Steve Jobs: How to live before you die
This June 2005 commencement address from Steve Jobs to the graduates of Stanford University is quite refreshing to hear.  In it, he clearly discusses three pivotal times in his life:

  1. “Dropping Out” of college and taking a calligraphy class (which affected fonts on the personal computer)
  2. Image representing Steve Jobs as depicted in C...Image via CrunchBase

  3. Getting Fired by Apple (which led to his founding of NeXt, Pixar Animation studios and meeting his wife and one of the greatest things that happened to him, he says)
  4. His diagnosis and recovery from cancer.

So, you wanna, be Steve?  Really?  Are you Sure?
We look at someone like Steve Jobs and see him at his pinnacle – at the apex of his career and one that everyone wants to be.  But let me ask you this.  What would happen if:

  • Your child came to you and said they were dropping out of college?
  • You or your spouse got fired?
  • You got cancer?

Because those three things would have to happen for you to be Steve Jobs.
Add to it being unwanted by your mother and then not adopted by those who planned to adopt you because they wanted a girl — also Steve Jobs.

The Perfect Life
We want all these “things.”  We want perfection. The “perfect” life. The “perfect” events.

Awakening in the Ashes of Failure
But what we fail to realize is that greatness often emerges from the ashes of failure.
The Indians used to burn off the forests because they knew they would be healthier and most good farmers do this as well. There has been a movement in some places to ban the burning of forests and what has happened is an incredible underbrush that chokes out life and everything in the forest and a dense, dead undergrowth that is like kindling for a fire. Many foresters tell me that humans are safer when forests are “managed” and that often means burning, although that is counterintuitive.

“Don't be Trapped by Dogma”
Steve says not to be “trapped by Dogma.”  In a lot of ways, that is like the forest that isn't burned.
Failure often clears the underbrush and we start over.
But a lot of it depends on your perspective.

“You Cannot Connect the Dots Until you Look Back”
Jobs also says “you can't connect the dots until you look back” as he discussed how dropping out of college and that one calligraphy class influenced the very PC I'm typing this computer on. (Since, he so cheekily says – “Since PC's just copied the MAC.”  ;-)

One day, I'll be able to connect the dots in my own life and understand why Kip and I lost our life savings on a pecan grove going under water in a flood, or the other stresses and struggles of life.  It will make sense.

The Winds of History
As I was grading until late and then working on the Flat Classroom wikis the other night, I admit, I was struggling with some personal circumstances in my life.  As is my habit, I had a movie playing in the background and on Tuesday it was Gone with the Wind.

Scarlette O'Hara was trying to come up with the $300 to pay for Tara and was doing everything she could to find the money. She was completely distraught and beside herself.

I was surprised at how I could not empathize and it didn't bother me at all to see her plight, a far cry different from the times Kip and I had to run through the house to find change to get milk when we lost the farm.  Then, it was devestating.

When I realized this, I said to myself,

“But so many people couldn't pay bills after the civil war, it was everyone.” 

And then it hit me.

“But so many cannot pay their bills now, it is almost everyone.”

John F. Kennedy was right when he said;

“A rising tide raises all ships.”

In times of prosperity, many of us have prospered. In tough times, many have upsetting things happen. “Things are tough all over” as many say.  And in some ways they are.

Victim or Victor?
We are part of an age. We are part of changes that are happening. There are two choices as we deal with change — have it done by you or two you.  Be the victor or the victim. That is the way change is.
As my Computer Science class and I were discussing the obstacles to change, we began discussing a hypothetical man who ran a CD-making factory that stamped CD's and how his job would have been 10-15 years a go and what it might look like now after the winds of change and mp3 players have hit the market.
We study history in a way that often depersonalizes the humans that lived it.  Sometimes I wonder who we think we are?

People in the depression had it much tougher – I don't see many of us with our families wandering the streets looking for jobs or shanty towns of unemployed unhoused people cropping up in every city.  Some are there, but not everyone.

Sure, things are tough.  But listen to the end of Jobs speech and you'll hear a very freeing thought.

The End of it All
Jobs talks about the inevitability of death and that it comes to us all. If we realize that fact and realize that we are “naked”  we might as well decide to have the “courage to follow our heart and intuition” or “stay hungry, and stay foolish” as he says.

I think I've often been guilty of taking myself, my problems, and my own life way too seriously. Sure, I'm tired and exhausted so much of the time and have my problems like all of you reading this — but really, I think it is time to burn some brush.

I read and re-read a certain section of Brian Tracy's wonderful book, Focal Point, where he talks about  the Seven R's of Simplication:

  1. Rethinking
  2. Reevaluating
  3. Reorganizaing
  4. Restructuring
  5. Reengineering
  6. Reinventing
  7. Regaining Control

Brian Tracy points out (kindle Loc 445)

“Whenever you find yourself overwhelmed with too much to do and too little time, stop and think about your work. Stand back and ask yourself, “Could their be a better way?”

Burn the Underbrush
So, today, think about it.  Think about your life. What is working. What is not.  Are you willing to reinvent? Are you willing to admit something is not working?

Sometimes we cannot live a life because we are paralyzed by the underbrush of circumstance and an unwillingness to move from where we're planted — an unwillingness to burn away the things that aren't working — so we become planted in our thoughts and lives and just let it go by — we spend it where we are instead of evaluating if we really want to be where we are.  Some things we cannot change — one thing we can – our own attitude.

Today is a new day and you have one life to live.

I think many of us would rather spend a life than live a life.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Kim September 17, 2010 - 9:02 am

Well I and I think many other readers who have read your post must have got some amount of inspiration . But the problem which many p us are having , the problem which is holding them back in the road of success is Fear! Fear is too powerful , once we overcome this demon can we move forward with confidence and faith . I think if we want to improve our lives , nobody is going to do that for us , it’s we who have to bring change in ourselves first .
How motivated are you? – The test finds out how inspired you really are.

coolcatteacher September 25, 2010 - 11:48 am

Fear is so powerful, however, if we focus on fear it gives fear more power that it does not deserve.

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