Understand Steve Jobs’
2005 Stanford graduation speech

Before you read Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford graduation speech (“commencement address” is the formal term), here are a few hints that might help you understand its background and some of the idioms and words he uses. 

--‘no big deal’ means nothing of major importance. (He’s being modest.) 

Idioms and Vocabulary in his 1st Story

portrait of Steve Jobs

--In “the 1st story” Jobs was explaining why he went to college, even though he didn’t know what kind of work he wanted to do, then why he “dropped out” but continued attending classes (though he would not get credit for them since he wasn’t paying for them.) 

--He was adopted (legally brought into a family he had not been born into), and his parents had promised his actual mother that they would make sure he went to college. (She had decided to let him be adopted because she was not married-- “unwed.”) 

-- To connect the dots means to see the hidden or complete picture. Some children’s coloring books used to have numbered dots that children could connect to make a picture. That’s what he’s referring to-- seeing the pattern of what’s really important. 

--To relent is to change one’s attitude and cooperate with someone else, 

--priceless- so valuable you can’t put a price on it, 

--proportionally spaced fonts- the spacing of the letters is designed to look good 

--“And since Windows just copied the Mac”-- he’s making a joke about the famous rivalry (competition) between his company, Apple, and Microsoft Windows. Steve Jobs was famous for his dislike of Microsoft and its way of doing business.

The 2nd story:

--released the Mac-made it public (set it free to go anywhere, outside the company) 

--fired- told by your employer to leave your job (so you can no longer work there), 

--diverge- move farther & farther apart, 

--a falling out- a disagreement or conflict, 

--sided with him-- agreed with him, were on his side; 

--devastating- very hard-- destructive; 

--to let someone down is to disappoint them; 

--Entrepreneurs are independent, self-employed business people. (They don’t work for someone else but for their own company. They are often creative or innovative, thinking of new ideas and daring to try new approaches to solve problems.) 

--dropped the baton refers to the instrument passed from person to person in a relay race. If someone drops it, the whole team is likely to lose. 

--screwing up-- doing a bad job; failing 

--dawn on me- become obvious, as we can see more clearly once the sun comes up 

--turn of events-- the way things happened 

--Don’t settle-- don’t’s accept something less than doing what you love. (Settle has several meanings, but here it’s like a legal settlement, or settling an argument. Each side accepts a compromise-- something less than what they really wanted-- in order to end the dispute between them.)

Vocabulary in his 3rd story:

--encounter- to find or come into contact with 

--external expectations- what others expect or look for from a person 

--sedated- given drugs to reduce pain or make a person less conscious of feeling 

--concept- idea 

--destination- end of a journey; the place you are going to 

--notions- ideas 

--issues- in this case, several releases of a magazine; individual booklets that are published every month or two 

--run its course- finished or ended 


Read or listen to Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford graduation speech (commencement address) here.

After you listen to his speech, think about these questions 

--Why did Jobs say dropping out of school, being fired, and being diagnosed with cancer were good things for him? 

-- Steve Jobs encouraged people to take risks to “follow your heart” (do what you love) instead of just doing what others expect or do. He said that since we will die either way, we have nothing to lose. Do you agree? 

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