In 2005, Steve Jobs related this story to the graduates of Stanford University:
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.
Steve finished that commencement address with “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”
It takes very strong will and self-motivation to do what Steve did for 33 years. It is human nature to relax especially after we have achieved a certain task, project milestone or career goal. We reach a certain point when we feel the tiredness more than the hunger to keep going. We reach a place where we crave for a break from routine, or for simplicity from the complexity of balancing work, family and other aspects of life. Ironically, when we retire from our busy schedules or when we simplify our lives, we also risk moving into a state of security and immovability.
As I wrote in last week’s Power Notes about making life choices and changes:
Eventually, the new becomes the old and the comfort zone, where the learning and growth stop. To avoid this trap, one has to continuously challenge self and set another milestone to reach. Go back and journey through the entire process once more. To endure this stretch, a strong mindset for lifelong learning and openness to constant change are needed.
I went through a fast-paced, challenging and progressive 20-year corporate life. Then tiredness set in. I went through a soul-searching phase and re-discovered my passion and purpose through my 30’s. I had the opportunity to fulfill it when I left the corporate world to pursue a purpose-driven consulting, training and coaching work. I traded my financially secure and demanding lifestyle for a life of variable income but less stressing one. My busyness did not change. But this time, I was busy with the things that gave much joy and satisfaction like family bonding, enhancing relationships, personal development, community service, and meaningful work. As in any journey, I also faced challenges and frustrations. For instance, I picked up new habits, both good and bad; and experienced failures that made me doubt myself.
Today, almost six years after I found my “less-travelled” path and attained success measured in my own terms, I’m challenging myself once more and aiming for another breakthrough. My personal theme for this year is STRETCH! I’m stretching to grow out of my comfort zone, and to once more, fulfill that hunger for life’s adventures, opportunities, learning and growth.
Paulo Coelho has written “A boat is safe in the harbor, but that is not the purpose of a boat.” This year, I’ll sail away from the harbor to continue my journey for continuous learning, growth and empowerment. “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” Like Steve Jobs, I need to change something every now and then to ensure an ongoing “Yes” answer to this question. It might have taken some time to get out of my new comfort zone, but I’m so glad I’m feeling brave, hungry and foolish again for new adventures!