October 6, 2011
Career lessons from Steve Jobs
By now, you've probably read Steve Jobs' words on a friend's blog or Facebook page:
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.
In his June 2005 commencement speech at Stanford University, Jobs said he'd tried his darnedest to live life like each day was his last:
[F]or 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. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
Jobs' lessons are simple:
- Don't squander your time being miserable.
- Don't live your life for someone else. Live it for you.
- Don't be afraid to fail or look foolish. Sometimes you have to flop to succeed.
- Don't settle for something you merely tolerate if there's something else you'd rather be doing.
- Leap. Take risks. Experiment. Explore. Never stop reaching for what you want.
You don't need to be 21 and entering the work world for the first time to come away with something here.
You might not be able to turn a job or career you hate into one you thrive on overnight, but surely you can take one small step today to improve your situation: Reach out to an influential person you know. Read an inspiring book on the bus or listen to one in the car. Take a walk at lunch. Indulge a beloved hobby after work. Enroll in a class that excites you. Phone a friend. Hug a child. Help someone in need. Dance. Sing. Daydream about the possibilities.
If you knew today was going to be your last, what would you do differently?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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