top of page

STEVE JOBS SPEECH - Analysis of Steve Jobs commencement speech

Steve Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple, was a world-renowned and successful entrepreneur whose ground-breaking approaches to business and marketing captivated the public's interest.

In 2005, he disclosed why he dropped out of college in a 114th commencement speech at Stanford University, and why he believed it was one of the finest things he ever did, which was not only motivating but could intrigue any critical mind.

A rare speech that exceeded the genre and found its way into the cultural fabric, it is the most-watched commencement speech of all time, and for good reason, with almost 40 million views on YouTube.

Rhetorical Analysis of Steve Jobs Stanford Speech

Here is my analysis of Steve Jobs' speech consists of his three life stories:

  • one, in which he recounts a story about dropping out of college,

  • another on the lessons he learnt after being kicked out by Apple in 1985,

  • and finally, about his thoughts on death.

Despite the fact that he began by satirising his own education, he appeared proud throughout. Let’s read his 3 stories first and extract the Life Lessons:

1. First Story: Connecting the Dots

He started speech by talking about being adopted as a baby, and why, 17 years later, he attended Reed College in Oregon for only six months before drop out.

He dropped out of Reed College after only a few months, only to take a calligraphy class that might have helped him develop several typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts for Mac had he not trusted his intuition and done something he wasn't interested in doing.

He described how he took a calligraphy course, which taught him about font usage, character spacing, and the importance of design.

Jobs explained, as with any look in the rear-view mirror, how attending that class had such a tremendous impact on his life.

He talked about how you can only connect the dots when you look back. Then he made another interesting, and perhaps unheralded, statement.

“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.” - Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs Speech - Connecting the Dots
Steve Jobs Speech - Connect the Dots

2. Second Story: Love and Loss

As per him, he was lucky to find what he loved to do early in life.

He started the Apple in his parents' garage at the age of 20. After 10 years, Apple had grown into a $2 billion company with over 4,000 employees.

However, Jobs was fired from Apple at the age of 30. He felt like he had let down the previous generation of entrepreneurs and was a very public failure. He even thought about running away from the valley.

But Jobs realized that he still loved what he did. He decided to start over and founded two new companies, NeXT and Pixar.

Jobs was convinced that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to him. This enlightened him to enter one of the most creative periods of his life.

Pixar went on to create the world's first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and was the most successful animation studio in the world at that time.

Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 and helped the company to become one of the most successful technology companies in the world. He is a true inspiration to anyone who has ever been fired or experienced failure.

"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." - Steve Jobs

create and learning
Creating and Learning

3. Third Story: Death

At the age of 17, he read a quote: "If you live each day as if it were your last, someday you'll most certainly be right."

He took this to heart and has since looked in the mirror every morning and questioned himself, "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" He reflected he should make a change if the response of NO continues.

Jobs stated that understanding that he would die soon is the most significant tool he's ever met to assist him make life's critical decisions.

When you consider your own mortality, all external expectations, pride, and fear of disgrace or failure fade away, leaving only what is actually important.

It assists in preventing the illusion that you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no excuse for not doing what seems right.

In 2004, he was diagnosed with cancer. He was told that he had only three to six months to live. He lived with this diagnosis all day, and then had a biopsy. The biopsy results showed that it was a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. Jobs had the successful surgery.

That experience made him realized that life is short and that we should not waste our time living someone else’s life.

“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 others’ 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.” - Steve Jobs

plans vs time
My Plans vs MyTime

Job’s 7 Life Lessons

Here are seven timeless lessons that can be learned from this remarkable Stanford speech.


1. Always question the assumptions

"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." - Steve Jobs

Modern society's superpower is independent thinking.

To forge your unique path, break free from conventional norms and question everything that doesn't resonate with you.

Don't rely on others' beliefs; develop your own perspectives and chart your course through life with confidence.

2. Curiosity is your compass

"And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on...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...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 10 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." - Steve Jobs

Life is a mysterious adventure without a clear map or instructions. The majority of it must be done on our own, even though with the support of loved ones.

If you embrace your curiosity, it may serve as your guide.

Embracing genuine, inspired curiosity in your quest for knowledge can frequently have great results, even though it is unpredictable.

Follow your curiosity as your life guide.

6 rings comparing with Curiosity golden ring
Curiosity is the ultimate rule.

3. Trust in the dots

"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 backward 10 years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. 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." - Steve Jobs

My life has been significantly touched by the "dots" idea. The line of our existence connects all of the experiences, choices, achievements, and mistakes that make up who we are.

It can be difficult to connect fresh dots since life's complexity obscures its relationships.

As a result, a lot of life involves taking a leap of faith. a firm conviction that those holes will be filled—somehow, someway.

Never, ever lose trust in the dots.


4. Don’t afraid to restart

His unconditional faith and trust in his work enabled him to achieve all the success he deserved, despite the great devastation of being fired from his own company (Apple).

“I'd been rejected, but I was still in love, so I decided to start over.” - Steve Jobs
“Sometimes life's going to hit 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.” - Steve Jobs

But he never gave up and rebuilt everything from the zero. Because he was doing something he enjoyed, it was simple for him to make a great comeback, which he accomplished by establishing two new companies: Next and Pixar.

Surprisingly, his life underwent a Renaissance as a result of his public failure.

External pressures and high expectations can weigh you down in life's race, leading to exhaustion.

When feeling overwhelmed, reconnect with the lightness of being a beginner and return to the starting line.

5. Never give-up

"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." - Steve Jobs

In your career and life, if you can choose, always aim for something you love.

One of the primary motivators for settling is a low tolerance for uncertainty. We prefer to settle because we are predisposed to fear uncertainty.

Defeat this impulse by remaining calm and tolerating a little more uncertainty. Never accept anything less than what you truly desire.

In essence in his key discussions he used to say:

"The only way to be successful is to do what you love." Steve Jobs


6. Reminder of mortality

"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

Steve Jobs faced mortality a year before this address after surviving pancreatic cancer.

This encounter brought him a newfound appreciation for life's brevity and its significance.

Life is both long and short at the same time. We often overlook its fleeting nature, getting caught up in stress and losing sight of the precious days passing by.

We frequently overlook the fact that our time is limited until it is too late.

Remember the inevitability of death and cherish each moment.

Time is contrcut through a circle


7. Stay Hungry Stay Foolish

Steve Jobs recalls reading ‘The Whole Earth Catalog’, and the final issue had a photograph of an early morning country road along with these words on it,

"Stay Hungry Stay Foolish." - Steve Jobs

The most crucial battle in life is against normalcy. When young, the fear of being different drove me to fit in, leading to decisions rooted in insecurity.

However, I later realized that our uniqueness is our ultimate advantage, and we must consistently and diligently fight against conformity to maintain it.

Steve Jobs understood this, evident in his famous closing line of the speech.


This speech is full of wisdom and insights that can transform your life. I hope you enjoy Steve jobs commencement speech rhetorical analysis.

You owe it to yourself to watch the whole video. It’s only 15 minutes long, but it will make you rethink your choices, goals, relationships, and more.

Thanks for reading and if you really like this article, please share it with your social circle.


bottom of page