Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech means a lot to me. I’ve been told numerous times to listen to this particular speech but kept putting it off because I was sure it would be something along the clichéd lines of “Follow your dreams,” “Never give up no matter ………0what,” “Work hard so you can one day be as successful as me,” etc.
I didn’t want to be preached to, especially not from someone like Jobs who I saw in my mind as a “perfect” being, someone who had accomplished so much and who appeared to have everything he ever wanted. I couldn’t possibly imagine what he would have to talk about that would relate to someone like me, a student at Cornell University in the undergraduate business program with one more year left to go.
But a terribly strange thing happened. His speech had a huge influence on me and completely changed how I viewed my post-graduation plans. The three stories he told about his own life and his basic theme of “Following your dreams even when it leads you off the well-worn path … [b/c] that will make all the difference” made me sit up and take notice.
First, his philosophy about death made me realize how short our lives really are. It made me realize just how important it was that I do something meaningful and important to me right out of graduation, not “right after I make bank working on Wall Street,” not “right after I do something I hate and don’t see the point in but where I’ll make lots of money and can retire early.” Because what if I get hit by a bus the day after I’ve spent thirty years slaving away and am finally about to “retire with a ton of money?” What if I wake up one day at forty-five years old and realize that I will never move beyond middle management at the major, well-established corporation that I’ve spent my entire life at just because it was a “stable and well-respected” job? What if I lose hope that I can...