How did Steve Jobs change my Life by talking about Death to Stanford?

5 02 2009

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. – Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple

Have you ever read a book, article, or quote that changed the way you view the world around you? It’s like the words on the page rush through you and enter your DNA for the rest of your life. New neural connections are made and your paradigm shifts. You learn something new and you grow.

About two years ago I had such an experience when I stumbled across the transcript of Steve Jobs addressing the 2005 graduating class at Stanford.

In the last third of his speech, Steve points out that when people realize they are going to die, they realize their full potential. 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.”

It really sunk in. At first, this notion of dying scared the hell out of me! He was right, nobody wants to die! Anyone have any of that water from Tuck Everlasting?!

Eventually, however, the days and weeks passed and this idea of Death as an enabler of Life made me think about all the days, weeks, and years before my eventual dirt nap. What did I want to hear, see, experience before I die?

Now, the idea of my eventual demise is a motivator rather than a crippling fear.

Here’s what I suggest for you: Take small, incremental “mental steps” towards this idea. Fully, truly realizing you’re going to die is the best way to set your mind free of all the extra crap that’s holding it down. A good way to do this is by simply following Jobs’ routine and ask yourself every time you wake up: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” and then realize that change is necessary if the answer is “no” too many days in a row.

There is nothing morbid about it, in fact it’s the opposite – asking myself this simple question has transformed me and given me new Life.


Mike Peck


Tools to help you:

Here are ways to help you understand this concept more fully. You have to only choose 1, and like 90s’ Nike: Just Do It

  • Transcript of Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech
  • Create a Bucket List – things you want to do before you die @ . Need help writing it? Read this.
  • Write your obituary. Yikes! My life coach Loren Duffy had me do this as an exercise. Like a cramped bar, it was uncomfortable but fun. First date it WAAAY out into the future (think 80 years out) then ask yourself:
    • What do I want my friends say about me at my funeral? My family? My work colleagues?




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: