Speeches of Note

One explored in great detail.

The other has no commentary, but is of interest to me.

Steve Jobs

I am quoting from Steve Jobs at Stanford, Part 1: “Faith in a Godless Providence” by Gary North. The whole article should be read.

Steve Jobs: Calligraphy

—<Quote begins>—

Had he gone to a community college and then to a tax-funded, low-tuition university, he might have graduated. He would have gone on to achieve conventional things in a better-than-average way. We would never have heard of him. I say this as a Calvinist who believes in predestination. He would have agreed with me. His first story is about providence. He just did not believe in God.

He remained at Reed, taking advantage of a course that hardly anyone could use: calligraphy.

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this.

That some Reed College parents were paying a fortune to have their children study calligraphy is typical of higher education, which quietly and unofficially sells itself as necessary for success in the world and then indulges its faculty members, who get paid well for teaching non-practical courses.

Jobs fooled them. He made the course practical. But not at first. Calligraphy was to prove crucial later on in his career.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

As a speaker, Jobs achieved what few speakers ever achieve in a major speech. He provided a hook on which the listeners could hang their hats. This was not just a key word. It was a key example. It let the audience have a mental picture to reinforce a verbal argument. This is very hard for a speaker to do, I assure you. Calligraphy illustrated a point — the central point in Story 1.

THE POWER OF PROVIDENCE

Here, Jobs came to the crucial issue: the meaning of life. To understand life, you must connect the dots. By this he meant the chronological facts that make up a life. Out of them come relevance. But we can see this relevance only in retrospect, he told the students emeriti.

Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

But why? Why should the dots have relevance? He took a seemingly peripheral set of dots — days spent studying calligraphy — and came up with retrospective meaning.

—<Quote ends>—

The dots are there.

You can see them, and what they mean, after the fact.

Steve Jobs: Whatever

—<Quote begins>—

Jobs drew a conclusion in 2005. “You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.” For him, God was relegated to “whatever.” That was epistemologically appropriate for 21-year-olds who were about to graduate from Stanford. This is the prevailing epistemology of modern academia: God is “whatever.” He is not part of the curriculum, except as “whatever.”

God can be trusted as the whatever who resides in between life’s dots. He shares this undefined and undefinable kingdom with your gut, destiny, life, and karma. Problem: none of this is part of any curriculum at universities that charge $50,000 a year: tuition, room, board, and textbooks. Gut, destiny, life, karma, and whatever are extra-curricular activities, even off-campus-only activities — not in the same league as football games, keg parties, and that unique buddy system that modern campuses offer. (http://bit.ly/CollegiateBuddies)

—<Quote ends>—

North’s article was written in 2011.

In 2023, we get article like

A recent Pew Research study suggests a tectonic shift in the dating and sex life of men. The study found that among men under 30 years old, over 60 percent are single, almost double that of women in the same age bracket.

Not only are more young men single but their opportunities for developing a relational and sexual repertoire have all but vanished, as levels of sexual intimacy across genders appear to have hit a 30-year low (Lei & South, 2021).

Things are not what they once were.

Why So Many Young Men Are Single and Sexless by Greg Matos PsyD

I disagree with his recommendations. But the facts that those bad recommendations are suppose to address is real enough.

I happen to remember the rise of “herbivore men” in Japan, from about 2009 onwards. Men who are not very competitive, and not so interested in women. What was over there isn’t truly over here – I don’t think that Western men have declined in competitiveness. But while the whole package is not here, a fair bit of it is.

Steve Jobs: The Central Word is “I”

—<Quote begins>—

HELPING HANDS ALONG THE WAY

Jobs’ discovery of calligraphy was made possible by the kindness of others.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.

In following the dots of his days spent as what he called a drop-in, Jobs became a moocher. That is a pejorative term. He was a bum. A leech. He was absorbing free sleeping space, free food at the Hare Krishna temple, and free information as an auditor at a very expensive college.

In society, there is charity. Jobs was famous for not giving charity, yet his career path depended on it.

People let him mooch. They saw that he was not wasting his time, so they went out of their way to sustain him in his quest. He followed his dream. But there is no such thing as a free lunch. Whatever he achieved in life was the product of other people’s faith in him.

Why would anyone have faith in him? Why didn’t they say this? “Get a night job, Jobs. Pay your own way.” That was their prerogative. But they treated him more kindly, less demandingly. They cut him some slack.

They did what he never did in business relations. They did what he never did in private, as far as we know. If he gave away money in private, fine. His right hand did not know what his left hand was doing. I am willing to admit that he may have had a generous side. But he never publicly promoted charitable giving.

He barely perceived in his speech to those eager ex-students that his life was a gigantic contradiction. His success in business seemed to be based on words and actions that would have kept him from connecting the dots in his drop-in phase of life.

In this sense, Steve Jobs was one of the most morally blind, highly successful men in history. There have been self-consciously evil famous men. There have been power-seekers, wealth-seekers, and sex-seekers. The triumvirate of money, sex, and power have lured many men to their doom. But Jobs was different. He pursued the combination of aesthetics and high technology with a passion.

He connected digits in connecting his life’s dots. But he never honored the origin of those dots. They came from something other than his gut (instinct, intuition), destiny (impersonal), life (common), karma (impersonal). They came from the kindness of others.

By many accounts, Steve Jobs was a mean, ruthless SOB. He was the living incarnation of the opposite of those people who gave him his start in life, beginning with his parents, who sacrificed for his education.

That was the great tragedy of Steve Jobs. He was productive as few men ever are. He was driven internally — by what? — to serve customers well. As a driven man, he drove others. But at the start of his career were people who were not driven and who did not drive him. They let him follow his gut. They let him connect the dots at his leisure and their expense. Those forgotten people — unknown to us, but not by God — made possible his success.

Read the testimony again. Look for the central word.

It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.

The central word is “I.” This was the paradox of Steve Jobs’ life. It was all “I,” yet to build up his own ego, he had to serve customers.

—<Quote ends>—

God’s mercy rains on the just and the unjust, the grateful and the ungrateful.

He has reasons for doing this.

Lincoln is claimed to have said, “When I remember that God is just, I tremble.”

I don’t think that Lincoln was a Christian: but he was a true master of Biblical thinking and quotation, better than many believers.

Steve Jobs and the Missing Comrade

—<Quote begins>—

CONCLUSION The free market made possible his economic success. The free society made possible his early life as a moocher. Voluntarism was at the heart of Steve Jobs’ success. He absorbed others’ charity and returned the favor to others, not as charity, but as profit-seeking output. This economic system has made us all rich in the West, by any standard of pre-1850 comparison. As P. J. O’Rourke put it, “When you think of the good old days, think ‘dentistry.'”

The free market is a moral system, not because it makes men moral, but because it rewards those who serve others efficiently and penalizes those who don’t.

Steve Jobs’ personal characteristics in his economically productive years did not inspire the development of those virtues which had made his early years productive. In another economic system or social order, Steve Jobs would have made a first-class tyrant. He was far more Simon Legree than Uncle Tom. But the free market made him a giant. It let his customers make him rich. It also encouraged those who were under his verbal lash to keep on working to meet his standards.

His customers did not pay him to be nice. They paid him to deliver the goods, which he did. They did not feel his lash. They plugged and played and enjoyed the fonts.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll buy an iPad3. It had better allow the use of a PC/AT keyboard.

—<Quote ends>—

Here is the money quote that I’m lookng for.

The free market is a moral system, not because it makes men moral, but because it rewards those who serve others efficiently and penalizes those who don’t.

Exactly.

In my eyes, Steve Jobs is a bad man. But I am glad that he got rich by serving people, giving them new tools and new toys, instead of getting rich the Marxist way – killing a sufficient number of people (both rich and poor) and taking their wealth for yourself in The Name of the People.

Three cheers for capitalism, for all the people were not murdered by Comrade Jobs.

I love charity. But charity made no nation rich. Charity cannot eliminate poverty.

The free market does.

Steve Jobs and the Missing Killer App

Now moving to the next article: Steve Jobs at Stanford, Part 2: Setback and Recovery

And a mysterious missing app, that got Apple II selling properly.

–<Quote begins>—

In Story #2 in his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford, Jobs talked about the shock at being fired as CEO of Apple in 1985. He had co-founded the company. He had taken it from a garage enterprise to a major producer. Then he got sacked by his board.

In his speech, he neglected to identify the #1 source of Apple’s success: VisiCalc. That was the first “killer app.” The phrase came as a result of Visicalc’s success. VisiCalc was the first spreadsheet.

APPLE’S WINDFALL

It was developed by Dan Bricklin. He was a student at the Harvard Business School. Wikipedia provides the basic story.

Conceived by Dan Bricklin, refined by Bob Frankston, developed by their company Software Arts, and distributed by Personal Software in 1979 (later named VisiCorp) for the Apple II computer, it propelled the Apple from being a hobbyist’s toy to a useful tool for business. After the Apple II version, VisiCalc was also released for the Atari 8-bit family, the Commodore PET, TRS-80, and the IBM PC.

According to Bricklin, he was watching a professor at Harvard Business School create a financial model on a blackboard. When the professor found an error or wanted to change a parameter, he had to erase and rewrite a number of sequential entries in the table. Bricklin realized that he could replicate the process on a computer using an “electronic spreadsheet” to view results of underlying formulae.

Dan Bricklin is forgotten. VisiCalc is forgotten. It was replaced by a program called 1-2-3, which was in turn replaced by Microsoft Excel. But, in its day, VisiCalc gave Apple II the edge over Radio Shack’s TRS-80. It was the first business software application that was perceived as crucial. Businessmen bought Apple II computers in order to use VisiCalc.

That was a far more crucial dot in Steve Jobs’ career than calligraphy ever was. It was dropped into his lap as a free bonus. It had nothing to do with Jobs’ aesthetic sense. It was a series of boxes on a screen into which people typed numbers.

I call this providential. Jobs preferred to call such events “your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.” He did not see life as a silver platter, but nonetheless a platter. “This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” Bricklin handed him a windfall in 1980. He made good use of it.

—<Quote ends>—

Steve Jobs didn’t care much for supporting the business world. Which is why Microsoft was so dominant, for so long.

And why Gates got a lot more wealthy than Jobs. Even though Job was – and is – far more beloved than Bill Gates.

Steve Jobs Meets Accounting

Or, the say Jobs was fired from Apple.

—<Quote begins>—

THE VISIONARY AND THE BEAN-COUNTER

This was the conflict between the visionary and the bean-counter. This is inescapable. The bean-counter represents the conflict. They provide the beans. Without them, the visionary sleeps on the floors of friends. The beans are the whips by which the real Simon Legrees in life — customers — flagellate producers who do not perform to their satisfaction. The lifetime refrain of the customer is this: “What have you done for me lately?”

The producer can produce no more than what the supply of beans will allow. He can borrow more beans in terms of a projected stream of beans. He can cut costs and hoard beans. But he cannot escape the restraints of beans. There is no such thing as a free lunch.

The visionary thinks that his product cannot fail to please customers in the future. The bean-counter says, “Prove it.” But the visionary cannot prove it. That is why we call him a visionary.

Jobs in 2005 still regarded the Macintosh as Apple’s greatest product. That was because it was aesthetically neat. It was his calligraphy. He failed to mention the ill-fated Apple III, which could not compete with the PC-AT 286 or the Intel 386 chip that was in Compaqs. Apple was losing ground where the beans were: businesses. He was still trying to sell to artists. The bean-counter reminded him: the phrase “starving artist” reflects reality. The Macintosh was a poor business computer. Jobs had to go. If I had been on the board, I would have voted to fire him.

It was the best thing that ever happened to him, he reflected in his speech. It was also a great thing for customers.

I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the world’s first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

NeXT set a high standard, but it did not affect the lives of the masses. Pixar did. The inner calligrapher of Steve Jobs found an outlet. He pursued both sides of his brain: the digital precision of NeXT code and the animation of Pixar. He told stories with digits.

In 1993, I visited a professor of computer science at Texas A&M. I had walked into his office unannounced on a Saturday with my son, who was ready for his junior year of college. He told us this:

The typical user’s manual in the microcomputer field has on average one error per page. I do not mean typographical errors. I mean procedural errors. The only exceptions are the manuals produced by NeXT. There are no errors.

—<Quote ends>—

While Job’s work at NeXT is impressive, his work at Pixar set standards, launching an American golden age of animation.

—<Quote begins>—

He rebounded. This was a time of testing. But, in saying this, I am saying that the testing was personal. The counselors were personal: very rich, successful men in Silicon Valley. His rebound was personal.

But what of the test itself? What about the connection between the chronological dots? Was there anyone administering the test? Here, he was silent.

He then added: “Don’t lose faith.” He did not elaborate. The inescapable question is this: “Faith in what?” He then went into cheerleading mode: “Follow your dream.”

DON’T SETTLE

He had faith in himself. He wanted his listeners to have faith in themselves.

I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. 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.

He told this to students who were getting their certification papers at an expensive university, one that is usually listed in the top ten in the United States. It is one of about three dozen universities attended by a third of the world’s richest and most powerful people. (Read David Rothkopf’s book, “Superclass,” or watch his videos delivered at Stanford: http://bit.ly/DR20-80)

“Don’t settle.” This is nonsense. It is outrageous nonsense. Of course you settle. For 80% of your life, you settle. It is that other 20% where you make your mark. You devote 80% of your time to putting food on the table. You devote the other 20% of your work day to that area of your life that I call the calling: the most important thing you can do in which you would be most difficult to replace.

If you have faith, and if the object of your faith delivers the goods, then you can move from 80-20 to 20-80. You can spend 80% of your time on your calling. This rarely comes when you are young.

Jobs was a rarity. He found his calling three times: in delivering a tool that ran VisiCalc, in developing Pixar, and in developing the iPod/iPad tools that make other people’s apps — none killer so far — available to customers. He produced the platforms that made individual programmers efficient in delivering their goods to customers.

He spoke as if he had not been the recipient of a series of opportunities to serve as a middleman in between others and customers. He delivered the goods that let others deliver their goods. He got rich and famous by doing this.

Life is filled with grunt work. Most work is grunt work. Unless someone promotes the idea of an elite of producers who hire workers who do all of the grunt work, he had better learn to do great grunt work. The 80% of life that is grunt work is what allows the 20% of good work to be possible, and the 4% of top quality work to change the world.

Garage work is grunt work. Grunt work is basic to all work.

The free market lets us sort out our grunt work from great work. Customers pay for the output of our grunt work, but demand ever-better work. We decide how to allocate our work.

Jesus had three years of preaching, beginning around age 30. The previous 20 years had been mainly grunt work. He knew his Torah, as we read in Luke 2:41-5. This is the only reference to the years in between the birth and ministry of Jesus. He was a carpenter’s apprentice for much of the time, then a carpenter. Carpentry is grunt work. He settled. But not forever.

—<Quote ends>—

Grunt work is necessary.

You have to earn your stripes, before you can make your mark.

True for Moses, true for Jesus, true for you and me.

Steve Jobs Meets Death

The last article in the series, Rev. Jobs Brings His Sermon to a Close

—<Quote begins>—

I have already covered two-thirds of Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement address to graduating students at Stanford. He adopted the powerful technique of telling stories from his life — stories from which he extracted fundamental principles of ethics and action. He used those personal stories as launching pads for conclusions relevant to his listeners’ lives. This is not easy for a speaker to do, but when he does it well, it is highly effective. It can even change a few listeners’ lives.

The first story was on his dropping out of Reed College. Message: you cannot connect the dots of your life in advance, but you can in retrospect.http://bit.ly/JobsDots

Assumption: there is an overall coherence in life that we cannot see day by day. The second was on being fired from Apple in 1985, then re-hired in 1997. The message: don’t settle in life. Don’t compromise with your basic beliefs. Never quit.http://bit.ly/JobsSetback

We now come to his third story. “My third story is about death.” This is a good theme to end the story of any life.

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.

This is good advice. It is not easy advice to take. It is not an easy plan to implement. Why not? Because it deals with that final event in a lifetime with which everyone must settle. Most people prefer to avoid considering it on a regular basis. Not so with Jobs.

—<Quote ends>—

Everyone is going to have to settle. No one will live forever in this flesh, in this life (excepting a select few at the end of time.. and even there, their flesh will change.)

Steve Job Beats Two Fears

—<Quote begins>—

THE MOST IMPORTANT TOOL

Jobs was a master of digital tools. But digital tools were not his crucial tool, as he explained.

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.

This much is true. It is profoundly true. “Naked thou came into this world, and naked thou shalt depart.” Or, more authoritatively, “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (I Timothy 6:7).

Question: “How much did he leave behind?”
Answer: “All of it!”

He said that this realization was “the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.” This is an important admission. When one of the world’s richest men, who earned his money the hard way — serving customers for three decades — says that one thing was the crucial tool in his success, it is wise for his listeners to pay attention.

What is truly important? Not the following: “all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure.” But we must be careful in accepting at face value a rhetorically charged litany of anything in a speaker’s presentation. Even if the list is accurate, it may not really illustrate the point he is making.

THE PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE

I don’t believe this part: that he regarded as peripheral all expectations. He was intensely future-oriented. This fact was the bedrock foundation of conclusion #2: “Don’t settle.” Why should anyone adopt this principle? Only because he thinks there are negative consequences for not honoring it. That is, he has expectations. He believes that causes and effects are linked. This deeply religious faith was the underlying principle of his first story about connecting life’s dots. He believed that something greater than what we see here and now governs the connecting of life’s dots.

People are purpose-driven to one degree or another. We act. We decide. We have expectations about the results of our actions. Ludwig von Mises made this the foundation of his economic theory. As actors, we have external expectations. We think that the world will be a slightly different place — a better place, at least for us — after we take a course of action.

Steve Jobs was one of those rare individuals whose decisions changed the external world. He was invited to speak at Stanford because of this.

Conclusion: external expectations are an inescapable concept. It is never a question of external expectations vs. no external expectations. It is always a question of which external expectations.

On the other hand, these three ought to be peripheral in our decision-making: “all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure.” Obviously, this is not easy. Jobs seemed to be governed by pride, but maybe not. He was surely governed with supreme self-confidence. If not, he could not have adopted and then implemented this principle: “Don’t settle.” This was why he could overcome his fear of embarrassment or failure.

Jobs was a genius in the broadest sense. He was in the same league as Thomas Edison: a major creator in several fields. He was a skilled technician. He was also an artist. His mastery of form and function rivaled that of Raymond Lowey, who was never widely known, but who was a Jobs-like industrial designer. His success at Pixar indicates how incomparably versatile he was. But all of it would have come to naught before he even began if he had been burdened with the fear of embarrassment or the fear of failure. This triumph over these two common human emotions marks the great entrepreneurs.

—<Quote ends>—

At a certain level, you have to stop caring about what others think.

And you have to stop worrying about getting hurt.

Steve Jobs Meets Reality

—<Quote begins>—

STORY #3

He then began Story #3.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn’t even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and “get my affairs in order,” which is doctor’s code for “prepare to die.” It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

From the day we are born, the Great Physician tells us to get our affairs in order. Every religion tells us this. But, because the termination date is not given to us, we procrastinate.

Then one day, Jobs received something like a termination date.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I’m fine now.

There are skeptics who say that Jobs was using that speech to persuade investors that Apple was a good company to invest in. He was free of cancer. That motivation was possible, but the nature of the message of Story #3 would seem to preclude this. So was the message of Story #2: “Don’t settle.” Story #3 was about settling.

This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

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.

This was the central message of his speech. It could have been inserted into any graduation speech over the last century. But, because Jobs had gone through the valley of the shadow of death, his words had more impact. Rhetorically, this was the heart of the speech. He had emotionally faced death. He had come face to face with “life’s change agent.”

As a speaker, he was gifted. He fused the central message of his speech with its central rhetorical flourish. In his previous two stories, he matched lesser messages and lesser rhetorical flourishes. The stakes were not so high. Here, he went for what salesmen call the close. Here, he called his listeners to action.

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.

THE NEED FOR DOGMA

If taken literally, this is silly: “Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.” A commencement address is more laced with dogma than most sermons. A commencement speech is a sermon. It is more a sermon than almost any other form of speech. Funeral sermons are rhetorically subdued, due to the nature of the event. Graduation speeches are rites of passage for the future leaders of society in the West. They are where leaders do their best to persuade their listeners of something. Job’s commencement address is the supreme model of the genre.

In short, dogma is an inescapable concept. It is never a question of dogma vs. no dogma. It is always a question of which dogma. And whose.

“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.” I agree. But we are now back to message #1 from Story #1: the underlying coherence, relevance, and lifetime power of whatever connects the dots. He invoked providence, but it is the providence of each person’s inner voice.

What connects the dots? How does the inner voice — not Son of Sam’s inner voice, I trust — recognize the underlying pattern of the dots and then communicate this information to us? What is intuition? Why should we trust it? Jobs was serving as Rev. Jobs that day. But Rev. Jobs never made the transition from rhetoric — emotional appeal — to logic: a causal explanation for the connection of the dots.

—<Quote ends>—

Progressives stay in a world of emotion. Even smart, fiercely intelligent, real-deal productive progressives like Jobs are fundamentally rooted in What They Want.

We should not dismiss emotion: God certainly does not!

But we also need logic, reason, objective truth, historical realities.

We all know what we want.

We need to know what is real.

Steve Jobs’ Summary

—<Quote begins>—

THE CALL TO ACTION

Then he offered an example.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960’s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and Polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970’s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Here ended the lesson.

It was a masterful sermon. As an occasional writer for The Whole Earth Catalog< and the Whole Earth Epilog, I appreciate his reference. The foolishness reference attracts me. As the apostle Paul wrote, long before the Whole Earth Catalog, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (I Corinthians 1:26-27).

Jobs is dead. He did not get those extra decades. He got an extra six years. He put those years to productive uses. Customers benefited greatly. His final gadget, the iPhone4s, sold more units in the first three days than any new product in the history of manufacturing: almost four million units. He did not live to see this. The phone was announced on October 4. He died on October 5.

CONCLUSION

So, what was his sermon’s message? He laid this out masterfully: (1) the dots are connected in a providential way, somehow; (2) don’t settle, at least not in the areas that matter; (3) the inescapable reality of death is supposed to help us identify what is sufficiently important so as not to settle. This all adds up to high-order foolishness, he said. Be foolish.

Like the child who asks, “But who created God?” I would have asked Jobs: “But what connects the dots?” He never said. I don’t know if he ever spent much time searching for an answer to the question. But his life was surely an astounding series of connected dots.

As another commencement speaker said, “Go and do thou likewise.” But get the dots question answered.

—<Quote ends>—

You need logic, and a respect for the part of the universe that is not you, to get that dots question answered.

A Different Commencement Address

A different commencement address, that connects the dots.

The transcript is here.

Your homework, if you choose to accept it: compare and contrast Steve Jobs and Denzel Washington’s addresses.

Advertisement

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.