Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Address

August 15, 2023

Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Address

In the realm of technology and entrepreneurship, few names carry as much weight and reverence as Steve Jobs. As the co-founder of Apple Inc. and the mastermind behind iconic innovations like the iPhone, Macintosh, and iPad, Jobs' impact on the world is immeasurable. However, behind his trailblazing success lies a series of remarkable stories that reveal the essence of the man and his unwavering determination to change the world.

In his memorable 2005 Stanford Commencement Address, Steve Jobs shared three distinct narratives that encapsulated his life's journey and unveiled the key experiences that propelled him to the pinnacle of success. With his trademark storytelling prowess, he offered invaluable insights into his personal struggles and triumphs and the transformative power of following one's passion.

Connecting the dots

The first story stands as a powerful testament to the importance of trusting the unpredictable nature of life and embracing the unexpected.

As a young college dropout, Jobs embarked on a journey of self-discovery that defied societal norms and conventional wisdom. Reflecting on the circumstances that led him to leave Reed College, he revealed a profound twist of fate rooted in his adoption and his parents' unwavering determination to provide him with a college education. 

Stripped of the financial security his parents had painstakingly saved, Jobs found himself navigating a world of uncertainty and scarcity. Nonetheless, driven by an insatiable curiosity and a deep faith in life's enigmatic workings, he followed his intuition and embarked on a path of self-guided learning. By dropping in on courses that piqued his interest, Jobs stumbled upon a calligraphy class at Reed College, an experience that would later prove instrumental in revolutionizing the world of technology.

At the time, calligraphy seemed disconnected from Jobs' practical pursuits, yet the intricate knowledge he gained resurfaced when designing the groundbreaking Macintosh computer. Typography, learned in that seemingly inconsequential class, shaped the Mac's design, introducing exquisite fonts and spacing. This innovation forever transformed the personal computer industry.

This part of Steve Jobs' story serves as a reminder that life's dots often only connect when viewed through hindsight. In the face of uncertainty and unforeseen challenges, trusting in something greater becomes paramount. By immersing ourselves in Jobs' address, we are encouraged to reflect on our own journeys and embrace the idea that the dots will ultimately coalesce into a meaningful narrative. 

Love and loss

The second story that he shared was about a deeply personal story of love and loss that ultimately shaped his path to extraordinary success. Through his candid narrative, Jobs emphasized the importance of pursuing what you love, even in the face of adversity and setbacks.

At the pinnacle of his career, Jobs found himself unexpectedly fired from the very company he co-founded and poured his heart into—Apple. This turn of events shattered his world and left him questioning his purpose. Yet, amidst the devastation, Jobs discovered an unwavering love for his craft that propelled him forward.

Unsure of his next steps, Jobs embarked on a period of reflection and renewal. He founded NeXT and Pixar Animation Studios, and during this time, he also fell in love with an incredible woman who became his wife. Pixar went on to revolutionize the animation industry, creating the world's first computer-animated feature film, Toy Story. Meanwhile, Apple, recognizing the value of Jobs' vision, acquired NeXT, leading to his triumphant return to the company that he had once co-created.

Reflecting on this tumultuous journey, Jobs acknowledged that his firing from Apple had been a pivotal moment in his life. The weight of past success was lifted, making room for a fresh perspective and an unparalleled creative surge. It was in these transformative years that Jobs found a new purpose and laid the groundwork for Apple's future achievements.

Through his experiences, Jobs offered invaluable wisdom to the graduates, encouraging them to never lose faith when faced with adversity. He stressed the importance of finding passion in one's work, as true satisfaction can only come from doing what one believes is great. Jobs reminded his audience not to settle and to keep searching until they discover their true calling—a pursuit that brings fulfillment and evolves with time.


At the age of 17, Jobs stumbled upon a quote that deeply resonated with him: "If you live each day as if it were your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." This idea left an indelible impression, leading Jobs to reflect on his life's purpose each morning. By asking himself whether he would be content doing what he was about to do if it were his last day, Jobs gained clarity on the actions he needed to take.

Jobs believed that acknowledging our mortality was a powerful tool for making significant life decisions. In the face of death, external expectations, pride, and fear lose their grip, revealing what truly holds value. When we realize that we have nothing to lose, we are liberated to follow our hearts and pursue our passions.

A pivotal moment occurred when Jobs received a devastating diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Initially, the prognosis seemed grim, with doctors estimating his remaining life expectancy at only three to six months. Facing the prospect of imminent death, Jobs confronted the urgency of life. He grappled with the idea of saying goodbye, trying to compress years of wisdom and love into a short time frame.

However, fate intervened. A biopsy revealed that Jobs had a rare form of pancreatic cancer that was surgically curable. He underwent the procedure successfully, emerging with a renewed appreciation for life and a profound message to share.

Through this near-death experience, Jobs gained an intimate understanding of mortality. He recognized that death is an inescapable destination, and he considered it the single best invention of life. Death, in its inevitable cycle, clears away the old, making space for the new. Jobs urged the graduates not to waste their limited time living someone else's life or succumbing to societal dogmas. Instead, he emphasized the importance of following their inner voice, intuition, and passion. These guiding forces already hold the answers to what they truly want to become.

Jobs concluded his speech by recounting an influential publication from his youth called The Whole Earth Catalog. Its farewell message, "Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish" left a lasting impact on him. Jobs wished to embrace a perpetual hunger for knowledge and maintain a sense of foolishness, which he saw as a willingness to take risks and defy conventional wisdom.

As the graduates embarked on their own journeys, Jobs imparted these words of wisdom to them. He encouraged them to remain curious, continuously seek growth, and fearlessly pursue their dreams. By acknowledging their mortality and staying true to themselves, they would chart a path of fulfillment and make a lasting impact on the world.

While Steve Jobs' Stanford Commencement Address was originally delivered to college graduates, its profound messages resonate with individuals from all walks of life. Jobs' stories of connecting the dots, embracing love and loss, and confronting death offer universal lessons that can inspire anyone on their journey. Whether we are navigating uncertainty, facing setbacks, or contemplating our purpose, Jobs' wisdom encourages us to trust in life's unfolding, pursue our passions, and live each day to its fullest. By embracing the spirit of staying hungry and staying foolish, we can chart our own paths of fulfillment and make a meaningful impact, just as Jobs did throughout his extraordinary life.

About Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, an American innovator, designer, and entrepreneur, played a pivotal role in the technology industry as the co-founder, CEO, and chairman of Apple Inc. Born in 1955 to university graduates from the University of Wisconsin who opted for adoption, Jobs displayed intelligence but lacked a clear direction. He dropped out of college and explored various ventures before joining forces with Steve Wozniak to establish Apple in 1976. After leaving Apple in 1985, he ventured into the world of animation, founding Pixar Animation Studios. Eventually, Jobs returned to Apple over a decade later. Through the introduction of groundbreaking products like the iPhone, iPad, and iPod, Jobs and Apple shaped the trajectory of modern technology. Sadly, Jobs passed away in 2011 after a prolonged battle with pancreatic cancer. (