So said Steve Jobs. The former CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered a Commencement address on June 12, 2005 at Stanford University. In it, he talked about “connecting the dots.” He described life’s events as a series of dots that, initially, may seem random. He explained that , when it comes to a career, “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.”
In my 20s, my various positions at IBM were part of a 5-year, then a 10-year, career plan. I was busy with and focused on developing solid business and professional skills. But downsizing efforts, and a new “not my father’s company anymore” attitude, changed my perspective on that no-longer-so-sure plan. So, in an effort to have more control and “power,” I co-founded and ran a training company during my 30s. That work experience offered autonomy while it brought out and highlighted my entrepreneurial spirit, taste for risks-rewards, and interpersonal skills.
Then, September 11th happened and I turned 40 a week later. Those events became the catalysts that fundamentally changed me during the next decade. I no longer cared about corporate America. I wanted to get in touch with my Jewish roots, give back, and have the flexibility to spend more time with my family. I jumped into the Jewish non-profit world as a volunteer (lay professional) and decided to pursue a Masters in Jewish Studies. With no plan or conscious intentions, these efforts led to a job as a “Jewish Communal Professional” at my JCC where I exercised my budgeting, organizational, and people skills.
I became a bit paranoid as my 50s loomed on the horizon. I was worried about being complacent and not challenging myself. I had the strong feeling that it was time for another change, now that my kids were out of the house, but was too lazy to do anything about it. Well, as fate would have it, an opportunity found me and I jumped to accept it. On paper, the job and I were a perfect match; it offered the right balance of business and Israel focus, and I had the necessary skills to further the organization’s successes. The reality, however, was far from ideal; so much so that I quit after only 4 months in the position. I couldn’t believe that, in this not-yet-recovered economy, without a new job lined up, and with no plan…I just quit. But I simply had to.
Fortunately, my husband — who shared Steve Job’s “connecting the dots” words with me — was very supportive. He forced me to clean out my closet (literally and figuratively), pushed me to reconnect with family and friends, told me to relax, and helped my update my resume. I knew in my kishkes — my gut — that I had to be patient and wait for a higher power intervene; that the dots from my past would miraculously connect and point to my future. I had to have faith.
After 6 weeks of fun-filled unemployment flew by, an acquaintance called with a new opportunity. She said my face came to her in a dream one night and she got the ball rolling the very next morning. The entire process became a done deal in a matter of two weeks. Most importantly, I believe that this new job — its role in my community and the responsibilities it entails — is the way my own dots were meant to connect. All of my past work experiences, and many of my personal ones, have led me to this point.
Thank you, Mr. Jobs, for sharing a perspective that has made all the difference. I’ve found out who I am, what I love, and what I want to do.