This is one of my all time favorite Graduation speeches. And it’s not because Steve Jobs is so eloquent here, to be honest, it’s the least charismatic I’ve ever seen him. He’s reading from his notes the entire time. He seems rattled at times, and he makes as much eye contact as a nervous accountant.
But behind his 15 minutes of Stanford fame is something more important. Something that no amount of speech preparation can give you. Behind Steve Jobs talk is an interesting life. One filled with risk and discontent, failure and success (with the two blending together quite a bit) love and loss. And so all Steve Jobs did was tell his story to a bunch of kids who are still hopeful enough to think they can do something significant too.
Now I’ve spoken at graduations before, and it can be a kick in the pants. Nobody really came to hear you, they came to watch their significant other march into that next season of life. There are about a thousand ways to fail, and only a couple of ways to succeed. And that is what Jobs shows us. Don’t tell people what a good life is, show it to them.
John Ortberg once said that the most dangerous chair in the house is the Easy Chair, it’s ergonomically designed to insulate us from ever wanting to move again. And it’s good at it’s job. It convinces us that the best thing we can do is actually not much as all. One brand is actually called the Lazy boy, actually it’s spelled Laz-boy, as if that extra letter is just too much effort.
But nobody ever walked away from a speech that was written in a Laz-Boy in awe.
I found an article recently about Steve Jobs that I thought was interesting. It was by, John Sculley, the man he recruited to be his CEO for running Apple. He recruited Sculley from Pepsi, and he was a man, who admitted to not knowing a thing about computers.
Sculley talked alot about how hard it was working with Steve Jobs. He was a man with an incredibly high set of standards. The designers and programmers would bring things back to Steve a dozen times before he would approve them, but, and here’s what I think is fascinating, everyone kept working. Sculley talked about how the vision for what they could accomplish was worth the sacrifices they were making now. He made them feel like they were a part of something really big.
But what was really cool was how Steve hired Sculley in the first place. In one of the most classic recruits of all time, Steve approached John Sculley while he was an upper executive with Pepsi. They talked for a while discussed the offer, and then Steve said this: ““Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugar water or do you want a chance to change the world?”
Basically, Steve Jobs was saying, “Do you see what could be?”
Maybe you saw this a couple of years ago, it was the CEO of Microsoft response when the 1st Generation of the Iphone was released. He laughed.
50 million Iphones later he’s not laughing, he may not even be employed.
That’s the problem with vision, you might see something no one else sees. You might just have people laugh at you and call you foolish, but that’s only because they can’t see it yet. So how do you get people to see what they currently can’t? There’s a thousand different ways to ask people to stop selling Sugar Water, or to get off their Laz-Boy.
But I like Steve Jobs’ way of doing it. He just tells his story.