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Steve Jobs: Words to Live By

By Robert Cordray | Small Business

“Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish” – A Powerful Quote From Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs: Words to Live By image Steve Jobs with MacBook Air 2 300x199Steve Jobs: Words to Live By

Great people often say great things. And what makes the words of great and successful people even more inspirational and quotable for us is the realization that these are words that they themselves believe in and have lived by. Consequently, when the late Steve Jobs—he himself a college dropout—told the 2005 graduating class at Stanford University to “Stay hungry. Stay foolish,” you knew that he was speaking from his own life experiences, which made the quote that much more powerful and motivational.

It’s interesting to note that this famous quote, “Stay hungry. Stay foolish” is not original to Jobs. In his commencement speech, Jobs mentioned that he had first read those words in the mid-1970’s on the back of the final issue of the Whole Earth Catalog, and that, in his words, “I have always wished that for myself.” What made the quote resonate with so many people is that Steve Jobs, one of the most powerful men on the planet, was telling the Stanford elite that staying hungry and foolish was a formula for success.

Back in 1976, the idea of two guys starting a computer company in a garage probably seemed foolish to a lot of people. And yet, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak did just that, releasing their first product, the Apple I computer, on April fool’s day that same year. For Jobs, staying foolish most likely meant being open to trying new things, regardless of what others might say. As Jobs put it in another well-known quote, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” Put in that context, staying foolish is about following your own dreams and passions instead of letting others choose your path for you. It’s about putting your self out there and being willing to take risks instead of always playing it safe. How else could you explain Apple’s revolutionary “1984” TV commercial announcing the release of the Macintosh? Produced at a cost of $900,000, the most expensive commercial of its day was dismissed by the entire Apple board of directors when Jobs screened it for them in December 1983. Despite the board’s disfavor, Jobs remained an avid supporter of the commercial, which aired once during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII on January 22, 1984. The impact of the ad was so powerful that news stations started rebroadcasting it, which meant millions of dollars in free publicity. No doubt the Apple board didn’t think that Steve Jobs was foolish anymore.

As for “staying hungry”, which in the context of Jobs’ Stanford address meant maintaining an ongoing hunger for knowledge, Jobs exemplified hunger in all he did. For Jobs, “staying hungry” also meant not settling, not being satisfied with great products when extraordinary products were possible. Jobs’ hunger reignited a floundering Apple when he returned to helm the company in 1996. In 1997 when Jobs once again stepped in as CEO and announced an alliance with Microsoft, Jobs explained his strategy was “about Apple being able to make incredibly great contributions to the industry and to get healthy and prosper again.”

Thanks to that ongoing hunger, and the foolish notion—as many in the industry saw it—he could restore a failing company to its former glory, Apple prospered beyond what anyone—other than Steve Jobs—could have possibly imagined.

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