I recently picked up the book Insanely Simple by Ken Segall after my roommate insisted it was a ‘game changer’. I’d originally pegged it as a book on minimalistic lifestyles, but it’s actually a book about how simplicity has driven Apple’s design decisions for most of it’s history. Segall touches on Steve Jobs illness and quotes a few lines from the commencement speech he gave to Stanford in 2004.
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 internal expectations, all price, 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…
No on 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 on 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.
… and yet Steve Jobs continued to work until his death in 2011. For me, close encounters with death and radically changing perspectives from traveling have led me down the path of savoring life, rather than influencing change like Steve Jobs seemed to have done even after getting a terminal diagnosis. I’m not sure there is a correct answer here but it does beg certain questions. Am I spending my most valuable asset, time, correctly? Am I simplifying my life down into moments that maximize the happiness I get out of it? Should I even be maximizing my own happiness, or is that too selfish? Why aren’t I out trying to change the world to make it a better place so that others can lead happy lives too?