Steve Jobs and Turning Don’ts Into Actionable Do’s

As a lover of TED and other inspirational talks, I’m shocked I didn’t listen to Steve Job’s popular 2005 Stanford Commencement Address “How to Live Before you Die” until today (hat tip Scott Dinsmore). He reminded me of the importance of moving forward by following our joy, even when it doesn’t make sense at the time. For example, he took a calligraphy class and fell in love with fonts and spacing even though it seemingly had no “real world” value. He later used this know how in designing the interface for Apple’s Macintosh computers.

It’s a wonderful speech and I recommend you carve out 15 minutes to give it a listen. He ends with some advice. Here’s what he says:

“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 drowned 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.”

I love the sentiment behind Job’s advice. As a language enthusiast, I got hooked into the words themselves. For me, how we say something isn’t mere semantics or word play. It directs our thoughts and ultimately our actions. “Don’ts” instruct us on what to stop doing but do a poor job of instructing us on what to start doing instead. This is pretty major in the case of Job’s advice because what he wants us to stop doing is living the status quo which is, by definition, what most of us are doing! What are we to do instead? When his advice is reframed as “do’s” a new path unfurls before us as does a new direction. We begin to draw the map of a brave, new life. (This is an internal process some of us do automatically.)

Here’s Jobs’ advice reframed as “Do’s” (I kept the last line intact because it’s already a stellar “do” statement):

Your time is limited. Be certain you are living your life by your design. Protect it  from outside influences like cultural expectations and the status quo.Think for yourself. Live by the results of your own deep thinking and understanding. Draw your own conclusions. Listen to your inner voice. When others opinions get noisy, get quiet. Hone your hearing. Create practices to dialogue with your inner voice. Give it permission to speak up. Give gratitude when it does and act in ways that honor what it’s told you. And most important have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.

When I initially had this idea I thought it’d be easy because, I conjectured, I would just change “don’t” to “do” and write the opposite of what he said. But, as in any translation, I found myself with many options. Perhaps you’d like to weigh in on how you’d reframe any given piece of his advice as a do or tell me how you thought I did?

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One thought on “Steve Jobs and Turning Don’ts Into Actionable Do’s

  1. Pingback: What “do’s” do. | (h)IN(d)SIGHT Writes

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