Be Hungry. Be Mad.

I decided to title the first post of Valerio.it this way.

Steve Jobs quoted this sentence at the conclusion of his speech at Stanford graduations in 2005, taken from the latest issue of the legendary magazine "The Whole Earth Catalogue", encapsulates the whole philosophy that should drive anyone not to give up on their dreams and never give up.

When something doesn't seem to be going right, I watch this video again.

And I depart.

Transcript of the full speech.
Steve Jobs - Stanford, 2005

I am honored to be here with you today on your graduation day from one of the best universities in the world. I have never graduated. Actually, this is the closest I have come to an academic degree conferment. Today I want to tell you three episodes of my life. That's all, nothing special.
Only three stories.

The first story is about "connecting the dots."

I dropped out of Reed College after six months, but remained there as a crash student for another eighteen months before leaving it for good.

Then why did I quit? 

It all started before I was born. My biological mother was a college graduate but a girl-mother, so she decided to give me up for adoption.

He longed for me to be adopted by graduates, so everything was arranged for this to happen at my birth by a lawyer and his wife. At the last minute, as soon as I was born, the latter decided that they would prefer a girl.

So what would later become my "real" parents, who were then on an adoption waiting list, were called in the middle of the night and asked, "We have a baby, a boy, 'unplanned'; do you want to adopt him?"

They replied, "Of course." My biological mother later learned that my mother had never obtained a college degree and that my father had never graduated from high school; therefore, she refused to sign the final adoption papers.

She returned to her decision only a few months later, when my adoptive parents promised her that one day I would go to college.

Finally, seventeen years later I went there. Naively, I chose a university that was as expensive as Stanford, so all my parents' savings would be spent on my academic education.

After six months, I could not understand its value: I had no idea what I was going to do with my life, and I had no idea how college would help me find out. Also, as I said, I was spending the money my parents had saved all my life, so I decided to drop out, trusting that everything would be fine anyway.

OK, I was pretty terrified at the time, but looking back I think it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I was able to stop attending the mandatory classes and started taking the ones that seemed interesting to me.

It wasn't all that romantic at the time.

I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor of my friends' rooms; I would bring back empty Coca-Cola bottles to collect that five cent deposit that would allow me to buy food; every Sunday I would walk seven miles across town to get the only decent meal in the week at the Hare Krishna temple.

But I liked it.

Much of what I found on my way by chance or through intuition at that time turned out to be invaluable later on. Let me give you an example: Reed College at that time offered probably the best calligraphy courses in the country. On campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was written in beautiful calligraphy.

Since I had dropped my 'official' studies and therefore did not have to take curriculum classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to reproduce what I saw around there.

I learned about serif and sans serif typefaces, how to vary the spacing between different combinations of letters, and what makes the best typography so great. It was beautiful, ancient and so artistically delicate that science could not have 'captured' it, and I found that fascinating.

None of this seemed to have any hope of practical application in my life, but ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it came in handy.

So we designed the Mac: it was the first computer with beautiful typography.

If I had not dropped out of school, the Mac would not have had multiple fonts and spatially proportioned fonts. And if Windows had not copied the Mac, no personal computer now would have them.

If I had not dropped out, if I had not stumbled upon that calligraphy course, computers today would not have that wonderful typography that they now possess. Certainly it was not possible at the time to 'connect the dots'and get a picture of what was going to happen, but it all became very clear looking back ten years later.

I repeat, you cannot hope to connect the dots by looking ahead, you can only do so by looking behind you: you must therefore trust that, in the future, the dots that now seem meaningless to you can somehow come together in the future.

You have to believe in something: your navel, your karma, your life, your destiny, call it what you will... this approach has never left me down, and it has made a difference in my life.

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My second story is about love and loss.

I was very lucky-I found what I liked to do with my life pretty quickly. Woz and I founded Apple in my parents' garage when I was just 20 years old.

We worked hard, and in ten years Apple has grown from just the two of us in a garage to a $2 billion company with over four thousand employees.

We had just released our best creation-the Macintosh-a year earlier, and I had just turned 30...when I was fired.

How can a person be dismissed from a Society he founded?

eh, when Apple developed we hired a person-who we thought was very talented-to run the company with me, and for the first year things went well. Later, however, our visions of the future began to diverge until we clashed.

When it happened, our board of directors sided with him. So at the age of 30, I was walking around. And blatantly so. What had focused my entire adult life was gone, and it was all devastating. I had no idea what I was going to do, for a few months.

I felt that I had betrayed the previous generation of entrepreneurs, that I had dropped the baton that had been passed to me.

I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly: it had been a real public failure, and I even went so far as to think about leaving the Silicon Valley.

But something began to work its way inside me: I still loved what I had done, and what had happened at Apple had not changed that one iota.

I had been rejected, but I was still in love.

So I decided to start again.

I couldn't realize it then, but it turned out that being fired from Apple was the best thing that could have happened to me. The heaviness of success was replaced by the suavity of being an initiator again, set me free to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. Over the next five years I founded a Company called NeXT, another called Pixar, and fell in love with a beautiful girl who would become my wife.

Pixar produced the first animated film created entirely by computer, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In an admirable succession of events, Apple bought NeXT, 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 to me if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was medicine with a bad taste, but I assume the patient needed it.

Every once in a while life hits you over the head with a brick.

Don't lose faith, however.

I'm convinced that the only thing that helped me get going was my love for what I was doing. You have to find your passions, and this is as true for your boyfriend/girlfriend as it is for your work.

Your work will occupy a major part of your lives, and the only way to be really satisfied with it is to do a great job. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

If you have not yet found what is right for you, keep looking, don't stop, as happens with affairs of the heart, you will know you have found it as soon as you have it in front of you.

And, like great love stories, it will get better and better as the years go by. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle for it.

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My third story is about death.

When I was seventeen years old, I read a quote that read, "If you live every day as if it were your last, you will have gotten one of these right."

It made a big impression on me, and from that moment on, for the next thirty-three years, I looked in the mirror every day 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 every time the answer was "No" for too many consecutive days, I knew I had to change something. Remembering that I was going to die soon was the most useful tool I ever found to help me in making the important choices in life.

Because almost everything-all outward expectations, pride, fear and embarrassment over failure-are things that slip away in the face of death, leaving only what is really important.

Reminding yourself that you are going to die is the best way to avoid the trap represented by the belief that you have something to lose.

You are already naked.

There is no reason for you not to follow your heart. A year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I did a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor in my pancreas. Until then I didn't even know what a pancreas was.

The doctors told me it was most likely an incurable type of cancer, and I had a life expectancy of no more than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home 'to settle my affairs,' which is a way for doctors to tell you to prepare to die.

It means you have to try to tell your children everything you could have in the next ten years in a few months. It means you have to make sure that everything is in place so that you can make it easy for your family.

It means that you have to say your 'goodbyes'.

I lived with that sword of Damocles all day long.

Later that night I had a biopsy, where they put a probe down my throat, through my stomach all the way into my intestines, inserted a probe into my pancreas and took some tumor cells.

I was under general anesthesia, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they saw the cells under the microscope, the doctors started screaming because it turned out to be a very rare form of cancer that was curable through surgery. So I had surgery and now I am fine. This was the closest I came to death, and I hope it will be for many decades to come.

Having been there, I can now tell you something with greater certainty than when death was only an intellectual concept for me: No one wants to die.

Even people who wish to go to heaven do not want to die to go there. And in spite of everything, death represents the only destination we all share; no one has ever escaped it.

This is because it is as it should be: Death is the best invention of Life.

He is Life's change agent: he clears away the old to pave the way for the new.

Right now 'the new one' is you, but one day not too far from now, you will gradually become 'the old one' and be cast aside.

I am sorry to be so dramatic, but it is more or less the truth. Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.

Do not get trapped in dogmas, which will lead you to live according to other people's thinking.

Do not let the noise of others' opinions silence your inner voice.

More importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition-they will somehow guide you in knowing what you really want to become.

Everything else is secondary. When I was young, there was a wonderful publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by Steward Brand, not far from here, in Menlo Park, and he brought to it his poetic sense of life.

It was the late 1960s, before personal computers, and it was all done with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras-it was a kind of volume-sized Google, thirty-five years before Google came out. It was idealistic, and full of clear concepts and special notions.

Steward and his team published several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and when he concluded his time, they brought out the final issue.

It was the mid-1970s and I was about your age. On the back cover of the final issue was a photograph of a country road in the early morning, the kind you can find by hitchhiking if you are such an adventurous type.

Below, the following words: "Be hungry. Be crazy."

It was their farewell, and I always hoped this for myself. Now, on your graduation day, ready in starting a new adventure, I wish this for you.

Be hungry. Be crazy.


Steve Jobs' speech is a memorable and exemplary piece, both in terms of its public speaking techniques and its content, which can be traced back to techniques of persuasive copywriting, as I explain in this other post.