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Wednesday, 4th January 2012


In my last blog, I quoted Steve Jobs' iPhone as an example to talk about multitasking. Unexpectedly he passed away only a week later, leaving many people grief-stricken. This again reminds us that life is full of uncertainties, and life is short.

After the death of Steve Jobs, a video [1] of his speech made at the Stanford University in 2005 became very popular on the web. I think many of us have already watched it. His speech made reference to three stories from his own life to encourage the young graduates. The first story talked about him dropping out from the compulsory courses shortly after he entered college; instead he went to the classes which interested him, including calligraphy. As a result, he could later apply his learning to introduce beautiful typography to the world of personal computers. His second story talked about him being fired from Apple Computer when he was very successful in his career nine years after he founded the company. He felt devastated for some time, but he could start over and subsequently established NeXT Computer and the very successful Pixar Animation Studios. Later NeXT was taken over by Apple, enabling him to go back to Apple and reached a new height in his career. His last story was about him being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about a year before his speech. He was able to turn the threat of death into a positive driving force to encourage himself and everyone to make the best use of the limited life, not to be trapped by dogma, and to strive towards what we truly want to achieve.

Within only a space of two years, Steve Jobs completed the development and launched the epoch-making iPhone, bringing him to the summit of his career. His success story lends credence to the philosophies of his speech: pursuing the study and career that we love, the ability to withstand setbacks and start over again, and striving towards our goal. These philosophies are indeed the keys of his success, and merit our reflection and adoption.

The philosophies of Steve Jobs remind me about the book "Mindset" [2] , authored by renowned psychologist Carol Dweck, that I read a few years ago. Based on her many-year studies, she reckoned that the success or not of a person depends on his/her mindset: if one possesses a growth mindset, believing that one's own efforts could bring personal improvements, that perseverance could overcome difficulties, and that failures could be viewed as challenges - this kind of person would be able to learn from failure and finally succeed. On the contrary, if one possesses a fixed mindset, believing that one's own qualities (talented or mediocre) are fixed traits, that success would only depend on whether one is born with talent, and that personal efforts would be futile - this kind of person would tend to be conservative and would not take up challenges in order to avoid failure. As a result, he/she is not able to learn from failure, develop and grow.

The theory of Carol Dweck is rather similar to the motto of one of my friends: "It is best if we experience setback at some stage in our life, as this would make us even stronger, more mature, and more capable to stand up to challenges."This would initially sound difficult to appreciate - who would like setback? Recalling when I was 14 years old, I started to suffer from eye diseases (retinal detachment, with central vision and reading ability frequently impaired due to internal hemorrhage of the eyes). As a result, I could not attend physical education classes. Studying and reading were very much affected and became a strenuous task. At times, I would rather put aside the study and go on hiking. Not only could I adjust my mood and positively tackle the difficulties, I could also enjoy the fresh air and do some degree of physical exercise. Later I gradually cultivated this healthy habit of hiking and it turned out that my results at the secondary school open examinations and at the university were not bad. I think this sharing may be an example of growth amid setback!

As the start of a new year, I wish for everyone to have a growth mindset, and to always strive for improvement and excellence!

CM Shun

Steve Jobs delivering his commencement speech at the Stanford University in 2005[1]
Steve Jobs delivering his commencement speech at the Stanford University in 2005 [1]



[2] Carol S. Dweck, 2006: Mindset - The New Psychology of Success.

Last revision date: <17 Jan 2013>