Thank you. I'm 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

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 six months but then stayed
around as a drop-in for another eighteen 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've 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 seventeen 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 of how college was
going to help me figure it out, and here I was, spending all 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 five-cent deposits to
buy food with, and I would walk the seven 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 sans-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 that
calligraphy class and personals 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 10 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 twenty. We worked hard and in ten years, Apple had grown from just the
two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4,000 employees.
We'd just released our finest creation, the Macintosh, a year earlier, and
I'd just turned thirty, 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, and so at thirty, 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'd 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 in 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 world's 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 Lorene 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 going to 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
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 thing 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 doctors' code for "prepare to die." It means to
try and tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next ten years
to tell them, in just a few months. It means to make sure that 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 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 doctor 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, thankfully, I am 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's 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's 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, 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
Catalogue, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by
a fellow named Stuart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought
it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late Sixties, 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 thirty-five years before Google came along. It was
idealistic, overflowing with neat tools and great notions. Stuart and his
team put out several issues of the The Whole Earth Catalogue, and then when
it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-Seventies
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 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

Thank you all, very much


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