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?


Your purpose.

“Your purpose isn’t a perishable event subject to obsolescence. It is situation-free. It endures into eternity. Vision and mission are subject to change. Your purpose is permanent and ever aspiring to inform your new challenges and circumstances. Continual personal learning is the cornerstone to remaining a viable On-Purpose Person. Expect the expression of your purpose to change and mature over time; but the essence of your purpose remains unalterable.”

Kevin W. McCarthy
The On-Purpose Person: Making Your Life Make Sense, a book I highly recommend for folks who are wondering what’s my purpose?

Photo Credit: dandeluca

The Good Life.

I lived for two summers in a beautiful and surprisingly lively (for population 63!) remote mountain town in central Idaho. I was a part of the influx of seasonal summer staffers, the majority of whom worked on the Salmon River as raft guides (I was a cook). Since business is weather-dependent and summer only lasts so long, the work in town was condensed into an intense three or four month period. We worked hard. But most folks also played hard. Really hard. And as we were drinking beers with our feet dangling in the beautiful mountain lakes or river with the sound of bluegrass music playing in the background, it was inevitable that someone said, “Ahhhh. The good life.” Or “livin’ the dream!”

I am quite fond of those particular moments of camaraderie, relaxation after 10 hours of hot and heavy kitchen work, and taking in scenes of unparalleled beauty. However in my head there was a caveat…”the good life…for now…” I felt like there was more out there. Especially in terms of what I can contribute. I’ve been privy to tremendous blessings in my life. Sure it feels awesome to soak all that in and live in a bliss bubble. But there’s been a nagging feeling that I’m meant to be doing more.

Even before my adventures in Idaho, I thought quite a lot about a life well lived—what that means, what that looks like. On the path to finding answers, I got a B.A. in Sociology, went to graduate school to investigate further and dropped out of graduate school to investigate even further in the school of life.

Philosophers, psychologist, sociologist, and lay people tend to agree on the components of “the good life”.

To live the good life, we basically need two things:
· good relationships or love and

· meaningful work which I think of as a sense of contribution plus purpose or

As I’ve learned though my daily practice with meditation, simple and easy are far from one and the same.

This opens up a whole host of questions about how to cultivate good relationships.

How do we connect in meaningful ways with people? And questions about purpose.

What is meaningful work and how do we find or create it? How do we know what our purpose is? Or worse, what if we know our purpose(s) and can’t see how it could possibly ever support meeting our material needs?

Much of the reason driving this blog and my writings, are reflections on my experiences and experiments with striving for a live well lived. I’m so happy you’re joining me on this adventure, and I sure do hope you find some benefit here.

Photo Credit: jasoneppink