Friday, October 7, 2011

Reflecting on my editor's reflections on Steve Jobs

Posted By on 10.07.11 at 08:30 AM

Mara Shalhoup posted Steve Jobs's 2005 commencement speech at Stanford, and broke out this passage:

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.

I wish I'd heard something like that when I graduated. Then again, maybe I did — I've never been an unhappy journalist.

Then again, I'm not sure I've ever known a satisfied one. If the secret to satisfaction is to love what you do, how do you manage that? The easiest way, it seems to me, is to believe you're doing great work. Or, if you're not one to think fancy thoughts about yourself, to believe you're serving great work.

Or a great cause. Or a great leader.

And maybe become the kind of person Eric Hoffer warned us against.

I'm not sure satisfaction is the point. What little I know about satisfaction, especially true satisfaction, leads me to believe it's the kind of company few people are comfortable keeping. The more adept you happen to be at whatever your line of work is, the more self-critical you probably are about how well you do it, or about what you're not doing that you might be doing instead. What is there in the biography of Steve Jobs to suggest he was ever truly satisfied?

At least there was this . . . The great blessing of a commencement speech, I'm willing to speculate, is that it allows the speaker, as he walks the hallowed halls, dons the robe, and addresses the bedazzled graduates, to think of himself as successful and satisfied. For the time Jobs was revealing the road to satisfaction, he probably allowed himself to believe it had actually taken him there.

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