Did you know Steve Jobs did not allow his three children to watch television? It is ironic that the creator of so many technological inventions was also an advocate of unplugging. He believed that only when we literally and figuratively quiet the outside world would we realize the distinct paths we should take.
“Do not go and live someone else’s life,” Jobs urged in his 2005 Stanford commencement speech, which has gone viral since his death this week. In the 15-minute speech Jobs imparted to young people what he believed are the three great lessons of his life, the greatest among them doing what we love and pursuing it with uncompromising tenacity.
Discovering what we love is easier said than done, though. My husband just told me this morning he didn’t truly find his passion, what he wanted to be when he grew up, until he was 35 years old. And he considers himself lucky. Some people never find it. “Experts” on television tell us what we should do, while our elders tell us what we’d be “really good” at. Many of us follow aimlessly in one direction until one day we wake up and ask, “What am I doing? I don’t even like x, y, or z.”
Jobs explained that his biological mother placed him up for adoption. An unwed graduate student, she simply wanted his adoptive parents to have college degrees. When it was later learned his adoptive parents did not have college degrees, they promised to make sure Jobs got one. Nevertheless, 17 years later, Jobs decided to drop out of college after only six months, calling it one of the best decisions of his life. It was then, in the unstructured time that followed, Steve Jobs discovered his passion.
The graduates cheered when Jobs told the story of dropping out, thinking him a hero, a free thinker bucking the system. I’m sure that parents in attendance rolled their eyes. What is this guy telling our kids? They probably thought. However, Jobs stressed the fact that just because he dropped out of college he never stopped working hard; he never stopped doing his best work.
If we follow our hearts, choose to follow the path where we’re supposed to be, it just makes it easier to work our hardest and to do our best work.
But finding that passion can be elusive because it takes contemplation. And contemplation often requires boredom, something our kids aren’t familiar enough with.
In the fast-paced, instant access world we live in it’s almost impossible for young people, for any of us, to feel bored. Boredom is practically a bad word in our society. Yet boredom forces free play — and free, unstructured play is when creativity is most likely to flow. My three sisters and I were bored when we wrote songs we still sing together today. We were bored when we started our own small business (does the restaurant in our garage when we charged neighbors 25 cents for a PB&J count?)
How will the next Van Gogh, Mozart, Dickenson or Jobs cultivate the great works he or she is capable of if we always watch DVDs in the car on the way to Grandma’s or thrust a Wii remote into his or her hand every time boredom comes a’ knocking? Now there’s the quandary.
Julie is and El Dorado Hills resident and the mother of four young children. See more of her work at kidfocused.com.