I blame Steve Jobs.
The late Apple CEO and creative genius, who passed away on Oct. 5, left us with more than just a few gadgets we can’t seem to live without. He left us with his lasting advice, published and repeated and blogged about since his passing.
The most frequently cited quotes come from his commencement address at Stanford University in 2005, where he urged the graduates to “trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future,” that “your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life,” to not “let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”
Then he added, “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.”
I’ve talked to so many people — teachers, techies, at-home moms, even retirees — who say these words really affected them. They’re rethinking their careers, quitting their jobs (or thinking about it), deciding to follow their passions.
But that’s a dangerous thing.
Jobs was lucky. And he had a lot of capital, let’s be honest. He found what he wanted early in life — and he was smart and savvy enough to grasp it.
And his timing was impeccable.
But what he said really hit home to me. I know exactly what I love to do — write, eat, travel — and I seem to fill my days doing everything but. (Trust me, I know you may think I eat a lot. But I could certainly eat — and that means cooking and baking, too — more.)
And I definitely don’t write as much as I’d like to.
As I was pondering my life, I came across this very cool blog called CakeSpy, written by baker/illustrator/write Jessie Oleson (@cakespy).
The Seattle native graduated from college and started working as a designer at stationery companies. Then, in 2007, she wanted to do something different. “I sat down and I came up with this: ‘What I really love is writing, illustration, and cake. So, how can I put those together?'” she said in an interview with CHOW. “I started, based on requests, selling prints and postcards from artwork featured on the site, and that has become my bread and butter. After six months, I was able cut down to part time at my job, and after about nine months, I was able to quit entirely. Then a year ago, I took over a retail space. It’s a gift shop, focused on food-based art.”
Doesn’t that sound so appealing?
All she did was make a list of the things she likes to do — and she’s doing it.
I want her life.
So what’s stopping us? Why are we so gripped with fear of following our passions that we stay stuck in dead-end jobs, hating our lives and counting the days until retirement? I mean, if Jessie can do it, why can’t we?
I’ve certainly been more productive since his passing… one of the other things that was obviously characteristic of him, is that he didn’t waste his time… particularly in his last few years.
You know I was watching ESPN today between football games on the networks, and they were showing the 2011 Women’s Billiards US Open tourney. Who else was playing but the most famous women’s billiard player of all, Jeanette “The Black Widow” Lee. Fittingly with your posting today, her career choice of almost 20 years now was derived from her choosing to do what she loved to do, shoot pool, vs. what she was expected and schooled to do by her parents.
Another example of doing what you love to do!
…and you just knoooooow shooting pool didn’t make her “Tiger Mom” happy, LOL!
Writing, eating, and traveling. Sort of a merger of Anthony Bourdain and Paul Theroux. But you did forget the surfing part somewhere in all of this. But frankly I think it has more to do with something you have been thinking about a lot lately and it has nothing to do with Steve Jobs. Steve is your convenient excuse to break free from everything and pursue your passions. I suspect someone close to you did that already and it really accelerated this deep deeded desire on your part.
Growing up in some families you are taught to follow the narrative. Good education, good job, live life safely and retire nicely. Sooner or later you will wake up and say F this… I need more. Some wake up earlier than others. Apparently you are waking up now. When you grow up handed a plan the dear is what if I deviate from the plan and fail, I might have bad credit, lose my car, have my house foreclosed on. All real fears. The fear of ridicule for not following the program is the biggest, bigger than anything. Homelessness is a fear. But in reality most of our parents would be there to catch us, even thought they say they aren’t.
Concluding thought. Find out what you are afraid of and go do it. In your case go bungee jump. I am not kidding. When you overcome your biggest fear… you start to live.
Three related thoughts – What holds us back in life are the regrets of the past and fear of the future. Today and everyday, we have one essential choice: accept conditions as they exist, or take the responsibility for changing them. Leap, and the net will appear.
Had to add my favorite quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
Great post Cat. That’s the exact direction my life is taking and I’m heavily influenced by SJ. Especially the part about, if today was your last day, would you wake up and be doing what you’re doing. If not, you need to change.
If eating, writing, and travel are your passions then you need to be doing that. When you are on the path to following your passions, the whole universe will conspire to help you. Have you read The Alchemist? Great read. And I think it’s very true.
Anyway, connect the dots. Eat. Write. Travel. There’s got to be a way, don’t let fear stop you!
Platitudes! We need to live in the real world with real financial concerns. I’m not saying that if this is your calling then you should not go for it, but we have other people that depend on us & in good conscience one needs to do what is right.
Einstein worked at a Swiss patent office, which I’m sure was a real drag, but in his spare time came up with Lorentzian mind exercises which lead to the Theorem of Relativity. Are we all Einsteins or Jobs, probably not, but sometimes for the day to day–we settle and in the extracurricula we inspire & do something about it.
eddyo, I know your comment is addressed to Cat, but you could say that what I posted a couple of comments above are platitudes. Regarding living in the real world with real financial concerns, I agree. We could be operating stitching machines and presses in a glove factory in China, subsistence farmers in Eritrea, or underfed and underarmed soldiers drafted to fight a civil war that has been going on for 20 years. It doesn’t get any more real than that. You can have reality; I am going to keep following my dream.
Sudden shipwrecks don’t care about your next mortgage or tuition payment. We are all going the way of mortal flesh one day, no matter how responsible or in control we think we are.
comments amongst colleagues are always welcome! point well stated.
Hello Cat, it’s too late in my life to be thinking about changing careers, I’m getting close to retirement and I can’t wait. When that happens, I will have lots of time to do the things I want to do.
What stops most people is themselves, specifically, their perceptions. We all perceive our lives a certain way, yet sometimes dream about having a different life. Perception becomes your reality.
Ill give you failure as an example, since failure and fear of failure is a large factor stopping people from pursuing dreams. Most people dont want to strike out on their own, quit their jobs and try something they would really want to do because of the fear of failing.
In their heads will be thoughts of “90% of all businesses fail, I dont know how to do that stuff, Im too old to learn new things, I think ‘successful’ people just got lucky”. These thoughts are generated from a certain perception of failure itself. This perception is even taught to us in school–“To “fail” is to get an F, and thats bad. Dont you dare fail! dont experiment with new things, stick to the path that will allow you to pass this class, ace this test, get an A on this paper!” Doing well in school will then allow you to get into a good college, dont fail in college, and you can get a good job. But wait, how many people really ‘love’ their jobs? (there are those that do, but the % I’d wager is fairly low).
So we do all of this to end up with a J.O.B. This is what the system was designed to produce- workers. Not entrepreneurs (people who take risks, start things, fail, and start things again), not business owners. Even MBA programs are geared for people to work in a business, or run an existing one. Little is taught about bootstrapping in an MBA program.
So OK, we have been mentally conditioned to think a certain way about failure. Our education is designed to produce workers. But what about the outliers like Steve Jobs and the millions like him? Where do they fit in?
If you look at the history of Steve Jobs, failure play a prominent role doesn’t it? In fact, failure was necessary for him to succeed.
Some highlights for him were:
Getting kicked off the Lisa project, and realizing he was no longer in complete control of the company he founded. Creating the Macintosh, which was a groundbreaking computer, but failed to really do anything for Apple as a company while he was there. Getting fired from the company that he started(!!). Stating up Next computer which almost went bankrupt until it was acquired by Apple. Starting up/buying PIXAR, which also almost went under and drained almost all of this money by the time Toy Story came out. We dont like to imagine Steve Jobs this way, but the reality is, the guy failed a lot. And each time he failed he learned, and adjusted.
This is the key difference that separates entrepreneurs from others, its their perceptions, their ‘paradigm’.
Your business or venture just failed, whats going through your head? (just some examples, not blanket statements):
Bulk of society- “My business failed, I failed, Im a failure, Im not doing that again. I should not have tried. Its too hard/impossible. The statistics were right. I cant fail again, I should play it safe, its too risky.”
Entrepreneur- “the plan for my business did not pan out, should I adjust/pivot or just start something new? I sure learned a lot from this experience, how can I carry it forward to my next thing? I cant wait to start something new, I can already see things that will be easier because of what I learned from this last venture. I need to fail more, and fail faster, that means Im doing things and pushing my personal envelope.”
Basically the definition of “Failure” is for:
The bulk of society- Failure.
The Entrepreneur- a learning opportunity
The experience of failure is exactly the same. The perception of the event is different, as is the follow up.
Jobs didn’t fail and then quit, he kept pivoting and adjusting. Looking back, it was easy to connect the dots of his “Fails” as it lead to success. What are the dots?
Adopted (seemingly disadvantaged at birth?). Dropped out of college (Fail). Started Apple. Hired wrong CEO (Fail). Got kicked off projects (Fail). Got fired from own company (Fail). Started Next and lost money (Fail). Bought Pixar and lost money (Fail). But then things started turning around….
If he had not had those adopted and birth parents he might never have gone to college and enrolled in calligraphy classes, which had a great impact on the Mac. If he had not been fired from Apple he would not have started Next or bought Pixar. Next became the great OSX for Apple on his return (and allowed him to return to Apple, rebuilding the company), and Pixar, well….we know that story.
So he needed to fail, and fail a lot! Its what led to his success. In fact, one of the key factors of success for high achievers is generally their ability to fail more, much more, than the average Joe. They are then exposed to way more in a short time, gain more experience, and learn more in the process. Much more than you would learn in school. I’ve learned 100x more from my failures than from my MBA education. This has been key in all my successes. I now look to fail even more in the coming years!
Capital doesn’t matter. Start something on your scale, within your budget, so when you fail, fail small. That keeps you in the game. Just make sure you fail, often!…until you succeed of course. Then if you truly love it, stick with it, and roll that capital forward- reinvest in yourself. But honestly, most entrepreneurs love the lifestyle- they love to “start”. Making failure all the more irrelevant in their lives.
So start your next venture now. If it fails, start another one, and another one. Its your new life. The life you always wanted. If you really want it, sometimes thats what it takes- Failure.
But you dont see failure the same way anymore right? =)
Now go plan how you will travel, eat, and write about it. I wanna read about your new venture in the coming months.
*pressing LIKE button*
It’s never too late to shake up your life, but the older we get, the more responsibility and reality seem to limit us. Regardless, as long as you can pay your bills and live humbly and happily, nothing’s more important than pursuing the life you want.
Like Jobs said, we need to stop living for others — doing what they expect, worrying about their judgments, placing their priorities above our own — and choose ourselves instead. I’m not there just yet, but I’m glad my spouse and I took early first steps with our education, family, finances, and home. With the “realities” in order, I think we’re ready to jump into our passions when our hard work meets the right opportunity. It sounds like you’re on your way, and maybe even halfway there, too. You know what you want, now figure out your plan, make the necessary adjustments or sacrifices, and take a leap!