Sunday, December 17, 2006

'You've Got To Find What You Love,' Jobs Says

This is the text of Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO Of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005.

The link is copied for personal reference.

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Stanford Report, June 14, 2005

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this 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. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, 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.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

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. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

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.


When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Aceh's Path of Reconstruction

On 12 December 2006, the world witnessed a new province being born. Aceh, the once tsunami-devastated island, has gone through an unprecendented election that saw it's former rebel leader heading for victory.

"The polls, consolidating a peace accord after nearly three decades of war, were hailed by UN chief Kofi Annan as 'historic' and by the European Union." So the news reported.

While one may not be impressed by what Aceh has now, after the natural disaster has chosen it's path to cross the island, upon pausing and settling down the mind, one cannot help but feel awed by the gigantic hands of nature and aura of historical brilliance when viewing such an event.

It is an event that can be leveled with such events as the return of Hongkong to China, or the birth of a new millienium. To put it simply, one's time in this world is limited, but the significance of one's existence is entirely marked by the events one has gone through.

Though we cannot choose when do we enter this world, or leave, for that matter, we can in our own limited time span, come to experience and feel what the world has for us. To be emotional about them, to feel for fellow humans and to sensitize one's personal issues as well as secular occurences; this is what is all about as a human. Living, and breathing dynamically.

In his famous writing 'Rissho Ankoku Ron' (〈〈立正安國論〉〉), Nichiren Daishonin explained the significance of the relationship between one's individual existence and the world-at-large:

"Emperors and kings have their foundation in the state and bring peace and order to the age; ministers and commoners hold possession of their fields and gardens and supply the needs of the world. But if marauders come from other regions to invade the nation, or if revolt breaks out within the domain and people’s lands are seized and plundered, how can there be anything but terror and confusion? If the nation is destroyed and families are wiped out, then where can one flee for safety? If you care anything about your personal security, you should first of all pray for order and tranquillity throughout the four quarters of the land, should you not?"

One may have a short lifespan in this strife-filled world. However, the true purpose of one's life, or mission as we normally call it, is only found in the midst of one's struggle to fight one's way out for a better living. This series of continuous struggles must be translated into realising a deeper relationship between one's individual presence on this planet Earth, and the environment one lives in. It is only by then can one truly calls forth the innate wealthspring of wisdom and compassion, thereby leading a rewarding and purposeful life as one yearns and desires.

As Aceh moves from a military backdrop, one filled with violence and uncertainties, to one that has order and law, the people there have actually grown and developed over the years the secret desire to want a better life. Interviewed by news reporters, they all unanimously casted their hope on their future leader as one who can lead them out of confusion and poverty, and into stability and prosperity, regardless of their previous backgrounds. A simple desire cherished by nameless masses from all around the world - peace and happiness. They are all born into this world supposed to be endowed with these. However, reality is cruel and they have had to struggle to keep their heads above the raging waves just to enjoy a moment of tranquility and peacefulness.

Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, the first president of Soka Gakkai, expounded the theroy of transition of civilisations - from a militaristic civilisation the world has witnessed, humanity will progress and enter the civilisation of economy, which we are currently living in. However the ideal one will be a civilisation of humanism, where a flowering of human elements take centrestage, and a 'healthy race between the various developed countries in developing and cultivating capable leaders for the betterment of the world', as echoed by Dr. Daisaku Ikeda over the many years till present.

Aceh has a long way to go, and I pray for her people to be strong, wise and blessed with fortune. They have gone through so much and it is their time to enjoy a lasting moment of peace and happiness. It's about time they rise above their tragic ashes and, like a lotus flower, blossoms fiercely under the clear, blue sky.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

For The Record II

10 Dec - Augusto Pinochet died in Santiago's Military Hosptial on this day. The ex-strongman, who evaded years of efforts to bring him to justice in hundreds of cases arising from his 1973-1990 regime, died after suffering a heart attack. Incidentally and ironically, this day also marks the 'International Human Rights Day'.

11 Dec - After three decades of war, polls were finally opened in Indonesia's Aceh province for local elections. The tsunami-ravaged province, after experiencing all human and natural turbulences, is set to take on a more difficult route of heading towards peace. Former separatist rebels of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) are participating for the first time following a Finnish-brokered peace deal in August last year.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Mao Zedong In Retrospection

An off today allowed me to make a trip to Hougang community library.

It was located in the Hougang Mall, which has four levels of shopping outlets for one to stroll through the human crowd and make his/ her shopping activites.

As usual, an entry into the library would always compel me to walk toward the 'magazines' section, where I would be inevitably moved to search for the 'Mingpao Monthly' magazine (《明報月刊》). It is a monthly Chinese magazine published by the 'Mingpao Corp', which was almost single-handedly started by the renowned journalist cum author 'Jin Yong' [查良鏞(金庸)]. It's first publication was in 1966, and coming into its 'thirty-eight' anniversary, it has become not only a well-known monthly publication for the Hongkong people; it has evolved and emerged as a 'journalistic conscience' publication for people all around the world to read and be submerged in.

I managed to pick up a few recent edtions, after getting hold only of last year's editions for several times. "It is quite of a good fortune", I thought to myself. In the 'September' edtion, there was an article written by a mainland author. The title, 'Is Mao Zedong a tyrant or a great man?' caught my eyes.

For many times, in my own limited mind, I have thought Mao as 'a man who struggled to uplift China, battling the internal rivals as well as external enemies. Though sometimes he had faltered and slipped, the dire situations and cruel disasters were more of a natural cause and not a calculated human error'. This more or less summed up my initial impression for this man, though in my much younger days I have overheard my late father discussing and perhaps even arguing with my uncles about the achievements and errors of this elusive yet controversial man.

The author in the magzine started out with a direct listing of Mao's doings and deeds. He questioned the conventional trend adopted widely and conveniently by many of Mao's greatness, calling him the 'liberator' of China, which saw him freeing the country from the claws of 'conservative mindsets', 'capitalistic castes' and 'agricultural poverty'. As argued by the many 'adoring fans' of Mao, they have classifed the mistakes and errors made by Mao an 'understanding problem' (認識问题). This simplified explanation for Mao's mistakes, to the author alone, is certainly insufficient to answer to a list of Mao's deliberated actions that led to the deaths of several top government officials, some of them his 'close comrades'. This was in addition to the thousands and millions of deaths he directly and indirectly led or caused, which for his many still surviving supporters they would not accord this piece of historical responsibility onto his shoulders.

However, the author does not think so. In a single question he posed a thought-provocating question for readers to ponder over: even if one has a great ambition, does one think he/ she is entitled to possessing the right and power of sending milions of innocent youths to the ruthless plains of war and suffering? Even if one has some personal dysfunctioned human characteristics, does he/ she need to make thousands and millions of common people his sacrifices for his wrongly ideology? This clear-cut presentation of 'common sense', which is sadly ignored in the tides of human histroy, more often than not carries the torch of truth human kind has yearned and searched for through the thousands of years.

In a nutshell, as Dr.Daisaku Ikeda said, a leader, in all sense, MUST set his eyes on the happiness of the common people. The masses, a.k.a. 'common people', has been the largest group of victims since mankind has known the thrills and enjoyments of controlling, savaging on and even sacrificing nameless, faceless commoners. Time and again, this tragic event has been repeating itself, not just in some remote, separated areas far from our civilised world, but in all around the world, this tragedy has never stopped surfacing and appearing, tormenting and tearing the lives of the countless common masses.

The world has not stopped spinning, from time without beginning, and will not be so till time without ending. Humans born into this Saha world, supposedly the lowest of all world systems as expounded in the Buddhist scriptures, must come to realise that they have the power to stop this repeated cycle of insane suffering, pain and miseries. They must realise that they themselves are endowed with a gigantic fountain of towering enlightenment, totally possessing the full capabilities of overcoming this seemingly insurmountable mountain of tragic hurdle. The day they bring forth this wealth of inner power that exists for millions of aeons, which thereby washing away the deep-seated and firmly-rooted seeds of violence, deception, manipulation and selfish sacrifices, will be the day humankind comes to a full liberation of total freedom and self-commandment. That day, as Dr.Daisaku Ikeda prays fervently to come, is also one which he throws himself totally in creating it. Into that endless fight against all devilish elements that tore the earth of the world apart, Dr. Daisaku knows that day will come.