In his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University, Steve Jobs talked about life…and about death. It was a profound address in its entirety, but one little piece has lingered with me for years:
“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.”
At the time I first read it, I was working at a job I mostly liked, for a company I mostly didn’t like, and weighed 100 pounds more than I do now. I was happy in many respects, but I knew that I wasn’t living the life I was meant to live. There were a few times when I would look around me in horror and actually say to myself, “This can’t be my life.” And then I would feel guilty because I had so many blessings and it seemed wrong to want what I thought at the time was more.
As it turned out, I didn’t necessarily want more; what I wanted was a different life. The problem was that I had no idea how to truly change those aspects of my life I didn’t love. Well, I thought I didn’t. That inner voice Jobs spoke about kept up its soft chatter, telling me I had the answers, prodding me to believe in myself, goading me into following my heart and instincts.
I’m a slow learner, but eventually I began carving out a path. I quit trying to follow other people’s diets and let go of the Hollywood/Madison Avenue of what I should look like and how I should live my life. Along the way, I gained the courage (and a helpful severance package) to extricate myself from the not-lovable company. It’s not a perfect life, by any means, but I feel more like I’m living my life than ever before. I’m not at my destination, but Lord have mercy, I’m on my way.
And in no small part, I have Steve Jobs to thank for planting the seeds that got me thinking in the right direction. When I heard today that he had died, I took a moment to send a heartfelt thank you into the universe and to renew my resolve to follow my heart. It’s leading me in the right direction.
You can see the full commencement speech on YouTube:
May he rest in peace, and may each of us find the courage to live our own lives.