Connecting The Dots

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.

Steve Jobs

This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite speeches. Steve talks about the importance of trusting in something. The thing that I have come to trust over the years is that everything happens for a reason. I don’t know if it is true, but I have faith that some version of it is worth believing. Steve describes some of the other versions as gut, destiny, life, and karma. His last option, “whatever”, implies that it doesn’t actually matter very much what you trust in, so long as you “trust in something”.

For much of human history, religion was that “something” for the vast majority of people on earth. One could argue that that is still the case today. Technically, they would be right, but I can feel the role of religion in many households shrinking from a true practice of faith to a calendar of holidays bringing days off work and perhaps a few nice family traditions. There may even be a real remembrance of faith on the holiday itself, but it tends to be fleeting, an exception rather than the norm, and that’s alright. I don’t believe everyone needs religion. I just believe everyone could use some faith.

Growing up, I was extremely skeptical of everything. I didn’t have faith in anything in particular. I pushed back on anything anyone told me they believed, especially if they tried to convince me to do the same. I think you can get away with this perspective as a kid. Perhaps it takes some child-like courage to live without the comfort of faith to fall back on. I remember thinking when I was very young, if I ever ended up becoming religious, it would be because I was not strong enough to deal with real doubt. I told myself never to forget this, and obviously I didn’t, but at some point I chose to ignore it, sort of. I still don’t believe every word of any religion by any means, but I do think there are aspects from most all of them that could be worth believing. More importantly, I have come to believe it is worth believing in something.

Some people think that faith and doubt are opposites. As my younger self often said, I disagree. In fact, I do not believe one can have faith without doubt, for it is the uncertainty of the doubt itself which requires the faith. I once wrote, “A true man of faith does not avoid the creep of doubt. Rather, he lives with it long enough to choose to believe a few things.”

You have to know that you don’t know much, but choose to have faith in something, or to “trust in something”, as Steve said. His famous example about not being able to connect the dots looking forward was the story of how sitting in on a calligraphy class in college led to the introduction of beautiful font options on the Mac.

I recently recalled an example of my own. In high school, I used to freestyle and record rap songs with a few of my best friends. I would never have thought that would have been helpful towards anything except the music we were making at the time, but I realize now that had I never learned to record and edit audio or become comfortable hearing my own voice, I may never have started my podcast. In a way, anything that the podcast leads me to now will be thanks not only to the podcast, but also to my high school days of rapping. Back when we were recording, I had never even heard of a podcast, let alone imagined I would one day have one of my own.

Perhaps there are some dots to be connected looking back on your life which you can appreciate could never have been connected looking forward. “So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something.”