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  • Thank you.

  • I am honored to be with you today for your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world.

  • Truth be told I never graduated from college, and 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 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 got an unexpected baby boy. Do you want him?"

  • They said: "Of course." My biological mother found out later,

  • 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 go to college.

  • This was the start in my life.

  • 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 far more 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 cent 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,

  • it's 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.

  • Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart.

  • Even when it leads you off the well worn path, and that will make all the difference.

  • 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 just released our finest creation the Macintosh

  • a year earlier, and I 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.

  • And 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's gonna hit 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. And 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. 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 and 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,