Steve Jobs: How to Live Before You Die

Steve Jobs is the most private public persona you'll ever know. 

He keeps his health issues as tightly guarded as his company secrets. But in an uncharacteristically revealing 2005 speech, Jobs shared with Stanford grads his very personal journey to becoming successful: a botched adoption, in which the couple who was going to adopt Jobs changed their minds; his public humiliation at being fired from the company he helped found; a cancer diagnosis that most certainly gave him a death sentence—“three to six months to live,” the doctors told him.

He talked candidly about death in that commencement speech, cracking the joke, “If you live each day of your life as if it’s your last, some day you will most certainly be right.”

Reflecting on his risk-taking approach, Jobs said, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to make the big choices in life.”

In June 2010, SUCCESS featured Jobs on the cover with the headline “Master of iNNOVATION.” He declined to be interviewed for the story. Writer John H. Ostdick wrote, “Three years later, Jobs hasn’t gotten any younger, but arguably the biggest innovator of his generation clearly plans to keep stirring the pot.”

What the Aug. 24 announcement that Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO of the world’s largest company will mean for its developmental future remains to be seen. Tim Cook will take over as CEO of Apple. Speculation of Jobs' failing health will continue, leading Apple fans and followers to ask, “What does this mean for the future of Apple?” And selfishly, for us Apple-hungry consumers, how will this affect the release of new products?

But as Jobs told an Apple audience, “Rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated” after Bloomberg accidentally published the unfinished 17-page obituary they planned to run.

The accidental obit read, “Steve Jobs, who helped make personal computers as easy to use as telephones, changed the way films are made, persuaded consumers to tune into digital music and refashioned the mobile phone, has XXX [placeholder copy for age]. He was TK [a production term meaning 'to come'].”

Therein lies the lesson Jobs prescribed in his 2005 Stanford commencement speech. “Your time is limited, so don’t spend it living someone else’s life.” 


Watch the 2005 Stanford commencement speech on the SUCCESS Video site.


Journalist, podcaster and southpaw Shelby Skrhak is the former director of digital content and social media for Before joining SUCCESS magazine, Shelby launched the weekly suburban newspaper Plano Insider, and covered topics ranging from cops and courts to transportation and fashion. Her handwriting should be a font.

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