CUPERTINO, Calif. (
) -- Steve Jobs, who overcame steep odds as an adopted child and a college dropout, spoke in great length about his own mortality more than six years ago after the world-changing success of the iPod music player.
(AAPL - Get Report)
co-founder and former CEO, who rescued the company in 1998 following his ouster 13 years earlier, was diagnosed in 2003 with a neuroendocrine tumor, a rare form of pancreatic cancer, and had a liver transplant in 2009. He died Wednesday, 24 hours after Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, whom Jobs hand-picked as the company's leader, unveiled the latest iteration of the phenomenally successful iPhone.
| Steve Jobs
Jobs, a hard-charging executive who delved into the nuts and bolts of engineering and marketing, foreshadowed his own passing during a memorable
commencement address at Stanford University.
The tech visionary, who died at age 56, had described death as "the single best invention of life." Still, Jobs avoided talk of illness and death, as when he took medical leaves of absence from Apple without disclosing details.
Survivors include his wife of 20 years, Laurene Powell, and their four children.
Below is an excerpt from his June 12, 2005, speech at Stanford.
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.
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.
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 doctors' 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.
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.
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 a 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.
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 importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
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 1960s, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors and Polaroid cameras. It was sort of like
(GOOG) 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-1970s, 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 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.
-- Written by Marilen Cawad in New York.
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