Tag Archives: curiosity

Steve Jobs — Three Tenets of Playing Well

The good life is inspired by love and guided by knowledge. — Bertrand Russell

225px-Steve_JobsWhen I recently found a YouTube version of Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement speech, I was not surprised to see the 1.5 million “hits” to date. This became one of my personal favorites when its transcript appeared in my inbox soon after its presentation. Just in case, it hasn’t landed in your email — I include it below:

I was reminded watching this speech of a quote by Bertrand Russell, a 20th century British philosopher and winner of the Nobel Prize for literature. At the beginning of his autobiography, written in his 80’s, he states:

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy—ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy…With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine…Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer. This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

Job and Russell remind us that love, curiosity and recognition of our mortality are great allies in playing well. When these are ignited within me, I find that I usually play at my best. First, loving what I am doing and who I am serving opens my heart. Curiosity gets my head into the game. Then remembering death and suffering are part of the human being program, centers me into my body and circumstances.

How can we engage these three passions, as Russell calls them, each day? We can pose Steve Job’s question of “If this was your last day on earth would you spend your day as it is planned?” I like to check if what I am doing both brings me joy and has substance. What daily practices assure that you are playing well as Jobs and Russell describe?

Look for Passion, Passion, Passion

Passion burns down every branch of exhaustion. Passion is the supreme elixir and renews all things. No one can grow exhausted when passion is born. Don’t sigh heavily your brow bleak with boredom. Look for passion, passion, passion. — Rumi

Our grandfather played eleven different instruments and wrote his high school’s fight song. Yet, somehow musical prowess got wiped from my mother’s offspring. A source of amusement is singing “Happy Birthday” to unsuspecting visitors at family gatherings. Come visit; it’s worth a giggle if you can stand our butchering!

Meanwhile, if you dropped by any of my maternal cousins’ homes it was a different story. All those ancestral musical talents migrated well into their fingers and voices as they each spent hours composing, singing and playing instruments. They created garage bands and followed the Grateful Dead around the Northwest. Two of my cousins from different branches of our family tree actually created a touring duo called “Gene Pool” — was that just to rub it in that they scooped up all the artistic goodies? My cousin Charlie had a tenor voice that could make me cry.

Growing up, I loved to follow them all around and beg these boys to perform. Why? It’s not only because they all played well (i.e. recurring blog theme), but also it was their enduring joy and passion brought to this art form. Their love of music energized not only them, but also me. Passion is contagious.

On Monday, I asked fifteen college freshman honors students the attributes of their best high school teachers. I heard about instructors who were happy to spend hours after class discussing how to improve a paper and about others who welcomed any question, no matter how off base, as a creative opening for conversation. They all described teachers who were passionate about their jobs and curious where their work it might take them. Thomas Friedman wrote in The World is Flat that “CQ + PQ > IQ.” In other words, your curiosity quotient plus your passion quotient will take you farther than a strong intelligence quotient.

Even though I included Benjamin Zander earlier this year, I must add his Ted talk here once more as a reminder how joy can open doors and hearts in unfathomable ways. I can’t help it, Zander’s passion magnetizes me every time:

What makes you come alive?

Where are you contagious…in a good way?

How can you share what you love?