“Your time is limited; don’t waste yours by living someone else’s life.” ~Steve Jobs
Looking up, one’s eyes were filled with a radiant blue that is seen only in dreams. Sparse, billowing clouds floated silently, allowing the sun to shine uncontested.
In the air rang out echoes of motivation, inspiration and encouragement: Dream big. Follow your passions. Listen to your heart. Retain hope. Never, ever give up.
One speech bled into the next as speaker after speaker sought to inspire the hundreds of young men and women donning black caps and gowns before them. Though the lessons they preached were invaluable, would they be remembered for lifetimes as intended? For only a short distance away sat a desperate young man, devoid of his dreams’ pursuits and drowning in those same echoes of inspiration, merely one year after being graduated, himself.
A Graduation Reminder, One Year Later
In so many ways, being showered in those echoes felt like something or someone was adding “insult to injury.”
I was working in politics at the time and my boss had been in attendance to several graduating classes in May of 2009 as a guest of honor. During those weeks, “working” meant just sitting and waiting alone in my car with a furrowed brow, only to eventually drive and sit and wait some more.
Almost one year to the day after I had graduated college, I was growing increasingly miserable in feeling so unfulfilled with what life in “the real world” entailed. “So much for those dreams. So much for the passions.” “Welcome,” I imagined saying to those graduates, “to the real world wherein one’s misery is apparently the only measure of quantifying ‘hard work.`” So it felt.
Was it really only a year ago that I sat among a crowd of my peers, young men and women rife with so many dreams and opportunities to pursue? We were told that the world needed us; we alone could save it.
The sky was the limit and opportunities were abound, just one year ago. Months later I was in my car, just sitting, just waiting, completely unhappy and unfulfilled and drowning in words of encouragement that had been preached to me just one year prior.
Preparing to be Unprepared
The last year had been rife with much difficulty. There had been the struggles of finding employment (I had moved three times in twelve months) and many bouts of severe inner turmoil, for which no one had prepared us during our years of regimented education, let alone spoken of.
As I sat in my car, hunched in a ball towards the driver side door with my face pressed into my fist, I listened begrudgingly to those echoing words of encouragement from the ceremony. Then, one echo in particular shook me to my soul:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
I don’t remember who spoke the quote that day, but the words were originally from Steve Jobs, co-founder and CEO of Apple. Jobs’ message was as beautiful in its simplicity as was that spring day: the type of perfection that you never get tired of admiring from the ground below.
Without much thought or hesitation, those echoes spoke to me; I realized at that moment that I was not following my heart. In spite of the uncertainty and illogical nature of leaving the security of a State job amid a massive recession, I knew that I had to quit, though I was not completely sure why.
A Lesson to Echo Through Time
Today is the one year anniversary that I left that job and the political sphere. One year to the day, I now wonder, what is it about the uncomplicated nature of such an inherently “human” message as the one spoken by Jobs–the importance and merit of following one’s heart–that transcends the differences of humans, from personality to culture, race, ethnicity and nationality?
Was the fact that similar, almost identical speeches are constantly reiterated to graduating students across the globe reveal that the content of such words of motivation and inspiration are nothing more than a series of redundant, overused, and unoriginal “feel-good” cliches?
The lessons contained within those similar-sounding speeches of motivation to graduating students all over the world are meant to inspire one thing: living with honesty. Being true to one’s self, following dreams and pursuing passions is a inherently human lesson and one worthy of espousing to young adults because living with honesty truly transcends boundaries of race, economic standing and culture alike.
In the end, the lesson of living with honesty is not about the end goals–which could be as widely varied and different as human beings, ourselves–but rather about the pursuit. Living with honesty and being true to one’s self means relying primarily upon rightful, just, and wholesome motivations. With such pure motivations driving you, living with honesty ultimately means having very little to regret.
The message of living with honesty transcends human differences and social boundaries and speaks to the human soul. Those graduating speeches that intend to inspire and motivate are so much less about the intended end goals of our pursuits than they are about the pursuit, itself. Following one’s heart is not meritorious on its own; living by way of wholesome and honest motivations is, because being true to one’s heart means denying corruptive and demoralizing motivations of fleeting and unfulfilling tangibles like riches and power.
The message of following one’s heart–being motivated by honesty and acting truly to one’s self–is a message so special, so important, and still, perhaps so misunderstood, that it transcends the individual differences of the human race who preach it to each other across the globe.
It transcends not only Western society, but all facets of human civilization. The message is a lesson that echoes through time; one so special that it would speak through so many, and to so many, for generations and generations. The message is the beauty of living with honesty–whatever the pursuit, whatever the end goal, and whether or not it is ever achieved.