“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future”
Excerpt From Make Something Wonderful
Have you ever had a moment of sudden reflection where you realize that some event in your life is significantly linked to another moment from your past?
Steve Jobs had a few of these moments in his life. Earlier on, he had to drop out of college for a few reasons, a big one was that his parents were spending their life savings on his tuition. Because he dropped out, he didn’t have to take some required courses (rolling my eyes at all the algorithms classes I had to take in university) and instead started dropping in on classes that piqued his interest, one of those classes was a calligraphy course.
When Jobs started toying around with the idea of building personal computers, he knew that it had to be different from what already existed. His mission was to bring simplicity and beauty to technology from a liberal arts perspective, having attended a liberal arts college himself. One of the things that he wouldn’t settle on was the use of beautiful fonts – he was influenced by the calligraphy courses he dropped in on, and this resulted in Apple producing personal computers with beautiful typography.
Fast forward to about 10 years later, he was fired from Apple, a company he spent all of his 20s building. To say the least, he was devastated, but out of that devastation, he found the courage to start from scratch because he still had passion to build. He went on to build NeXT and Pixar which broke records in its own regard. NeXT was acquired by Apple to be used as the foundation for Mac OS, and suddenly, Steve found himself back at Apple.
The dots are key moments in our lives that will have greater significance in the future, even though we might not recognize them at the time. The dots can be disappointing, like being fired from a company you built, losing a job, failing a class, etc or they may actually be enjoyable – like taking a calligraphy course you absolutely enjoy, starting a book club, or travelling to a specific location. But how can you tell which moment is a dot and which is just one of those things? The simple answer – you can’t tell in the moment. But the only thing I can tell you is that whatever moment you find yourself in, live and learn through it.
If you are currently at a disappointing dot, I want you to know that every piece of the puzzle matters. In this moment, it’s hard to see how this piece fits into the grand scheme of your life. This is a curve ball, you were not expecting this, neither were you prepared for this. But consider that maybe this is a moment for clarity and redirection. In his commencement speech at Stanford, Steve Jobs said:
“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”
If you need to, take some time to grieve and feel all the feelings (I’m a big advocate for crying it out). Then search for the lightness in place of the heaviness. Just do something again. The lightness that Jobs experienced is what gave us Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, The Incredibles, amongst many other record breaking animations. Eventually, the dots connected back to Apple, and even though he is gone, his vision for technology is still alive, just look around you.
If you are in a moment where you are simply glad to be alive, enjoying space, time and the little things, continue to do so. That class you’re taking for fun may lead you to the innovation that the tech industry needs. That instrument you’re learning to play just because may be the key to your Grammy. That person you said hi to may become the love of your life.
I’ll end this the same way I started, by quoting Jobs: again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. Just keep moving forward. Find the lightness and try again. Keep exploring your passions. The dots will connect.