I recently attended the funeral of a school friend which has inevitably led me to reflect on the brevity and sanctity of life. It was Steve Jobs who famously recited those words “stay hungry, stay foolish” to remind us that life is short, and we should live it with the vitality and courage of youth. My friend definitely lived her life with exuberance and those who knew her were all touched by her abundant joy and positivity in some way.
In Steve Job’s Commencement Day Speech to Stanford University students (if you haven’t seen it, then it is well worth watching) he talks about three lessons he had learned in life about: Connecting the Dots, Love and Loss, and Death.
The moral of the first story was that we can’t connect the dots in our life looking forward; we can only understand why things happen to us in hindsight. So, we have to trust our heart and our soul that we can pursue those things in life for which we have a passion, knowing that it will all make sense in the end.
In the second story, Steve talks about what, at that time, he thought was the worst day of his life – when he was sacked by Apple – the company which he had founded. However, again, this turned out to be a blessing, as it freed him to be young and foolish again, using his creative talents to found Pixar, which produced the first animated feature film. During this time he also met the woman who became the love of his life.
In the last story, Steve recalls the day he was told by his doctor that he had six months to live. He was devastated, of course, but he revealed that he had been thinking about death every day since he was 17, when he came across a quote which said: “If you live each day as if it’s your last, then some day you will most certainly be right.” After that, he says he looked in the mirror every day and asked himself: “If today is my last day, am I happy to do what I am about to do.” If the answer was no for too many days in a row. then he knew something had to change.
Steve says that remembering that you will die enables you to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose through embarrassment or fear. In his words:
“You are already naked; there is no reason not to follow your heart….Don’t let the noise of other people’s opinions drown out your inner voice. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition – they somehow already know what you truly want to become.”
For me, and maybe for you, living authentically, through my work and leisure activities, connecting meaningfully with people, nature and the world around me, to go on an inner as well as outer journey, is so much a part of my vision for my life. Getting out of my comfort zone, taking risks, being true to myself, travelling to learn and understand (not just to enjoy) underpins most decisions I make about what I do each day.
So, I’d like to leave you with my own advice: