Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish: A Tribute to the Man Who Changed My World

Christine Ha

Oct 03, 2011

Last Wednesday evening, my cell phone rang while I was preparing dinner. I washed my hands before swiping and double-clicking on the iPhone screen. It was my husband calling to tell me Steve Jobs had died. After hanging up, I texted a friend using Apple's VoiceOver function, and as I returned to the sizzling pan, I was surprised to find myself melancholy. ½ After I gradually lost my vision over the past several years due to a rare autoimmune condition called Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO), technology became impossible. I couldn't send nor receive text messages on my phone. I couldn't read emails nor revise stories I'd saved on my computer. Information had disappeared into the ether of my suddenly dark world. Then I discovered Apple. Let me clarify: I rediscovered Apple. The first Apple I used was the Apple II in my elementary school's library on which once a week, our fourth grade class practice typing and basic programming skills. (Remember Logo?) Then when I was eleven, my best friend got a Macintosh for Christmas, and we spent hours playing Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? After my friend moved away, Apple disappeared from my life for almost two decades. Since his return to Apple in 1997, Steve Jobs became synonymous with innovation. People ate up the iPods, Macbooks, iMacs, and iPads--nobody had ever seen anything like those Apples. Everything with the prefix "i" was immediately cool; it became a running joke that you're not a true writer unless you brood in a coffee shop hacking away at your magnum opus on an Apple Macbook. I, too, marveled at Steve Jobs and his Apple products; they were aesthetic yet utilitarian. But I admired them for an additional reason: they simplified information accessibility for the blind. In the '70s, Steve envisioned everyone--you, your mama, and your grandma, too--using computers. He pictured personal computers in every home and strived to make this technology accessible to the layman, the blind, the deaf, the immobilized. He was a visionary, a creative genius. Thanks to Steve, I can now write, read, revise manuscripts just like everyone else. ½ As writers, we will always be subjected to criticism. As students in graduate writing programs, we attend workshops where we receive advice we sometimes find helpful, sometimes not. We will hear it from peers, agents, editors, critics. But if the late Steve Jobs can leave us with any advice worth heeding, it is this which is excerpted from Steve Jobs's commencement address to Stanford's Class of '05:
Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. 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. Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma -- which is living with the results of other people's thinking. 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. When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog½It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras½ ½when [the catalog] had run its course, they put out a final issue½On the back cover½was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.
Nobody in their right mind chooses to be a writer; it's often thankless and penniless. But we do it because we love it. We do it because we believe we're doing great work. We do it because we followed our heart. It is our duty as writers to make our work "accessible," in whichever way you want to define the word. Apple has changed the world. Steve Jobs had changed Apple. By transitive property, Steve Jobs changed the world. It is our job as writers to do that too. Stay hungry. Stay foolish.