Chances are you’ve seen this Stanford address by Steve Jobs. It’s attracted over 3 million views. I was just alerted to a bit in it where he talks about a philosophy he has for life turning out. For how his life turned out.

photo: Nike
Photo via Nike

Jobs dropped out of uni after six months, but hung around campus, bummed about, ate Hare Krishna food. But he’d listen in on a calligraphy class…because it looked beautiful and interesting. Which, I think, is classic scanner (as per yesterday’s post) behaviour. He learned about the different fonts – serif and san serif (as per yesterday’s post, I, too, am obsessed by typography, among other things).

And so,

“If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, “ Jobs explained, “the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionately spaced ones. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.”

And this is his philosophy,

“Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later. 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. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Which could be seen as cheap spiritual-speak. But it’s not. It’s how it works. I often get asked how I got to be editor of Cosmo or host of MasterChef of whatever. I can trace back and connect dots. But at the time, I didn’t see the dots.

I simply did what seemed beautiful and interesting, moment to moment.

Not always, but that’s generally what drew me there. I took risks to follow the beautiful and interesting – like quitting a law degree, moving cities, trying out graphic design and politics and other such “scanner” pursuits. But once there, and engaged in what I found interesting, I was noticed and given opportunities. One thing led to another…

Two things I’d say:

* Look out for dots. That is, follow things that are beautiful and interesting. You might die tomorrow (which Jobs also says in his speech). So, a calligraphy course. A low-pay temp job in an industry you’re curious about. Or, in my case, reaching out – bravely –  when I was a junior writer in Melbourne on Sunday Magazine, to invite a woman who joined the office briefly to lunch with me because she looked like fun and was being bullied by the boss (and who turned out to be good friends with the publisher of Cosmo).

* Engage in the dot you’re on. Be where you are…a great life is what happens when you stop making plans. Interested, engaged people get noticed and get moved forward by life (and publishers of magazines). Because you’re being certain and present – life knows where to find you and can tell you’re ready to be moved and to grow. This is the power of the trust Job’s mentions.

Also, importantly, when you’re certain and engaged, you can see the next dot.

Everything does turn out as it needs to. And we’re only ever dealt what we’re ready for. Again, not cheap spiritual-speak. It’s the physics of life. Just look back over some dots of your own.

All we can do is be ready – be engaged and trust the dots we’re on.

Hmmmm, I’m a bit pensive this morning. Does this make sense to you?

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Lei

    Thank you for this post. I got chicken skin reading it. I’m reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and am a single mom with my first child. I have no idea what my future holds but I know there are no mistakes in life. My child, and little bits of inspiration such as the book I’m reading and this article feel like dots on my “yellow brick road” that tell me I’m right where I’m meant to be.