Albert Einstein once said that “innovation is more important than knowledge.” To understand what he meant, another man, Steve Jobs, said “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”
This series of articles will not assess the former founder and CEO of Apple. The purpose of these articles is to illustrate how one can live a certain way, and thus achieve many things. Connecting the dots means to understand one’s past, and to know how to put past decisions into context. Everyone has dreams, and everyone tries to make them come true. In the process of pursuing a dream, it’s sometimes the case that decisions are made that don’t turn out to be so productive.
Steve Jobs gave a stirring commencement speech in 2005 at Stanford University. He, himself, never graduated and never completed a degree. Still, he became a wealthy man and the majority owner of Apple and Pixar, while also pursuing his own dream of bringing the computer to the people. Yet behind the scenes, underneath the whole veneer of fame, wealth, and genius, there is more personal story. This is often the case. Steve Jobs challenged the status quo; he refused to take “no” as an answer.
All of the people we admire today have believed in their power to change the world, and it’s possible to change the world in many ways. One shouldn’t presume that “change the world” means inventing something grand to make it a better place. A change can be miniscule, but potent. Questioning everything and not settling for an easy solution is the path to innovation. Those who worked for Steve Jobs know what that means.
Creativity is not something with which you are born. It is not something you can learn, like playing an instrument. It is a way of thinking, a way of operating, and a way of understanding how your past decisions always play a role. One of the anecdotes Jobs used from his life’s story is how he dropped in on a calligraphy class. It was purely a matter of chance, because he was simply intrigued. He connected the dots with the inclusion of beautifully designed fonts on the Macintosh Computer.
Seek out new experiences, and visit new places. Probably the majority of people now accepted as geniuses traveled as much as they could. It’s easy to understand how being a genius simply means that you know which piece fits another in your life’s puzzle. Dreams play an important role in shaping your plans. Passion and will are the fuel, but a vision provides the roadmap.
A vision must be seen in your mind’s eye every day, through every grueling effort, and through every defeat. An inspiring vision is important to gain the confidence necessary to keep going, even when everyone keeps telling you that success is impossible.
You may have started to pursue one idea, but then scrapped it completely. Still, this is a process of thought that will result in gained knowledge. Whatever you may learn at an early stage may become helpful again later — even if you go on to do something completely different. One thought leads to the next, and the same goes for skills.
The late Randy Pausch would also say that achieving impossible goals, like landing a man on the moon, inspires everyone. It reminds all that by going after the maximum of human potential, we can eventually solve our problems. It’s a tragic irony almost that he succumbed to cancer, yet he inspired so many of those who met him. He passed away knowing that he had achieved his dream, and was helping others find the motivation to pursue their own dreams.
Connecting the dots is one helpful tool to figure out how one can unleash one’s potential. In any case, it’s important to accept that patience is a most valuable virtue. It may not be until many years later that you see sense in something you do today. In life, we often have regrets, but what if one of those regrets could turn into a success? What are your dreams, and how do you go about achieving them? How do you connect the dots? Leave us a comment and share!
CC licensed Flickr image shared by Cain and Todd Benson