Sunday, January 24, 2010

you'll know it when you find it

Steve Job's powers as a public speaker are well-known, but I never fully understood it until a few nights ago. I watched his Stanford commencement address from 2005.

I've read the talk in an email previously, but hearing it was so much more powerful. All that marketing prowess, applied to inspiring people instead of selling smartphones.

I like the part where he says that in work and relationship, you need to find what you love, and you'll know it when you find it.

He also explicitly says "Don't settle." It's nice to hear it. A good counter to the dozen times each day that you hear people urging you to give up your dreams and settle.

Also I like the part where he talks about how we're all going to die, so there's no point wasting energy on pride or fear of looking foolish.

Go Steve Jobs!


Joanna said...

Yes but I've always wondered the dark side of this advice, "Don't Settle." What about the people who are out of a job, the people who risked to do what they love to do, or the people who never made it big. They didn't settle, but they are not in good places. When successful people (Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, Oprah Winfrey etc.) tell advice about "don't settle," it's a bias world view, based on their "freak" experience.

Inspiring. But biased.

Anonymous said...

Don't settle - that is an easy thing for billionaire Steve Jobs to say. Tell that to the jobless father & husband who is willing to take any job to pay the mortgage and put food on the table or countless other examples. A lot of people today have to settle to just survive (just look at the Haitians...)

David said...

My meager thoughts (for what they're worth): Never settle. Don't waste time being a stoic or cynic about dreams. Pursue your dreams with earnest. As a true student of science, recognize a dream for what it is -- an untested hypothesis. Test it (by pursuing it), revise it (to edit its imperfections), and be open to more dreams/hypotheses (especially if it proves unlikely to be possible)....

Never let a dream destroy you. You are capable of many dreams. Some will seduce by their promise, but never lose sight of a dream's fit with reality.

Anonymous said...

Idealistic motto by Steve Jobs. On the other hand, to balance things out and be more grounded, one should also heed the advice of "don't take for granted" and "look before you leap".

Anonymous said...


We should never be cynical about dreams??

The people who are the strongest believers in their dreams are radicals like Osama Bin Laden.

It is time to realize that some people have very ugly dreams.


Justin K said...

I'd like to offer my take on "don't settle".

When I started out my business I was taking "don't settle" literally... that I will continue to push on my business no matter what.
I spent all my money and cashed out my meagre 401K and finally after nothing was left, I was forced to look for work.

At first I felt that I had settled. But now I realize that's not true, work allowed me to restore my savings and gave me some time to reflect on what mistakes I made earlier. I also continued to work on the business on the side. Recently the market has become more favorable and it has allowed me to go back full time into the business.

So I guess "don't settle" to me is not so much as "be stubborn" but "don't give up on your dreams".

David said...

@Anonymous (RC)

We should not be cynical about our own dreams. Otherwise we deny part of ourselves, part of our own thoughts and feelings. Then what would drive our thoughts or activities? Wouldn't we disconnect and cease to care at least a little less (if not more)?

Embracing our own dreams does not give us freedom to do anything, including force our views on others (with or without causing physical harm, like Osama bin Laden has and would). Besides the reality that others may fight back and destroy us, we ourselves may find such a dream inconsistent with other dreams of our own -- such as of a simplistic, harmonious society or an expressive, responsive, civil society or some other cherished notion of an non-violent world. When we are confronted with such an inconsistency between dreams we embrace, we would likely try to understand the dreams in more detail and edit them, until our dreams fit together better (or, if necessary, we abandom one in favor of the other).

s said...

Short slogans like "Don't Settle" can be dangerous just because they are vague enough to admit wild interpretations. As others noted, this could encourage wanton risk-taking and the sort of "no compromises" attitude we've seen in some political circles. On the other hand, something like "If you're going to give up a dream, don't let the main reason be self-doubt" isn't as pithy.

Also, I agree with the other posters about how the speech betrays the speaker's privileged background. Perhaps it can be forgiven, since his intended audience is made out of Stanford students.