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Once Drop Outs, Now Commencement Speakers

Their stories are now the stuff of legend. Once drop outs, now they are the CEOs of companies that have changed the world. It is perhaps a bit ironic, therefore, that these individuals – Steve Jobs of Apple and Steve Ballmer of Microsoft – would one day return to academia to inspire a new flock of college graduates. Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement address at Stanford and Steve Ballmer’s 2011 commencement address at USC show that despite the sometimes conflicting paths their respective companies take, the passion that drives these two individuals is largely the same.

Both Jobs and Ballmer stressed the importance of following one’s passion. Jobs advised graduates to “find what you love.” Ballmer urged them to “find passion.” Jobs told his story of dropping out of college to start dropping into classes he liked. He relayed how he would sit into calligraphy classes out of sheer interest. Ten years later, when Apple was designing the first Macintosh computer, those calligraphy classes served as inspiration for multiple typefaces; today, this is a basic feature of any word processing software. Ballmer explained how his experience as the manager for his college football team led to the discovery of his passion for organizing. When Ballmer’s friend, Bill Gates, contacted Ballmer about joining Microsoft, Ballmer dropped out of his MBA program to apply his passion for organizing to the new company. The common thread in both stories was the discovery of one’s passion as a prerequisite for success. As Jobs told graduates, “the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

Though few might have predicted that these two drop outs would find themselves delivering commencement addresses to graduates from top universities, it is clear now that the values Steve Jobs and Steve Ballmer embody were strong indicators of success. Hopefully, through their words, they will inspire a new generation of individuals to follow their passions, and in the process, change the world.

– JustiPad

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