Connecting the dots

Last weekend I watched Steve Job's commencement speech at Stanford University where he talks about the importance of pursuing dreams, following the heart and facing life's scariest challenges. A beautiful speech that showed me why he is so great at what he does and why he's become such an important person.

I thought long and hard about all  the things he talked about and the one that struck me the most was surprisingly not the story about his fight against cancer (which is amazing) but the story about connecting the dots.

He described a moment in his life when he decided to drop out of college as he wanted to pursue his passion and follow his heart. He dropped in to some calligraphy course, which had no application in real life at the time, and that decision turned out to be an important and crucial one later on when he was designing the first Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. Had he never dropped in to that random calligraphy course, personal computers would not have the beautiful typefaces they do today.

Lesson: it is impossible to connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect the dots looking backwards.

I guess I have always believed this but I had never been able to articulate it. When I started to think about it I could clearly see that some of the great decisions I made in life gave me results I had not originally anticipated. The best decisions I made in life were the ones that followed my heart and intuition. The ones that took me off the well-known path. The ones that required a leap of faith. The ones that hoped that the dots would somehow connect in the future. And they did:

  1. When I was 17 I dropped out of a foreign trade course as my heart wanted me to be in advertising. I went back to advertising school, graduated and did an MBA in marketing a couple of years later. That's what I do today and I absolutely love it.
  2. I made a decision to get married when I was 25. "Too young" you may say. It was undoubtedly the best decision I have ever made. I found my lifelong partner and my best friend. We just felt it was the right thing to do.
  3. Some years ago, my wife and I made a decision to move to Canada. A quite complex decision led by our desire to succeed, heart and intuition. Great move on our part.
  4. A few years ago, I quit the job I had just started and offered to work for free somewhere else. I once again followed the heart and this decision helped shape the professional I am today.
  5. Last year, I quit my good job to go back to Brazil to take care of my father who was very sick. He made an extraordinary recovery and I am sure that me being there made all the difference. I knew at the time that this is what I had to do. I followed the heart.

Dots will connect. They always do. However, you will only know when you look backwards. You cannot predict the future. You cannot connect them looking forward. This is a simple list of 5 great decisions I made and they were led by heart and intuition, not by reason or the mind. Do what you love and you will be just fine.