Monday, December 10, 2007

Steve jobs@ Stanford

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.
The first story is about connecting the dots.I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.

Let me give you one example:Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. 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.My second story is about love and loss.I was lucky – I found what I loved to do early in life.
Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation - the Macintosh - a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me – I still loved what I did.
The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I retuned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. 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.My third story is about death.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.Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.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 other's 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.When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Who I want to be?

There are three kind of people in this world.
First, who invent things that make the world go round .Second, who glean information about these products and make the world turn upside down and third who transfer (read carry) these details to America. Scouring for these three categories of people in our college, I came across the GATE, CAT and GRE aspirants. Though the desire to do well in these competitions arise from as early as first year, the dream gets converted into a hard-core obsession only when the other members of the group are seen fluttering the pages of their books which runs the gamut from “Word power made easy” to “Prepare for GATE” by Muhammad Ali .Though the strategies for cracking these competitions might differ but the ultimate goal remains one ‘an immaculated bright future’.
However, a twist in the story arises when a maverick dares to find out the reason for taking these examinations and that is when hells break loose because reasoning is already an anachronism in India and whoever does it is a dupe.
Why do I want to be a doctor when the only thing that fascinates me is color? Well, of course, I wanted to be a doc when I was in kindergarten but that was because it was easier to spell ‘doctor’ than to spell ‘engineer’ and then 99% students of my class wanted to become a doctor, except for the one guy who wanted to become the president of USA. The reason, however, is not of much reverence as taking the PMTs and IIT JEE is already a national hobby in India. Therefore, it does not matter if all your life you were in constant infatuation with the lizards and dreamt of being a herpetologist because the moment your neighbor’s wife, who is incidentally your mom’s greatest foe, gets to know this, your intelligence quotient automatically comes under scrutiny and you eventually decide to take these exams.
The story now moves one-step ahead. You are a soon-to-be graduate struggling to decide your future. So what you do? According to the trend, you have three options: CAT, GATE and GRE and then you ponder for a while and randomly select one of the three.oh!! It is CAT. Surprisingly, while preparing for CAT you establish a link between CAT and GRE preparation and you decide to take GRE as well. Now you swot really hard and you get into a decent MBA college but just as you were on your way to take admission in the MBA College, you meet your old pal who is heading towards the US embassy. He tells you one hundred and one advantages of living in the big apple and how Indians have a mysterious ability to fare better in the west than in India and so you decide to put down your jingoistic cap and head towards the west.
Funny indeed but true. Such is the plight of Indian students who keep chasing the dreams that do not really belong to them. Every morning millions of students go to schools in the constant hope that one day they will become what actually they were never meant to be and in this process fail to discover their flairs.A race of clones cannot transform the fate of a nation. It is high time that we get out of our shells and see life through our own eyes than with someone else’s glasses. It is only then that we can bring about a difference to others and to our very own selves.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Brainy songs

Humans form a strange breed. Not for the fact that they can speak better than chimpanzees or they can invent laptops and even explore the moon. But basically for the fact that things that they do and things that happen to them cannot be always interpreted by the normal ways of science. One of these strange (actually hilarious) things keeps happening to me and I am rather bewildered.You know what.. MY MIND SINGS TO ME!

Sounds strange but yes it does! Infact sometimes the songs are so apt that I am myself surprised at the stupendous intelligence of my brain (hope it could be this intelligent during examinations too).This singing thing actually started about a year back. I was gazing at the visual display unit of my library computer with absolute attention,waiting for the result of some very important exanmination to pop out and just as it did. My heart missed a beat.In plain monotonous font the messege read 'NOT SELECTED' and my mind starts singing to me,'Sapne to bas sapne hote hai,sach hai wo kab apne hote hai.' Phew...How rude! Its actually because of the lack of adequate grey-matter in the brain that all this happened to me and its the brain in turn who is singing to me!Anyways I swallowed the bitter pill,afterall a tussle with the brain would lead to dire consequences;)

In the words of Robert Frost, 'Life goes on' and so after the VDU episode I was trying to bring my life back to track and I decided to work as hard as possible and improve my predicament.One fine day in the middle of my preparation,my brain sings to me,'Magar kya kare ki ye mumkun nahin hai..taare milte nahin aise..taare milte nahin aise.' Now things really got rough.This brain is getting on my nerves.What does it actually try to prove by playing all 'thakela' songs from flop Hindi movies? Songs which I never personally liked are being played to me as a matter of constant indignation. Well anyways I have to survive this tussle and prove that I can survive without its help.

Days passed by and I managed to do well in quite a few exams. The singing though did not cease but I took it as a matter of challenge and a source of constant motivation.However,now my brain had changed its object of disgust. Now it would sing songs that would be aimed at other harmless creatures. Sometimes even my close friends and aquaintances were targeted.And like a strict mentor, I would just try to ignore the singing and not take it too seriously.Afterall,its a stupid whim of my quirky brain who seems to be too much inspired by 'INDIAN IDOL' and is just longing to sing anytime anywhere.

So just the other day, I was reading newspaper and was despising the pathetic performance of team-India in the world cup. Afterall how could they play so badly!In a country where cricket is more than a religion,such a dismal performance is definitely not called for. My brain all of a sudden gets emotional and starts singing aloud,'Kho ke apne par hi to usne tha udna seekha,toote sapnon mein Allah ki marzi ka manzar paayega'

Exams..go away!

Gurrrrrrrrrrr#&*$!!!!............I feel the pangs in my stomach and butterflies inside my heart.....strange na? who cares?.....universities(my final exams) are approaching towards my life at an alarming speed............and my life has slowly started turning upside-down!!!!Not that its the first time I am going to appear for them,but ironically this will be my last endeavour to clear unis!!!.............And I do not know why...but I am tensed.....very tensed! If the question paper fails to hit my neuronal cells at the right place.............I will be duped for a lifetime and all my previous nine points would be mean 'merely nothing'!!! So hear I am in the sexy and sleek MAHE library...scouring for books starting with strange names.! 30 minutes,to be precise,was the time that I took to search for RANG & DALE......until the librarian came to my rescue and told me that RANG & DALE was a pharmacology book and not a book on clinical pharmacy as I had earlier percieved.. Things really seem to have changed ....even my roomie,a hard-core party beast,did not party this saturday! And I dont know about others but I am developing strange symptoms.I am practicing 'seclusion' and all of a sudden I have become the biggest cynic of the world. Gosh!! too much for this 'chemical locha'!!If people give me notes,they become my 'best' friends....If they do not,they are selfish,self-centered,useless bastards....Afterall examination is the scale on which sentiments like love and friendship is tested!

The more you cram,the more you spew and hence the more you score.So I should ensure that the reverse-peristalsis system of my body is in place to make all the cramming wothwhile.' The HEPA filter used in the sterilty unit should have 99.67% purity(mind you not 99.66%)and it should work at the speed of 110feet/min'.UPDPL(the company from where I did my industrial training)had no HEPA filters at all.Infact,the company had no filters.No Good manufacturing procedures were followed there.And the company supplied 100 percent of its drugs to all the city hospitals of Lucknow and near-by areas.So that means that most of the patients in Lucknow consumed drugs that were manufactured in a company that did not utilise a thing of what I was learning for my final exams.Gosh!!why is India still so backward.DIGRESSIONS...DIGRESSIONS!!! Fifty percent of my time goes into thinking strange things in life; like,'why did she say that?she is so mean' or 'what must Salman be thinking now?does he really love Katrina?'....Gaud...please give me a break!!!Why does no one discuss about 'Obsessive Compulsive Digressive Syndrome' in pharmacology?
My marks ,though,will not change the world and neither getting good-marks will change my life for better...But comparative deprivation is hurting me like a sore in the ass.!.TV room has become as haunted as the end-point road in the night....and inspirational songs have failed to inspire me anymore.So here I am, practicing anothar stress-buster i.e. 'Blogging' to bring some relief to my boring life.And as I write this article,I am reminded of a quote from my college magazine,"Examinations are formidable even to the best prepared,because the greatest fool can ask more than the wisest man can answer." Awfully sane!!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

One step towards India

I have often marveled at the idea of being busy. A hectic day with a tight schedule with very less time to day dream and with no time to succumb to the inevitable compulsion of checking the cell phone every other minute. It was with this notion of ‘Oh!!It’s so cool to be busy’ that I decided to go for computer classes. One of hour computing, I thought, could also rejuvenate my ‘flaccid-rendered’ nerve cells besides of course making me busy.

The comp place was a cool compact hall with numerous cabins and fat computers that seemed to be imported directly from the mid-1990s.I was allotted a computer right in the front and the instructor started the class.

'Good evening!’
‘Good evening sirrr’
'This month we will deal with MS-EXCEL in detail. Turn to page three
and type the data base on your screens’
‘Taktaktakkktakkktak taktak tt taktakkkkkkkktakkk’
‘Typed sirrrr’
‘And what about you? Have you not typed??”
‘Nohh sir!!’, said a burqha clad young woman and since then a
Series of ‘Nos’ have occurred with the same fervor and obstinacy.

When the rest of the class is busy in gulping a piece of what seems to be a cake-walk. The poor girl is engrossed in searching for a lost ‘I’ or sometimes a lost ‘T’ and sometimes trying to track the route to this previously found but now lost world (or word).But she handles things with an unparallel determination. Sometimes she would get under the skin of the instructor and blow his fuse but her immediate retort to the situation would be a silly simper, which though ambiguous, yet easily conveys the message that, ‘I come from the nearby village and when the other students of the class were busy in discovering different arenas of computer life, I was waiting in darkness for the electric-bulb to pop out light again’.

But,somewhere down the line, I can see a spark in her eyes. A desire to fly freely in the sky. A desire to get hold of the washed-away dreams. A desire to evolve. A desire to change the world in a small little way. She is one of those maverick migrants who have already started moving from the orthodox ‘Bharat’ to the poised ‘India’ and as long as this osmosis is taking place, India I know will keep growing.