Many have commented on the death of Steve Jobs this week. I was moved by the thoughts of Business Coach John Dennis. John quotes the speech made to Stanford University students in 2005, when Steve said:
“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.
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.
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.”
John reflects on the power of Steve’s words and states that one of the techniques that coaches will sometimes use, is to get the client to imagine they are on their deathbed, reviewing their life.
The positive impact on Steve’s illness on his philosophy and outlook is interesting and perhaps counter-intuitive.
And there is the case of Alfred Nobel, who read his own obituary (a newspaper published it mistakenly following the death of Alfred’s brother in 1888). It condemned him for his invention of dynamite saying Le marchand de la mort est mort (“The merchant of death is dead”). It is said that reading his own obituary brought about his decision to leave a better legacy after his death by setting aside the bulk of his estate to establish the Nobel Prizes.
Maybe it is easier for stupendously rich people like Steve Jobs and Alfred Nobel to take actions that involve “following your heart”, than it is for the majority who have to worry about paying the rent and feeding the family. But remembering our own mortality can be useful. A friend of mine, who is neither rich nor famous, talks of the positive change on his outlook and stress levels following an accident in which he nearly died – since this event he says that he has worried less and lived more “in the moment”.