Read My Lips

The Reflections of Steve Jobs

We present the late Apple CEO’s reflections on life, success — and death.

Takeaways


1. Why did you drop out of college?

“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.”

2. What is perhaps the most valuable thing you learned in college?

“Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class. I learned about serif and sans 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.”

3. How was this useful to you?

“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.”

4. What lesson did you take from this?

“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.”

5. What maxim has guided your life?

“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.”

6. Have you always known success?

“In ten years, Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4,000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired.”

7. What kept you going?

“I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from Silicon Valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did.”

8. Why is it so important to love what you do?

“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.”

9. What truism is important to always keep in mind?

“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.”

10. And finally, what’s the key to a successful life?

“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.”

Editor’s Note: The quotes in this Read My Lips are drawn from the commencement address Mr. Jobs delivered to Stanford University graduates on June 12, 2005.

Each edition of “Read My Lips” presents quotes made by the featured individual at the time specified in the answers. However, it is a “virtual” interview only — insofar as we have added questions in order to provide a better context to the thoughts expressed.

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