Six years before his untimely death, Steve Jobs dropped this bombshell of truth to our psyche:
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.
Steve Jobs delivered these words to a newly minted class of Stanford graduates in 2005, but they apply to everyone. In fact, his message about the urgency of life becomes even more relevant for those of us whose graduations are a distant memory.
Not long before the commencement, Jobs had surely been on an emotional rollercoaster. After being diagnosed with what doctors explained was probably an incurable form of pancreatic cancer, he was given between three and six months to live. The same evening, however, he had a biopsy, and tissue cells from the tumor revealed a rare but curable form of the disease.
Life Is Short No Matter What
Although he told the audience "I had the surgery and I'm fine now," facing his own mortality had impressed upon him the importance of living the best possible life, and it was a message he passed on to the new graduates. So how do you go about living that life? Jobs highlights three key practices.
1. Consider your own passing.
No matter who you are, you have a finite amount of time on this earth. Thinking about your death, as Jobs did, and the limited amount of time you have left isn't meant to be confining. On the contrary, it empowers you to use that time in the most meaningful way possible.
As Jobs explains, "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."
2. Conduct an honest assessment.
When he was just 17, Jobs read a quote that would have an impact on him for the rest of his life: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right."
For the rest of his life, he would begin each day by standing in front of the mirror and asking himself a question: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?"
If the answer is occasionally no, that's not itself a deal-breaker. To Jobs, "Whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something." Ask yourself this same question when you start your day and answer honestly. It can be frightening to admit you're not living the life you want, but it's the only way to pivot toward your true calling.
3. March to the beat of your own drum.
As Jobs explains, living someone else's life is wasting your own. Instead, he urges you to find the role you were meant to fill. "You've got to find what you love... 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."
Finding what you really love to do isn't easy, and Jobs acknowledges as much. It will take patience and effort, but it will pay off. "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," said Jobs.
We may not know how much time we have left, but we have the ability to decide how we use it. The most accomplished leaders maximize their results by finding the work that's most meaningful to them and pursuing it passionately.
To adopt this approach and accomplish more in your own life, follow the advice outlined by one of tech's most legendary visionaries.