On purpose, following your heart, and finding your life’s work
Steve Jobs, in his famous Stanford commencement address:
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, 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.
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 external expectations, all pride, 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.
There’s this old Jewish parable I like about Rabbi Akiva. Akiva was walking home from the synagogue late one foggy night and came upon a fork in the road. The fog clouded his vision and he missed the turn to his house. Walking down the wrong path, he found himself at the wall of a giant castle.
A guard yelled down to him, “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
“What did you say?” replied the Rabbi, looking up into the fog trying to see where the voice was coming from.
The guard repeated himself: “Who are you? What are you doing here?”
The Rabbi thought for a moment, peering up into the fog. “How much are they paying you?”
“About 10 Denarius a week,” the guard yells down.
Akiva replies, “I’ll pay you double that to come to my house and ask me that every morning.