Steve Jobs – Academy of Achievement (Speech) 1982
Good afternoon. Everyone’s probably been sitting here for a long time, huh? I just got here this afternoon, so I’m… my mind is somewhere over Iowa.
But, a few things. Everyone here, I was told, is real bright. Is that true? Plus, I want to meet Eric later. Which one’s Eric? Oh hi Eric, how you doin’?
We’ve got about 3,500 people at Apple, and we build computers, and I had a chance to meet some of you today, and a bunch of you have used ‘em and told me about that and I appreciate that a lot.
I was talking to a man named Ralph. Ralph’s about 11 or 12, and Ralph uses an Apple. And I was telling Ralph about when I was a kid, because we didn’t get a chance to grow up with Apples. And about how my first experience with a computer was having to take all these – type out a program and take all these cards to a computer center and half an hour later you’d get the result, and it was prehistoric compared to the way it is now. And Ralph didn’t understand this at all. And it really signaled that the real optimism of youth is that they don’t understand how bad it used to be. And that they really take the accomplishments of the last generation for granted and they’re still not happy. And so if there’s one thing that I wish, is that all the sorta “God bless America” stuff you’re hearing from us doesn’t dull you into complacency with the way things are, and that you retain that idealism, and you retain that feeling that the way things are isn’t good enough because you’re all citizens of the world and the world desperately needs your idealism and desperately needs your help.
And a lot of stuff here is rags to riches.
I was listening back there. Sorta wanna be careful about that because there’s a lot of people that have been real successful in other terms that aren’t here, because maybe they didn’t make a lot of money, that you want to listen to very carefully. And one of the things that tends to run through some of the things that people here have talked about is innovation and creativity. And if you’re really bright — Have you ever thought about what it is to be intelligent? Probably some of you have, right? ‘Cause you meet your friend, and he’s pretty dumb, and maybe you think you’re smarter and you wonder what the difference is? And I’ve thought about this a little bit myself, and one of the things is, it seems to me a lot of it’s memory, but a lot of it’s the ability to sorta zoom out like you’re in the city and you can look at the whole thing from about the 80th floor down at the city, and while other people are trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B reading these stupid little maps, you can just see it all out in front of you. You can see the whole thing, and you can make connections that just seem obvious because you can see the whole thing. That’s why bright people feel guilty a lot, because they come up with stuff that they just say “Hey, look at this,” and other people give them these dumb awards and they feel funny.
But the key thing is that if you’re gonna make connections which are innovative, you’ve — to connect two experiences together, that you have to not have the same bag of experiences as everyone else does, or else you’re going to make the same connections, and then you won’t be innovative, and then nobody will give you an award. So, what you gotta do, is get different experiences than the normal course of events. And, one of the funny things about being bright is everyone puts you on this path, you know, to go to high school, go to college… I heard about some kid that’s 14 on his way to Stanford, and that’s great. That’s sort of out of the ordinary, but you might want to think about going to Paris and being a poet for a few years. Or might wanna go to a third-world country. I’d highly advise that, and see people and leppers with their hands falling off and all that stuff. It’s very much so worth doing. You know, fall in love with two people at once. You know. Walt Disney took LSD, do you know that? He did it once, and that’s where the idea for Fantasia came from. It’s true, and you can go hear stories about all these people, and the key thing that comes through is that they had a variety of experiences which they could draw upon in order to try to solve a problem or attack a particular dilemma in a kind of unique way. And so one of the things that you’ll get a lot of pressure to do is to go in one very clear direction, and believe in God and all that other stuff, and that’s great, but don’t ever walk by a Zen Buddhist because of that. Sit down and talk and buy him lunch.
One of the things that I had in my mind growing up — I don’t know how it got there, but that the world was sort of something that happened just outside your peepers, and you didn’t really try to change it. You just sorta tried to find your place in it and have the best life you could, and it would all just go on out there, and there were some pretty bright people running it. And, as you start to interact with some of these people, you find they’re not a lot different than you. The people actually making these decisions everyday, that’re sorta running the world, are not really very much different than you. And they might have a little more judgment in some areas, but basically they’re the same. And, once you realize that, you start to feel you have a responsibility to do something about it, because the world’s in pretty bad shape right now. And, I guess, one of the things that motivates a lot of people that I’ve seen, that actually get out and do something in any different field, is that we all sort of eat food that other people cook, and wear clothing that other people make, and speak a language that other people evolved, and use someone else’s mathematics, and we’re sorta taking from this giant pool constantly. And the most ecstatic thing in the whole world is to actually put something back into that pool. And I think that people from all the fields maybe you’ve heard from here, and a whole bunch that you haven’t, would express the same sort of feeling. It’s the most ecstatic thing that I’ve encountered, so I would highly recommend it.
And one of the major areas – I know probably with all this stuff I might not be invited back here next year, so I’ll say it now… When you pass a certain age – I don’t know what is, 25, 30 years old, you sort of as a human being inherit the responsibility of being a guard of the Earth for future generations, of which you are all a member to inherit. And, I’m not exactly sure what that means, but just obviously that’s the case. And I think our particular — this particular — generation of people that is your guardian, is doing an extremely poor job in one area, and one area where all of the help that you all can muster is really necessary. And that is that the chances that this planet is gonna remain in one piece through your natural lifetimes is not extremely high right now. And it’s fairly dismal. And I anticipate having some kids one day, and helping ‘em grow up to be sane human beings. And you people are gonna be the people that’re running the planet when my kids grow up, so would you please pay attention to this problem and try to do something about it, ’cause I’d like to see my kids grow up and be able to come here and sit like you and listen to a buncha funny people. Thank you.
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