Helping people work out what to do with their lives

It’s been a day of sad news. I guess I knew it was coming but I woke up this morning to find out that Steve Jobs had died. I’m glad that his commencement address at Stanford is doing the rounds — it is a fantastic talk. It’s filled with emotion and insight but I also love the way he doesn’t respond to any of the whoops or applause. He had something to say and was going to say it.

I find it interesting that the Whole Earth Catalogue had a massive impact on Jobs when he was a student. He says that “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” (a Stewart Brand line) was the phrase that saw him through. I like the fact that 25 years later Stewart is still finding ways to make young people think — now through the Long Now Foundation and his books. Jobs in turn went on to inspire huge numbers of people working out what they want to do with their lives — through the things he created and the occasional interviews and talks he gave.

It hasn’t made the headlines in the same way but I also found out this morning that James Cornford has passed away. I only met James once but he had a very strong influence on me in the short time we spent together. He set up an essay prize which I found out about somehow — I’m fairly sure the day before the deadline. I remember that I liked the given title “In defence of apathy” and so I decided to have a go. It was one of the first times I sat down and wrote down what I thought. A few months later I got the call to say my essay had won.

The ceremony was tagged onto another event and wasn’t a big deal. But we met afterwards and he told me that the reason he liked it was that mine was just different to everybody else’s and that was a good thing. I was just starting to work for think tanks at the time and ‘stay different’ stuck with me.

So I just want to say thank you to the people who spend time helping people who are working out what to do with their lives and how to do it. It’s important and I hope I can do it too.