“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.” – Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs said that at a speech to students graduating from Stanford University in 2005. Steve died on October 5th this year. He was a very successful entrepreneur in the business world, helping to start up Apple Inc, the company that makes Mac computers, the iPod and iPhone. Steve made a lot of money, being worth 7 billion US dollars (that is a 7 with nine zeroes). It is worth listening to that commencement speech. You can find it on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1R-jKKp3NA
At the end of last year, I gave a speech to students graduating from Pelkhil School. I have not made much money. But part of my speech touched on what Steve said
So here is a summary of some of the things I had to say to the first batch of class 12 students leaving Pelkhil. They were a great bunch of people and I enjoyed working with them.
“Do what is right.”
One of the Six Perfections (paramitas) taught by Buddha is ‘morality’ or proper conduct. When you are with other people you may feel inclined to join in with what they are doing. It seems natural. They are all throwing their gum on the floor, so why shouldn’t you? All of them copy in tests, so what is the harm in you doing the same? Because it is not right, and you know it. Others doing something will not make it right. It takes some courage to go against the flow of others, but I urge you to stand up for what you think is correct.
Television has some good points. Books are better though. When you watch a movie, you see the story interpreted by the director. Reading a book lets you be the creator. Using your imagination is going to help stop you leading another’s life. Books will lead to a much better understanding of language and build up your vocabulary as well. Read slowly. Digest each sentence carefully. Take your time. Let some peace into your life. Think about what you read. Or just relax into the world that the writer is opening up for you. The only problem with reading good books is that they end. But then your imagination can take your further.
Or cycle. If you are making a longer journey, use a car, boat or plane, but when the trip is shorter, make your own way. When you get older, strong legs will stop you falling over and you may live a few more years. Walking saves the world. Walking gives you time to meditate over your life. Time to enjoy the sites of the journey, a chance to observe the smaller things in life, to stop and smell the flowers, and get some exercise. What is all the hurry about? These legs were made for walking.
Thich Nhat Hanh is a wise Vietnamese master of Zen Buddhism. When I first read his books, I thought they were too simple. It was me that was being simple. His writing is beautiful and touches on the heart of what life is about. ‘Interbeing’ was his term for how we are all connected together. Every little thing that you do will have some effect on others, and the whole universe. The paper that this magazine is printed on started from the sun which provided energy to the tree which provided pulp for the paper. Then there were all the people that worked on making the paper, and the machines, and the people who dreamed up paper in the first place. All of them connected to you. It is easy to forget other people, but impossible to remove yourself from them. Do your best to remember. (I leant the book I quoted from to someone else, and they have not returned it to me. As a result of their actions, I cannot add a quote. This just goes to show how others do affect us.)
“Don’t Listen to my Advice!”
Like all advice, you do not have to accept it. Test it out if you wish, or ignore it if you find it does not help. No matter who is talking, or how important they seem, always question what is being said. Does it make sense? Blind faith is not a good thing. For example, “Nothing is impossible” is a nice attitude to have, but I have never found two even numbers that add up to and odd number.
Living your own life means taking responsibility. When you do something wrong, admit it and take steps to correct any harm you have caused. If something is out of place, you be the one to start putting things right. Don’t expect to get praise for your actions. It is enough to have helped.