In Praise of Living Life and Loving What You Do

Sep 5, 2011
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

Welcome to Labor Day and the last day of summer.

Yes, I know. Astronomically, summer won’t end for another 18 days. But, I’m talking symbolically, not scientifically. And in that context, the U.S. Labor Day marks a transition from summer white to fall brown. It’s when kids go back to school, and the pace of the office quickens as workers return from vacation.

Once a day of parades and political speeches in praise of American workers, which still occur here and there across the country, Labor Day is mostly now a time to head for the beach or the park, fire up the barbecue, and kick back.

In the spirit of years past, however, I present you some inspirational words on life and work in the 21st century, from two of the most widely seen commencement addresses ever delivered.

First, is the advice given to the graduating class of 2010 at Auburn University by  Tim Cook, then Apple’s COO and now, its CEO:

I know of no one who has achieved something significant without also in their own lives experiencing their share of hardship, frustration, and regret. So, don’t believe that something in your past prevents you from doing great work in the future.

“Give up on the idea of developing a life plan that will bear any resemblance to what ultimately unfolds,” he tells the graduates.  Instead, “Paint in your mind the most grand vision where you want to go in life. Prepare. Trust in, and execute on your intuition. And don’t get distracted by life’s potholes.”

Take the 16 minutes to watch the video. Besides the advice, which is every bit as relevant for mid-career workers as for new grads, Cook’s speech provides clues to the stamp he will put on Apple in the coming months. (Start the video at the 2:20 point to skip the lengthy introduction.)

The second video is three stories, told to Stanford’s graduating class in 2005, by one of the greatest entrepreneurs in all of Silicon Valley: Apple co-founder, its former CEO, and current chairman Steve Jobs.

Story one is about connecting the dots. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards,” Jobs says. “So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. ”

Story two is one the graduates may not have much experience with, but will be familiar to everyone else. It’s about love and loss. It’s moral, says Jobs, is this:

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.

His final story is about death:

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.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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