Steve Jobs Rhetorical Analysis
Steve Jobs lived a life unparalleled by the common man. Raising some of the most successful corporations from the ground up, being at the forefront of the technological revolution, and battling pancreatic cancer for a number of years were all things that he succeeded in accomplishing throughout his 56 years of life. He also happened to deliver a brilliant commencement address to one of the finest academic institutions in the world. Any college graduate in the audience that sunny afternoon at Stanford University was in for a treat.
The irony behind the whole situation was the fact that Steve Jobs himself, although arguably one of the most successful men of the 21st century, never graduated college. “…this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation”, Jobs confesses immediately after he begins speaking. Throughout the speech, the experiences he shares with the audience all share a common theme; the pursuit of happiness will lead you down the road of success if you follow your intuition and do what makes you truly happy.
He conveys this message with the use of a cause and effect analysis, contrast, and personal anecdotes. Personal experiences help to create and develop individuality. Steve Jobs learned this at an early age as a young man attending Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Job’s was not certain what he wanted to do with his life and was very indecisive when selecting a major. After six months he decided to drop out of school and found himself sleeping somewhere other than a place of his own. Jobs explains, “I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5?
deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. ”(1) Initially it seemed somewhat odd for him to be mentioning a stage in his life that resembled the lifestyle of a vagabond. As he continues to speak, you realize he shares his college experiences to relate to his audience on a more personal level. Jobs wanted to present himself in a manner that many college students could relate to in one way or another. Although these conditions may not seem ideal for most, Jobs loved it.
With so much free time on his hands, he dropped in on classes he thought he would enjoy. “Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country… I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. ”(1) At the time, he took the class simply because he thought he would like it. Ten years later, his decision to learn calligraphy would pay off when designing the new Macintosh computer. “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. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. ”(1) Jobs had attended a class for no reason other than to learn something he thought he would enjoy and it ended up helping to define a revolutionary computer system. The way he coped with the adversity of his situation presented him with experiences and knowledge that would facilitate his future success.
This subsequently resembled a cause and effect strategy in his speech, the cause being him dropping out of classes and the effect being the acquisition of a priceless computer typeface system. “And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them…” (1). He also pokes a little bit of fun at his competitors. Starting a business is a decision that over half a million people in our country decide to make every year. The obvious goal of each business is to maximize profits, however many companies struggle to find the right recipe for success.
Steve Jobs and close friend Steve Wozniacki decided to start up the company Apple in Job’s garage at the age of twenty. “We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a two billion dollar company with over 4000 employees”(1). It seemed there was no stopping the growth of Apple, Jobs had finally found something he loved to do. At the age of thirty however, Jobs received some unfortunate news. He was fired from the company that he had started. To go from a position of seemingly limitless potential to being unemployed, there seems no bigger contrast in lifestyle.
However, rather than laying down and admitting defeat Jobs decides to brainstorm new ideas and enters what he considers to be one of the most creative stages of his life. “The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything”(1). Over the next five years, several important events happen in Job’s life. He starts two new companies, NeXT and Pixar, and finds the woman he wants to marry. Soon after, something would happen next that no one could have anticipated.
“In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, and I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance…”and he also adds, “And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together”(1). Steve shares this story with the audience to prove that no matter what situation you get placed in, making the most of it will pay off. He knows that as college graduates about to enter the workforce, being placed in an environment unfamiliar to them is all too likely. In order to succeed you must be able to follow your heart and adapt to your new surroundings.
“I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it”(1). Finding the bright side of any situation, no matter how rough it may be, is an essential step in the rebuilding process. Job’s is encouraging the Stanford graduates to be resilient to any adversity they face. Throughout his speech, Jobs discussed in detail three events that had an infallible effect on the person he had become. The reason these personal anecdotes resonated so strongly with me was due to the fact that all of them were negative experiences rather than positive ones.
What Jobs wanted the audience to take away from these experiences was the fact that success is not easy to come by and you will face struggles along the way. The reason he succeeded is because he never gave up on doing what he loved, and any challenge you overcome will only make you more adept at handling similar situations in the future. Indicative of his track record, the audience has a solid incentive to listen his advice. “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. ’”(1).
Jobs was determined to leave his mark on the world. By simply watching his body language and hearing the way he speaks, it becomes clear that this man sets an example that would be wise to follow. He speaks with confidence and his tone assures those listening that his life would not have turned out the same way if he hadn’t blazed his own trial and was influenced by the voices of others. “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”(1). Steve Jobs was an individual who knew what he wanted in life.
He did not allow anyone to impede upon his progress and his success will have an effect on those Stanford graduates well after they proceed from the stadium. Speeches have the ability to be very powerful. However, when not delivered in an effective manner, they can also have an adverse effect. Steve Jobs does a brilliant job demonstrating the way to go about delivering a speech. He does not speak down to the students, but rather he levels out the playing field. They students can relate to Jobs because everyone encounters struggles in life, it’s how you deal with those struggles that makes all the difference.
What he wanted for the graduates he was speaking too was nothing more than to give them the confidence to do whatever they want in life with no reluctance. He also states, “’Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. ’ It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I’ve always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you: Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish”(1). No matter what; the pursuit of happiness will lead you down the road of success if you follow your intuition and do what makes you truly happy.