'Stay hungry. Stay foolish': Steve Jobs in his own words

'Think different' was the philosophy of the man and the company he founded...
Written by Natasha Lomas, Contributor on

'Think different' was the philosophy of the man and the company he founded...

Steve Jobs: 1955-2011

Apple's online tribute to its co-founder, Steve Jobs, who died yesterdayImage: Apple

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs has died but he's left a legacy few could dream of leaving. His charisma and creativity rightly won him fans around the world. The products he created are used by millions of people across myriad industries, and technology watchers, political leaders, captains of industry - all admired and were inspired by him.

In a 2005 commencement address to students at Stanford University, Jobs delivered what can only be described as a eulogy for his own life - being all too aware of his mortality after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

"About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumour on my pancreas," he said. "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.

"I lived with that diagnosis all day."

But Jobs also revealed that living each day as if it was his last is a philosophy he had been practising all his adult 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."

Having limited time frees humans to break from tradition, Jobs told his audience - making it an imperative that we do not waste time on old staid ways of doing things but rather look ahead, create something new, believe in something different.

Steve Jobs Time magazine 1982

Steve Jobs encouraged others to have the courage to follow their heart and intuition, as he himself didPhoto: Courtesy of Time

"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," he said. "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.

"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."

Listening to your heart, to your gut instinct, is a clear thread running through Jobs' story.

A famous college drop-out, Jobs told his audience of students that dropping out of college was "one of the best decisions I ever made". Breaking with convention had given him the freedom to explore the things that really excited him, he said - and that spirit of adventure and creativity ultimately fed into the company he later founded.

"The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting," he said. "I decided to take a calligraphy class. I learned about serif and sans serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

"None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac."

Even if he couldn't know it at the time, Jobs said...

...choosing something that inspired him over something that didn't was the driving force that would shape his life and work.

"You can't connect the dots looking forward," he added. "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."

Of course, luck also played its part in Jobs' story. "I was lucky - I found what I loved to do early in life," he said, describing how, along with Steve Wozniak, he founded Apple in his parents' garage, aged just 20. "We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2bn company with over 4000 employees."

But again, Jobs became a drop-out, after being forced to leave the company he had founded.

"I didn't see it then," he told the students. "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."

Freedom and creativity, difference and above all passion - that's the philosophy that underpinned Jobs' life and work.

Or, in the words of an Apple advertisement narrated by Jobs: "Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do."

"Don't lose faith," Jobs told the Stanford students. "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."

He ended with a final anecdote: "When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early-morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitch-hiking 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."

Read more here:

Editorial standards