Life’s Lessons in a Commencement Address

Recently I happened upon a video of Steve Jobs giving the 2005 Commencement address at Stanford University.  Having sat through a number of such addresses – and well aware of how rare is the speech that is remembered 30 minutes afterwards – I was curious what, beside the celebrity of the speech-maker, might be the substance that made this video worth watching.

If you have 15 minutes, the video is posted here, but there is also a transcript link here.

The take-away? Three of life’s most powerful pieces of advice – trust your own instincts; don’t settle, pursue your dreams; live your life as if today was to be your last.

In the current education environment under which I work, it is difficult and near impossible to follow this advice. My instincts tell me that trying to squish a load of (ahem) stuff into the heads of young learners isn’t working. It is making for miserable kids who don’t excel in the learning mode that is required to perform “successfully” (quotes on purpose). I wonder what the percentage of students who just plain give up might be.

I worry a lot about the future of education. Imagine a time when a student being able to pursue the study of something like calligraphy either in high school or college, just because. There is far too much pressure on students and on their training to be successful after graduation(s). Had Steve Jobs not taken the path through college that he did, Apple’s dedication to elegance of design in all things Apple, from fonts to hardware, may not have happened.

I am at a turning point in my career – I don’t have many years left to do this thing that I love so well. “Don’t settle, pursue your dreams….” and “live each day as if it were your last.” Is what is happening in classrooms today the way I want my students to remember their early education? 

When the answer is no, there is work to be done.

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.

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.