Connecting the Dots

In his famous Stanford 2005 Commencement Speech, Steve Jobs talks about connecting the dots in life. He says that you can never connect the dots in life looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. And so, you just need to trust that the dots will somehow connect, and that they will (hopefully) connect in your favour. This faith is what can give you that little push to take the path less traveled, and sometimes, this will be what makes all the difference.

This quote is one that has consistently stayed with me, and it is one that I reflect on a lot. This whole idea begs the question: Are the dots meant to connect in a certain way?

As Steve Jobs said, when you’re in the moment, it can be hard, or nearly impossible, to see how one thing can lead to another. For him, he dropped into a typography class every week after dropping out of college. It was a class that had seemingly no practical relevance to what he wanted to do, but he found it fascinating. Later down the line, when he was designing the first Mac, he built what he had learned about typography into the system and that is the reason why personal computers have the fonts they do. He would have never thought that it worked out that way in the moment. Only in retrospect did he see how his dots connected.

On a more relatable level, 10 years in the future, it’s easy to look back and say that ending that relationship with a significant other is what drove you to become more ambitious and pursue law school, and that you’re where you are now because of that initial prompt and decision. Ten years in the future, it’s easy to look back and say that was the pivotal moment in your life, the beginning of it all. But in the moment, hurt and angst might be what consumes you. It’s easy to be blind to everything else, including the potential future. What’s hard to do is look forward and see the new opportunities or paths that something can bring.

I’ve always toyed around with the idea of destiny. Is there really a being of a higher power who is controlling our strings? Are they dictating what happens, and do we really have a certain fate? Is there a bigger plan for us?

We’ve all had bad days and bad moments. We’ve had losses, failures, and friendships and relationships that ended. We’ve burned bridges, gotten back bad marks for tests and assignments, and at one point, felt like the world was crashing down on us.

But what if that was meant to happen?

I honestly hate saying that everything happens for a reason, but what if it’s true? What if we’re meant to go down a different path, and that was the moment that helped us to actually change paths? The thought of all the different paths in life terrifies me when I think about it sometimes. It’s so ambiguous and incredibly open-ended. I believe that we all have an end goal – somewhere we’re meant to end up, whether it’s a place or a picture of what our lives are supposed to look like. But the paths we take to get there is certainly never set in stone.

It is comforting to think that maybe things are meant to be and that the dots are meant to connect in a certain way. As Steve Jobs said, sometimes you just need that degree of faith. This makes it easier to go for new opportunities and let yourself explore foreign land. Each opportunity in life is a dot formed on your life map, and although you might not know which dots end up connecting to which dots, at least they are there. And because they are there, you have potential doors that will open.  

So think about your dots. Reflect on your life up until this point. What are the key moments in your life that changed everything? What are some things that so clearly led to another? I bet at the moment, while those events are happening, you didn’t think about the future at all.

Remember this next time you’re going through a rough patch in your life. It could just be happening, or it could be happening for a reason. So, be open to the opportunities that may present themselves next. It could make all the difference.