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Analysis of Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Speech

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In the year of 2011, the world lost one of the most successful figures in the high-tech business — Steve Jobs. He was the creator of Apple, Pixar Animation and NeXT. On the day of Stanford University 114th Commencement in 2005, he shared his personal anecdotes and urged the graduates to seek their dreams and discover the window of opportunities in life’s hindrances, as well as death itself. They very first line of his speech, Steve Jobs compliments the Stanford graduates as he instantly appealed their emotions. “I’m honored to be with you today for your commencement for one of the finest universities in the world” (Jobs). He then states that he never graduated from college. He humiliates himself a little bit, making the audience feel very accomplished at the same time. We cannot deny that the continuous modernizations of Steve Job’s work with technology transformed the world, permanently. His objective in this speech to encourage students to follow their dreams was delivered very straight-forward and persuasively. Jobs brought up three stories from his life and used that to illustrate his philosophies.

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His first story was about connecting the dots; chase after the things you desire and by having faith in doing so, everything will come together. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards, so you have to trust that the dots somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something”. And that will make all the difference. He told his second story in connection with love and loss. In his early years he stumbled upon what he loved to do; It was right then, at the age of 20 that Steve indeed loved what he did when the start of Apple emerged in his parents garage with Steve Wozniak. Due to his hard work, 10 years later, Apple Inc. grew to be a $2 billion company with the both of them along with over 4,000 employees. At the age of 30, the release of the first and finest Macintosh took place. Meanwhile, Jobs got fired from his own company that he started. He compared his emotions to a dropped baton that was being passed to him. He shared that he still loved what he did and decided to start over. Obstacles are inevitable and will disturb your pathway, but do not let a loss of confidence take over. There is always good in a bad situation. His third story, he described his near-death experience. He skillfully connects with his young audience on how to regain success while finding their passion. Here is a part of his speech that I was really fascinated by. “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” (Jobs). This idea of remembering that one of us will be dead soon was a massive tool to help him make the big choices in life. Jobs suffered from a rare form of pancreatic disease that he was diagnosed with in 2003. He found himself in an extremely hostile situation, but later was prepared to conquer catastrophe.

It is essential to understand the difference between the two types of verbal messages, both denotatively and connotatively, for it allows us to give clear messages while communicating. “Denotative meaning is the literal or the dictionary definition of a word. Connotative meaning is the interpretation of a word based on personal experiences”. Steve uses the denotative meaning of the word “commencement”. The dictionary definition of commencement is a ceremony in which degrees or diplomas are conferred on graduating students. Also used as the denotative meaning is the word “death”. Steve uses the connotative meaning of the phrase “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish” (Jobs). I think he used this phrase to keep the students reminded that they are only just starting the life they are far away from; the only way they will get to where they want to be is to continue the progress and keep up the hard work. He uses the connotative meaning of the word “renaissance” (rebirth/revival) to portray the current state of Apple. Also, he uses the connotative meaning of receiving a “death sentence” aka his cancer diagnosis, but is saved later by a “rebirth” aka his operation.

A concrete word refers to something you can experience with your senses. He says to “trust your gut”. That may lead to a sense of starvation. A concise message is a very brief message with unnecessary words taken out. Jobs says “I still loved what I did.” He used simple words and was straight to the point about his feeling.

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Jobs ended his speech very powerfully using that phrase “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish”. Overall I think he did a phenomenal job repeating his words here and there to really assert his overall argument to the grads. There are many ways the information provided from the textbook can be used in a professional environment to encourage effective communication. Use the descriptive “I” language rather than the evaluative “you” language. No one in the workplace likes to be blamed so using this approach is effective and will affect any goals you are trying to accomplish. Be Genuine rather than manipulate. That will avoid team members feeling the need to be defensive.

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Analysis Of Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Speech. (2020, December 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 5, 2023, from
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