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.
当时我并不指望书法在以后的生活中能有什么实用价值。但是，十年之后，我们在设计第一台 Macintosh 计算机时，它一下子浮现在我眼前。于是，我们把这些东西全都设计进了计算机中。这是第一台有这么漂亮的文字版式的计算机。要不是我当初在大学里偶然选了这么一门课，Macintosh 计算机绝不会有那么多种印刷字体或间距安排合理的字号。要不是 Windows 照搬了 Macintosh，个人电脑可能不会有这些字体和字号。要不是退了学，我决不会碰巧选了这门书法课，个人电脑也可能不会有现在这些漂亮的版式了。当然，我在大学里不可能从这一点上看到它与将来的关系。十年之后再回头看，两者之间的关系就非常、非常清楚了。
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.
幸运的是，我在很小的时候就发现自己喜欢做什么。我在 20 岁时和沃兹(Woz，苹果公司创始人之一 Wozon 的昵称─译注)在我父母的车库里办起了苹果公司。我们干得很卖力，十年后，苹果公司就从车库里我们两个人发展成为一个拥有 20 亿元资产、4,000 名员工的大企业。那时，我们刚刚推出了我们最好的产品─ Macintosh 电脑─那是在第 9 年，我刚满 30 岁。可后来，我被解雇了。你怎么会被自己办的公司解雇呢?是这样，随著苹果公司越做越大，我们聘了一位我认为非常有才华的人与我一道管理公司。在开始的一年多里，一切都很顺利。可是，随后我俩对公司前景的看法开始出现分歧，最后我俩反目了。这时，董事会站在了他那一边，所以在 30 岁那年，我离开了公司，而且这件事闹得满城风雨。我成年后的整个生活重心都没有了，这使我心力交瘁。
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.
一连几个月，我真的不知道应该怎么办。我感到自己给老一代的创业者丢了脸─因为我扔掉了交到自己手里的接力棒。我去见了戴维帕卡德(David Packard，惠普公司创始人之一─译注)和鲍勃;诺伊斯(Bob Noyce，英特尔公司创建者之一─译注)，想为把事情搞得这么糟糕说声道歉。这次失败弄得沸沸扬扬的，我甚至想过逃离硅谷。但是，渐渐地，我开始有了一个想法─我仍然热爱我过去做的一切。在苹果公司发生的这些风波丝毫没有改变这一点。我虽然被拒之门外，但我仍然深爱我的事业。于是，我决定从头开始。
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 retuned 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. 在此后的五年里，我开了一家名叫 NeXT 的公司和一家叫皮克斯的公司，我还爱上一位了不起的女人，后来娶了她。皮克斯公司推出了世界上第一部用电脑制作的动画片《玩具总动员》(Toy Story)，它现在是全球最成功的动画制作室。世道轮回，苹果公司买下 NeXT 后，我又回到了苹果公司，我们在 NeXT 公司开发的技术成了苹果公司这次重新崛起的核心。我和劳伦娜(Laurene)也建立了美满的家庭。
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.
17 岁那年，我读到过这样一段话，大意是:“如果把每一天都当作生命的最后一天，总有一天你会如愿以偿。”我记住了这句话，从那时起，33 年过去了，我每天早晨都对著镜子自问: “假如今天是生命的最后一天，我还会去做今天要做的事吗?”如果一连许多天我的回答都是“不”，我知道自己应该有所改变了。
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.
大约一年前，我被诊断患了癌症。那天早上七点半，我做了一次扫描检查，结果清楚地表明我的胰腺上长了一个瘤子，可那时我连胰腺是什么还不知道呢!医生告诉我说，几乎可以确诊这是一种无法治愈的恶性肿瘤，我最多还能活 3 到 6 个月。医生建议我回去把一切都安排好，其实这是在暗示“准备后事”。也就是说，把今后十年要跟孩子们说的事情在这几个月内嘱咐完;也就是说，把一切都安排妥当，尽可能不给家人留麻烦;也就是说，去跟大家诀别。
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.
我年轻时有一本非常好的刊物，叫《全球概览》(The Whole Earth Catalog)，这是我那代人的宝书之一，创办人名叫斯图尔特布兰德(Stewart Brand)，就住在离这儿不远的门洛帕克市。他用诗一般的语言把刊物办得生动活泼。那是 20 世纪 60 年代末，还没有个人电脑和桌面印刷系统，全靠打字机、剪刀和宝丽莱照相机(Polaroid)。它就像一种纸质的 Google，却比 Google 早问世了 35 年。这份刊物太完美了，查阅手段齐备、构思不凡。
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.
斯图尔特和他的同事们出了好几期《全球概览》，到最后办不下去时，他们出了最后一期。那是 20 世纪 70 年代中期，我也就是你们现在的年纪。最后一期的封底上是一张清晨乡间小路的照片，就是那种爱冒险的人等在那儿搭便车的那种小路。照片下面写道: 好学若饥、谦卑若愚。那是他们停刊前的告别辞。求知若渴，大智若愚。这也是我一直想做到的。
And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.