Wednesday, October 5, 2011

“‘You’ve got to find what you love,’ Jobs says”

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.
The first story is about connecting the dots.
I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?
It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last-minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.
And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:
Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, 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. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.
Again, 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.
My second story is about love and loss.
I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.
I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.
I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.
During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.
I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.
My third story is about death.
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 need to change something.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me 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.
About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.
I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.
This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:
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.
When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960′s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.
Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
Thank you all very much.
Full text via: Stanford

Thursday, March 4, 2010

How The Ego Dominates And Hides Your True Self

What is the one reason that most societies don't work very well, since the start of Sumer, the cradle of civilization?

Why is the history of humankind a miserable one?

What keeps us from living lives full of hope, harmony, and flourishing success?
It is domination.

Western Civilization started in the squabbling little islands called Greece. This birthplace of democracy enforced its ideas through war and strife. Since then the history books have been written by those who won the wars.

The history of humanity is generally a miserable one because it is a history of domination. It's supreme accomplishment will be the destruction of the world with nuclear technology.

Domination, at it's extreme, is through the military powers. But it also trickles down through politics, the science of force and control, economics, the art of manipulation of resources, and many other agencies of any society.

What domination has always contributed to human welfare is misery. The more domination, the more aggressively it is enforced, the greater the amount of misery
you will find.

Domination is what has been invented by the ego to keep itself highly insecure. The ego thrives on fear, enjoying experiencing it and imposing it on others.

Domination stems from egoism. It's opposite is partnership with all. This arises from
spirituality. However, the main models of spirituality, the major religions, have also been subjected to the desires of the ego and become instruments of domination.

The only way to develop true spirituality is to find the force of love within yourself and extend it to others in the form of a partnership.

Why does the ego seek fear when the real nature of consciousness is pure intelligence, love, and harmony?

It is because it is a veil that covers your Self, the deathless part of you.

The ego is that part of you that believes that your mind and your body, your life and all your experiences, are extremely limited and survival is the purpose of life.

Yet human life is fugacious. It does not last long. All models of domination crumble under the weight of time. The effort to survive forever in a human form is doomed from the start.

Would it not be better to begin a search for the best part of you, the deathless part, that came into this realm of experience to know more, love more, and experience itself more fully?

The deathless soul once it learns to move beyond fear into love, once it learns to shrug off its self-created nemesis, the ego, will see that only by living in a spirit of partnership with all life is anything worthwhile.

What can you do to change your life?

Stop living out the dictates of your ego and start to come from your heart. You will then find the right work, the right relationships, and the right way to experience the happiness hidden within.

All models of domination are egoic. They come to grief sooner or later. But who you are is more than you believe yourself to be. You are consciousness exploring itself in a world of infinite possibilities.

By Saleem Rana
 Original Art courtesy of The Topps Vault eBay Auctions

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Mind Mapping Basics

A creative alternative to an Outline is a Mind Map. Mind maps work the way the brain works, which is association driven not linear. When you think of an idea, your thoughts and feelings around that idea may be in the thousands. Each thought may be linked to images, words, or even smells. A mind map helps you explore those linkages and reinforce the relationships that are supportive to your goals. Also, your mind generally thinks in concepts and images not complete sentences.

Since a mind map is visual and shows the connections between key words and concepts, the information is stored in a way that makes it easier to recall later. Additionally, since a mind map starts from the center and works out, it opens avenue of thought that are closed off in an outline. You have freedom to consider more than the one previous thought written on the page. You will find that your mind guides the organization of the ideas rather than the structure of the outline; thereby, encouraging creativity.

While mind mapping is very individual, here are some of tips that have been proven to work over time:

1. Use just key words, or phrases
2. Start from the center of the page and work out.
3. The center should be a general theme of the map. (I prefer to use a circle for the center theme).
4. Create other centers for sub themes. (I use squares for second level ideas).
5. Use Print rather script as it makes them more readable
6. If it stands out on the page, it will stand out in your mind.
7. Use arrows to show links between different elements.
8. Explore what’s hot in your mind, don’t force ideas.
9. Let your ideas flow. Don’t judge the thought, just capture it.

Think Creatively. Whenever you want to think outside the box , mind maps can help. You will be amazed at how rapidly the new ideas flow. Every item on your mind map has the potential to generate another mind map.

Take Notes. Mind maps help organize your notes and puts the ideas into context easily. This allows the information to be incorporated into your brain more easily. Use them to take notes for books, lectures, meetings, interviews, or even phone calls.

Memorize. Mind maps are effective in storing new information in your brain in an optimum way for recall. The key words and concepts are appropriately organized into the proper context.

Solve Problems. Mind maps show the relationships between items. Often, the solution to problems lies in resolving the connections between parts. By sharing a mind map with a co worker or friend, you will be able to communicate issues the way you see them.

Plan. Whether it’s a complex project or a vacation, mind maps will enable you to put all of the relevant information down on paper. Then, it’s a matter of organizing and connecting all of the mini projects and assigning responsibility.

About the Author: Bill Tyler owns the Bubble Planner, writes articles and authored Daily Life Manager. He lives in Texas with his wife of 16 years and their lovable but not so smart dog.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Explore Your Potential

Your potential is not quite a thing, yet more than an idea. It awaits in a twilight zone between idea and reality, where all things are possible but none are actual.

It took 15 billion years of evolution for you to be where you are now: a conscious being capable of self-consciousness. It is from the depths of this interior awareness that you can shape your destiny. With imagination alone, you can shape what has never been before. An act of imagination is the seeding of an idea that will bear fruit in a time that has not yet appeared.

This specific form of imagination is what you can call visionary thinking.

When your heart and mind can look into the past, into your reserve of memory, select its most choice ideas from it and project it into the future, then you have begun the journey of exploring your potential.

Will you be rich or poor, well-educated or ignorant, loved or abandoned, alive with a new intensity and purpose or merely drifting upon the tide of circumstances, depends not on the movement of the stars nor on the opinions of those who hold you dear, but on one thing alone: your inner clarity about who you are and what you want your life to mean, both to yourself and all those who will come to know you.

All men and women dream but only some have the courage of their convictions. Most through default float upon the sea of mediocrity, responding to biological and social needs but creating nothing new, ennobling, or in some measure liberating.

Many, unfortunately, are capable of going through their days without entertaining a single original idea, content with acquiescing to the propaganda of vested interests. A few, however, think about their potential and what they can do to explore and expand it. These are the ones who push the race forward, stretching the limits of consciousness further into the realm of new possibilities.

You cannot succeed in anything alone. Your success is a wave that carries others, inviting them to examine their own potentiality. You vibrate at a higher frequency when you choose excellence; you influence others with your presence alone.

The urge to be more than you are right now, to express a nobler speech, a finer mind, a more uplifting outlook, a larger reach of resources is the urge of life itself to explore its dimensions.

The idea of entelechy, a motivation for self-determination and directing inner strength for more life, growth, and capacity is an idea that arises from Aristotelian philosophy.

A human being is in a perpetual dynamic tension between potentia and actus. In other words, a quest to translate a potentiality into an actuality. Potentia is determinable. Actus is determined. These terms should not be confused with the ideas of physics which refer to the capacity for change through work from one state to another. With a human being, the urge to translate potentiality into actuality is intrinsic. With material objects, an external force is extrinsic, some outer force is making the conversion from one state to the next.

The ultimate goal of self-determination is happiness. For as a sentient creature evolves, it increases its power, secures its survival, and experiences the happiness of a broader and fuller expression of itself.

Another way of looking at it is to say that all human misery is due to some level of frustrated potential. At times, this frustration is felt so acutely as to result in self-destruction, either through suicide or self-degradation.

A human being is rooted in teleology. The human psyche hungers for design, and it will do almost anything to satisfy the quest for meaning.

The best and most satisfying lives are those where meaning is found and where a conscious and deliberate movement is made from potentiality into actuality. Ultimately, the conversion is one through the medium of intelligence, from the creative intelligence of envisioning to the practical intelligence of bringing about and maintaining a higher order of adaptation. As intelligence and adaptation increases, so, too, does happiness, which is a symptom of increasing power as the means of survival are ensured. As Spinoza once said, "Happiness is power increasing."

Happiness, like life itself, is never a final state, but an evolving one. You can be happy now and as you increase your power in the world, converting more potential into actuality, your happiness will also correspondingly increase. The highest state of happiness, of course, is self-realization, when you transcend the limitation of the idea of a singular ego battling a hostile world intent on its destruction and embrace the idea of being unified with all sentient life everywhere. Mystics have reported this state of oceanic consciousness as blissful.

As the cosmic conspiracy unfolds, life becomes more complex, more engaging, and ultimately more fulfilling. Our task is to engage the great game of life and ride the beam of evolutionary advancement of consciousness itself.

By Saleem Rana
Photo Courtesy of

Friday, November 20, 2009

Let Your Inner Freedom Ring

The practice of meditation makes it possible for us to have a glimpse of inner freedom, our own true nature. Meditation makes us see things in ways we have not done so before. We become more keen about the ways and reasons which makes it difficult for us to live our lives in a manner that is fulfilling. It spells to us the difference between inner and outer freedom.

Meditation is the most radical kind of political action. It challenges us to step outside the conventional value system and view things from a different standpoint. We are not likely to remain uncritical supporters of the status quo.

Meditation is not the kind of activism as we are familiar of, but it fits the definition perfectly. It is an action that fundamentally aims to make you be more critical of your view of the world.

Meditation brings out the best in us, our own intelligence and insights. It challenges our own individuality to emerge, our sense of compassion, and our sense of outrage as we gradually reveal our own true nature.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nope! It Doesn't Degrade Women At All

Degradation is in the eye of the beholder. In some religious cultures, a woman whose uncovered face or skin is shown is over-the top. For others, a woman wearing a string bikini pouring suntan lotion all over herself, is normal fare. Certainly, American advertising appealing to sex is relatively provincial compared to more "liberal" attitudes toward sex and nudity in Europe. Consequently, the action being depicted and the cultural context have much to do with societal impressions of what constitutes degradation.

A good rule of thumb would be whether women are displayed solely as sex objects under the control of men. Clearly, if a woman uses her beauty or sexiness to sell a products where she is a willing participant and is not presented or treated as powerless and obedient to men, she cannot be deemed degraded. If she is voluntarily participating in a portrayal of a women who is in control of her body and not presented as inferior to men, the question of degradation doesn't really exist.

Another factor would be the intended effect of the ad on the viewer. Does that ad promote disdain, disrespect or domination of a woman? If it does, then the ad demeans or degrades the woman, whether or not that was the intended effect. But what about a beer commercial during a football games that features big-breasted, curvaceous women promoting drinking as a cool and sexy in a flirtatious manner. Again, there is nothing degrading about women promoting beer to male sports fanatics unless the ads correlate beer and woman as a recipe for men having sex with women.

Perhaps the most iconic use of women as sex objects is the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Obviously, men buy that issue to look at scantily clad women. While the pictures are extremely sexy and almost completely reveal a woman's body, the photos are taken in an artistic and respectful way. Sure, the idea is to capture some of the most beautiful women in the world in provocative swimsuits and poses, but there is no hint that the woman are being subjugated in any way to participate in the photo shoot, nor are they shown in photos being controlled or subservient to men.

In sum, the use of sex in ads to sell products does not degrade women so long as they are not presented as objectified beings under the control or domination of men.

by Michael Golde