Steve Jobs… Drop Out in Order to Drop In

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, provided excellent ‘tips for success’ and ‘food for thought’ during a commencement address at Stanford University, one of the world’s leading research and teaching institutions.

Jobs’ told his personal story regarding dropping out of Reed College after only 6 months:

“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.”

Jobs didn’t have a dorm room so he slept on the floor in friends’ rooms.  He bought food by returning coke bottles for the 5 cent deposits.  He walked 7 miles across town every Sunday in order to get one good free meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple.  Jobs went on to say,“I loved it.  And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.”  Jobs then went on to provide specific examples.

“I am a huge supporter and proponent of higher education, continuing education, life-long learning and dogged persistence and perseverance.  There is definitely something to be said for sticking it out and exposing your mind to all kinds of environments, information, people, opportunities and challenges.  However, there are times when we should “drop out” in order to “drop in” to something far more valuable and important based on our unique interests, passions and potential.  Allow me to provide some personal examples of “dropping out.”  Each of these examples had a very positive impact on my life:

In junior high I was running with the wrong crowd.  My attitude and grades were very poor to put in mildly.  Like the friends I was hanging with, I was well on my way to personal… and no doubt professional failure.  Most of those friends dropped out of school long before high school graduation.  It was extremely difficult for all kinds of reasons, but I dropped out of that crowd and found new friends to hang with.  My attitude changed, my grades shot up, I became very involved in sports, music and other school activities.  One of those new friends, a wonderful man named Bob Furman, became a life-long friend.  Bob Furman has had a very positive impact on my life.  I dropped out in order to drop in to a far more positive, uplifting environment.

After about a year and a half in college, I dropped out for a number of reasons, most having to do with lack of money and the need to do some ‘growing up.’  Three years later, after several jobs and experiences that enhanced my maturation process…like working the grave yard shift spot welding coin telephones… I dropped back in to college.  Even though I still had a full time job playing and teaching flamenco and classical guitar in order to support my family and pay for college, I found myself on the president’s honor roll each semester (4 point grade average).  Once again, I dropped out in order to drop in when I was better prepared to succeed.

After 15 wonderful years as a hospital CEOI dropped out in order to drop in to a very fulfilling role at VHA.  I dropped out as a hospital CEO in order to drop in to something new, something different, and something very much aligned with my personal and professional interests and passions at that point.  I even took substantial pay and title reductions to do it.

After 15 wonderful years at VHA, the company had a major corporate reorganization and downsizing.  Even though the area for which I was responsible was ranked number 1 in the company for customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction, I was given a very nice compensation package and asked to drop out.  Had I not left VHA, I would have missed literally thousands of priceless personal and professional experiences and opportunities, not to mention over 1,000 days traveling America the Beautiful in my Inspirational Vehicle!  I will forever be grateful to my VHA colleagues who helped me do what I should have done several years earlier… drop out in order to again drop in to something new, different and exciting! 

After 7 months of ‘retirement’ and traveling the country, I had had enough.  Full time retirement is not for me.  I love to read, think, study, write, speak, facilitate and memorize inspirational literature.  I love and need intellectual stimulation as well as personal and professional challenges.  I dropped back in by creating and funding National Institute for Healthcare Leadership.

Sometimes the wisest decision is to drop out of those things for which we either don’t have, or have lost interest, excitement, enthusiasm and passion.  Only you can and should make these critically important decisions.  Your life and your career, simply stated, is nothing more than a series of choices.  You have no choice but to live with your important choices… for the rest of your life!

Don’t be afraid to drop out, regardless of the advice and pressure from others, if dropping out will allow you to drop in at a much better place!    

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I am a leader, speaker, and author who is passionate about Leadership Excellence and Achieiving Greater Success. I am the author of the books Be An Inspirational Leader(2016) and Presidential Leadership (2013), and deliver keynote presentations on those topics and several others.

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