The day they told Steve Jobs he’d die – in 90 days.

During the commencement address for Stanford University’s graduates in June, 2005, Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computer (co-founder of Pixar animation studios e.g. Finding Nemo, Cars), and inventor of the wildly popular iPod, confided something the audience had never heard. Here’s how that started…

“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. relieved

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 others’ 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.”

Complete, awesome, chilling and inspirational commencement address here.

About the author

Kim Klaver


  • I saw that speech for the first time about 3 months ago. At the time I had just begun considering return to school to take up some studies again. It was that commencement speech that made me see there is more to school that a defined program. Go with what interests you and as well as things that might not normally seem handy atm. You just never know when the skills will become fruitful and you just might learn a great deal about yourself. Awesome speech.

  • Once in awhile you pick up a book at just the right page, hear just the right thing at the right time, or open a webpage at just the right time. Well, that is what happened as I opened your webpage on this speech. Life is too short to allow ourselves and our fears or others and theirs to diminish our desires or discourage our dreams. That is the lesson I got while reading this article and also the lesson I have been getting all day. Thank you so much, I will hold it dear

  • I have always believed that things in life happen for a reason….we might not know what the reason is at the time…but, it eventually comes back around so you can understand why it happened in the first place. I have read this speech before, and it was worth reading again. Thanks for posting it.

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