TODAY -

Stay hungry, stay foolish

K Rajeshwar Sharma *



There are great speeches in history as well as in literature. Among them, 'Stay hungry. Stay foolish' by Steve Jobs, the co-founder and CEO of Apple Computers and PIXAR Animation Studios, is one of the most popular motivational speeches of the twenty-first century.

It was a Commencement address to young graduate students delivered by Steve Jobs on June 12, 2005 at Stanford University, California. The speech is divided into three parts which he called them 'three stories of my life'.

The first part is called 'connecting the dots' in which he explained why he dropped out of Reed College, Oregon, and how it helped him become successful in his career. When he was about to be born, Steve Jobs' biological mother, a young unwed graduate student, wanted him to be adopted by parents who graduated from college, but they did not.

Although his parents were not college graduates, they promised to send Steve Jobs to a good college so that he should be a college graduate, and be well educated. Only then did his biological mother relent and sign the adoption paper.

Seventeen years later, Steve Jobs went to Reed College which was 'almost as expensive as Stanford'. Thinking that he was spending all his parents' entire savings on his college tuition, he dropped out from college after six months. Moreover he said, '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'.

He did not regret dropping out. But he said, 'It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made.' Rather he followed his 'curiosity and intuition' that took him to calligraphy class. He soon found calligraphy fascinating and ten years later it helped him a lot in designing Macintosh computers.

Here Steve Jobs raises the question whether one should earn a college degree or a higher one to be successful in life or one should find out what one loves to do. In a society like Manipur's where the higher your degree is, the more respected you are, Steve Jobs' question would sound ludicrous but an educational psychologist would rather give the advice that one should learn what one loves to do.

The second part of the speech is about 'love and loss'. It is the story about how Steve Jobs got fired from Apple which he started in 1976 at his father's garage when he was only twenty years old. After ten years, Apple became a two-billion-dollar company with four thousand employees. A difference of opinion between him and others cropped up over whether Apple computers should be people's computers or not.

Subsequently he got fired in 1985. Steve Jobs asked, 'How can you get fired from a company you started?' Though he was devastated, he realized that he still loved what he loved to do. With the same passion that started Apple, Steve Jobs started during the next five years a new company called NeXT and another company named PIXAR which created the first computer animated feature film Toy Story.

Not only did Steve Jobs start NeXT and PIXAR after getting fired from Apple but he also met his future wife Laurene. In his speech he said, 'I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple.' Soon Apple bought NeXT and Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997. The technology they developed at NeXT was 'at the heart of Apple's current renaissance.'

In spite of his impulsive temperament, Steve Jobs did show in the second part of his speech that he possessed the positive attitude that a business leader should have. Without it, he could have never created Apple, iPod, iPhone, Mac etc. Even though he was fired from Apple, he was 'still in love' with what he was doing, which is nothing but innovation.

His burning passion for new technologies enabled him to start a new company called NEXT. Apart from his passion for innovations, Steve Jobs had trust in what he called 'your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever'. Moreover, never did he lose faith. The message of 'love and loss' can be summed up in his words: 'And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.'

The third part of Steve Jobs' speech is about death. According to him, 'Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent.' There would be no place for 'the new' if there was no death.

Accepting the inevitability of death and its purpose, he addressed the students, '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.' Like Emily Dickinson, the American poet who takes Death as a gentleman about whom she wrote 'he kindly stopped for me', Steve Jobs treats Death as someone who helps us 'make way for the new.' It is the 'destination that we all share.'

In the face of death, nothing lasts even for a moment, 'all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure these things just fall away'. So there is nothing to worry about. Steve Jobs said, 'Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.' According to him, the only best thing to do in life is to find what one loves to do. He said, 'There is no reason not to follow your heart.'

Steve Jobs rounded off his speech with the two sentences 'Stay hungry. Stay foolish " which he extracted from a magazine called The Whole Earth Catalog which 'was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along'. The two sentences are pregnant with gems of ideas. In their simplest meaning, they can be interpreted as: Remain hungry for knowledge. Remain foolish as there is much to learn.


* K Rajeshwar Sharma wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on March 28 2023.



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