GUY RAZ, HOST:
We thought we'd let Steve Jobs have the last word. Back in 2005, he delivered the commencement address at Stanford University. He talked about many things - his adoption, why he dropped out of college, calligraphy and the motivational power of death.
STEVE JOBS: 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.
RAZ: Steve Jobs had been diagnosed with a rare form of pancreatic cancer in 2003. He had surgery and told the students he hoped that that was the closest he would get to death for a few more decades. He closed with this.
JOBS: 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's 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's 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 important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
RAZ: Steve Jobs, back in 2005, delivering the commencement address at Stanford University.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.