Three Stories about Steve Jobs’ Life Philosophy
Ven. Khai Thien Translated by Phap Than-Dharmakāya
The author has no relations to Steve Jobs in any way. The only connection that the author has with Steve Jobs is simply a Macbook Air computer that was purchased a few months ago . . . The joys with the MacBook were quickly transformed into a feeling of sadness when the author learned that the creator of this device has departed from this world permanently. This sense of sadness is deepen when he learned that five years earlier Steve Jobs had spoken about his own mortality at Stanford University, a place that also holds much memories for the author. This short article represents a reflection and an expression of appreciation to Steve Jobs, not due to the author’s admiration for the supper thin devices such as MacBook Air, the IPad, or IPhone, etc. . . but because of the author’s strong emotion in response to Steve Jobs’ profound message about life that is very Buddhist in nature. This message is a beautiful one to this world, especially to the younger people and individuals who live for beauty, love, and ideals. Below are reflections on three beautiful stories that Steve Jobs shared in his commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005.
• Karma is like connecting the dots . . .
The first story that Steve Jobs shared with us was his decision to drop out of college. This is an emotional story. Steve Jobs recounted that he dropped out of school, not because he was lazy or unmotivated, but because a sense of guilt that his college tuition was consuming his parents’ life savings, and that he did not find any interest in his studies. After six months of college, he dropped out of school. But he continued to audit classes, including classes in calligraphy as well as other classes that he found interesting but which he did not know would have much application or value in the future.
During a difficult period of transition for young Steve Jobs, he decided to go on a path, which conveys love and consideration for his parents as well as his deep admiration and love for beauty and elegance. These were the principles that guided his life. Looking back at his life, he told the graduating students at Stanford that “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.”
Ten years later, Steve Jobs reflected that his success was attributable to the process that guided the important decisions in his life. He explained that he viewed life with his eyes; he spoke with his own inner voice (and did not allow opinions of others to drown out his own voice), and he lived his life based upon his love and admiration for beauty and elegance originating from deep inside him. Most people would say that it is not “realistic” for a young person to drop out of college and to take classes in calligraphy. But in looking back, Steve Jobs concluded: “It was beautiful, historical, and 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.”
Steve Jobs’ self-reflections of the experience of his youth are meaningful. The first story that he shared conveyed his sincere advice to young people who are starting out in life: Let your mind gaze and admire beauty and elegance, regardless of its simplicity, even in the worst of circumstances, because “true beauty” will serve to refresh and soothe the difficulties in one’s life. And let your love and respect for your parents, your empathy for the hardships of those around you, and an admiration for beauty to guide your difficult...
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