As the whole world knows, Steve Jobs died. And it wasn't a surprise. He'd been battling illness for years. He was the Thomas Edison of our era.
But let's go beyond that. Why? Because of this famous Stanford commencement speech:
Several quotes stick out the most, and they have been repeated ad infinitum all over the Internet and the news. I will repeat them anyway, taken from The Stanford Daily's text of the speech:
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.
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. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
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.Wow. If that doesn't hit you, nothing will. Facing your own mortality is absolutely no fun at all, but death is the one thing in life that is absolutely guaranteed.
Obviously, I'm no Steve Jobs. No one is. But it nonetheless makes you think about your own life. What do I love? My family? Of course. My wife? Far beyond my poor power to express it.
But my job -- law? I don't know. At one time, yes. But I honestly don't believe it is great work anymore much of the time. I think the profession is completely different than it was in 1993. For better or worse, providing legal services is often more of a commodity than a learned profession. Am I good at it? I like to think so. But am I as good or better at lawyering than anything else? I don't think so. I have been told that I am good at a lot of things. Maybe I am and maybe I'm not.
As a kid I wanted to be a lawyer and then go into politics so I could serve the people and make the country a better place. This was entirely my choice in life -- my parents never pushed me in any direction. Then I saw how dirty politics was.
In college, virtually all my professors -- including the pre-law adviser -- thought I would make a terrific member of the academy as one of their colleagues. But that didn't work out for many reasons, most of them my own and some of them because of the market and changes in the profession. (Let's be honest and politically incorrect: there aren't many jobs out there at all, let alone for those in my situation who didn't want to teach what is now the current rage in that profession.)
So it was back to law, the original choice. I enjoyed law school. The professor I worked for there - one of the smartest guys on the planet in my opinion - also thought I would make a great teacher. Deja vu, huh?
And I generally enjoyed my law practice the last -- wow -- almost eighteen years now. It is only recently that I have felt like there has to be more to this than what I have been doing. So you have those lingering thoughts: Have I settled? Maybe. Owning my own law firm gives me the flexibility to take off a lot of Wednesdays to be with my wife on her day off. A 9-5 job usually doesn't. Other jobs might pay as well but entail more working hours. Some call it golden handcuffs. I don't.
My wife is smarter than me. She shrugs this off by and large and just does her job -- which I think is much more fulfilling -- because it is what she knows and is what she is good at. She can't imagine doing anything else, while I can imagine doing ten other things as well, albeit for less money and while working more hours.
Is this my announcement that I am retiring from law? Absolutely not. But it does make me think: What else is out there? Is this truly my destiny, or is it something else? What does my heart in fact say? I don't know right now. The death of someone like Steve Jobs at all too young an age has spurred me to be more introspective about my own life and my own future, and maybe it will for you, too. Whether we have the courage of those convictions remains to be seen. So stay tuned, and stay in tune with your life every day, because you never know when it will be your last.