‘Never Settle’ Is A Brag

From a famous Steve Jobs Stanford graduation address:

Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle. (more; HT Alex)

Now try to imagine a world where everyone actually tried to follow this advice. And notice that we have an awful lot of things that need doing that are unlikely to be anyone’s dream job. So a few folks would be really happy, but most everyone else wouldn’t stay long on any job, and most stuff would get done pretty badly. Not a pretty scenario.

OK, now imagine that only graduates from colleges like Stanford or better followed this advice. Since such folks have more fulfilling job options, a larger fraction of them would end up really happy. But we’d still have too much job turnover among our elites, with too much stuff done badly.

Now notice: doing what you love, and never settling until you find it, is a costly signal of your career prospects. Since following this advice tends to go better for really capable people, they pay a smaller price for following it. So endorsing this strategy in a way that makes you more likely to follow it is a way to signal your status.

It sure feels good to tell people that you think it is important to “do what you love”; and doing so signals your status. You are in effect bragging. Don’t you think there might be some relation between these two facts?

Added: Will WilkinsonArnold Kling and Megan McArdle weigh in.

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  • Robert Koslover

    Perhaps the key is not to just “do what you love,” but to “love what you do.” And perhaps one way to achieve that is to do your work so well that you can be honestly proud of it, even if the kind of work you do is not especially high-status.

    • burger flipper

      I’ll let ya come work a shift with me sometime if you can get Hallmark to give you the day off.

    • IVV

      The secret to always getting what you want isn’t in the getting, but in the wanting.

  • James Babcock

    You forgot the obligatory signaling of respect for the dead. How could you be so insensitive?

    • Albert Ling

      He’s signaling honesty and frankness, and that’s more appealing to some people than fake sentimentality!

  • Anon

    You migh be underestimating the opportunity cost incurred because of settling. What if the opportunity cost of settling is orders of magnitude larger than any benefits afforded from settling.

  • Jordan Viray

    Isn’t it a little soon to be criticising Jobs? The idea of never settling is to keep striving. We all have the ability to improve ourselves or the world around us even just by a little bit.

  • It’s possible that it’s not good advice for everybody to follow, but it would be good advice for more people to follow than do now, good advice on the margins. I don’t think even Steve Jobs is respected enough that he should have expected literally everyone to follow his advice.

    The question then is, do we have less or more than the wealth-maximizing level of people doing what they love? Unless you think his speech is going to be so persuasive that the social shift it creates will overshoot the golden doing-what-you-love level by more than society is currently below it.

  • “Be skeptical of settling” seems like good advice. Settling too easily for an onerous task reduces the demand for alternative strategies. Never settling makes it impossible to get the job done.

  • acertainshadeofgreen

    I agree with your post.

    But, you could posted this at some point before Jobs died, or some time after Jobs died (or made the same point without reference to Jobs). Why choose to post this the day he died?

    Does this say something about bias? Are you, for whatever reason, predisposed to taking contrarian positions or saying things that you think will piss other people off? Does this mean you should put less faith in your contrarian positions in general?

  • I think there is an alternative interpretation. Lets look at the blog paragraph by paragraph.

    Paragraph 1. You are assuming that “work” is identical with “occupation”. There is another interpretation of Steve Jobs’ meaning here which is less radical. As you point out most of us have to do lots of things that are less than lovely, and often this includes some or all of our occupations. However we can still search for work we love, it may just be the work we love is hobby-work, voluntary work, community work etc. It is not either – or as you imply.

    Paragraph 2. The logic here doesn’t follow from anything Job’s or you have said. Putting aside the alternative interpretation issue (see Para 1). If there were more “Elites” doing work they love, is it not possible that they might in the course of their work create happy work for many other people as well? Jobs probably did this for a lot of Apple employees (and admittedly perhaps not for overseas assembly line workers)

    Paragraph 3. These are just assertions with no evidence to back them up. Further there is a certain slipperiness to this argument. The use of “capable” as a qualifier here. Essentially you are saying only capable people are likely to be successful. Surely the point is that through exploration (and good career counselling) one is more likely to find things that they are capable of.

    Paragraph 4. This only applies if you equate work with occupation.

    thanks for the provocation though!

  • Marcus

    How very unproductive, that not settling business.

    You’re speaking a differently language. It’s not future oriented, unless status quo is our only future.

    (I suppose the wealth of your work shows that status quo it is)

  • JohnF

    A lot of the complaints coming from the wallstreet protestors sounds like they refused to settle for a boring career and failed.

  • Robert Wiblin

    It also says “I found a way to get a job doing what I love and that is *so* important to me, how could anyone else *imagine* not doing that?” You can look down your nose at everyone else and the trade-offs they face while pretending to help them. Win.

    • My impression of Jobs went down – I thought he was giving out bad advice with an eloquent sugar coating.

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  • Ari T

    I wonder if Robin has given his children advise that wouldn’t work if everyone followed it?

    I don’t think Jobs’ advice is for everyone, maybe its a good advice for passionate people. Besides, you can work on many jobs during a lifetime. Probably many musicians have dayjobs that pay their normal expenses.

    p.s. Heh, I was so certain there’d be a post about status signaling after this.

  • David O

    The advice is more traditionally given in relation to marriage. If you go into a relationship thinking that you’re settling, you’ve undermined it from the start. Of course you’re settling and making compromises – but the brain has a wonderful capacity to ignore this fact if you let it. Some people honestly believe they have the perfect partner,

    And I think there’s an analogy here to be drawn with careers.

  • Robert, perhaps good advice, but not what Jobs suggested.
    Anon, how could the happiness of the few who find their bliss really be worth the mess of a world with most jobs done badly?
    Jordan, why not strive to settle, and to do better at the job you settled for?
    Suntzuanime, possible, but far from obvious. And Jobs didn’t say “beware settling”, he said “don’t settle.”
    acertain, this is when I heard the speech, from Alex’s post.
    Jim, hobbies don’t usually “fill a large part of your life”. Elites doing their jobs badly because they keep switching doesn’t sound a good way to make happy work for others.
    Marcus, what, the costs of not settling will go away in the future?
    Robert, yup.
    Ari, Jobs talked to a stadium of thousands; his advice wasn’t targeted.
    David, so better advice might be to believe that what you have is perfect.

  • DW

    This makes me think of supply-side economics.

    Maybe following his advice leads to a gigantic increase in welfare as people compete harder and so innovate more. .

    Think of it this way: today Jobsian success has p = 1% and N = 10m. After Jobs’ speech N -> 1b and p -> 0.5%. We’re better off, non?

    Or are you saying there’s a fixed supply of Jobsian success stories in our future?

    Fewer garbage collectors? Maybe. Maybe we’d have machines doing it much sooner, too.

  • George McCandless

    This is the single most disappointing blog of Robin that I have read. It is not very thoughtful and it certainly seems to be a craven attempt at status by putting down someone who has been one of the most successful and innovative members of our generation.

    First off, what we love is not static. I strive for something I think I love and if I fail enough times, I learn from that experience and adjust. Jobs himself adjusted, Pixel is not Apple, but he used lots of what he learned at Apple to build Pixel. While we are young (as were the intended audience of his talk) we experiment and discover what we like to do, what we can be successful at, and change jobs reasonably often. The job search literature is very clear about this. Eventually we either find what something that we like to do or we give in to lazyness and settle for something reasonably acceptable. What drives capitalist economies is this search. Note that different people have very different abilities and interests and what might be a rewarding job to one could be hell for others.

    Is Robin suggesting that we do not strive, do not try to do what we love, that we give in early and just follow orders. Sounds like North Korea to me. Not an example I would like to follow.

    The status literature is very clear that one way to show status is to find faults in those with much higher social status. Is Robin playing that game?

  • Matt

    Ha, I watched that speech last night and thought the exact thing, “Well, we can’t all do that.” The world needs ditch diggers. I’ve often wondered if this advice has any impact on unemployment. To me it seems highly unlikely that if someone from the Great Depression time-traveled to the present day, that they would be unemployed for more than a week. Even with their lower skill set.

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  • Mark M

    I wondered how long it would take to run across a post criticizing Steve Jobs after his death. I assumed it wouldn’t be long. Nobody is beyond reproach, but a moment of silence for the recently departed would have been appropriate. There is nothing particularly urgent about this post, unless you see Steve’s death as an opportunity that will fade over time. This is true for the “any attention is good attention” crowd.

    For the topic at hand – Do you really believe there is a danger that everyone, or even everyone in that graduating class at Stanford, will adopt a life-long policy of “don’t settle?” Even if they did, does adopting the position of “don’t settle” make you less happy with a given job than you would have been otherwise? If you decide not to settle for a job that makes you unhappy, was there an implication that you should quit your job and do nothing until you find another job that you think you could love? Was there an implication that you should start performing more poorly than you otherwise would have if you found yourself in a job that you don’t love? Was there an implication that you should leave a job you don’t love for another job you don’t love, with the consequence that most people would not stay in any job for very long?

    No reasonable person would believe that “don’t settle” would be a universally adopted life-long principle. Even if it were, I fail to see this resulting in the doomsday scenario where “most stuff would get done pretty badly.”

    I don’t agree that this is a brag. The statement would have to either exaggerate accomplishments or show excessive pride to qualify as a brag. I agree that the statements imply a level of success in adopting the approach of “don’t settle.” This is certainly true, and I see no signs of exaggeration or excessive pride in his statements. Is it bragging for Steve to discuss the techniques or attitudes that he identified in himself that lead him to become successful, when that is exactly the reason he was invited to speak?

    My take is that the message was appropriate for the audience, does no harm, and in has the potential to help. While Steve might be proud of his accomplishments, he does not exaggerate his accomplishments or come off as overly prideful.

    This post is a fail on all counts.

  • Adam

    How tone deaf can you be???

    Yes, we all realize we can’t quit our jobs today and go hiking across Africa.

    Doesn’t mean we can’t question what we are doing and question received wisdom.

    And as pointed out above, why post this today? What did you gain by that? Talk about “signaling”! I guess you are a staight-shooter! No sacred cows for you!

  • Eric Falkenstein

    Paul Graham says it better: ‘don’t get easily discouraged’…and then lays out a realistic set of advice for young people. Simply sticking to your dreams can lead to premature optimization, ignoring feedback.

  • richard silliker

    It sure feels good to tell people that you think it is important to “do what you love”; and doing so signals your status. You are in effect bragging. Don’t you think there might be some relation between these two facts?

    These are facts???

    It possible to take pride in your responsibilities without hubris.

  • Steve 8

    I thought this post was a little Grinchy. Telling people to do what they love is the only good advice there is. It’s what I told and tell my kids.

    To be sure, I get the sense that the author of this post is not doing what he or she really likes to do.

    Life is about compromises and certainly there are times when you cannot do the things you love to do as a _vocation_. But at the same time if you really love to do something you can pursue it as an _avocation_ and down the road you either will, or will not, get the payoff that you think is somehow inevitable.

    Everyone knows that Charles Ives wrote music on the side, he worked in an insurance office. Wes Montgomery played gigs at nights and on weekends, he worked as a machinist most of his adult life. TS Eliot worked in a bank. The list could be extended indefinitely.

    Again, sometimes life will demand that you work a job that isn’t what you love (but, if you hate your job, you better get another one). That still leaves the rest of your time. And during that time, you’d better do what you love, otherwise you are wasting time, and wasting your life.

  • Tom Eich

    Oh come on… the world is far too full of people not even settling for muddling through! Where is your optimism? The context for this is a graduating class of people who will decidedly not be ditch-diggers, but who very likely (this was 2005) may have gone on to play three-card monte with things like Collateralized Debit Swaps and other unlovable, destructive nonsense.

    Regardless of the audience, and not to get all Byron Katie on you, there is a useful “and…” that a previous comment mentioned, which is loving what you do as much as doing what you love. Your post seems to come from an awfully cramped, zero-sum point of view.

  • Jon H

    Oh you pretentious twatwaffle. This post is a brag, but it’s full of fail.

    He was talking to graduating college students. Telling them to give up, and settle for whatever grubby income they can manage is not really the point of the exercise.

    The markets have voted in Jobs’ favor. You’re trading on the pink sheets. Sparsely.

  • Jon H

    “Your post seems to come from an awfully cramped, zero-sum point of view.”

    It’s GMU. They’re all stunted like that.

  • S. Gray

    You’ve completely, tragically missed Job’s point and confused his message. That it is beyond your ken is unfortunate for you. That you chose to promote your own narrow take, today of all days, is revolting.

    • Drewfus

      On the contrary, I think it’s a breakthrough – in not reflexively revering the recently dead and ignoring their faults, limitations and mistakes. By ‘revolting’, you mean – this post made me aware of my own mortality, and I don’t appreciate it.

  • Jon H

    Robin wrote: “Jordan, why not strive to settle, and to do better at the job you settled for?”

    Hey, that might work for you, but some of us don’t want to end up embittered and frigid inhuman husks.

  • Solitaire Artist

    Jobs’ advice was easy to give, and easier still to follow — for a very fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on who’s shoes you’re standing in) few. Not settling is an innate trait of a small fraction of humanity; those who possess this trait don’t settle not because they don’t want to but because they can’t. As for the rest of the world, the seething horde that constitutes the vast majority of people, we’re content to settle. Our dreams — love, family, enough to eat, leisure time to fritter away in pursuits that are neither original nor important — can be realized, or nearly realized, at least enough so that we don’t spend our lives in the grip of unbearable existential pain, through ordinary engagement with the mundane.

    Non-settlers such as Jobs (and the people he imagined himself to be addressing, because in the end we always imagine that those to whom we speak are just like us) are rare birds indeed, and it’s worth remembering that only the tiniest sliver of the smallest fraction of them meet with anything approaching the success that he did.

  • Todd Thompson

    “Never Settle” can also be like a confession. A mother that “settled” on her husband and spent 20 years regretting it might tell her daughter/son not to settle. He indicated both work and love, so its possible he “settled” in one or the other and knew the misery of that situation so poignantly that he would urge others to not do that without the crassness of outing the person he settled for.

    I find the reverence for Jobs odd. The need for a “moment of silence” is even odder, given the amount of wide-spread conversation about him. I would be alright with the silence option, but if people are going to talk then I see no reason to limit to just the good.

    • Albert Ling

      People like to hero-worship, once the public chooses an icon to follow, it becomes a tribal thing and whoever disagrees becomes a target.

      How can I judge a public figure that has ONLY communicated to me by carefully crafted speeches and press releases? How can I know how Steve Jobs was as a person (in order to sincerely grieve him)?

      Of course we can admire the fruits of his labor, but to admire the person is a different thing than to admire their achievements. If Larry Ellison were to die tomorrow, I bet there’d be little fanfare, and one could make an intelligent case that he improved the world by a greater amount.

      I saw zero comments on my Facebook when Norman Borlaug died btw.

  • anonymous coward

    Blackberry and Dell and Ubuntu customer here.

    The thing which most sticks out to me as unspeakable here is the liver transplant. Only one person on the entire internet that I know of has mentioned that most physicians consider organ transplants into cancer victims wasteful. When Mickey Mantle died this was all over the place, although perhaps technology has advanced since then. Apparently, if you have metastatic tumor bodies and you do an organ transplant with requisite immune system suppressant medication so that the patient does not reject the organ transplant, this is like trying to put out a fire with gasoline and it never ever works.

    (If you do not remember Mickey Mantle also had a liver transplant and died of his cancer shortly after.)

    I am not a doctor and I would never sign my own name to this post.

  • in answer to your question

    just to hammer home two points others have already made:

    1. this post could have waited. that you chose not to observe the social norms surrounding the deceased just so you could remind us all that most inspirational ”advice” is impractical suggests tone-deafness or worse.

    2. if ”do not settle” is followed it becomes ”i am not the type of person who settles”. i think it is probable that believing you’re not the type of person to ‘settle’ increases your satisfaction with whatever it is you’ve settled on by reducing the probability of finding and pondering more desirable options.

  • Really going out of your way to provide some backlash to all the adulation Jobs is receiving today. Disingenuous. Predictable. Tiresome.


  • Matt W

    I agree. If it were just Jobs saying this it would be no big deal, but my entire generation has gotten this bizarre idea into their heads that they were made for greatness and must never settle for anything boring like having a family or just doing what needs to be done. Work is not defined by what anyone wants to do, but by what must be done at any given time. I wonder how many of my peers will realize what a waste it was in 20 years, when they’ve sacrificed everything for career.

    • Matt

      I agree with you. Realizing that you are not going to be a Rockstar – or at least that if you try to become a rockstar you are probably going to fail – is the definition of maturity.

  • Bix

    “… the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

    I wonder how many people in the world are passing their lives doing what they believe is great work, and loving what they do.

    I wonder if doing what you believe is great work, and loving what you do, is the only way to be truly satisfied.

  • Dave

    Of course it was a graduation speech.They are always inspirational,if predictable and forgettable
    Is it unforgettable because it is ironic like Lou Gehrig’s speech claiming that he was the luckiest man in the world? There are those who claim that the driving force of many things that are done is the inevitability of death. Not settling could fit in that area. Many people won’t settle for death.

  • Ignacio

    The problem with this advice is that people then expect that a job is not worth keeping unless it is “fun”. Thus, many grow frustrated and unhappy or start switching jobs constantly in the search for a job they enjoy. They forget that work is called “work” because it is not fun, and that is why they pay you to do it (no one pays you (much) to do stuff that is fun; you will find people do that for (almost) free).

    This happened to my wife, a smart Stanford graduate. Only after ten years she realizes that you need to stick to a job, work hard and overcome the frustrations until you get good at what you, which is when you start enjoying your job.

    In my case, coming from South America, I was never fed the “love your job” meme (being fewer opportunities over there, people just pursue what is available). I worked hard and became good at what I do sooner than my wife so I started enjoying what I do (and became successful) earlier.

    So my advice is: look for something that make sense to you; work hard to get the skills to be good at it; only then you will become satisfied and happy with your career. And avoid dead end jobs, even if they are initially fun because the fun never lasts while you are stuck.

    • Drewfus

      “avoid dead end jobs”
      Now there is an interesting thought. Suppose Jobs had said that instead of “never settle”. Simply more practical advice, and yet if he had said that it would much more likely have resulted in the sort of criticisms made in this post!
      So considering that those criticisms were not made of Jobs’ speech, I’d suggest that Jobs’ ‘advice’ was not really advice at all, but a dog-whistle; you are special enough that you really should own a Mac Pro, not a PC.

    • Bix

      I like what you said here.

      • Bix

        Oops! I meant to say I liked what Ignacio said, about work being called work because one is paid to do it.

  • I think of it less as a brag than as a gentrification of a position. I agree with others that when it came to giving commencement advice, Mr. Jobs took the craven route. To his credit, when it cam to personal productivity products, Mr. Jobs pushed the envelope of excellence. His iphone changed my life the way nothing has since the internet search engine.

  • Jobs’ speech, like most graduation speeches, was inane. So be it. The over the top public grieving of a celebrity is reminiscent of the Princess Diana affair.

    It’s not about individuals grieving a stranger; it’s the social phenomenon of cult of personality, which Jobs worked hard to cultivate. If he were more successful at it, we’d see people so “connected” to him that they’d be denying his death, like Elvis and Jesus.

  • Megapolisomancy

    Hopefully, people will not follow Steve Jobs in thinking that death is a good thing as well:

    Steve Jobs’ morbid glorification of death

    • Michael Wengler

      How is a mass of humanity increasing its knowledge and capabilities different from an FAI superorganism of ems which are plug-play-and-dispose replaceable? Heck, the kinds of people who think about ems aren’t even sure that we are not ems, and aren’t sure how you might even tell whether or not you are an em.

      Like everything else about us, it seems likely that a dread of death exists in us because those who preceded us who did not have a sufficient dread of death were bread out of the race. Then a fear of death takes its place with a fear of heights, a fear of the dark, and a fear of things that sound like lions: an evolutionarily good idea that we carry with us. I don’t believe it is particularly more rational to avoid death because we can rationalize that feat than it is to avoid flying because we can rationalize a fear of falling or heights.

      From the point of view of the superorganism, our deaths and replacements by new minds certainly does seem to serve some purposes. Ever notice how all great mathematicians do their best stuff in their 20s or perhaps 30s? When humanity throttles its supply of new 20 year olds because us old folks have learned how to live forever, are you willing to reject out of hand even considering that something might be lost for humanity?

      Jobs may have been right or he may have been wrong. Or perhaps he may have just made an aesthetic choice. But he sure as heck doesn’t seem any wronger than someone who thinks a rationalization of the fears that evolution put in him is somehow a particulary rationalist thing to do.

      • Mitchell Porter

        “When humanity throttles its supply of new 20 year olds because us old folks have learned how to live forever”

        Such optimism – the idea that anyone will ever learn how to live forever, that is. Rejuvenation is not immortality!

    • Gene Callahan

      NOBODY is more anti-life than you death avoidance people.

      • Wow, now you’ve saved me the work of making you look stupid! That’s a big load off my shoulders.

  • Regarding the practice of slagging the lionized-recently-deceased…

    …it would be most interesting to read Christopher Hitchens’ take on Jobs.

  • Oh my golly

    Robin, you retarded fool:

    Jobs was speaking to Stanford graduates…not to everyone.

    • They’re just Stanford graduates. I think your point would hold better if his audience was a more select group.

  • Asher

    Awesome post. I’ve long ridiculed the “follow your dreams” crap. Also, for those of you ragging Robin for “signaling” … hello, of course he’s signaling. The whole point of this blog is to expose false signaling, not to disparage signaling, altogether.


  • Michael

    Your argument is: someone has to dig ditches; thus, let’s not tell people that they should aspire to more than digging ditches. Really? First off, the point here is obviously not the no one has to dig ditches. Instead, it’s saying to a young person: this is your life, don’t be the asshole who digs ditches. Go out there and make the best of yourself, make the best of this world, improve this world. Aspire to something better. I thought that was the whole point of America/education/so forth–to give people the opportunity to realize their potential? And your argument is: oh no, what if we get an army of supercomputing geniuses and no one to dig ditches? Seriously, you believe there’s more utility in having the ditch digging job done? Second off, this is coming from a guy who’s bio reads: “I have a passion, a sacred quest, to understand everything, and to save the world.” More power to you man, but talk about someone bragging from a position of privilege.

    Job’s message is about potential and making your own choices–go out there and try to achieve what you can. It’s about not being afraid of some risk in pursuing something that is difficult. A lot of the comments on this board reek of fear and a sense of personal insult–I don’t want someone telling me that I’ve been wrong to do a boring job and raise and family and all that! Look: it’s not wrong, if it’s what you want. But recognize that the reason a lot of people respect Jobs is not because of his phones–it’s because what he did took some legitimate courage. Man up and get some courage of your own for goodness sakes. Whether you believe it or not, life is short.

  • Lol Art

    I would prefer to live in a world where, when a celebrity dies, there are a few negative pieces written about them or something they said. It makes me feel more like the whole picture is being presented, rather than being engulfed in a cloud of don’t-speak-ill-of-the-recently-departed censorship. Robin’s a pathological contrarian, but the world is better for it, just like the world is better for the existence of Maddox, or Adolf Hitler.

    • Crusader

      I for one and glad to see contrarian articles like this. The MSM’s over the top deification is sickening.

  • Andr

    If nobody settled, we could change the world overnight. End of story.

  • Donald Pretari

    But is your post Envy? Also, I’m reminded of Will Sonnett: No Brag, Just Fact.

  • Oodoodanoo

    I’d have more respect for Steve Jobs if he had given that speech to a shop floor full of the Foxconn employees building his gadgets.

    If they followed their dreams, there would be no iPhone. They work in near-slavery conditions in order to keep profit margins up.

    The fact is that for ever visionary dreamer, it takes thousand of slaves and hundreds of paper-shufflers recently graduated from Stanford to make his or her dreams real. This speech is a giant middle finger to all of them.

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  • Robin is missing the entire point. Jobs’ point is to not settle for doing what someone else wants you do to on their terms, it is to do what you want to do on your own terms. The point is not to figure out what “signal” will get you what you want/need from someone else. If I needed a ditch dug to accomplish what ever I wanted to accomplish, and no one would dig the ditch for me, I would dig it myself. The quote that better characterizes Job’s advice is:

    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. 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.

    Robin is a perpetual status seeker. All he cares about is what other people think. The only thing of value to him is status, and the only way of getting status is by either sucking up to people with more status, or denigrating people with less status. The only kind of status that Robin can think of or aspire to achieve is zero-sum status. For everyone who gains status, someone else has to lose status. Ditch digging is beneath Robin’s self-image, so he would never do it. If Steve Jobs needed a ditch dug and he couldn’t find someone else to dig it for him, he would have dug it himself.

    Steve Jobs made his own status. He didn’t take it away from anyone else, his status was Pareto efficient. Yes, the Chinese workers who built his stuff were overworked, but compared to their other options they did better than other Chinese workers, and the degree of exploitation was not key to Jobs’ success. I suspect the exploitation had more to do with the Apple board being populated by people like Robin (and who fired Jobs from Apple) and not with people like Jobs.

    The message was don’t settle for doing less than what you can accomplish, don’t settle for meeting someone else’s minimum expectations, not hold out for an unrealistic fantasy.

    Of course going beyond someone else’s minimum expectations and not caring what other people think is anathema to a zero-sum economist focused on status because that represents money left on the table, rent not collected, profit not extracted, status not achieved. Trashing high status dead people is not.

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  • trailrunnr

    I had a job I loved, for 10 years, but it did not include any health-insurance coverage; I was responsible for my own. Entrepreneur! The American ideal! but during that period, my monthly premiums went from very good coverage for $311 a month, to practically non-existent coverage (catastrophic) for $759 a month. During that period I had to change my coverage at least once every two years. So now I have a job I am not too wild about, all because of the cost of health care.

    • Big Man

      So you made this post 4 years ago. What’s the latest?

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  • Dissenter

    I went through your bio etc. to understand the reasons for such argument. For someone like you to advocate such views, I’m sure you wrote this piece either half-awake of inebriated.

  • Thomas Bartscher

    I’ve read through half the comments here and how “work” is perceived here is frightening.
    “It’s called work because it’s not fun”. Yeah, that’s the spirit that keeps young people from enjoying what they do. They learn it from the very start. The very first time one of their parents comes home, exhausted from work and totally not a functioning human anymore, they learn that work is to be despised and only to be done because it’s necessary.
    I think this attitude is much more damaging then the words “don’t settle”.

    • Jacques Rigaut

      My father was what I’d call a “striver.” He was the only one of five kids in his family to get a college degree and move up and out of his working class background. He was a dedicated professional who did his job well, went above and beyond the call, accepted leadership roles in professional organizations. Along the way: ulcers, heart disease, diabetes, stroke. He dropped dead at 56. That taught me all I needed to know about the world of work.

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  • I think you are taking it the wrong way, because all Jobs meant is that you should never settle for something you don’t like to do. The world is not going to stop just because people follow this advice. Gosh, tell that to Jobs, or any entrepreneur for that matter. If you wanna be an employe for the rest of your life, living on a salary, then yours is great advice; if not, then you should not settle. I’m currently an employee and a pretty good one, but I don’t see myself doing what I’m doing for the rest of my life. I’m still hungry for more. My dreams keep me going! Nothing else! Cheers!

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  • Indeed, you yourself must know when to stop and stop on time consciously. I can not think of worse things if you do not know the proper destination.

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  • Greg Mueller

    Late to the party here but couldn’t help myself. I take it that your advice would be, rather than “dont settle”, “Settle and dont take a chance and be content with moderate security and dissatisfaction, if you dont believe that you are a truly capable person?” In other words – if you dont believe in yourself, you are probably right, so you wont make it anyways so dont try too hard to be extraordinarily happy. Wow. I hope whoever wrote this 4 years ago doesn’t still think this way.