His words are life changing.  They were life changing for him and they can be life changing for anyone who decides to really take them in and do something with them.  I’m talking about Steve Jobs’s commencement speech at Stanford back in 2005.  This 10-year-old speech is timeless.

The speech is 15 minutes long, so if you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, at least read these key passages:

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. 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. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

As someone who likes to look forward a lot, this can be hard for me.  The best thing I’ve ever done was to invest in working with someone who could help me look at my past to help me connect my dots.  Connecting the dots led to my purpose, which refined the vision for my work and has led to many more good days than bad ones in my life.

And then there’s this…

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.

And this…

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.

And this…

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.

All of this points to something I find myself telling people a lot.  Whether it’s someone who has decided to end their marriage or some who hates their job, it all get’s summed up with these words:  You only get this one life.  We may get more lives than this one or there may be an afterlife where we can have everything we’ve ever wanted, but the only life I’m aware of is the one I’m living now.  So I better make it a good one!

What does all of this have to do with leadership?  You aren’t going to be a good leader if you aren’t doing work that you love.  You aren’t going to inspire excellence from your team when you aren’t inspired by what you do.

We need you to be doing your best work and you’ll do your best work when it’s in line with your purpose. Your purpose is that thing you are always doing no matter what you’re doing. 

I know, that sounds very mysterious, but the thing I’m always doing is helping people understand each other’s perspectives so they can work better together.  It’s my default mode.  There is almost always a vein of fostering understanding that runs through everything I am doing.

You and your team will reach new heights when you figure out what it is that you are always doing and make it something you do on purpose in your business, for your clients and with your team.

Now I want to hear from you, what is your favorite passage from this speech?

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