I recently attended my son’s college graduation in Miami. It was a time of excitement, pride and family togetherness. The commencement ceremonies shared messages of hope, the importance of continual learning and the challenge of leaving a legacy. I reflected on completion and the many stages of growth my son achieved on his journey.
I remembered parts of the commencement speech Steve Jobs gave at Stanford University some years back. It was a speech he gave knowing he was dying of Pancreatic Cancer. Here is an excerpt.
“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 needed to change something.”
Remembering that I would be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to 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.
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.”
I gave a copy of that speech to my son. I gave it to him in the hopes that he would catch a glimpse into the importance of living a life full of doing good, living a meaningful life and being true to oneself…living each day as if it was his last.
Commencement address at Stanford University, June 12, 2005 By Steve Jobs (2/24/1955—10/5/2011) If you are interested in reading the entire speech, click here. http://news.stanford.edu/news/2005/june15/jobs-061505.html