TED : Ideas worth spreading

Review: How to live before you die

Speaker: Steve Jobs
Stanford University
Date: June 2005
Location: Stanford University

Description from TED website:
TED Editor’s note: This video is a TED “Best of the Web” pick, featuring a remarkable idea freely available on the internet.

At his Stanford University commencement speech, Steve Jobs, CEO, and co-founder of Apple and Pixar, urges us to pursue our dreams and see the opportunities in life's setbacks — including death itself.

Select the image to go to the actual video.

My Review / Notes / Thoughts

I know, I know… I’ve missed a few weeks of doing these reviews… but this is a great one to pick back up with!

In this graduation speech, Steve Jobs focused on three life stories that brought out three specific “points” that he wanted to leave the graduates with to ponder.

#1 – Connecting the Dots

While he didn’t graduate from college, he did benefit immensely from his college experiences. He talks about taking a calligraphy course that taught him about serif and sans serif fonts, and how that knowledge became useful 10 years later when developing the Mac.

Looking back on my past 20 years of work experience, I can also see how earlier experiences have connected to put me in a place to be successful in my own career.

As he states in this talk, you can only see how the dots connect when you look back. This means as you move forward in life, you have to trust that you are making decisions that will have meaning and “connect” in the future … even if the future you think will occur isn’t what actually occurs (as in my own case).

Your turn to reflect: Looking back on your life, what dots do you see that have connected to place you where you are now?

#2 – Love & Loss

Steve talks about how he was fired from Apple, and that while that seems like a horrendous loss… it was actually a blessing in disguise. Because he was no longer burdened by the pressures that weighed on him in the leadership position at Apple, he was able to enter a new phase. This new phase allowed him time to “start over” … remembering what it was like, the ups and downs, and so on. He got to be creative again and was able to establish other companies! The best part of it all was that he found his wife through the process.

As he talks, he reiterates the fact that he was focused on doing what he loved … not settling for anything less. He says that this will help you be truly satisfied, doing what you believe is great work.

Personally, I can say that I love the job that I started in September 2020. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time. I feel like I’m doing great work! And I love how he says that, as with any relationship, it will get better and better as the years go by… and while it’s only been a year, I can say that is definitely getting better and more enjoyable.

Your turn to reflect: Do you love what you do? Have you settled in your career? What do you believe is great work? If you aren’t doing it now, start making a plan to get yourself to where you want to be!

#3 – Death

A bit of a morbid topic, and one that we often try to avoid, Steve Jobs brings it to the forefront and suggests that keeping death in mind all the time is one of the best ways to help you live your best and fullest life. He talks about his experience with pancreatic cancer and how that it made him think about death even more so than prior. Looking into the mirror each morning, he would ask himself something like “Is what I’m about to do what I want to be doing if this were my last day alive?”

It’s a powerful thought. It’s an interesting way to help you put your “to-dos” into perspective.

Our turn to reflect: Think about the priority items that you’re rushing to do, then ask yourself, “If this were my last day on earth, is this really a priority?” If you re-evaluate your priorities in such a way, how much of a change would it make in your day-to-day life? If you did this for a month, what type of change would you see at the end of that month?

There is a lot to unpack from his less than fifteen-minute speech. I believe that I only scratched the surface. I certainly believe that this is a video everyone should watch and reflect upon. It would be great for high schoolers to do as they prepare to venture out into adulthood. It would be great for new college students as they prepare to begin their higher ed academic career. What do you think? How might you incorporate this video into your curriculum to engage and inspire students?


Until next time … live long, life-learner!