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Connecting Dots: Embracing the Journey of Exploration
Inspired by Steve Jobs' commencement speech at Stanford in 2005
As you might have noticed previously, I gave my newsletter the name “Connecting Dots”. Where does that come from? Glad you asked!
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I learned about the concept of connecting dots when I listened to the commencement speech of Steve Jobs at Stanford University a few years ago. Though only much later did I come to appreciate that philosophy more deeply.
I highly recommend you watching or listening to the full speech after you finish reading here, but essentially, the core message can be found here:
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. 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.
Steve Jobs during his commencement speech at Stanford in 2005
Often, the path you (or other people) set out for yourself don’t quite turn out the way you imagined. The roles I thought I’d fill changed and developed over time. I still remember that one day in primary school when I was supposed to write about my “dream job”. Mine was being an automobile designer. Yeah, I really loved drawing 2D cars as a kid. My seat neighbor wanted to be an astronaut. Looks like neither of us made those ideas come true.
Later in school I thought again about what my aspiration was. I kind of wanted to have a high impact role, to somehow change the world for the better, “advancing society/humanity”, my teenage brain thought. And according to my research back then it had to be something in STEM, like engineering was supposed to play a vital role in the future, making humans prosper with new technologies and possibilities.
Not long after I thought computer science or programming was the way to go, since it's something relatively new, modern and cool. Doesn't seem like the traditional STEM subjects where you're juggling a bunch of numbers and formulas. Besides, all the video games I enjoy are created with programming, now that’s cool. I even went so far as to convince my parents to buy me some sort of Java programming course, which probably took a lot from me to ask.
As it often goes, the biggest reason you don't pursue something after all is self-doubt. Though it may very well be a reasonable assessment. In my case I probably thought my mathematical skills weren't strong enough to pursue computer science fully. Instead, one of my strengths were my linguistic skills. I was always the no. 1 person for English (which I took pride in), and my Spanish wasn't too bad either. Now adding my intercultural upbringing to that observation, it suddenly seemed like International Business was a good fit.
Was I passionate about it? Hard to say, there wasn't much in high school that was similar, so I didn't have a good picture of how the work would actually be like. All I know was that it seemed somewhat respectable and that I could make a decent living off of it. And here's the thing, another factor that went into my decision, whether consciously or subconsciously, was how much money I could make to support myself and my family at some point.
The fact that my family was never really well-off and I was to become the first academic in my family (neither of my parents was even able to finish high school) made me feel like I had a great responsibility. I had to make something out of my life, not waste the opportunity that was given to me. For instance, I was also creatively inclined, I thought about becoming a designer, video game designer or other more creative jobs. But in the end, they didn't feel very promising financially. It was risky.
I sometimes wonder whether I would have been happier if I chose a full-time creative path from the get go.
But here's where the concept of “connecting dots” is so powerful. Remember, you can't connect the dots looking forward, only when you look backwards. So only later in life do you realize how all your decisions made in the present and past connect with each other in unexpected ways that really pay off for you in a beautiful way.
For Steve Jobs, there were several such noteworthy instances. An interesting one is where he dropped out of college because it was too expensive. That, however, led to him discovering and participating in irregular courses such as calligraphy which ultimately helped him introduce the first ever personal computer with “beautiful” fonts. (Btw, although I’m very much inspired by Steve Jobs’ story here, I actually never really owned any Apple product (except the iPod Shuffle 4th gen). The times I tried using an iPhone or MacBook I just couldn’t get along with the user experience somehow.)
Later on, Steve Jobs got kicked out of Apple, the company he co-founded. While this was a very unpleasant moment of his life, he recovered and started over because he still loved what he did. He went on to found NeXT, which had a big influence on the computer industry, and became owner of Pixar, the computer animation studio responsible for many beloved movies. Apple eventually acquired NeXT and Steve Jobs returned to lead Apple.
In my previous post I mentioned how I have too many different interests and that I sometimes don’t know what I’m doing or what I’m supposed to focus on like:
Hey, I like photography, but I also like making videos. But what kind of videos? I like it cinematic with a story. But I also like it educational. About what? I don’t know, productivity? Or personal development? Perhaps startups and their ecosystems! Or maybe founder and business stories? Maybe just pure entertainment with video games? Maybe I should not make videos but just focus on creating an MVP (minimum viable product) of my startup idea(s)! I guess I could also just write…or do a podcast. Damn, I can’t decide. Now I’m stuck with all of these, none going very far…
probable monologue in my brain lol
Perhaps this makes it more difficult for me to develop into a specific role or skill area very deeply, but in the end a diverse set of interests leads to different experiences and knowledge that when connected can spark a unique idea or vision. At the very least, the execution and result of it will be unique.
I used to be jealous of people who already know what they wanted to become very early on, but I realize now that a) many of those that I know later decided for something else after all, and b) “good for them (and for us)!” because that way they are happy and we have more dedicated skilled people available, it’s a win-win!
Recently, I made the call to move from Germany after my BSc degree at the Technical University Munich to Barcelona, Spain to start a new chapter in my life. Honestly, it was scary and exciting at the same time. I’m working full-time now, and I realize how as a student you were much more flexible and how making friends was also much simpler. There is also the fact that I’m not a native Spanish (or Catalan) speaker (though I’m on my way to getting fluent! 🤞). But new environment means new opportunities! And I’m gonna make the best out of my situation!
You don’t need to have it all figured out. That’s the thing. I don’t know how long I’ll actually stay in Barcelona. Life happens. Nor do I know whether the job/company/role I’m doing is the one I’m gonna stick with for 2 years. Will I have found “that person” by then? Or will I have finally figured out what I love doing/creating the most? Who knows? The uncertainty coming from the sheer endless possibilities can be dizzying. Yet at the same time, why rush? I’m still young. In fact, it seems like wherever I go currently, most likely I’m the youngest. There’s really not much I can do that can derail my life into a complete disaster…well, at least I think so…but let’s not jinx it haha…
As lost as I sometimes feel, I think it’s important to acknowledge how much I actually have to be grateful for. I have a roof above my head, got enough resources to enjoy more than enough things in my life to not feel miserable or worry about finances, can develop the skills I want so long as I don’t stand in my own way, and most importantly, have generally cool people around me. Some may be interesting acquaintances while others are nice friends, and yet others are even closer, people you can trust and go to for all kinds of things. I mean with that in mind, what’s there to worry?
The moral of the story is to embrace the journey of exploration and not worry about having a singular passion or calling. Trust that your diverse interests and experiences will eventually connect and lead you to your true passion. Keep following your instincts and don’t stop until you find what you love. By the time you have found it, you’ll know.
Bi-Weekly Progress Update
Business Development ain’t an easy job, but I’m getting there. Targeting mostly traditional companies with a revenue of 250M€+ and selling pretty much the most complex and expensive software out there (ERP) means being more strategic but also more patient
It turns out that I also need to work on my communication with certain stakeholders because sometimes they may not understand my intention behind a message which could result in a misunderstanding
Friends & Co.:
So much has happened in the last two weeks. We had a team building event at the beach which I had co-organized. The games we had got way more competitive than we thought, it was intense. And fun.
Illenium concert in Barcelona! One of my all-time favorite artists!
A couple of days in Madrid at my friend’s! La Hispanidad was amazing. Ton of free events, shows and concerts to enjoy. Love the vibe and lifestyle there.
Another event at the company, we completed a Survivor Race (6K+ with 20 obstacles)!
Language Skills (Spanish):
Duolingo, surpassed the 365 day streak. Tbh now I would not focus too much about it because I don’t feel like the Duolingo units are challenging and fast enough. But the gamification game of Duolingo…so irresistibly strong.
Otherwise I have also been able to speak a lot more Spanish with native speakers due to my stay in Madrid (e.g. my friend’s landlord and other friends) and also my recently moved-in flatmates.
Well, I certainly have been writing a lot more now since I started this newsletter, I think it’s a good exercise. It does take a lot more time than I thought though…
My main videos are kind of taking a backseat right now. At least I saw some good videos I can watch later for improving my filming & editing game.
Ok, the last two weeks I haven’t worked out as much, but to be fair, I was in Madrid for bit more than 5 days. And in that period I walked almost 100.000 steps. So I’d say I was quite active.
In total: 2 workouts, 1 yoga, 1 run, whole lotta steps & Survivor Race
Alright, I think that’s all for now. Usually I’d add some more little sections like photo/quote of the day, and a few favorite things (to read, watch or listen to) I discovered and want to share, but I think this time the issue is more than long enough.
Thank you so much for reading! Hasta pronto!
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