4 Simple (But Not Easy) Lessons from the Life of Steve Jobs

Straight from a College Dropout, Fired Co-Founder, and Cancer Patient

5 min readNov 26, 2021
Image by Laya Clode on Unsplash

Creating a meaningful life for yourself might not be easy but the regret of not trying slowly and silently kills many people while their bodies scrape by.

Life advice that comes from real-life experiences hits differently. We have a way of generalizing the success stories as perfect lives but we forget and don’t dig in to find the pains & darker phases of these perfect human lives that shaped their density and so many of the others that come after them.

The life of Steve Jobs teaches us powerful lessons to embed meaning in our lives. His life was not all cupcakes and rainbows but a worthy struggle. Whenever he fell or faced life’s unexpected turn of events, he choose not to give up and came back stronger. These lessons are from his life as a dropout student, fired co-founder, and cancer patient- far from being a perfect life in our minds, right?

Steve As A College Dropout:

In college, Steve Jobs had no idea what he wanted to do with his life and how formal education could help him figure that out. So he trusted his instincts despite being scared. He mentioned himself in a commencement address to the graduates of Stanford University on June 12, 2005, that after dropping out he was able to look into his interests and not take the required classes of no interest to him.

It’s when he decided to take calligraphy classes and found it fascinating. The same skill he learned at college as a dropout was put into work 10 years later when he was designing the first Mac computer.

Lesson # 1 Whatever you and I go through has a purpose in it.

Connecting the dots looking forward isn’t possible, you can only see the entire picture of your life looking backward, as to how one thing connects to another. So the lesson here is that you have got to trust the process and yourself that everything will work out fine.

As Steve said, “You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny, life, karma. whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Trust the process and yourself, everything will fall in its rightful place. You just trust and do your best, the rest of it would figure itself out. You may be at a stage that is not making sense to you but one day you would see the master plan that your life is, and how every event and decision connects.

Steve As Fired From The Company He Co-founded:

Steve got fired from the company he started at the age of 30 after 10 years of building it. He became a public failure. He lost what he loved and didn’t know what to do for months. But he realized despite being rejected he still loved what he did. So, he decided to get back up and went on to build a company named NeXT in the next five years.

Lesson # 2 Failure and loss set the foundation for building yourself.

Falling has a built-in advantage to it in that you can be whatever you want, heaviness of success is replaced by the lightness of being a beginner and that’s when steve entered the most creative phase of his life.

Never fall victim to your failures, don’t look down upon them with resentment. Gather up the courage to build yourself, again and again, it’s worth the struggles.

Lesson # 3 In times of crisis, the work you find meaningful keeps you going.

When life hits you in the head with a brick, doing what you love keeps you going. Work fills most of our lives and to be satisfied is about doing work that we believe is great. And great work is done by doing what you love. If you have not found the thing you love, keep looking. This is as true as any relationship, that your heart just knows when you find it.

Steve As A Cancer Patient:

Since the age of 17 Steve Jobs would look in the mirror and ask himself this question, ‘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, he knew he had to change something.

Not just this practice but he had a near-death experience when diagnosed with cancer and told by the doctor to prepare for death in the next 3–6 months.

In his own words “ 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.”

He said death is Life’s change agent.

Lesson # 3 The idea of death removes the noise of life.

Life is a precious gift and death gives life, meaning. We all share the same ending — death. Live your ambitions and choose the struggles that give you meaning. Don’t let others’ opinions and thinking decide your course of life. Follow your heart, it already knows the way.

Death is the biggest signboard to course-correct the direction of your life. In the face of it, everything meaningless becomes dust, loses its value, and the sounds of your heart are heard louder. The idea of death removes the noise of life. It’s such a great filter that we can use for every decision.

Asking yourself this question, “if today is the last day of my life would I want to do what I am about to do?” helps you identify, what matters most to you. It helps us stay aligned with our true identities, interests get hidden under the burden of life circumstances and responsibilities.

Extra Yet Essential Rant:

The problem with most of us who have not gone out to chase our dreams and passions yet is that we think we have time. We keep indulging ourselves in the hopes of someday doing what we want to do. We fear doing something new but we don’t fear that our time on Earth is limited.

And our death might not just be the death of a human but the death of an idea that could have changed the world or made a difference in someone’s life. Imagine a world without people like Steve Jobs not following their hearts and doing what they did. What kind of a world would you and I have been a part of without their struggles and successes. It’s an eye-opener.

In no way I am preaching that we all have to become like Steve Jobs, no, it’s about you becoming YOU, and I being ME. It is about following our hearts and exploring our interests. The rest follows itself. Even if we didn’t invent a Mac we still can be proud of ourselves for fighting our own battles, with grace and courage.