Ten Pieces of Inspiration #34

Each week, I highlight ten things each week that inspired me to greater financial, personal, and professional success. Hopefully, they will inspire you as well.

This past week, Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple, likely due to health reasons. Jobs’ history, particulary with the creation of Apple and Pixar as an entrepreneur and the magnificent rebuilding of Apple from a nearly-defunct company to one of the largest in America over the past decade and a half, have been really inspirational to me. Because of the news about him, I spent some time this week reading some of Jobs’ writings and listening to some of his speeches, so this week’s column will include a few items from him.

1. Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement address
Never mind that it’s simply a commencement address, this is one of the most inspirational speeches I’ve ever seen.

Here’s the text of the speech if you’d prefer to read it.

2. Sophocles on chance
Luck is a part of life, indeed. But if you never put yourself in position to take advantage of good luck, it’s going to seem that bad luck is all that life has for you.

“Chance never helps those who do not help themselves.” – Sophocles

When things are going well, it’s tempting to just enjoy the good life. The successful prepare for what’s next, good or bad.

3. Two Girls Reading (1934) by Pablo Picasso
The other day, I watched my wife and my daughter sitting together on the couch looking at a book. Shortly thereafter, I saw this painting and it struck me how many of the same emotions really came through.

Two Girls Reading 1934

All art imitates life. Many thanks to Bob History for the image.

4. Steve Jobs on quality over quantity
You’re usually better off doing a thing or two right than doing several things halfway.

“Quality is more important than quantity. One home run is much better than two doubles.” – Steve Jobs

Think about it in your workplace. The people that get ahead are usually people who are really good at one or two specific things and their skill in those areas overshadow other areas where they might not be as strong.

5. Old barns in Iowa
A reader wrote to me recently asking me whether or not the television series American Pickers was actually legitimate or not. Were there really people all over the place that had barns full of old random things?

Old Barn

It’s absolutely true, and I’ve explored quite a few of them over the years. You have no idea what you’ll find in an old farmer’s barn at any old family farm in the Midwest. It’s an adventure ever time, and one that I look forward to whenever there’s an opportunity. The excitement that such adventures bring is really exhilirating.

Many thanks to Mary for the picture.

6. Hipmunk
While thinking about some travel that might be happening down the road, I tried out several different sites that helped you find flights that matched your needs. Hipmunk just blew them all out of the water.

Just go there and try searching for a flight. It just makes finding the right flight for your time needs incredibly easy. That’s just great (and useful) interface design.

7. School
This past week was my oldest child’s first full week of school. He gets on the school bus each morning and gets off of it each afternoon. In the middle, he’s starting on a completely new journey in his life.

School Buses

Multiple buses stop at his bus stop each morning because of the sheer abundance of children there. Most of them are pretty well-behaved. Each one of them has fears and joys and a different life. All of them are sharing this journey.

Many thanks to Alex Starr for the picture.

8. Steve Jobs on focus
Focus isn’t about the important thing. It’s about the unimportant things.

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.” – Steve Jobs

Focus happens pretty easily when you manage to filter out the lesser things.

9. Blue Butterfly Day by Robert Frost
About two weeks ago, we found a large green caterpillar that looked just about ready to form a cocoon. We picked it up, placed it in a homemade terrarium in our living room, and watched the caterpillar make his cocoon, stay inside for about two weeks, and then, just a few days ago, begin to emerge from the cocoon.

We took the terrarium outside, removed the lid, and watched the butterfly crawl out of the cocoon, stretch its wings a bit, and about half an hour later, fly away. It was a common swallowtail butterfly, with lots of blue on its wings. My children were entranced with this whole experience.

This poem captured that whole experience very well, though the season is just a bit different.

It is blue-butterfly day here in spring,
And with these sky-flakes down in flurry on flurry
There is more unmixed color on the wing
Than flowers will show for days unless they hurry.

But these are flowers that fly and all but sing:
And now from having ridden out desire
They lie closed over in the wind and cling
Where wheels have freshly sliced the April mire.

10. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech
For me, things tend to be more powerful when they’re out of the context we’re familiar with. We often see this speech in January, near his birthday, but it’s very powerful at other times.

Let me make this really clear: as long as you are not harming another person, I am okay with whatever you choose to do. The kinder you are to others, the more I respect you, and the only way I’ll lose that respect is through cruelty to others.

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