Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish
This short account throws light on the early life of Steve Jobs, the legendary technology leader who took his company Apple Inc. to dizzy heights, both in terms of product superiority and earnings. Apple phones, and other Apple devices are ubiquitous around the world today, because no other product has come anywhere near it in performance and reliability. Undoubtedly, Steve Job will be remembered as the most passionate technology innovator of the century.
The story ..
Steve Jobs speaks in Stanford…
Steve Jobs was invited to the prestigious Stanford University to preside over the convocation (commemoration). He gave a speech, starting with his humble submission that he had never graduated from a college. Then he proceeded to narrate three small, but stirring stories of his life.
An unusual entry into the world …
Steve Jobs was born to a mother who had not been formally married. This meant that he didn’t have a biological father to take care of him. He mother was still in a college trying to finish her education. She thought it prudent to give away her unborn child (Steve Jobs in the womb) for adoption to a family wanting to adopt a child. But, she very much wanted Steve to be adopted by parents who were college graduates, at least.
Mother keen on the unborn’s education …
This, in her view, could give Steve a better chance of a happy living and better access to education.
In America, there are more parents wanting to adopt a child, than the babies offered for adoption. So, prospective parents have to wait in a queue.
Foster-parents finally found… ….
When Steve Jobs finally arrived, the parent whose turn came to adopt the child were reluctant to take him, because they had wanted a girl, not a boy. They were a lawyer and his wife. So, Steve remained with his mother for three more months, when another waiting parent came forward willingly to take him in. Sadly, for the mother, it became known later that neither the father, nor the mother was a graduate. The father had not even passed the high school. Steve’s biological mother refused to sign the adoption papers. After the adopting parents promised that Steve would surely go to college, she relented and signed the papers.
Steve Jobs enters a college, but the wrong one for him……
17 years after growing up with his foster-parents, Steve enrolled in Reeds College, but that wasn’t a good decision. The education was so expensive that it sucked up a big chunk of the income of the parents. Steve Lbs was disillusioned about the education. He also couldn’t decide what he really wanted to do in life. His parents’ savings were burning fast, and that was disconcerting for the young Steve. He felt morally guilty for causing his lifelong savings burning out like this. He discontinued his education. Initially, he felt scared, but in hindsight, he later felt that was his best decision in life. The classes pertaining to his course were un-interesting to him. He stopped going to those classes, but attended other classes that interested him.
Money-less, purpose-less, Steve struggles to survive…
Life was hard. He no longer had the dorm (hostel) room. He slept on the floor of some friends’ rooms. He returned the empty Coke bottles in the shops to earn 5 cents per bottle. With that money, he could buy some food to keep hunger at bay. On Sunday nights, he walked 7 kilometers to reach the Hare Krishna temple to enjoy a free, hearty meal. He relished the meal. During those difficult days, he came across many small, odd things that proved to be of great value to him in later life.
A chance exposure to Calligraphy …
Reed College specialized in calligraphy (ornamental handwriting). Everything in the campus starting from posters to sign boards to name plates were written very beautifully by students who excelled in calligraphy. Steve began to take interest in the art and began to attend calligraphy classes. He learnt about serif and sanserif fonts, the ideal space between types, and many such things that makes a writing look good. The experience filled Steve’s heart. He enjoyed learning the techniques.
Calligraphy helps him in developing the Macintosh …
Steve never had imagined that this newly-acquired skill would ever be of any use to him. A decade later, when he was working on the design of a Macintosh computer, the ideas of making a letter’s style look good came rushing to his mind. The ideas were built into the Mac. It became the first computer with artistic typography. The exposure to the calligraphy classes in Reeds College led him to make the Mac with the best looking fonts. With Windows copying these, no PC was going to have the typical letters.
Any experience, good or bad, teaches a life lesson …
When in college, Steve could never have imagined the benefits of the calligraphy classes, but now, he could easily ascribe the success of Mac in offering stylish letters to his days in the calligraphy classes. It always happens this way. One never knows how certain small things can shape one’s life later, but looking back and relating the successes to past experiences is always easy. So, one must believe that every small lesson in life is going to be of some benefit in future. The gut feeling, or the karma do work and shape one’s life. This conviction had never been unfounded in Steve’s life. In fact, it surely had made him what he was then.
Think it out ..
- What does Jobs say about his mother?
Jobs was given away for adoption by his unwed mother, but she insisted that he would have access to college education on growing up. Steve Jobs appreciates his mother’s concern for his education and well-being.
- How did the foster- parents adopt him? The foster-parents had long wanted to adopt a child, and had enlisted their names with the authorities. After Steve was born, they got a telephone call that a baby was available for adoption. They readily came forward to take Steve under their care. Steve’s mother was initially unhappy about it, because the parents were not graduates. After they undertook to send Steve to college, his mother relented to sign the adoption papers.
- What does he say about his studies in the Reeds College? Reeds College was expensive. The high tuition fees drained his parent’s savings. He felt the curriculum was uninteresting and not of any great value.
- Why did he drop out of the college? Steve was disillusioned with the studies in the college. He felt those were not of any value, and soon lost interest in the classes. He dropped out, but out of curiosity attended calligraphy classes.
- What difficulties did he face after he dropped out? Steve was scared thinking about his uncertain future. He was penniless too. He slept on floors in his friend’s rooms, and managed to buy some little food by exchanging empty Coke bottles for 5 cents each. On Sunday nights, he would walk 7 kilometers to reach the Hare Krishna temple for a free, sumptuous dinner.
- Why did he decide to learn calligraphy? There was no specific reason for this. It was a pure chance that he attended calligraphy classes, but soon, he found it very exciting to see how beautiful letters could be designed. He learnt about serif and sans-serif fonts.
- How did his knowledge of calligraphy help him? When he began to work to develop the Apple Macintosh computer a decade later, he utilized his calligraphy skills to make the computer unique by offering the user multiple choice of fonts.
- What does he mean by connecting the dots? He alludes to the many small and inconsequential incidents that happened during his difficult days. Later, he could make use of these small things to achieve great successes in life. The dots are the small incidents, and the way he made use of them to his advantage later is ‘connecting’.
Steve Jobs second story – about love and loss….
Steve builds Apple from scratch, and makes it a behemoth, but he is kicked out…
Steve discovered his life’s most dominant passion relatively early in his life. His friend Woz and he (20, by then) began to work in his father’s garage. Woz worked hard. The venture the duo started in a small way in a garage began to grow by leaps and bounds. The business was phenomenally successful. In just about 10 years, its turn over USD 2 billion in revenue and had close to 4000 people in its payroll. The flagship product – the Macintosh computer – had been released for sale just a year earlier. Steve was 30 then. Quite paradoxically, the company that he conceived and created fired him.
It is rather puzzling to understand how Apple could fire its own funder. As the company grew in size, Steve has hired a very talented man to run the company. The two got along well initially, but after a year or so, the two began to see completely divergent visions about the road ahead for Apple. Things came to head soon, and Apple’s board of directors supported the other person at the cost of Steve. He was shown the door. The ouster from the company he had created broke his heart, and caused him a huge humiliation in public’s eye.
Steve Jobs is devastated, but not broken……..
Steve felt very low about himself. He thought, he didn’t siege the opportunity to lead the company when the opportunity was available to him. He apologized to David Packard and Bob Noyce for having precipitating a needless crisis. Steve thought of leaving the Silicon Valley altogether. But, Steve’s mind began to turn differently. He was very very passionate about the work he had been doing. He loved the work and its many challenges.
Steve builds NeXT and Pixar — two jewels …
When Steve reminisces about those difficult days, he feels that whatever setback he had suffered had proved to be a boon. His ego of success no longer weighed him down. He was a free man again – a beginner at the bottom. He began anew. He started two new ventures – Next, and Pixar. At around this time, he met the woman whom he would marry soon. Pixar pioneered computer animation in a big way, and made the first animation film of the world, named Toy Story. Today, Pixar is the world leader in animation. Apple bought NeXT, and Steve was back in Apple. The technology developed by NeXT, propelled Apple to new heights. Steve settled down happily with his wife Laurene.
Steve today feels, this new burst of creativity was made possible because he was unfettered from Apple. It was a bitter pill, no doubt, but Steve, the patient needed it for his renewal.
Steve now reckons that at times life can be very brutal with you, but one must not allow oneself to fall on the ground. One has to get back to one’s feet. Steve could do it because he loved his work very deeply. He advises that one must discover one’s passions. Like a lover falls for their love blindly, one must fall for one’s work blindly.
For an active person, work consumes most part of their life. Only when someone loves to do a particular job, he can excel in it. Doing something that you really are not very excited about can never produce outstanding results. So, one should keep looking for the area of work that really is enthralling. Continue your search relentlessly. You would know when you have discovered the most exciting work. As you continue to work in your chosen area, the involvement becomes deeper and deeper. Don’t pause, or give up.
Think it out ..
- How did Jobs set up the Apple Inc? Steve Jobs joined hands with his friend Woz and began work in his father’s garage in a very small way. Later, the venture grew phenomenally to become Apple Inc.
- How did he lose his position in Apple Inc.? Steve began to differ from his CEO on matters of Apple’s future growth path. The gulf between the two widened, and at one stage, the board of directors eased Steve out supporting his rival.
- How did he feel abut his dismissal? Steve Jobs felt humiliated and very frustrated. He felt completely let down.
- How did he return to Apple Inc.? Steve’s new venture NeXT was bought over by Apple paving the way for his honorable return.
The third story – about death
Steve was 17, when he read a quote, “If you live each day, as if it is your last, some day you will most certainly be right.” The quote remained etched in Steve’s mind for the next 33 years. Steve used to look in the mirror every morning, and ask to himself, “If today were the last day of my life, would I do the same thing I am about to do today?” If he found the answer to be in the negative for a number of days in a row, he would conclude that he needed to change his tack.
Remembering that he would die soon was a tool that Steve used to make big choices in life. When one is on the verge of death, the sense of vanity, embarrassment, pride, and fear of failure, all become irrelevant. The feeling of the constantly lurking death makes a person avoid the fear that he has something to lose. In this state of mind, one is virtually naked. So, one can follow one’s heart with no worry at all.
Steve was diagnosed for cancer a year ago. A scan taken at 7.30am had conclusively pointed to a tumor in the pancreas. Till that time, Steve didn’t know what the pancreas did for the body. The doctor told him that the cancer was not curable, and he had just about three to six months of his life span left. The doctor advised him to go ho me and sort out all family and business issues calmly and in time. It meant that Steve had to condition the minds of his family members about his looming death. It was as worrisome as saying a premature goodbye to one’s near and dear ones.
The pancreas thought remained at the back of his mind the whole day. In the evening, he underwent a biopsy. A small chunk of cells was plucked out of his pancreas. He had been sedated, and his wife was at hand. The doctors saw the plucked cells under a microscope and quickly concluded that it was a very rare form of cancer. However, it could be cured through surgery. Steve underwent the surgery and was fine then.
Steve realized he had a close brush with death. He also knew he could live for a few more decades. He knew what death felt like.
No one welcomes death, not even when passage to heaven is certain. But, death comes to every one. It is inescapable. Death is so real, because Life is so real. The old depart and the new ones arrive through the process. One is new today, but in course of time one will become old, and swept away by death. This is the eternal truth.
Everyone has limited time on earth, so it must not be wasted in living the life of someone else. One must live one’s life of choice, and conviction. Dogma is deceptive because it takes you along the way others worked and believed. Steve warns his audience not to allow the chatter of other’s opinions to drown one’s inner calls. One must resolutely follow one’s intuition and inner calls. The heart and the intuition must be your loadstars in life. Nothing else matters.
When Steve was young, he had a book named ‘The Whole Earth’s Catalog’. Everyone followed it with respect and religious belief. Steward Brand living in Menlo Park authored the book with grea care. At that time, computers had not arrived. So the book was printed using Polaroid cameras, scissors, and typewriters. This was in the 1960s. The advent of Google changed everything. It enabled neat printing and formatting.
Stewart and his team published many issues of their book. Finally, they printed the last issue of ‘The Whole Earth Catalog’. Steve was a young man then, perhaps in his early twenties. The back cover of the epic book’s last issue had the photo of a winding country road in early morning. As farewell message, the publishers printed the words, “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.” The words have a hidden message that has profound wisdom hidden in it. If you are hungry, you will crave for more food. In the same way, if you are foolish, you will crave for more knowledge.
Think it out ….
- How did the quotation on death affect Jobs? The quotation was, “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you will most certainly be right.” Steve Jobs realized death is inevitable. It can come any day. So, he became determined to make the best of his life span by doing that he loved most to do.
- How did consciousness of death inspire him? He knew ne day he will be swept away by death. So, he was not unduly concerned about it. Since death has to come to one and all, a person should work following his heart’s call and intuition.
- What was the doctor’s advice to him when he was diagnosed with cancer? The doctors declared that the cancer was fatal, but could be fought off by surgery.
- How does Jobs view death? …..Jobs didn’t like to die, but at the same time, was not overly concerned about it. he felt, death was a clearing process that removes the dead old folks and brings in the new young ones. Since it is a normal cycle, it shouldn’t worry people much.
- What is most important in face of death? When death is knocking at the door, one must heed the 9nner voice and work according to it. The opinion of others must not affect a person with limited time to live.
- What was Job’s farewell message? .. He wanted the young students to stay hungry and stay foolish. By doing so, one can work towards more accomplishments in life and acquire more knowledge.