Life, Death & Startups - A Tribute to Steve Jobs

Posted by Jonathan Greechan on 2011-08-30

Because we're a tech incubator, most people think the majority of our graduates are hoodie-wearing 21 year olds. We have some of those, sure, but that's missing the point. Finding great startup founders is not about demographics, but rather psychographics. And when I dig into the target psychographic values and beliefs we've unearthed from both our basic product-market fit research and our Admissions Personality Test, I can only think of one person;

Steve Jobs.

Yes I know, it's been a whole week, but we can't just ignore our business losing a luminary at the helm now can we?  And by 'our business' I don't mean web, technology, hardware, or anything tangible. If you're on this website, you want to change something. You believe the world can be better, and that better solutions exist than the ones currently being shoved down your throat. The business I'm talking about is innovation. The drive to write the next chapter, no matter how powerful the companies or how change-adverse the industries that block your path. That's Steve Jobs. 

Over the past week all of his best writings and speeches, some dating back 30 years, have come forward in tribute. Now it's my turn, and hands down my favorite quotes come from his Stanford Commencement Speech in 2005. At the time, Steve just beat pancreatic cancer, and while Apple had regained profitability and their stock was soaring, Wall Street was still questioning his weight and health with every passing day. Obviously, death was on the mind. 

Below is an excerpt from his speech that, while addressing the real issue of death, still provides an amazing perspective on how to choose your profession, where to draw your inspiration, and how to guide your professional decisions: 

"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."

"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."

"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."

"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."

"Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish."


Thank you Steve. We have all learned a lot. 

 

This post was written by Jonathan Greechan - Partner at the Founder Institute, TheFunded.com, and Producer of the Founder Showcase. Follow him on Twitter at @jonnystartup.


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