in Boston), my teacher said, “If you are not on the internet these days, you don’t exist”. I immediately went home and started writing my first post on decor8 and I’ve been writing ever since. All because of something I heard from a class that I nearly missed due to heavy snow. Again, you never know where certain “moments” in time can lead.
Another thought from Mr. Jobs that stuck with me is,
* “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.” – Steve Jobs.
I believe in this wholeheartedly. I’ve often tried to figure out the intentions of others, my own goals, put together a five year business plan (to the advice of friends in the business world)… but in the end I had and still have to ultimately trust my gut. I’d rather experience fear than regret. I may be scared to take a risk but I’ll do it because I’m more concerned to miss out or regret not taking the risk. None of this is based on what looks good on paper or even what is always the best action to take. If it feels like the right thing to do, if my gut drives me in that direction, I often leap trusting that my instincts will not let me down. I also trust in the circle of life and how, “What comes around goes around”, always applies to everything we do whether we want it to or not! It’s something my mother and grandmother always told me and it stuck, and so I tell the same thing to others – if you dish it out expect to receive it back in return! When it comes to connecting the dots by looking backwards — yes, always. That’s why you have to create the dots in the first place and that takes courage.
I really see the wisdom in these words also spoken by Jobs at the same address,
*”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. 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. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose… There is no reason not to follow your heart.” – Steve Jobs
How beautifully said is that?! Having lost my talented and lovely aunt to cancer when she was only 40-years-old, I know how it feels to lose someone who was aware of how temporary life really is. In her final days, she was brave and told me to be happy and follow my heart – all this from her death bed weighing only 85 pounds. As a fine artist, art teacher and world traveler (she spoke several languages and taught at prestigious schools), her love for me and for others was proof that she valued life. I remember her making me bears, smocks for painting, dollhouses from wood and other beautiful things when I was a child. Her love of handmade craft and art influenced my life, look at what I do for a living! My mother’s love of making also had a strong influence on me. My aunt never feared death or anything – she was a fighter, a creator of joy, she followed her heart while also embracing others around her helping them to follow their hearts… I think it’s true, we have to step back and think that if we had only a few months left to live would we do anything differently today. Most of us would answer YES. Now the question is, why aren’t we doing it then?
And finally, these words touched me as I’m sure they’ll touch you,
*”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.”
I can’t add anything to this – it’s so perfectly stated. When I first heard this I wanted to high five everyone around me.
In the end, we have to find what we love, who we love, what works for us because life is so precious, realized even more the moment someone disappears from this planet. Live for yourself, then others – this is not at all selfish. If you try living for others first denying your own happiness, you are ultimately denying others of happiness too because no one is inspired by a person who is trying to fix everyone else but hasn’t bothered to first be an example and fix their own life.
I hope this post has inspired you today, provided some encouragement, and helped you in even a small way. I know this is a design blog but I have to veer off at times and talk about things that matter most to me because it refuels my creativity and helps me to think outside of design for a moment, which in return inspires my work – being deep at times feeds me and allows me to enjoy my job even more.
To wrap up, I have to share the words from a greeting card I once gave someone when they lost their parent. It stuck with me for years and I refer to it whenever someone dies because it reminds me that the only way to look at death, since there is nothing positive about it in all honesty, is to remember what the person gave us while they were alive to breath some sense into it all and then to think of what they left behind — to take away something beautiful from their passing that will never die – what they taught us.
“The tide recedes, but leaves behind bright seashells on the sand. The sun goes down, but gentle warmth still lingers on the land. The music stops, yet echoes on in sweet, soulful refrains. For every joy that passes, something beautiful remains.” – unknown.
(image: holly becker)