"My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging."
   — Hank Aaron

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Steve Jobs: Change Agent for Our Time

In Monday’s MPN Meeting we viewed the second half of Steve Jobs’ memorable Stanford commencement address in 2005 and then discussed it in terms of the job search. The discussion was spirited, if not electric at times, as his speech struck a deep chord of yearning in all of us.

His mantra of “Don’t settle”, for instance, was particular nettlesome to some as they are beset by bills and family obligations — and frankly, it’s not fair to ask them not to settle if it means jeopardizing the health and futures of their family members. Others, however, have followed their hearts and intuition, as he urged, and despite protracted periods of unemployment appear to have reaped (or about to reap) the rewards of holding out.

One aspect of Jobs’s speech that doesn’t get quite as much attention is how he talks about death. He did have pancreatic cancer. Imagine sitting at your college graduation listening to this slightly hoary, if iconic, guy talking about death. Graduation is about stepping into life… isn’t it?

He said then, “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.”

Many people don’t realize that Jobs is/was a long-time Buddhist. His statements on death and your life’s work may have surprised if not darkly challenged many in the audience both at Stanford and on Monday. Yet it’s perfectly consistent with Buddhist philosophy. After all, the Buddha was supposed to have said that “death is the greatest teacher”. And, in fact, meditating on one’s death is a fairly common Bhuddist practice. So it’s only fitting that Jobs should have said and meant it too, so deeply so, that, “…Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent.” Just as Steve Jobs was an incredible change agent.

Now it is up to us to be challenged by his death to “ follow our hearts” and find the work that is right for us: maybe not right now, maybe not at your next job, but ultimately, to do what you must do.

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