In my previous post Why Are You Still Running On Your Hamster Wheel?, I referred to Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement address (here’s the text version as well).

As I write, this specific posting has been viewed over 12 million times, with millions more having viewed other postings of the same video. No doubt, many of you saw clips from it on the nightly news, in stories relating to Jobs’ death.

In several of the broadcasts I saw, news anchors referred to the same passage from his address:

“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….

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life…. 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.”

I’m sure many of us, with every good intention, committed to following our heart and intuition, just as Jobs described.

So why didn’t we? And why don’t we?

Many will cite fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of change. Etc.

I think those are decent answers but not the total answer.

Fundamentally, it’s difficult to change because of ignorance, in the literal meaning of the word.

I know who I am, now. I’m with him every day. I wake up with myself, I go to work with myself, and I go to sleep with myself. Every day.

Ah, but this new self, this ideal self that I should be. I don’t know him that well.

I haven’t met him yet. Sure, I may have a vague notion of who he is, or who he should be, but I’ve yet to meet my ideal self.

Which makes sense, because if I was already my ideal self, if I had achieved the pinnacle of Maslow’s needs hierarchy and had achieved full self-actualization, I wouldn’t be so inspired by Jobs’ exhortations. It would be old news to me.

Although we may have a clue of what our ideal self looks like, it’s hard to feel overwhelmingly compelled to pursue it. At some level, we like who we are, warts and all. It’s comfortable. It’s a known quantity. It’s familiar.

We may feel we’d like to be better, but at what cost? At the cost of “pushing off the ledge” as I say, and abandoning our current understanding of who we are.

Scary stuff for most.

So don’t be too hard on yourself if you haven’t been transformed by Jobs’ video. Most of us won’t.

But then again, it might be worth the effort to push off the ledge. How bad could it get? Particularly, if you start slow and take it one step (or small leap) at a time.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was self-actualization and personal fulfillment.

Who knows how far Jobs got on his journey, how true he was to the ideals espoused in his commencement address. Only he knew that.

Just as only you know how far you’ve gotten, and how much further you’d like to go.


What changes have you made in how you live and lead? Why do some of us fear being who we truly are? Post your thoughts for other readers.

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