2009 was a rough year for me. I was unsatisfied and unsettled at my job with the State and I kept trying, musing and dreaming of a day I could move on and start my own web business. I felt prepared, I had saved some money, I had work waiting for me.
But I couldn’t seem to make the leap.
Starting in October 2009, almost exactly two years ago, I put Steve Jobs’ Stanford University commencement address audio on my iPhone. You’ve probably heard it, but if not, you can read a transcript. If you haven’t seen it, the video is nice. It’s about 15 minutes long.
Every morning when I parked my car, I’d grab my iPhone, one of the first devices I ever truly felt an emotional attachment to, and popped in my earbuds and would start listening to Steve. As I walked the half mile to the office, often in the dark and bitter cold, I’d listen to Steve.
My walk every morning was exactly 15 minutes. The moment I’d sit down in my desk is the moment his talk was over.
Every morning until the latter part of November was spent listening to Steve:
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
In November 2009, when I was 22 years old, I drafted my resignation letter to an organization I had spent nearly four years working for. I even noted parts of Steve’s talk in my letter.
The letter sat on my desk for a couple more days. And both days I listened to Steve’s speech, walking in the dark and the cold to a small box of an office to do a job I wasn’t willing to do anymore. Sometimes I’d even listen to it on the walk back to the car in the afternoon.
Two days later, I came into the office, having just finished listening to Steve again for the 30th-plus time. I took my letter, signed it, copied it and put it in the inboxes of my bosses.
“I’ve gotta stay hungry. I’ve gotta stay foolish.” “I have to take some risks.”
Leaving my stable, salaried, benefit-toting job was the best decision of my life, so far.
Now, I’ve been listening to that speech again on an increasing basis over the last few weeks. As silly as it sounds, I feel like Steve’s somehow talking directly to me. Not unlike how religious people feel about God (except, you know, Steve was actually there).
I’m preparing for the next phase. I’m trying to stay hungry and foolish.