Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"The Single Best Invention Of Life"

Those are nets hanging from those poles at Foxconn. They're designed to catch people as they jump from windows above--if they're lucky--to their deaths below. I was prepared to discuss another topic, but learning about the death of Steve Jobs of Apple fame, I decided to devote this blog entry to him.

Steve Jobs was not only an uncommon visionary, but an incomparable innovator (two achievements that will survive him), but because he used a company in China to assemble his products (Foxconn), his otherwise stunning reputation will always be scarred by this unsavory business arrangement:

"Terry Gou says he has no idea why so many of his employees are killing themselves. Gou is the founder and chairman of Foxconn, the world's largest electronics contract manufacturer — the maker of iPhones and iPads for Apple, computers for Dell, and countless other devices for well-known high-tech customers around the world.

"So far this year, 10 Foxconn workers have committed suicide. 'From a logical, scientific standpoint, I don't have a grasp on that,' Gou told reporters on May 27 at a press conference at the company's vast production facility in Shenzhen, China. 'No matter how you force me, I don't know.'

"Ask around among the more than 250,000 workers at the Shenzhen complex, and you'll find explanations. One 21-year-old assembly-line worker, who asked that his name not be used, says conditions at Foxconn make his life seem meaningless. He says conversation on the production line is forbidden, bathroom breaks are kept to 10 minutes every two hours, and workers get yelled at frequently."
[1]

And if I've inadvertently induced you into believing that it's Apple alone who has resorted to the Foxconn-Chinese connection to boost its bottom line at the expense of some Chinese workers, then let me disabuse you of that misapprehension, because there are others:

"One could argue that Foxconn --the Chinese factory that assembles Apple (AAPL) iPhones, iPods, and iPads, as well as the Microsoft (MSFT) Xbox 360, the Amazon (AMZN) Kindle, Motorola (MOT) cell phones, and components for Dell (DELL) computers -- is the best known of all Chinese manufacturers, which is saying a lot." [2]

Because so many of Steve Job's iconic products were built under slave-like conditions, I've never purchased, or owned, one of his "insanely great" products--not the iPad, the iPhone or the iPod.

When I purchased my newest computer, it was after much research, and after receiving strict assurance that it was American made, using mostly American-made parts.

Actually, I'm not here to "bury" Steve Jobs under an avalanche of criticism, and denunciation, but to "praise him" for a Commencement address he gave on June 12, 2005 for Standford University graduates, touching ever so brilliantly on two of Life's most useful illusions--among other topics--one of which, for him, became an amazing "tool," what he termed, "the single best invention of life," to guide and direct his life, "to make the big choices," perhaps greater than the second illusion he encountered in Life, "failure."

Please give Jobs' address your utmost attention and thought: In it, he offers the distilled wisdom of a lifetime--a message that I'd love to share with the rest of the world--of how he managed to live Life fully, successfully, and richly, and how you can do the same.

'You've got to find what you love,' Jobs says

This is a prepared text of the Commencement address delivered by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, on June 12, 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, 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. 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 it's 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. [3]


[1]

[2]

[3]

9 comments:

Greg L said...

BD,

That was a great speech by Jobs and gives me much insight into a man I knew little about. I had to look at myself as I was reading it and examine my own fears of failures and challenges and understand that they pale in comparison to my own death or that of a loved one. Sometimes stuff happens that forces us to put things in context and the challenges and pains of living are precisely the things that do that. What he says here reminds me of the statement by Kipling in If For Boys that triumph and disaster are imposters.

Thanks for sharing.

Black Diaspora said...

I hope I wasn't too hard on Jobs. That wasn't my purpose, as he wasn't the only one responsible for making decisions about the direction of Apple.

If it were left up to me, this Commencement address, outlining Jobs' philosophy, and thinking process, would be what we'd remember him for, and not the end result of that philosphy, and thinking process--the Apple products that will always be associated with his name.

Ideas, and how they're arrived at, are immortal, not things.

A product, the result of those ideas, are here today, and gone tomorrow.

It's Jobs' thanatopsis, his view, or meditation on death, I find the most memorable thing about his life.

He called death a "tool," a useful device, by which to sharpen, not only his experience of Life, but his focus on what really mattered in his life--kept him on the Interstate, and off the tempting byways.

I believe that, since her acquittal, Amanda Knox now has that clarity.

"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.
[...]
"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."

I appended the two statements above because they sum up pretty well Jobs' views on death, views that are pivotal to a better understanding of Life.

This notion that there's something to "lose" monopolizes our thinking. The illusion of death (an illusion because no one actually dies) brings incomparable clarity to Life, because we know, or should know, that we enter Life already behind the 8 ball so to speak, already destined to "lose" what we hold dear--our life.

Knowing that, we can turn this seeming "failure" into our biggest success, and greatest asset, by using the illusion of death, Life's ultimate failure, to fullest advantage--to be about what really fulfills, satisfies, and completes, and experiencing that.

"What he says here reminds me of the statement by Kipling in If For Boys that triumph and disaster are imposters."

As indeed they are: We can't call Life's events or outcomes, either a "triumph" or a "disaster," until we see how they're used.

Greg L said...

>>This notion that there's something to "lose" monopolizes our thinking. The illusion of death (an illusion because no one actually dies) brings incomparable clarity to Life, because we know, or should know, that we enter Life already behind the 8 ball so to speak, already destined to "lose" what we hold dear--our life.

Knowing that, we can turn this seeming "failure" into our biggest success, and greatest asset, by using the illusion of death, Life's ultimate failure, to fullest advantage--to be about what really fulfills, satisfies, and completes, and experiencing that.

"What he says here reminds me of the statement by Kipling in If For Boys that triumph and disaster are imposters."

As indeed they are: We can't call Life's events or outcomes, either a "triumph" or a "disaster," until we see how they're used<<<

Today prior to reading this, I've been concerned about a matter that could be considered a failure and I've spent some time stressing over it somewhat and upon reading what you've shared here from Jobs, I've developed another perspective on this issue. I tend to be a worrywart and a perfectionist at the same time. These tend to reinforce each other because most of my worrying revolves around not achieving perfection. In a way, this is quite silly because that sort of attitude sets one up for failure as perfection is impossible anyway. But the message I got from Jobs here is the lesson in failure, which I knew intellectually, but sometimes can't grasp emotionally. My failures have always produced opportunities and in the larger scheme of things, "death" in necessary for us to transition on to our larger purpose in life. That was a message I needed to read today.

No, you weren't too hard on Jobs at all for the worker situation in China. Certainly he could have influenced this in a positive sense and I suppose that points out how even one who can share wisdom has much to work on. I was going to come back here to comment on that, but the speech captured much of my attention.

Black Diaspora said...

@Greg L: "Today prior to reading this, I've been concerned about a matter that could be considered a failure and [...] upon reading what you've shared here from Jobs, I've developed another perspective on this issue."

You've discovered, or have always known, Life is ceaselessly communicating with us, we have only to listen--not only with our ears, but with our eyes, our experiences, and certainly with our "gut," for it's in our feelings where our truth lies.

"I tend to be a worrywart and a perfectionist at the same time. These tend to reinforce each other because most of my worrying revolves around not achieving perfection. In a way, this is quite silly because that sort of attitude sets one up for failure as perfection is impossible anyway."

You understand it perfectly, at least at the intellectual level.

We do things like this, because in them, we find payoffs--we get benefits that keep us participating in the vicious circle, regardless of how vicious the circle becomes.

Many times these things have their origin in our childhood.

"My failures have always produced opportunities and in the larger scheme of things, "death" in necessary for us to transition on to our larger purpose in life. That was a message I needed to read today."

And one that I had hoped to send.

From this broader "perspective" you've remembered that what we call "failure" is merely "opportunity in disguise," which leads to another inescapable conclusion: There's no such thing as failure, just opportunity, after opportunity, after opportunity.

As you've seen, failure is just another word for opportunity, so we don't need to obsess (worry) over achieving perfection to escape failure, for failure "wears yet a precious jewel in his head."

Jobs talked about connecting "dots." While you're creating "dots," or observing others creating them for you, it's hard to see them as dots.

Everything in his life positioned Jobs to become all that he became, from the parents who raised him, to the "college" he dropped out of, to the course in "calligraphy" he took, to a variety of other serendipity-like happenings that shaped the many Life events in his later years.

"None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. [...] If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. [...] 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."

Jobs sums up what he learned about "dots" this way:

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."

Steve Jobs' Message: Trust the "dots." Trust "failure."
Trust "Life." Trusting Life to make all the right decisions for our life, makes "all the difference in...life."

GrannyStandingforTruth said...

That was a really interesting story regarding Steve Jobs. So, was the info about the poles at Foxcon and employment conditions.

Black Diaspora said...

@GrannyStandingforTruth

Thanks, Granny.

Steve Jobs' life is emblematic of our world: To our dismay, the greater good often stands shoulder to shoulder with our greatest evil.

Francis L. Holland said...

I think we're all learning something about Jobs and about life by looking back on that speech.

Unless we're born with wealthy parents, most of us have to find a way to make money, or trade what we do for what we need, as we're doing what we love to do. I'm looking at FoxComm as a company that has learned to make what other people love extremely profitable, but at the expense of a vulnerable people. And what People isn't vulnerable these days?

Unless you look under the hood of a car, you can get a very attractive hunk of steel that doesn't provide transportation. There's nothing wrong with looking under the hood of the popularization and profitability of Jobs' inventions.

I find that reinventing myself is the rule rather than an exceptional part of my time on this Earth.

If I were the wealthiest man on Earth I would still want to go and swim forty minutes out to the outer edge of the bay and then swim back, using my brain to develop new swimming techniques that make me safer and faster and give me the ability to enjoy bigger waves and stronger currents. I don't care if I die in the process, because living it is so much fun. And, as Jobs said, we will all eventually die.

What I've learned about myself is that I MUST NOT live anywhere that doesn't offer ninety minute swims in the ocean. Not many people know it, but the entire Atlantic ocean is my own private swimming pool that I let others use if only because I haven't got the resources to police it all.

However, as Louis Armstrong said, "There's a silver dollar in the sky and it's shining down on me!"

Black Diaspora said...

Francis L. Holland said..."FoxComm as a company that has learned to make what other people love extremely profitable, but at the expense of a vulnerable people. And what People isn't vulnerable these days?"

Given what I've learned about life these many years, people consistently working toward a status of Win-Win, is the most "profitable" way to exploit that which others "love."

It's in this area that I believe Steve Jobs might have given more of his attention, and not ignored.

The Occupy Wall Street Movement seems to be an attempt to push back against political "vulnerability," and to return "power to the people."

Their success isn't predetermined, although the hopes of many are riding on their movement.

"There's nothing wrong with looking under the hood of the popularization and profitability of Jobs' inventions."

I like your metaphor, and think it should be extended, not only to corporations, but to countries that boast huge, or growing GDPs.

"I find that reinventing myself is the rule rather than an exceptional part of my time on this Earth."

The statement above shows a fair amount of introspection and observation. Socrates observed: "An unexamined life is not worth living."

Rarely does one hear the term "reinventing" in regard to the self, although I can't think of a better way to spend life, and to use life.

"If I were the wealthiest man on Earth I would still want to go and swim forty minutes out to the outer edge of the bay and then swim back..."

This statement, too, can constitute a metaphor on life, and on your life in particular.

I'm reminded of Robert Frost's poem, "Birches."

I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate wilfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.


"[T]he entire Atlantic ocean is my own private swimming pool that I let others use if only because I haven't got the resources to police it all."

I like this.

I usually do my "swimming" within, where I find that I have the requisite "resources to police it all," but not always with the determination, and application I should.

I believe this to be your first visit. I enjoyed your comments. Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

[url=http://www.occhialidasolerayban-it.com]occhiali rayban italia[/url]

Dal 75 anni di numerosi anni di avanzamento registrazione connesso con associato Ray Ban, la classe dirigente Obiettivo zoom tecnologia per le Compratore essere settore delle costruzioni controllo posto . Ray-Ban Lens via controllato stile e design, abbagliamento gestire , rispetto pericoloso intrusione efficiente out separate giro blu delicato , in aggiunta to sustaining buona grande contrasto e distinti idee prospettiva. La particolare ottica prestazioni ¨¨ incredibilmente forte , volte al di l¨¤ praticamente qualsiasi ordinaria comune di virus herpes occhiali o lenti a contatto mercato

[url=http://www.ray-ban-it2012.com]ay ban 2012 da vista[/url]
[url=http://www.raybanstoreit.com]occhiali rayban italia[/url]


http://www.2132rayban.com