Tim Cook Talks Privacy, Steve Jobs, and the 'Difference Between Preparation and Readiness' in Stanford Commencement Address

Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered the commencement address at Stanford University today, sharing his thoughts on privacy, the need to always "be a builder," and how the loss of Steve Jobs made him learn the "real, visceral difference between preparation and readiness."

On the subject of privacy, Cook acknowledged that so many of our modern technological inventions have come out of Silicon Valley, but that recent years have seen "a less noble innovation: the belief that you can claim credit without accepting responsibility."

Cook stressed the importance of not accepting that we must give up privacy in order to enjoy advances in technology, arguing that there's much more at stake than just our data.
If we accept as normal and unavoidable that everything in our lives can be aggregated, sold, or even leaked in the event of a hack, then we lose so much more than data.

We lose the freedom to be human.

Think about what’s at stake. Everything you write, everything you say, every topic of curiosity, every stray thought, every impulsive purchase, every moment of frustration or weakness, every gripe or complaint, every secret shared in confidence.

In a world without digital privacy, even if you have done nothing wrong other than think differently, you begin to censor yourself. Not entirely at first. Just a little, bit by bit. To risk less, to hope less, to imagine less, to dare less, to create less, to try less, to talk less, to think less. The chilling effect of digital surveillance is profound, and it touches everything.

What a small, unimaginative world we would end up with. Not entirely at first. Just a little, bit by bit. Ironically, it’s the kind of environment that would have stopped Silicon Valley before it had even gotten started.

We deserve better. You deserve better.

Image credit: L.A. Cicero/Stanford University

Shifting focus to the aspirations of today's graduates, Cook encouraged each of them to "be a builder," regardless of their chosen occupation.
You don’t have to start from scratch to build something monumental. And, conversely, the best founders – the ones whose creations last and whose reputations grow rather than shrink with passing time – they spend most of their time building, piece by piece.

Builders are comfortable in the belief that their life’s work will one day be bigger than them – bigger than any one person. They’re mindful that its effects will span generations. That’s not an accident. In a way, it’s the whole point. [...]

Graduates, being a builder is about believing that you cannot possibly be the greatest cause on this Earth, because you aren’t built to last. It’s about making peace with the fact that you won’t be there for the end of the story.
Finally, Cook turned his speech to the topic of Steve Jobs, who famously stood on the same stage 14 years ago to give the commencement address.

Cook related the story of his conviction that Jobs would recover from his cancer, even as he handed the reins of Apple over to Cook. Drawing from what he learned in those dark days, Cook emphasized that "your mentors may leave you prepared, but they can't leave you ready."

Calling it the "loneliest I've ever felt in my life," Cook reflected on feeling the heavy expectations of those around him, noting that he eventually he realized he needed "be the best version" of himself and not let those around him and their expectations dictate his life.
Graduates, the fact is, when your time comes, and it will, you’ll never be ready.

But you’re not supposed to be. Find the hope in the unexpected. Find the courage in the challenge. Find your vision on the solitary road.

Don’t get distracted.

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.

And always remember that you can’t take it with you. You’re going to have to pass it on.
Today's speech at Stanford was just one of several commenencement addresses Cook has given in recent years, including Tulane University just last month, as well as his graduate alma mater Duke University last year, MIT in 2017, George Washington University in 2015, and his undergraduate alma mater Auburn University in 2010.

Top Rated Comments

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9 months ago

Still name dropping Steve Jobs.

We still name drop a lot of people who died. So? Are you gonna stop name dropping your loved one or someone who heavily influenced the world?
Rating: 23 Votes
9 months ago
Ooh, boy, that speech is going to ruffle a lot of feathers.

Still name dropping Steve Jobs.

Yeah, no. Name dropping is usually done by people pretending they know someone famous in order to advance their position.

Cook actually knew Jobs and worked very closely with him for years, and was hand-picked by Jobs to lead Apple after he left. Therefore, by definition, it’s impossible for Cook to “name-drop” Jobs.
Rating: 20 Votes
9 months ago

Still name dropping Steve Jobs.

He’s kind of integral to Apple and should be remembered.

Cook worked with Jobs very closely, offered him part of his liver, and was respected tremendously by Jobs.
Rating: 18 Votes
9 months ago
I thought that was a poignant speech.

"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."

So very true.
Rating: 18 Votes
9 months ago

build, don't tear down. Yes, I believe the students were excited to hear from Tim Cook, as they probably would be from any successful speaker on their day venturing to begin their own success.

True. It’s hilarious to see how triggered some of the MR Apple-hate posters are by Mr. Cook’s incredible wealth, success and power.

They must really feel so, so small in comparison. They try to tear someone else down to build themselves up, but news flash: it doesn’t work that way. Instead of hanging around an Internet forum constantly complaining, why not spend that time on something constructive? Like working on your own success, instead of feeling like a loser compared to those you envy.
Rating: 14 Votes
9 months ago
That’s nice, but when is he going to talk about stepping down?
Rating: 12 Votes
9 months ago
Fact is, he's an accountant, and it shows. Everywhere. Maybe he has the supply chain stuff down to a science, but what he does not get - at all - is the SOUL of what made Apple the company and icon it used to be before he took over and turned it into a seriously boring tech giant. Or, as some people rightfully said about Microsoft back in the day: It just became another IBM. What was true statement about Microsoft back then is as true about Apple today. The company does not offer __visions__ anymore. Despite all the money they throw into marketing, their products just don't __excite__ anymore. They're not __special__ anymore. And __everybody__ owns and uses them. It's just boring, and there is no "next big thing" in that mythical pipeline Tim Cook keeps talking about.

I was born in 1970 and I've known Apple and their products since I was a kid. Apple's history is an important part of my own career. I learned to program in UCSD Pascal and 6502 Assembler on an Apple ][ back in the very early 1980s. I actually remember the excitement when the original Mac was revealed to the public -- and nobody had the money to buy one. We all had to move on to the IBM world simply because we couldn't afford the Mac. Microsoft Windows won not because it was better or because Microsoft was such an evil empire, but simply because they made graphical user interfaces AFFORDABLE. Still -- Apple always had a very special place in every geeks' heart. Like Sinclair, by the way. But also like the first PC with DOS 1.0 and BASICA or GWBASIC... And Turbo Basic and Turbo Pascal... Yeah, those were the days when computing was still FUN.

So yeah, a lot of us __do__ know the history of Apple. And we still don't believe that Tim Cook is the CEO that Apple needs. He was an amazing CFO; that was the right place for him. But running THAT tech company with only understanding its financial mechanics but NOT understanding its soul... That just doesn't fly.

For comparison, look at Microsoft under Bill Gates. Then look at what happened to the company when he handed it over to Steve Ballmer. Now look at the gigantic turn the company is taking under Satya Nadella and how __relevant__ Microsoft is becoming again. For a long while, Microsoft was just huge and financially successful, but they had lost all actual relevance in the tech sector; nobody cared for what Microsoft was doing anymore. Now they're back in the game and very obviously Nadella set the right course for the company.

But where is Apple going? Content subscription services for a vendor-locked-in user base? Seriously? That's all they have left? And __that__ is why people criticize Tim Cook so heavily, and he earned every single bit of it.
Rating: 12 Votes
9 months ago

Still name dropping Steve Jobs.

He gave a pretty memorable commencement speech at Stanford, and was the last CEO. It would’ve felt weird if he didn’t mention him.
Rating: 9 Votes
9 months ago
Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories...

Rating: 9 Votes
9 months ago


Drawing from what he learned in those dark days, Cook emphasized that "your mentors may leave you prepared, but they can't leave you ready."

Article Link: Tim Cook Talks Privacy, Steve Jobs, and the 'Difference Between Preparation and Readiness' in Stanford Commencement Address ('https://www.macrumors.com/2019/06/16/tim-cook-stanford-commencement-address/')

This is how I felt when I lost a parent. I was educated, employed, experienced.

I wasn't ready for it.
Rating: 8 Votes

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