After Steve Jobs’ untimely death last week, his 2005 Stanford commencement address was replayed across social and traditional media. Parts of the speech were wonderful, including his advice to live with an awareness that life is finite and change is inevitable. But other parts felt like flashy commercial slogans promoting entitlement to nonstop stimulation – which, coincidentally or not, is offered by Apple’s iDevices.
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” “Don’t settle.” “There is no reason not to follow your heart.” “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” “Stay foolish.”
None of this is wrong per se, but it does ignore some basic facts of life: People can spend a long time doing what they don’t love, only to figure out later that it was still worthwhile. Life involves degrees of compromise, so sometimes you should settle. Following your heart exclusively can get you into trouble. You can learn a lot from other people’s noisy, obnoxious opinions. Staying foolish sometimes just means you’re a fool.
All that “follow your heart” rhetoric does, however, sell the idea that life should be one endlessly satisfying ride. And how better to achieve that than with a constant, personally selected stream of images, sounds, and info available via shiny little Apple devices. You deserve it, Mr. and Ms. Tech Consumer!
All I’m sayin’ is: Let’s stop and consider both the bad and the good of Jobs’ enormous legacy.