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Looking back on a 2005 speech by Steve Jobs: Stay hungry. Stay foolish.


This post was written on 16 September, three weeks before Steve Jobs’ passing, announced today, 6 October 2011.

When Steve Jobs stepped aside in August as CEO of Apple, one pundit said the computing pioneer had the greatest second act in business history. But we wonder if Jobs sees it that way.

From a distance, his messiah-like return to Apple after being ousted in 1985 from the company he founded nine years earlier seems like a helluva comeback. But based on what we hear in this 2005 commencement address for Stanford University, Jobs’ life has been one continuous push — from an aborted college career to the Homebrew Computer Club to Apple to NeXT to Pixar to Apple again.

There are some inspiring words in his speech  — thoughts about applying earlier passions to your current task, about loving what you do, about living each day as if it’s your last.

That final though is bittersweet, heard in hindsight. Jobs talks about his pancreatic cancer, and how doctors in 2004 initially told him he had months, at most, to live. But the cancer turned out to be a rare, treatable form, and he underwent surgery that year.

“I’m fine now,” he tells the Stanford graduates. “This was the closest I’ve been to facing death, and I hope it’s the closest I get for a few more decades.”

We know now that Jobs has continued to wrestle with his health, which led to the resignation announcement on Aug. 24. “A few more decades” sounds like a tall order.

Jobs’ final admonishment to the grads comes from the final edition of The Whole Earth Catalog (“It was like Google in paperback form,” he says.) Two simple yet awesome sentences:

Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

Special hat-tip to Brandon Cowan for suggesting this post on Anthill’s Facebook wall.

Steve Jobs commencement address, 2005