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steve jobs and death

October 11, 2011

Steve Jobs died last week. An innovative thinker, contagiously passionate, and obviously charismatic, the co-founder of Apple certainly left his mark. He was one of a kind that made our world a better place. In the stories about Job’s life flooded the internet, I came across a commencement speech he gave at Stanford in 2006.

A thoughtful and inspiring speech. I want to highlight one part:

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.

Steve Jobs had stared death in the face and lived to tell about it. Knowing, really knowing, you are going to die someday brings a certain sort of wisdom. Moses, in Psalm 90, prayed, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

Though the years, I have met people who had a similar experience to Steve Jobs. They understood death in a way others didn’t and, as result, lived differently. These folks didn’t go out and change the technology industry or anything. They didn’t even chase one adventure after the next. But they had a unique perspective. They really understood that they, along with the world, were broken and finite. This dose of reality didn’t lead to abandoning all hope but rather led to a certain way of living. They understood every moment was a gift. They understood failure doesn’t kill you and so they risked, not only in their vocations but also in their relationships. They had those conversations that we put off with loved ones. They said those hard to say words.

My point is simply this: wisdom is gained when we number our days. You. Me. We all will die. Yes, Jesus defeated death and will make all things new. But knowing that we will die must change the way we live today.

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