While on the subject of Apple, I thought it befitting to look back at the commencement speech Steve Jobs delivered at Stanford in 2005.
I’m always struck by the story he tells about stumbling into that calligraphy class at Reed College, and how a decade later when he was integrating typefaces into the Mac, he reflected on how it is impossible to “connect the dots” looking forward; but they are very clear looking backward:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backward. 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. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road, will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path. And that will make all the difference.”
I think it’s important for young professionals to internalize this message deeply as they contemplate career moves that may seem risky looking forward, or may seem orthogonal to what they’ve been doing previously. It takes a lot of guts to pivot into something entirely new, to seemingly press the “reset” button on your career (and perhaps to press it a few more times down the road). I’ve done it at least half a dozen times. I know many others who have done it, too.
But in ways large and small, my past experiences have sometimes converged at various points along my career path. And I deeply believe that the diversity of these experiences — and the knowledge acquired with it — while perhaps “slowing things down” in the short-term, will come together in the long-term in serendipitous, delightful ways to open and accelerate new career and life opportunities that wouldn’t have been available otherwise.
As you contemplate “scary” career transitions, definitely evaluate the risks carefully and make your decisions thoughtfully, but remember that you can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backward.