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The Job of Life

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The biopic movie on Steve Jobs came out last week and the reviews are enough to make him roll over in his grave. During his lifetime, every project that he created was based on artistic elegance. And every criticism he had for Microsoft was it's lack thereof. I am disappointed that the movie depicting his life has been reviewed as having, "all the sex appeal of a PowerPoint presentation."

But in the words of Albert Einstein, "Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted."

And what counts for me is how Steve Jobs lived his life. He spoke eloquently about it in 2005 and his words were powerful, in part because of the Stanford gown that he wore on the outside, and maybe in part, because of the shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops he had on underneath, but mostly because of the cancer he'd been battling for two years that lurked one layer deeper.

His commencement speech had three main points.

The first was that we cannot connect the dots looking forward. He was adopted as a baby, but chose to view that, not as being abandoned or unwanted, but as an event that gave him a mother and father who parented him in ways that went far beyond childbirth and paternity. We can only make sense of our lives looking backwards. So don't ask why -- just trust in something, whether it is your gut, your destiny, God, life or karma, just have faith that all is unfolding as it is intended. Satisfaction in life comes from doing great work and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. He urges us to not look around and worry what others think and to just keep looking for passion in our life. And that if we haven't found it, to keep looking until we do.

Secondly, he spoke of loss. After earning his first few million dollars, he had a falling out with his own company. He got fired from Apple in a very public way. He was ashamed and apologized for screwing up so badly and even considered leaving Silicon Valley. But he realized that he still loved what he did and although he had been rejected, he still wanted to follow his passion. This resonates poignantly for me right now, having recently loved and lost my own job. I want to believe in and trust the wisdom of his words: He said that leaving Apple was the best thing that could have happened to him because it freed him to enter one of the most creative phases of his life. This gives me hope for myself, especially on some bad nights most recently, when I felt like I was bearing what I thought I could not bear, which was the loss of my children's faith in me. Steve Job's words remind me that despite this dark phase, losing a job is awful-tasting medicine but sometimes it is what the patient needs to bring one to something bigger.

His last point is concerning death and it is my favorite. Obviously, no one wants to die, but he reminds us that remembering that we will be dead soon is the most vital tool we can encounter to help us make big choices in life and the most effective way to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.

He said that he looked in the mirror every morning and asked himself; if this were his last day, would his day still unfold the same way? If his answer was no too many days in a row, he changed what he was doing.

"Things" come and go. Money, jobs, vacations, soft-shell crabs, moods, the weather, traffic on I-95. But if we remind ourselves that tomorrow may not arrive, almost everything falls away. Few things matter in the face of our own death. What matters for me? My kids, their health and happiness, my family and friends, laughter, my dog, having a career that I am passionate about and of course, the biggest fishing net in the universe -- love. These are what I cannot afford to lose. Listen to Steve Jobs' message from beyond his grave. There will be no U-Haul behind your casket. And don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. Other people's opinions about us are none of our business.

If we could honor Steve Jobs in some way beyond seeing his new movie, he might be more thrilled to know that his legacy was not only life-changing elegant technology, but more importantly, the inspiration to change the way we live in the most elegant manner possible. His greatest gift to us might not be having the Internet in a small glass square in our pocket, but rather, his reminder to look down at our own feet and make sure they are moving in the same direction as our own heart and inner vision.

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