Steve Jobs, 1955-2011: Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

I don’t own an Apple product. Here I am, typing away on a Windows machine. Still, the news of Steve Jobs’ death is heavy. His creativity and dogged adherence to principle has altered our culture, and for the better. I have no trouble imagining he’ll be remembered along with the likes of Thomas Edison as one of the great figures of his time.

Jobs’s now-famous 2005 Stanford commencement address, embedded above, has been on my mind recently. Watch it, if you haven’t.

In August I took my own leap. When my contract with the University of Illinois ended, I chose not to look for a new paid position. I’d been tunneling ever more deeply into photography- partly because I get to spend more time with living organisms than I do as a reseacher, and partly because I just enjoy it more- so I decided to finally cut the academic umbilical cord.

I now work full-time for myself. When I think about that, when I think about how hard I have to work to replace the security I had a few months ago, it feels as though I’ve stepped into the middle of freeway traffic. It’s a scary amount of responsibility. Yet, Jobs’s words are exactly the sort of reassurance that I’ve made the right decision:

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. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

A great person.

17 thoughts on “Steve Jobs, 1955-2011: Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish”

  1. Henry (Rob) Robison

    You have made a huge decision and I wish you all the luck in the world! Your tremendous photographic abilities and your native intelligence will see you through this change. Best of luck through the transition. I know you will succeed!

  2. Sad, but expected. Cancer is crazy. Even the richest guy who has the best doctors couldn’t stop it. However, he did live longer from his treatments.

  3. YET DICK CHENEY STILL ROAMS FREE.
    In other news, congrats on freelancin’ it! What does that make you in relation to UIUC? I assume you’re adjunct or similar?

  4. With you, I feel Steve’s absence and it saddens me. But like him, your decision to start off on your own is absolutely inspiring! I’d say you were already pretty fabulously unique still with the umbilical cord, but perhaps like when Steve came back to Apple in the 90’s, your new direction will be equally groundbreaking.

  5. Wow! Congrats and good luck with your new adventure Alex! Although choosing to follow your passion isn’t always the easiest path, it’s certainly the most rewarding. I look forward to reading where your new career path takes you and seeing your photography and creativity flourish without the time constraints of academia holding you back!

  6. Canon should hire you as their point man on macro photography. Your work, and the ability to communicate creative ways to get the picture, make you a valuble person to have on a team.

  7. Not an easy decision, I imagine, but for someone with your talents, I think it is worth a go and I wish you success. If you are going to be an ‘entrepreneurial scientist’, then it might as well be for yourself. At least then you can decide what you will do with your time and skills.

    Academic positions, at least in state-funded universities, are first and foremost about acquiring and spending the funds provided by government and industry. If you like chasing bandwagons and managing large labs full of people doing the things you once thought you would spend your academic career pursuing (while sitting on an ever expanding array of committees) – and this is the best case scenario – then you might find Academia rewarding. Some day you might be a dean or a provost or even a Vice-Chancellor. If you are interested in living organisms more than middle management, then post-postdoc Academia is no place for you.

  8. Marc "Teleutotje" Van der Stappen

    Good Luck, Alex!

    It’s the first time I saw Steve Jobs’ address and I must say that it is one of the best I ever heard. Let’s start with this: Maybe you don’t own an Apple product but you use at least one of Jobs’ inventions, a computer-mouse. This shows that great men aren’t always known for what they invented/discovered but you meet them unknown in everyday life. To name a few: an unknown Egyptian who invented the first type of paper named papyrus, Isaac Newton with his law of gravitation, Albert Einstein with the photoelectric effect and all the relativity-laws, Steve Jobs with the computer-mouse and all his i-products! But all these great men also had big ideas and great visions on life and I must say that Jobs vision of the way you should live is one of the best (together with Richard Bach, writer of “Illusions”.). So, maybe his address should be heard by every student for many years to come!

  9. Thanks for the well-wishes, everyone!

    Because the photography and the science are symbiotic, it serves my genre well to continue lurking about research Universities, which is the plan. Thus, I do still teach at U of I some semesters (doing “Insects & People” next spring, for example). And thankfully, as an unpaid Research Scholar, I retain library & lab access to keep up with some smaller projects and stay current with the new technical literature. Right now I’m lined up for a best-of-both-worlds scenario.

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