Apple CEO Tim Cook says there’s at least one question your iPhone can’t answer: How do you build a life that provides both meaning and fulfillment?
Luckily, Cook himself has some advice on that front. At Gallaudet University’s commencement ceremony in Washington D.C. last month, Cook advised the new graduates to make decisions based more on their moral compass than any other decision-making metric. From his own experience, Cook said, following your internal code of ethics and focusing on causes you feel drawn to is the best way to reach success – both in and outside of the workplace.
“I know in my heart: Staying true to who you are and what you believe is one of the most important choices you can make,” Cook said in his speech, which was translated into American Sign Language for the audience at Gallaudet, where the entire student body is either deaf or hard of hearing. “It will help you form better relationships. It will help you find more satisfaction in your work. And with a little luck and a lot of effort, it will help you build a more meaningful life.”
Part of that process involves identifying your own personal code of morals, so you can have “a deep understanding of who you are and what you believe,” Cook said. One way to do that, he recommended: Imagine an unpredictable situation, and then determine how – in a perfect world – you’d want to react to it.
“When you imagine your future … the question you should ask is not, ‘What will happen?’ but ‘Who will I be when it does?'” Cook said. “I hope you will be kind and compassionate … I hope you will see there is wonder in being part of something bigger than yourself. And magic to be found in the service of others.”
Cook said that a “sense of meaning” initially drew him to Apple in 1998. Since then, he added, he has prioritized his own values while leading the company, with a focus on making Apple’s products inclusive, accessible and environmentally conscious.
“Our purpose has always been to create technology that enriches people’s lives,” Cook said. “That’s why we work hard to make technology that is accessible to everyone, why we fight to protect the fundamental right to privacy and why we are constantly innovating to help protect the environment and leave the world better than we found it.”
At Apple, customers can trade in old smartphones, watches or computers, and the company will determine whether the products can be reused, resold or recycled. The tech giant also wants to make products with net-zero carbon impact by 2030, according to its website.
Yet U.S. government officials want to push Apple to a higher standard. Last week, three U.S. Senate Democrats sent a letter to the secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce advocating for a bill – similar to recently passed EU legislation – that would require all smartphone companies to make products around a universal charging cord.
Cook concluded his address by noting the students’ sense of community – specifically the one they built during their college years – is a value that should not be forgotten.
“I hope you will be good stewards of the planet we inhabit and participants in the fight to make it better, more equal, more accessible, more just,” Cook said “I hope you will hold tightly to the community you built here. Because whatever life brings, your success will be sweetened and your setbacks softened.”