I’ve been feeling very unsatisfied with myself recently. Initially I thought it was pure laziness (which I’m sure still plays a part), but in fact I think it is the fear of failure. There are so many ideas that I haven’t tried or put off because ‘I wasn’t ready’ or ‘It probably wouldn’t have worked’. Screw that. All successful people have had spectacular failures and are not ashamed of them at all.
This realization was partially inspired by listening to Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford. You can see the entire transcript here, the iTunes audio here, and a partial video here. No matter what your feelings on Apple (or Stanfurd ;P), Jobs is a great speaker and I think listening to the whole thing is the best way to experience it.
I liked the whole thing, but here is my favorite quote (again, it’s best to listen to it from Jobs rather than read it):
My third story is about death.
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 thing 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.
(He goes on to talk about his cancer diagnosis.)
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.
Sure, it’s a bit frou-frou and cliche. But it sure takes the edge off asking that cute girl out to coffee, or moving forward with that money-making idea you’ve been toying with, eh?
Don’t take the whole ‘live each day as if it were your last’ too literally. I guarantee if it was really Steve Jobs’ last day on Earth, he wouldn’t be talking to a bunch of college kids in a black polyester smock!
He’s just trying to put things in perspective, and help us overcome our natural fear of failure.
You can’t tell me there hasn’t been something you haven’t tried because you were afraid purely of the stigma of failure or rejection. Try out for the basketball team? Ask for a free refill on your soda when they give you all ice? Apply to Harvard? Look for a better job? Ask a man out on a date? Ask for a pay raise?