Love and Loss
I was lucky. I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I
started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and
in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a
$2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our
finest creation – the Macintosh – a year earlier, and I had just turned
30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you
Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to
run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well.
But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we
had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him.
So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of
my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.
I really didn’t know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let
the previous generation of entrepreneurs down – that I had dropped the
baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob
Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very
public failure, and I thought about running away from the valley. But
something slowly began to dawn on me – I still loved what I did. The
turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been
rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.
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 worlds 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
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.
I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired
from Apple.It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient
needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose
faith. 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
Stanford University on June 12, 2005.
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