Thursday, October 06, 2011

stay hungry, stay foolish

I've never been too affected with famous people dying, save for Pope John Paul II, Cory Aquino, and now Steve Jobs. I keep telling Raymund how I found myself on the brink of crying one too many times today, learning that Steve Jobs had passed away, followed by "you don't understand..."

I'm not a big Apple fan. Apple was so big in the States, or at least in California - Palo Alto, to be exact, where I stayed when I was there, probably cos Steve Jobs lived there and that it's Silicon Valley. I only own one Apple gadget, and I bought it cos I needed a new phone at the time and had never owned an iPod, so the practical thing to do was to get myself an iPhone - the original iPhone. I didn't exactly keep up with the trend, i.e., upgrade to the newer iPhone what-have-you. I had an urge to buy a MacBook once, when my Dell laptop kept getting viruses, but was still a starving student then so I couldn't really spend my money on it. All I bought from Apple was my iPhone and 2 iPhone earphones. That's it. So why am I so sad about the fact that Steve Jobs is gone?

It was all because of that speech. I stumbled upon his Stanford commencement speech some years ago, before attending Stanford myself - I already knew then that I wanted to get my master's in the best university for environmental engineering (which coincidentally is Stanford), and upon watching the video, I was sure that pursuing that dream would be one of the best things I could do for myself. It wasn't because he gave that speech in Stanford, no. It was about something he said in those 15 minutes where he talked about 3 stories in his life. He taught me important things that would eventually keep ringing in my head.

1. Connecting the dots.

"You can't connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that would make all the difference."

I think a couple of posts ago, I wrote about how things just fell into place, it's amazing. A few years back, I still had "what if" questions in my head, particularly regarding my relationship with someone who I thought I wanted to be with. Before leaving the Philippines for the first time for a job abroad, I was thinking that had he asked me to stay, I probably would've considered it. He didn't, but he gave me one memorable trip before I left, where I spent the day in one of my favorite places in the Philippines, with my 3 closest guy friends. Eventually one friend who was with us in that trip told me that he was actually planning to ask me to stay. Anyway, we grew apart though I'm sure he's happy where he is, and I am too. In retrospect, I'm glad he didn't have the guts then to ask me that. Had I stayed, I wouldn't be able to save money for my master's, and be with the person I can't live without. I don't consider myself lucky, in the sense that I've always worked to get the things I want and they don't just happen to fall on my lap. But I guess in the grand scheme of things, I'm quite lucky after all.

2. Don't settle.

"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."

I wrote something like this in my personal statement for my Stanford application. I wrote something along the lines of knowing that the work I want to have for myself has got to be something I love to do, and I knew my passion was in water/environmental engineering, so pursuing graduate studies in that field was the way to go.

Back when I was working to save up for my master's, I already felt that it was just not sustainable for me to be working on stuff that I don't find fulfilling, and so I thought the way to get out of it was to further my studies so I can do what I want, that is, in my field of interest.

A few months ago, I was getting frustrated about finding a job, but Steve Jobs' words were firm in my head. "Don't settle." I even told Raymund, after interviewing with some companies that I didn't think would give me projects that I'd enjoy doing, "sabi ni Steve Jobs, don't settle eh". Luckily, I eventually got a job that I like. My title: Engineer - Water & Environment. Just what I used to dream of. And I'm glad I'm learning a lot - all these things I try to grasp would be handy when I go back to the Philippines to teach in my alma mater.

So there... thank you Steve Jobs for giving me these thoughts to live by. Who knew that with just that speech, you've helped me stirred my life in a far better direction than I imagined. You are a brilliant speaker, and an even more brilliant person. You're a revolutionary. I'm sure you are at peace.