It was 2009 when I watched Steve Jobs give his speech to Harvard graduates, recorded 4 years earlier. That speech resonated with me and I’ve listened to it a handful of times over the years. Today, I listened to it again.
The first time I heard it was when I was working as a Personal Assistant. It was a job I was over qualified for but it was easy, I was good at it and I guess I was happy enough doing it. A corporation took over that company and as a result I ended up as an Account Manager in London. When I was at school I had a vision of myself, a dream, of being a business woman in high heels and a suit, living in London, working for a massive company. The dream had come true. It turns out that the reality didn’t live up to the dream and it became clear that my face didn’t fit. The company was saturated with the same type of person: arrogant, egotistical, immoral, arseholes. It really was the most misogynistic, vile environment and it made me deeply unhappy. My Dad nicknamed the company BUC Inc (Bunch’u’Cunts Incorporated) and he was pretty accurate in his description. I was paid a lot of money (after having to fight for it, see: This pussy bites back) but I felt I had sold my soul to the devil and that the money was dirty. I wanted out.
When I finally bit the bullet and looked for something new, I didn’t know what I was looking for, I only knew I wanted to do something for the greater good. A welfare to work company were hiring. The role: to help people on benefits get back into sustainable employment. I had done recruitment before and it seemed well within my capability.
I knew I had done the right thing immediately. Gone were the boozy lunches in the City and instead I was sitting opposite a real person, in real need of help. Help that I could actually give them. One girl will always stand out for me. She was 19 at the time and when I fist met her, she scared the shit out of me. I literally thought she was going to stab me. It took a few weeks but under all that aggression and front was a scared young girl, with no confidence or self esteem, who had been through some really difficult times. We did a lot of work together on communication, confidence, managing her anxiety, budgeting and life skills. She had an interview with an employer we were working with. The HR manager told me that when she asked the girl who her biggest inspiration was, she said it was me. That was the most humbling moment. It was all I could do not to cry.
I still work for that company and I have moved to learning and development. When I take induction with newbies I always tell them “Our work is too important to do badly”. Just lately I’ve drifted from that a bit. I’m removed from clients and so it’s easy to forget why I loved the job and why I chose the company.
This work has changed me as a person and my whole outlook on life. It’s exposed me to people I would never have met and broadened my thinking in so many ways (See, I think I met Jesus). It’s given me a social conscience, and shown me that even though I am one person, I can change things for the better. It led me to volunteering and to blogging. Steve Jobs said “You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards.” He’s right. If I hadn’t had such a bloody awful time at BUC Inc, it wouldn’t have shaken me into doing something worthwhile, which in turn wouldn’t have led to experiences that changed me for the better on a fundamental level.
I wanted to share three of my faveourite sections of Steve’s speech that I needed to hear today and maybe someone reading this right now, might need to hear them too:
“You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking and don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
“…..for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”