What We Can Learn From Steve Jobs

After Steve Jobs’ resignation from Apple last week, my friend Ann Woodward posted his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University.

There’s the often spoken, ever true nugget of “live each day as if it’s your last.” However, it was another lesson that was particularly meaningful to me as a recruiter who coaches people thru career change:

“Let the heaviness of being successful be replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again.”

Jobs was talking about the time he was dismissed from Apple in 1985. Although he felt like a public failure, he went on to found Pixar and produce the first computer-animated film. He may not have ever been open to this opportunity if he clung to what he knew.

Many of us need to trade the familiar and comfortable for the new and unknown when we move from one job to the next.  We’re freshman again. Even if we were heroes in our old jobs, we have to push aside past triumphs (and injustices) and be open to the learning a different work culture and making new friends. Being a beginner means being vulnerable and humble again. Jobs’ point is that this time is when we’re most creative and primed for growth.

The willingness to take risks and meet new challenges leads to Jobs’ next piece of advice, which is: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” For me, that risk took the form of leaving a stable account management job seven years ago for the 100% commission world of recruiting. Holy sh*t, that was a total leap of faith! But I love what I do, and this past June celebrated the first anniversary of being in business for myself. Knock on wood, I took a giant risk and everything worked out fine. Better than fine.

For me, doing work I love didn’t represent a big change. I stayed in the same industry and just tweaked my orientation a bit. A new environment or different application of your innate skills may be all it takes.

Can you imagine where the computing world might be if Jobs hadn’t insisted on doing what he loved, on taking risks, on bringing his best to work every day? That’s the final takeaway that came to me after reading Jobs’ career history: “If something isn’t working, it’s time to reinvent yourself.”

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