My favorite 15 minutes and 32 seconds is Steve Job’s commencement address at Stanford University, given just a few years before his very untimely death.
In it, among other things, he encourages the students to trust their instincts about what’s right for them – to follow the hearts, trusting that the dots will join looking backwards.
And, he’s 100% right. No one can answer the question “what do you want to be in 5 years?” It’s a terrible question – if anyone ever asks you that, simply demur and send them the YouTube link of Job’s commencement speech.
But I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. For sure, the dots join looking backwards. For sure, you can’t know what you want to do, or be, when you grow up.
But you can know the things about which you’re passionate. And within those domains, on a day-to-day basis, I think you can be intentional about joining the dots.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you love to write. Well, you might take a writing class, you might reach out to some friends to learn about the best blogging platforms, and you might do some online research about how to get some audience for your blog. You might sit in on a design class or two to make your blog look great, and you might go to a conference about new technologies for managing your content online.
And so on.
The point is – around the general topic of writing, I can pursue an array of seemingly unrelated things – but the dots join around my interest. I can synthesize what I’ve learned, and apply those learnings in the service of being a (better) writer.
I can, in fact, make the dots line up.
Wherever possible, make the dots line up.
Be as intentional as you can in the things you pursue. A series of completely unrelated, disconnected activities might be fun for a time, but in the end, may not amount to very much.
Life can be about building momentum – even if you’ve no idea the destination. Let me amend that – particularly when you have no idea of the destination. Momentum can beget some direction, and those that operate with purpose find that serendipity shows up a lot more often.
No doubt, long-term plans are a very tricky thing indeed. But making every effort to join the dots around your passions, that’s another thing altogether.