How To Live
Before YOu Die
By Steve Jobs
Jobs begins his speech by stating that he will split it into three distinct stories. The first, about his early life, begins with him recalling how his mother was an unwed college graduate who only wanted college graduates to adopt her son. However, Jobs was adopted by a couple who were not college graduates, but promised his mother that Jobs would attend college himself.
After eighteen months at college, Jobs dropped out, but continued to sporadically attend classes that interested him, such as calligraphy, which although seemed like a waste of time at first, would later prove to be important as he used the skills he learned to design the fonts available on the first Macintosh computer.
The second story is about how Jobs was fired from his own company at the height of its success. Though devastated by this, he ensured that he would spend his new time productively, and founded two new companies, NeXT and Pixar, which were both eventually bought by Apple. It was during this time that he started his own family, and learned that failure can actually be a rejuvenating experience.
The last story is of his cancer diagnosis, and how it reminded him of how life is fleeting, and instilled within him a sense of urgency to pursue his own passions.
Jobs ends his speech by encouraging his audience to “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”
Themes and techniques
Jobs’ text examines the importance of taking risks in life, and finding the courage within yourself to pursue what you are truly passionate about. This awareness is conveyed through his self-reflection, “It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made.” Nonetheless, he acknowledges the hardship that comes with taking risks such as the ones he did – “It wasn’t all romantic.”
He also counsels his audience to recognise that there is a lesson to be learned in every experience, even if it may not be obvious at first: “And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.” It is within the final line, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” That Jobs encapsulates the central purpose of his text, as he encourages his audience to make the most of the opportunities they will encounter in their lives, but also to seek opportunities where at first it seems as though there might not be any.
‘Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.’
parting advice to encourage action
‘It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it.’
characterisation of Job’s position and perspective
‘I learned about serif and sans serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great.’
demonstration of knowledge gained from curiosity
‘It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room ...’
contrast, personal anecdote
evocation of reality to reject idealisation
‘It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made.’
assurance to listener