In the wake of Steve Jobs passing I, like many others, watched his commencement address to the Stanford graduating class of 2005. I’m sure I was as moved as anyone else was by his candor and the hindsight tragedy of his death.
Something unexpected struck me as I listened to and watched him. His story of his adopted beginnings put me in mind of Lance Armstrong, and how both these men of painful and humble beginnings achieved such phenomenal success in their lives. Without knowing them, I have no way of knowing whether the impression I gained of them is accurate or not, but both Steve Jobs and Lance Armstrong come across as men whose early adversity seemed to have provoked a fierce sense of inner self-reliance, and that this is what led them to their great accomplishments. The extraordinary levels of mastery they achieved in their respective fields seems fueled not just by their native talents, but rather by their profound understanding that life is precious and that they, and only they, are responsible for their lives. Neither man conveys a sense of blame or rancor about their unfair starts in life. Neither projects themselves as victims, and neither makes excuses or seeks charity. They take their knocks and learn from them rather than cry foul and blame others. They seem to have stumbled upon the truth that when, for whatever reason, you cannot rely on the others who are supposed to be responsible for your life, then you have the possibility of stepping up and becoming the one who is responsible for your life. I presume this insight came on early in their lives, and became the foundation for their successful approach to life.
While many of us share the unhappy experiences of early and more often later and continuing unfairness of life as these two heroic men do, not all of us have either their inherent talents or their intuitive grasp of the way to become self-reliant and responsible for our own lives. It seems that this intuitive understanding of the possibility of becoming self-reliant and of the mechanics of achieving it are rare gifts that eludes the vast majority of us. That is the bad news. The good news is that in the absence of this intuitive knowledge, there is the possibility of actually and intentionally learning how to become self-reliant for our sense of worth, and how to value our lives for our own sakes and not rely on others to be the source of our worth. I admit that this learning is somewhat counter-intuitive, and therefore a little difficult, but know this, that it is not only possible but actually far easier to learn how to be self-reliant than it was to learn most of the things we have already learnt and now embrace in our lives.
It seems to me that way beyond the iMacs, iPods, iPhones, iTunes, iPads and countless other groundbreaking objects that is Steve Jobs legacy, the most enduring gift he leaves us is his inspiring teaching that we too can become the source of our own worth, and that this is the ultimate measure, meaning and purpose of our all-too-brief lives.
Read more on this site about how to become the source of your own worth, the driver of your life, and how to be, like the great Steve Jobs, responsible for your worth and for your life.