Steve Jobs Living Each Day

The theme of this post is don’t wait for a life changing event to kick start you into action. Apart from self confidence, living each day more deliberately can can infuse your life with more meaning and focus.

Steve Jobs  Stanford University in 2005

This “commencement address” is now well known. I want to focus near the end; At 9:10  Steve says:-

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

steve jobs confidence

steve jobs - never forgotten

Steve, of course, has now had his last day at the age of 56.  When I started to write this post the papers and internet are full of stories about the death, at 48 , of Whitney Houston. This final part of Steve’s speech hammers home the fact that we are all mortal; You need to have the confidence to live the life you want – not what someone else wants:-

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life… Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice… 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.”

Peak Moments Revisited

Reading, and responding to, comments is one of the joys of blogging. And I do now try to say thanks to genuine comments!

confidence peak moment

...pulled the trigger – click!

Quite often I have received comments that give a totally new angle on what I had originally written. Occasionally people share personal experiences related to the topic I have started.

But let me quote Bruce Blair commenting on People are Awesome :-

“I agree people are amazing and peak moments are something to contemplate. I was in a position once where a man pointed a pistol at me and pulled the trigger – click! A second click! He ran. I have had trouble getting excited about much ever since. I still had to function and found out I could with a clear head. Been in ER medicine ever since. My peak moment.”

Its not unusual when people have peak moments that are also death defying, such as Bruce’s, for them to be life changing events. You hear that when people survive car crashes or other accidents or incidents that could have turned out very differently.

As in the original post I’m going to quote again from the excellent Chris Guillebeau’s Art of Non-Conformity

“Instead of responding to trauma, therefore, it’s better if you can avoid a wake-up call like that to create change in your life. You don’t have to wait for a 9/11, a car crash, another near brush with death to think about what really matters. You can do so right now, today, no matter what else is happening in your life.”

Chris was reflecting on two books he had read which dealt with how people lived their lives when told of terminal illness and in effect given a date around which they would die. That can be even more of a wake-up call than surviving a near death experience.

In such circumstances many took the route of living each day more deliberately, making definite plans and choosing projects to do that were most important to them. The sad thing is waiting till we have such a jolt before switching from living each day passively, as if we had an infinite number.

Live Each Day as if Your Last

I wrote a recent post around the regrets of the dying. I’m not generally morbid and this will be the last on this theme (for now!).  But it does appear that death – either when we are reminded that we could go at any-time, or when its imminent – focusses the mind. Although Steve Jobs says he read and was affected by the quote above at the age of 17, I’m sure it was his first brush with cancer that inspired that speech.

So why does it have to happen this way? Do we need a life changing event to kick start us into action? And like Bruce, has something dramatic sparked your life?  Do share your experiences and thoughts.

photos by blakespot and on flickr

Debbie @ Happy Maker March 14, 2012 at 11:18 pm

Hi David,

With me I wake up every morning, knowing I am going to try to be the best me I can be that day. Everyday is a gift, so I use it as one.

Maybe some would call me a little selfish, because I refuse to give that gift to someone else, (no regifting, LOL), but on the other hand I never have a problem sharing it with others.

I try to live life this way, so I don’t need a kick start, I figure it will save me some pain.

Thanks for the reminder, we call all use them, so we remember to be grateful.
Blessings to you,

David March 15, 2012 at 5:50 pm

That’s a great way to start your day. I must confess I used to do something similar, but got out of the habit. I better heed my own advice! Thanks for the comment.

Beat Schindler March 15, 2012 at 1:17 am

This rightfully famous speech by Steve Jobs will likely continue to inspire many people for many years to come. Such wisdom. Everybody knows it’s experience-based – you couldn’t make that stuff up on the strength of imagination alone. The conclusion that you highlighted by placing it in a yellow box makes sense once you understand the power of life changing events. Why does it have to be that way? I don’t think it has to be that way – it’s just the way it is, for most of us, anyway. Why? The answer my friend is blowing in the wind … those song lyrics make an awful lot of sense, too, don’t they? ~Beat

David March 15, 2012 at 5:58 pm

They do! My own theory about why people are so passive and unaware of life passing by, is so much of what we “plug into” – TV, booze, fast food – tends to reinforce that way of living. We can be so slovenly about our health; its only when we run into problems that we think about (and try to avoid) action. Thanks for the comment

Joel March 15, 2012 at 6:24 pm

A very interesting and thought provoking post David. I haven’t really thought about some of these subjects much, death not much at all, but putting it in terms of limited time makes more sense to me. I recently read something that said there are only 936 Saturdays from when a child is born until they turn 18. Having recently had a don (though he’s almost one now) I’m finding things like that are affecting me more and making me take notice. Time is precious.

David March 17, 2012 at 12:22 pm

I think my awareness of mortality, and getting old, didn’t occur until (1) I took a new job about 8 years ago and found myself managing people only slightly older than my children! (2) The death of my father.
At 53 I daren’t think how many weekends I have left 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

Corinne Edwards March 15, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Dear David –

Some of your younger readers will read this and it will make a difference to them for maybe a day. We all think death will happen to everyone but us. It is our secret.

The truth starts to dawn when you start losing friends and family. Then, it is more real. And more lonely.

I have lost quite a few – and some who are still here are struggling with illness and not available much. They cancel a lot of lunch dates at the last minute.

That’s why I hang out with youngsters people like you!

David March 17, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Nice to be thought of as a youngster, LOL. Last night we took my mother and mother in law out for a meal to celebrate mothers day (this Sunday over here). Listening to their conversation – both are in there 80’s – it was apparent how much illness and reduced functioning impacts on the lives of those around them. But my mother especially still leads an active life and makes the most of her days – going on trips out, theatre, meeting friends. Thanks for your comment

Andrew @ Blogging Guide March 16, 2012 at 1:38 pm


Another thought provoking post.

I certainly don’t live my life as though each day is my last. Or maybe I am? I work long hours but I love work.

But then if someone said “This is your last day…what would you like to do?”

My answer would not be work – no one’s would be – right?

But we have to work to gain some income to enjoy the days when we don’t work!

So how can we treat each day as if it is our last one?

Very thought provoking!

The other thing that springs to mine for me is being a parent.

When I left school…we got a job, got married, got a mortgage and had kids (normally in that order) and as a parent we try to make our children to conform to what we did.

Times have changed. The world has changed. But us parents still try to make our children to confirm…well some of us do.

All parents should read ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ – it will open your eyes.

I’ve certainly changed as a parent. My kids are not doing the normal 9 – 5 and both are enjoying their lives.


David March 17, 2012 at 12:37 pm

I think the important thing about work is to find ways of enjoying what you are doing. My favourite book is “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and whether you are in a factory or on the checkout at Sainsburys, work can still be challenging and fulfilling. But ideally it comes down to finding your true vocation and a way of making that your occupation. Work sucks a huge chunk of our time, addressing how we spend it is critical.
Thanks for commenting

Cheryl from thatgirlisfunny March 16, 2012 at 6:03 pm

I just asked myself a really good question thanks to reading this article. What do I need to get myself into action? Thank you!

David March 17, 2012 at 12:38 pm

I’d love to know what answer you came up with! Thanks for commenting

Bruce March 18, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Hey David. This speech is one that will be quoted (and misquoted as time goes one) by many. I think of a PBS documentary title about the struggle for civil rights in the USA during the past 50 years. It was entitled “Eyes on the Prize”. I like to think my peak moment focused my vision. I was more able to ignore distractions. I was able to keep my mind on what I wanted despite not being academically gifted, not having any money and starting later than most on my foundational education. It is better to get this in other ways than a wake up call that is near death, but wake up calls are subtle sometimes. While I got my occupation right, I got many other things wrong. It seems that I have too great a capacity to “hang in there”. I had trouble knowing when to cut my losses early in life. I think the thing I have learned from all of this is to test my hypothesis. Try it out. Then adjust according to the findings and more forward. It seems that inching along is better and safer and more likely to yield what we want ultimately (and allow us to hear those calls). It is the rare person who makes one big leap directly to where they want to go. The finest physician I know read his patho-physiology book 3 times. He first highlighted, then reread and took notes on the highlights and then memorized and understood those notes. He paid a price inch by inch to become the best. He knew from age 12 what he would do, but paid the price along the way, including being forced into the military during the Viet Nam war after med school. He became an amazing person by concentrating his best efforts on his prize.

David March 20, 2012 at 9:39 pm

Thanks for commenting – and of course commenting on my earlier post that started me off on this one! Knowing what you want from life, and having the tenacity to stick at it, seems to pass many of us by.
I like your phrase “wake up calls are subtle sometimes” – they don’t all have to be extreme and life threatening. Its being alert enough to heed them.

Amy LeForge March 27, 2012 at 6:38 am

Wow, I really like what Steve Jobs said about evaluating your days. I hadn’t read that before. Thanks for sharing! I will attempt to apply that to my own life. 🙂

David April 1, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Thanks for your comment – good luck trying to apply this!

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