Apple cofounder Steve Jobs urged, 'Don’t waste your time living someone else’s life.' But in 'It's a Wonderful Life,' protagonist George Bailey gave up his dreams for his own life and learned that 'no one is a failure who has friends.' How do we square these messages?
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Soon we will close out another year by celebrating the holidays and taking stock of our lives, reflecting on what went well, and what didn’t. And, as always, George Bailey will help us through it.
We all know George Bailey, the everyman protagonist of the classic holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” And we know George’s story – how his boyhood dreams of experiencing the world beyond his hometown of Bedford Falls are crushed by the realities of a father’s untimely death, a shaky economy, and his own inability to put his craving for independence and adventure ahead of his responsibilities. We all know the scene where George, feeling a failure, considers taking his own life by jumping into an icy river, and how his guardian angel, Clarence, helps him evaluate his life in a way that forgives the derailing of ambitious dreams in favor of an ordinary, decent life.
I wonder whether we will see George any differently this year, so soon after the death of Steve Jobs.
Much has been remembered about Mr. Jobs recently, and, as the end of year approaches, nothing seems more apt than Jobs’s philosophy of life choices. Most of us have heard excerpts of the commencement address Jobs gave at Stanford University half a dozen years ago, after he had already faced his mortality through a first bout of illness:
“[Y]ou 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.... Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.... Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
His language is powerful and inspiring – and we know it worked for him. When Jobs trusted in his heart and intuition, it led to great success – money, fame, prestige, respect, satisfaction – the kind of stuff ordinary people dream about.