Monday, August 29, 2005

My Cousin Philip

It’s been 2 years since I saw the little fellow and boy, how tall and big he has become. My cousin Philip came by for a visit two weeks ago. He is already 8 years old now. Time indeed fly when you’re not watching. It has been 8 years already when I cradle the little guy in my arms. My cousin stayed with us when he was just a few months old because his mother is too busy to take care of her and hiring a maid is an expensive affair in Taiwan. Besides she couldn’t really look after boy given her full time job. I still remember the fond memories I had with the little guy. I still could vividly remember that pair of curious eyes looking at me trying to figure out who I am and why I am smiling at him. Nor would I forget how he literally jump up in joy whenever I took some time out from my work at the office and come up to see how he was doing. He would try to get up even though his limbs are still weak and extends his arms asking for me to carry him and play with him even just for a few minutes. I would usually saddle him on my neck and carry him on my shoulder and play horsy with me of course being the horse. Often times, my hair got wet because he would drool over my hair. There was a time he did even pee and soil on my neck! Speaking of soiled diapers, I never once changed his diapers. In fact, I never changed a diaper in my life so far! I came close once and that was when the “yaya” went away for a break and I along with my sister was left to care for my cousin. I had to change my cousin’s soiled diaper back then and I called my sister to do it. She complained and retorted that “he” is a guy and as a “guy”, I should be the one doing it. I countered that I’m still single and that I maybe traumatized by the entire event that I may forgo any thought of marriage besides I’m the big brother and I’m ordering her to do it. Well, I don’t know what convinced her to do it but she did it and I was excused from changing diapers subsequently. Talk about privileges. Come to think of it, I should be putting that in writing in my pre – nuptial agreement when I’m getting married. No changing of the baby’s diapers. I wonder if that would stand in court. One of the most memorable moments I have with the little guy was when he started to walk. At first, he walks with me assisting him. Eventually, I let him go and runs toward my mom. Boy! I should have taken that picture, that first walk. It was a sight to behold. In the process of learning to walk, he more than once stumbled and fell. Most of the time, he would cry and we would pick him up and he would try to walk again. There are times though when in his eagerness to walk, he would pick himself up and try to walk again without shedding any tears. I had to hand it to the little guy. It was an admirable feat, which not many adults could do. I always thought that people, especially adults, would generally stay down when they’ve stumbled or have fallen. They wouldn’t pick themselves up or rather they refused to pick themselves up and here we have a year old kid who in his quest to walk wouldn’t even mind to fall a couple of times and stand up again until he succeeds. I wish I had the little guy’s optimism or his zest or his stubborn determination. At any rate, once my cousin started to walk, I would always hold his hands and walk him down the neighborhood every morning to buy “pandesal”. He would gaze around as we walk trying to remember his new environment. His world has just got bigger from the usual room and the living room that he is accustomed to play and sleep in. I also remembered the first time he speaks out and it is over the telephone during one of his “conversation” with his parents. His father is particularly overjoyed when he heard his son says “papa” over the telephone. I’d say that I’m a little disappointed for I was hoping that he would call me “kuoko” (Fookien for big brother) after learning to speak but he didn’t. Well, that was eight years ago, now my cousin speaks straight Mandarin that I wasn’t even able to quite keep up with. Even with my rustiness, I still manage to communicate with him. Boy! He is quite talkative now. During his stay here, he was the one who does most of the talking. I never really know what to say. I used to ask him whenever I got him on the phone that if he was being good or that if he is doing well with his studies. Now, he is all grown up, I don’t know what to talk about. He was always babbling and I couldn’t understand a word of what he is trying to say and it is then, I started to listen. I realize that my cousin is talking about cartoons, the characters, the computer games he played and the characters he was playing. I was amazed by the sheer facts that he remembers. He could in fact tell the story of the entire episode and went deeper as in to speculate as to the origins of their power and birth. Wow! It is simply amazing, kids and their imaginations. However, I was particularly surprised and at the same breath thoroughly disappointed with my cousin, though it was no fault of his in the first place. I was surprised to learn that he knows “San Kuo” or the storyline of the Three Kingdoms pretty well. Being a historian, I was naturally delighted, for San Kuo was one of the great epic historical legends in Chinese history if not the greatest. However, I am greatly saddened to learn that he treats the entire legend as a game and that he is neither interested in the story or in its moral conception of right and wrong but rather in the power and hit points of the individual character. Never mind that Cao Cao is a sinister Machiavellian plotter with no morals as long as he has a greater power and stronger hit points and is likely to win a mortal combat duel, he is the “hero”. I am aghast to hear this. What are we doing to the kids? What are we trying to do with our future generations? Are we creating morons out of them? Worst, probably even devoid of morality. Damn! This is personal. I don’t care if they derided Star Wars or even twist Star Trek, its fiction but this is history! It’s the soul of a nation, their collective identity and it is a mortal sin, correction, a sacrilege whose punishment is eternal damnation to even twist it! I’d think I got to write and complain to those asshole on what they are doing. After listening to this, I tried to take him away from his dependence on Nintendo or Sega by teaching him something else. I first introduce him to my small hobby called reading. Starting with the storybooks of famous people in history, which his mother gave to me when I was his age. To my disappointment, he is not interested in it. Apparently, he has no genetic disposition for unlocking the hidden secrets of the universe. And so, I do the next best thing, I thought him how to play chess, Chinese chess and Chinese checkers. We did play a couple of games though and I was elated to see him getting interested in it though I doubt it if he would eventually get hitch to it since nobody is going to play with him when he gets back to Taiwan. Next, I try to have a decent conversation with him. As I mentioned, I really don’t know what to talk about with him and so I picked the oldest topic that men could readily agree and understand, women or for him, girls. He is after all, a guy. I ask him if he has a crush in his third grade class. To which he answered no. However, I was rather surprised that he or his entire male classmates hates the girls in class. I asked him why and he said that the girls are mean as in very mean. In fact, he calls one of the girls as “mu lao hu” (Mandarin for lioness or to be more precise, the mother lioness). According to him, the girls would always play a prank upon the boys and when the boys return in favor, the girls wouldn’t hesitate to run to the teacher (who happens to be a very “old” lady) and tell. The teacher would then punish the entire male students with extra assignments, detention, or a prolonged sermon. Talk about gender biases and equality. My cousin was so agitated with the story telling that he quipped that he wanted to give one of the girls a knuckle sandwich for being bitchy and mean. I would have sided with my cousin if the person in question were a little guy like my cousin but being the perfect gentlemen that I am, I counseled him otherwise. I told him to be nice to the womenfolk and that men like us should be loving them instead of trying to get even. I advice him that if he wanted the women to be nice to him, he should approach the girl and compliment her by saying that she is beautiful and she reminds him of his mother. Or if he wants to impress the girl, he could say in English, “Hey baby, you are beautiful.” Well, of course, I’m expecting too much from my cousin. He is still too young to understand the intricacies of flattering women and become a young Romeo over night or was he? It came as a shock for me to hear my cousin saying that one of the girls became nice when she had a boyfriend. Damn! Am I hearing right? 8 year olds having boy friend and girl friend relationship? Is that normal? Or for that matter. Is it legal? My jaws just dropped and remained open for like eternity upon hearing him tell the story. Damn, was I getting old? No, in fact, I am very, very old already as in grandfatherly old. At any rate, I got so vexed or should I say extremely traumatized by the news that I decided to drop the topic altogether and flip the channel switch and out comes Popeye in the tube. Good thing there is TV and good thing there is Popeye. My cousin got glued to it instantly and I was able to extricate myself from the mess. I had since then reminded myself not to talk about girls with my cousin at least until he turns 18. Damn, I feel so old. Well anyway, my cousin and I didn’t just watch TV, play chess, or talk about girls during his stay here. We manage to play some sports. Actually, my brother and sister got to play sports with him. They started by taking him to a badminton court and taught him how to play. He got so hooked to the game that he refuses to leave the court and when he did leave, he kept on nagging me to play with him at home, which I obliged of course. My brother and sister also took him to a sport shop and let him play basketball for a while inside the store. We also manage to play bowling ball. At first, the little guy is so enthusiastic and cheerful about it even though he consistently didn’t manage to hit anything with an occasional strike in between. He even told me that it is just a game and there is nothing to feel bad about it. I had to say I admired the little guy’s spirit. However, as the game wore on and the score piled and he getting the consistent zeroes in his game. His mood changed. His spirit sank and his cheerful demeanor is gone. What I saw was the first telltale sign of adult frustration, exasperation, and disappointment. It crushed me as it crushed him to actually see him like that. His head is bowed, his shoulder sags, and he lost all will to continue. Damn, what I have done? I let the little guy down. Of course, I did coach him what to do but I wasn’t a good player myself and I’m a terrible coach. At the end of the game, I try to pull him out of the room but he insisted on playing again for revenge, I think. His mother was adamant not to continue but I can’t let the little guy down at least not giving him a chance to fight. So I obliged and play another game, I even let him played my slot so he could practice as I continue to coach him. I jump from my seat and cheer him up whenever he hits a pin, even if it is just a single pin. In the end, the outcome is the same. Apparently, his arms are sore even if refuses to admit it and that affected his game. The cloud is over at his head and the weight of the world is on his shoulder. Poor kid. As we walked out of the alley, I told him that his father is actually a better bowler than I am. Amazingly, he looked at me surprised and asked if it is true. I affirmed it in an instant and actually told him to ask his father to teach him how to play bowling when he got back to Taiwan. I also told him to eat a lot especially vegetables so that he could grow strong and come back next year for a rematch. After saying that, I saw a lit in his face, a glimmer of hope. Ah yes, hope. Wasn’t that what the youth stands for? I missed the little guy already. He is probably having a blast at Tokyo Disneyland as of now. Wasting time away enjoying life and having fun, as should all 8 years old should be doing. I never have that much fun when I was 8 but that was in the past. I had a standing offer from my aunt to accompany the little guy to Hong Kong Disneyland this coming October. Honestly speaking, I’m too old to be asking for Mickey’s autograph as well as too busy to actually squeeze a trip there but the thought of riding with the little guy on a roller coaster. Well, I got to find time to actually visit Disneyland. After all, you could only be 8 year old once, right?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Unrequited Love

Sometime ago I got news that one of the women I’d loved has finally got a boyfriend. The news came as a surprise to me but I somehow expected it after all she is at a “marrying age” already. I wouldn’t say that I’m devastated by the news but somehow I am “affected” by it. Truth to tell, I shouldn’t feel anything at all since I decided a long time ago to give up on her but as it happened, I still do because I still and do love her. She was an old classmate of mine. She is the type of woman that nobody would notice at all. The archetypal “average” Eve. She was neither the prettiest nor the brightest and certainly not the most popular in our batch but just one of the dames. Like all other men, I also fail to notice her until one fateful day on our classmate’s wedding day. That day was a very bad day for me, for the night before; I got a death threat from a prank caller. Although I’d dismissed the call as a prank, I can’t help but felt disturbed and unease for the anonymous caller threatened to kill everyone in my household. I don’t know who he is and I was suspecting everyone who bore a grudge against my family or me. At any rate, I didn’t put at heart the matter until the following morning when the prank called again and repeated the threat. I was outraged and fortunately for me, I had installed a caller ID and immediately, I called the police, which promptly investigate the matter and closed the case. It turns out to be a real prank and the asshole is a deranged wacko. Anyway, I was in a heightened state of alert at that time. I was outraged and acted like a madman ready for the kill. Tension filled the atmosphere at home while the investigation is under way. In short, it was really a very, very bad day for me to the extent that I planned to cancel my attendance to the wedding reception. Eventually, my mother prevailed me to go and I did although under intense caution and under a cloud. I got the reception too early, even way ahead of the organizers. I sat there at the table feeling gloomy and seething in anger as the organizers arrived and as the guest trickle in. I don’t know what make me turn my head towards my back but as I did, I thought I saw an angel, a beautiful angel waling towards me. I didn’t recognize her but she literally took my breath away and my heart as well. She was like a ray of sunshine that break the dawn and usher a great sunny day. I was floored to discover that it was her, my classmate. I was stumped to realize that it was she; the angel that I wanted to believe that there is a God indeed. I was also stumped to realize that I’m a big, big asshole not to “see” her before. After all, I did danced with her in one of the school plays. How stupid could a guy be? She sat beside me that evening and we chatted the night away. My mood changed instantly that night and I was bubbly and cheerful. I complimented her on her beauty more than once that evening. Funny, I couldn’t remember what I wore that night or what I’d said either but I still could vividly remember how she looked. She was lovely, correction stunning. Her eyes looked tired and her face looked pale kind of remind me of the fair Maria Clara. She wore a strapless dark violet gown with golden leaf embroideries capped with a shawl. She possesses the lady charm that men find irresistible. I know because I couldn’t sleep that night and for the rest of the week as well thinking about her. I dreamed about her that week and some nights thereafter. That alone was enough to make me call her but I didn’t. I hesitated because I thought back then that this ain’t love but an infatuation. I was attracted or more like mesmerized and entranced by her beauty. It will go away after sometime. As it turned out, after a year, I still can’t get over with her. Why I even waited for a year to confirm my feelings? Well, she has the same name and family name as my ex and I’m very much in love with my ex even up to this day although she is already married. I fear that I’m falling for her not because of her but because of my ex. And I couldn’t believe myself that I got off a relationship with my ex and only fall for her surrogate who doesn’t even remotely resemble her. At any length, the most beautiful name I heard was also the most painful one to remember. My classmate and I eventually met up at some party. Though she doesn’t looked that stunning, I still felt something for her. It is love actually, confirmed and validated. I wasted no time to call her up and chat with her and ask her out eventually. I was however rejected not once but twice and in the last one, she flatly told me that she wouldn’t be available for the next couple of weeks. I was absolutely stunned! She never had a boyfriend before and she isn’t seeing somebody then. I may not be the most handsome man but do I look that repulsive to warrant a rejection? Well, I figured that I needed to take things slowly and so I continue my calls and resolved to get to know her better. I was to know every minor details of her that only somebody so intensely in love would venture to do. It came to past that I know her likes and dislikes, her favorite food, her family, nuclear and extended, her friends, her birthday, her wish. I also “research” on her. I took out my yearbook and try to find any info about her. I also manage to read one of her compositions. And when I know these things, I resolve to know it by heart and not through the aid of a diary or an electronic record. I was however totally disappointed. Here I am, trying to get to know her. Asking her questions about her and all I got was a short answer to my query. No follow ups, no meaningful conversation on any topic except for her favorite heartthrob, which I think is a lousy actor. She never ventured to ask anything about me or even attempt to know me not even a complimentary reply of “How are you today?” whenever I’d inquired her about her day. It came to pass that I concluded that she wasn’t interested in me and that I was a fool to even waste my time on such a worthless endeavor. I gave up but that wasn’t the end of it. Some time has passed when I got a call from an eighty – year old guy. He called to thank my mother or more appropriately to thank my grandmother who was dead way before I was born. He wanted to thank my grandmother for supporting him in his bid for my grand aunt’s hand. He was successful in his quest but it was short lived for my grand aunt died due to difficult labor. Nevertheless, he just wanted to say thank you as part of an old man’s quest for peace before his great departure. I was moved by his effort and asked myself would I wait till 80 and tell her that I actually loved her? Or tell her that maybe in the next life if there is one, we could be together finally. Wouldn’t that be too late already? She might be dead by then or worst, I may no longer be there. I couldn’t sleep that night thinking what would be like 20 – 30 years from now. Would she still be an old maid waiting for her Romeo knocking her door? Would I wake up one night sometime in my late 40s wondering whether or not I married the right woman? It was a stupid idea. Here I am speculating about a future waiting to happen but haven’t happened yet and there she is waiting. The next day, I decided to try once more. I text her, I called her. However, this time, things just got worst. She avoided me, making all the excuse. She rarely replied my messages and if she did, it was always short. I never get to say what I’ve felt. Never have the chance. Things drag on for a while when I finally decided to give up permanently. For a brief moments afterwards, I was angry. For how could she do that to me? Rejecting me while all along she was looking for someone. Then, I realized that how could I be angry at the one I professed to love? Was it because I didn’t get what I want and I’m angry for not getting it? If that is so, then I’m a possessive guy and I don’t deserve to love or be loved at all. Sometimes one has to continue to love even if love has forsaken you. Love doesn’t change because she doesn’t love you back or for some reason, you didn’t end up together. Love is all about giving and expects nothing back in return. Its sound cliché but it’s true. Love is all bliss when one is in the midst of it and a terrible burden to carry especially when one is alone carrying it. I’m willing to carry it. I decided that I’m going to still love her even though she didn’t. I may have given up pursuing her but I’m not going to forget her. That was centuries ago. And since then, I still manage to chat with her from time to time trying to find out how she was doing. I greeted her in all special occasions and on her birthday as well. I don’t want to be presumptuous but probably I’m the only guy outside her family to remember her birthday. And now, she has finally found someone. It was bittersweet to me. It was sweet because I no longer had to worry that she is going to be an old maid someday. It was bitter because I am not the one. I did congratulate her and wish her that she may finally found her happiness and that she may end up with her man and live happily ever after. Other than that, I harbor no ill will or any illusions. I only have a love that I will carry to my grave.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


I just got a thoughtful text from a lady friend reminding me that today is Chinese Valentines day or so its equivalent. I remember the folklore behind this day. My mother used to tell me about it and I came to read about it sometime later. The story is quite sad actually but nevertheless quite romantic. According to legend, there was a beautiful weaver goddess who resided in the heavenly court. She weaves the clothes for the gods and chief among them is the Jade Emperor of Heaven. One day, during her free time, the goddess descended down to earth to play, perhaps she is having a vacation, after all heaven could be monotonous and boring at times. According to one version, she was wandering around the field and saw a beautiful lake. She was so attracted to it that she took a nice cool bath in it. Oblivious to her, was that nearby; there was a shepherd tending to his flock of cows. One of the younglings strayed and went to the nearby lake and the shepherd followed only to discover the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He was stunned and dumbfounded as the goddess was engrossed in her bath. Eventually the goddess turned around to find the awkward situation and instantly turned beet red due to her nakedness. The man felt ashamed for his act even though it happened by accident and he did the only thing that would redeem a woman’s chastity, he proposes. The goddess consented and they swore to heaven about their eternal love and copulate. They could have lived a happy life and things could have a fairy tale ending if both of them are mere mortals. Alas, fate always manages to dampen a fairy tale. The absence of the weaver has caused a shortage of clothes in the heavenly kingdom and the Emperor has ordered the search and arrest of the weaver for dereliction of her duty. However, the Emperor’s anger grew into rage upon learning of the affair, for it is an abomination for a mortal to wed such a perfect soul. As such, the Emperor ordered his generals to forcibly separate the wife from her husband and brought her back to her cottage to serve her punishment. Her freedom would be deprived and she would be made to weave forever. The army of heaven bore down on the poor couple and she was torn away from the arms of her love. He wailed, he cried, he called out her name but to no avail. For what is one man against the will of heaven? But his cries were not made in vain, for one of the immortals came to his aid, apparently moved by his love. He was given a pill so that he too could ascend and chase after the heavenly host and reclaim his wife even though he stood no chance of success. And he did. He pursued the army of heaven and his wife, crying out her name along the way. The soldiers could have attacked him and killed him but his love was so great that it shook every immortal in heaven and the Emperor has no recourse but to desist from the attack but the Emperor refuses to give up the weaver for it is a matter of high importance. As such, the Emperor threw his arm and caused a great river of stars to divide the two lovers, one on each side of that starry river crying out for the other. Alas, a barrier insurmountable has been formed and there is nothing both could do. The weaver came back to her cottage but she refused to weave. She couldn’t, for she was thinking about her husband and she washes her face in tears day in day out, if time ever hold such meaning to immortals like her. The Emperor seeing such predicament relented but didn’t give her up entirely. He decreed that at midnight on the 7th day of the 7th month of the lunar year, both lovers would have their one brief chance to see each other. After which they would be once again be physically separated by the stars though connected by the bond of their love they had for each other. She would then work for the Emperor and if she fulfills her job, the Emperor would continue to honor the arrangement. The two lovers agree to this arrangement, for what choice do they have? And on the appointed day, the two lovers came to the shores of that great divide and suddenly a flock of swan flew past them forming a great bridge. The moment has come and they both embraced each other. So many things to say, so many sweet nothings to whisper but so short a time. The only thing they could do is to hold each other, profess their love, and renew their vows. Then the ground shake and their feet gave way and the birds flew away. They are separated again. Each on both sides of the river looking at each other, trying to remember what each looked like for they would never see each other again till next autumn. Slowly, they reluctantly left and each went back to their ways, the shepherd to his herd and the goddess to her chores. It is raining hard here. Too bad, for I would have search the sky for that two bright stars separated by that great river as pointed out by my mother when I was young. Their souls has since then transformed into the two bright luminescence. I always wanted to see the floating white bridge between the stars but then again it’s just a fairy tale and only fools believed in fairy tales. Perhaps, I’m a fool.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


This is the text of the Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005 at Stanford University. I got this text from a fellow MBA classmate. She emailed all her classmate as part of comradery among graduates to be and I find this text inspiring. I just wish that someday when its my turn to walk up the podium and receive my honorary degree, I would be able to tell my own story story and inspire the graduates to be just like what Steve does with me.

"I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky – I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation - the Macintosh - a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me – I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I retuned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for 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.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

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 other's 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.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much."

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how ways lead on to ways,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

- Robert Frost
I had started my journey down the road that I have chosen.
And I can't wait to seewhat lies up ahead
And find out where it lead up to.
But there are times I wonder
Whether that in my eagerness,
I walked too fast to enjoy the scenery.
I looked back and tried to remember
The open green meadow, bading me to stop
To lie down, smell the flowers, listen to the bird chirps
And watched the day passed and turn into night;
And count the stars
And sing the lullaby with the moon.
And close my eyes and dream the most wonderful dream.
Or even wonder what the other road holds.
Then I woke up with the sun dazzling my eyes and pointing me the way down the road.
I picked myself up and looked back at my trail,
Smiled at the memories
And continue my way down the road,
Towards the path that I've chosen.
Knowing that an equally fine lot is waiting along the way
And maybe this time, I shall linger awhile.