“Fourteen years ago,” Cook said, “Steve stood on this stage and told your predecessors: ‘Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.’ Here’s my corollary: ‘Your mentors may leave you prepared, but they can’t leave you ready.’”
Cook described the time after Jobs’ death as “the loneliest” he’d ever felt in his life, and said he could “sense” the expectations others had for him.
“All I knew,” he said, “was that I was going to have to be the best version of myself that I could be. I knew that if you got out of bed every morning and set your watch by what other people expect or demand, it’ll drive you crazy.”
He urged grads to focus on authenticity and forging something new, rather than imitating others.
“Don’t try to emulate the people who came before you to the exclusion of everything else, contorting into a shape that doesn’t fit,” Cook said. “It takes too much mental effort – effort that should be dedicated to creating and building. You’ll waste precious time trying to rewire your every thought, and, in the meantime, you won’t be fooling anybody.”
Cook had already built an impressive resume in tech prior to joining Apple in 1998, with roles at IBM, Intelligent Electronics and Compaq. But he felt that Jobs had a new and exciting outlook on the tech industry, one he thought he could add value to.
He told graduates that Jobs’ illness and death, and his own takeover as Apple CEO in 2011, taught him the critical distinction between being “prepared” and being “ready,” and warned grads that when the time came for them to lead, in whatever capacity, they wouldn’t be ready — and that’s OK.
“You’re not supposed to be,” Cook said. “Find the hope in the unexpected. Find the courage in the challenge. Find your vision on the solitary road.”
Cook also addressed the need for tech companies to take responsibility for the “chaos” they create, hinting at (though never mentioning specifically) tech giants Google and Facebook. He warned that in the case that continued data breaches and privacy violations are accepted as inevitable, “we lose so much more than data. We lose the freedom to be human.”
In closing, Cook urged grads to remain focused on their goals and how they want to contribute to society.
“Don’t get distracted,” Cook said. “There are too many people who want credit without responsibility. Too many who show up for the ribbon cutting without building anything worth a damn. Be different. Leave something worthy.”