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今天我非常榮幸,來到世界上最好的大學之一。我自己沒有從大學畢業,現在可以說是我最接近大學畢業典禮的時候。我想跟各位分享我人生的3個故事,沒有特別的 大道理,就是3個故事。


我在里德學院(Reed College)只待了6個月就休學了,到我退學前,我整整休學了18個月。為什麼我要休學?

故事得從我出生前開始。因為我的生母是個年 輕的研究生未婚媽媽,她決定找人收養我。她很希望收養我的人也是研究所學歷,所以她把每件事安排好,讓我被一對律師夫婦收養。沒想到等我出生,他們在最後 一刻反悔了,說他們想要一個女孩。所以我那還在等候名單上的爸媽(指現在的養父母),半夜接到一通電話,問他們:「我們現在有個意外出生的小男嬰,你要收 養他嗎?」「當然,」他們毫不猶豫地答應了。但是我生母後來才發現,不但我母親沒有大學畢業,我父親連高中都沒畢業。結果她拒絕簽署收養文件,一直到幾個 月後,我的養父母保證讓我上大學,她的態度才軟化。

17年後,我真的上大學了。可是我天真地選了一所幾乎跟史丹福一樣貴的大學,我那不 過 是工人階級的養父母,把積蓄幾乎都花在我的大學學費上。念了6 個月,我看不出價值所在。我不知道我的人生要做什麼,也不知道學校能幫上什麼忙,我只會把父母畢生的積蓄花光,所以我決定退學,相信事情總會O.K.。當 時我是滿驚慌的,但是回想起來,這是我所做過最棒的決定。我退學的那一刻,等於停掉了我沒興趣的那些必修課,把時間投入那些我有興趣的科目。

當然也不是全然那麼浪漫。我沒有宿舍,所以我睡在朋友房間的地板上。我用可樂瓶退瓶拿到的5分錢買食物,每個星期日晚上走7英哩路,穿越整個鎮,只為了到 Hare Krishna神廟好好吃頓飯。我愛去那裡吃飯。順著我的好奇心與直覺,那些讓我佇足、蹣跚而行的事物,後來都變成無價珍寶,譬如:里德大學有當時可能是 全國最棒的書法指導。校園裡每張海報、每個抽屜的標籤,都有漂亮的手寫書法。因為我退學了,不用上正常的課程,我決定去修書法課。我學會serif與 san serif兩種字體,學會在不同的字母組合間變換間距,學會活版印刷偉大之處。那是一種科學無法捕捉的美、歷史感與細緻的藝術,我覺得它很迷人。

我沒預期這些東西會對實際生活帶來什麼具體的作用。但是10年後,當我們設計第一部麥金塔電腦時,它又浮現在我心中。我們把這些想法都設計進麥金塔裡,它也 是第一部有著優美字體的電腦。如果我沒有投入研究這門課,麥金塔電腦就不會有那麼多不同的字體或各種不同的間距。又因為微軟的作業系統抄襲了麥金塔,如果 當時我沒做,可能所有個人電腦都不會有。如果我沒有退學,我就不會著迷於書法課,個人電腦就不會有今天各種優美的字體。當然我在念大學時,無法預見如何將 這些點滴聯繫在一起,但是10年後再回顧,真的就非常、非常清楚。

再一次:你沒辦法預見這些點滴如何聯繫,唯有透過回顧,可以看出彼此關 聯。所以你必須相信,無論如何,這些點滴會在未來互相連結,有些東西你必須相信,像你的直覺、天命、人生、因果,諸如此類種種。這樣的想法讓我永遠不沮喪 灰心,也的確塑造了我人生中所有的不同。

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: “We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?” They said: “Of course.” My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. 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.

It wasn’t all romantic. 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. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. 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. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. 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 ten 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. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. 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 backwards ten years later.

Again, 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. 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.