Why You Shouldn’t Try to ‘Make a Dent in the Universe.’

It’s that time of year when we are graced with commencement speeches of all kinds. One of the most popular over the years has been Steve Jobs’ address to the Stanford class of 2005. Ironic, as Jobs never came close to graduating from college. Still, you can’t help to feel inspired as he encourages you to connect the dots, stay hungry/stay foolish, and to make a dent in the universe.

What does making a dent in the universe even mean?

Do you have any idea how big the universe actually is? It’s dozens of billions of light years to the observable edge, give or take. To put that into perspective watch this:

How arrogant could you be to think you can leave any noticeable difference on such a vast scale?

Ok, he wasn’t literal about the size of the impact. But then I think about making dents on things closer to earth. Isn’t that the same as vandalism?

Surely Steve wasn’t encouraging wanton destruction of private property. Still there is something reckless about this mindset.

Dents require force and pressure to happen, but what are you willing to trade to get that kind of power?

I think setting out with a goal to make a dent in the universe could easily lead you to forget or pass up on many great things you could pass over without noticing. Years later, those tend to be the things we look back on and cherish the most.

Instead, maybe we should be looking to make a micro-difference in the world directly around us. What local impact could you work towards making? How could you improve the personal lives of those you interact with most?

Thinking in such a narrow field of vision might seem to be selling yourself short. But those are the changes where you will see the biggest impacts. The effects of your work will shine through the brightest. What’s more, those small victories, celebrated and nurtured, can grow into larger triumphs some day.

We didn’t land on the moon in one giant leap. It took many baby steps. Your first step is waiting for you, unless you’re too distracted by grand vision of universal dents.

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