Jobs, Dots and Coincidences

by Lorne Mitchell on 31/08/2011

In the week that Steve Jobs gave up as CEO of Apple, I was reminded by a good friend, Cliff, of part of Jobs’ address to Stamford students in 2005:

“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.”

The idea that “dots will connect down the road” is such an interesting one. So many things become obvious with the benefit of hindsight. So it was, whilst on holiday in Sicily over the past ten days, that I was thinking about the importance of coincidences when looking back in life.

How many times in your life have you thought “That’s a coincidence!” – and the event or chance meeting has led to something important developing further down the road?

There is also the famous puzzle about how many people you need to gather together in a group for there to be less than a 50% probability that two in the group will share a birthday. The answer is not, as may would think 183 (or a half or 366) – but it is, in fact, a mere 23!  Therefore coincidences are actually more common than we might at first think!

James Redfield in his book “The Celestine Prophecy” develops the main character with him beginning to notice instances of “synchronicity”, or the realisation that coincidences may have deep, sometimes spiritual meanings.

And, as Einstein charmingly said: “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”

To bring me back to Steve Jobs – his creations (or the creations of Apple) have been important at certain transition points in my life – whether they be the first Apple 2 I bought in 1980, or the Macbook Air I ordered today because my MacBook Pro that I got when I set up Objective Designers 3 years ago packed up last week!

Whether you believe these deeper meanings or not, REFLECT ON IT: When have coincidences changed your direction in life – or the decisions you have made?  They have for me. Maybe they have for you?

Please think about these coincidences that have turned your life….and, if you think you have a good story, please put it in the comment box below!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ryan Shriver September 1, 2011 at 04:13

Hey Lorne,
Fall semester of my freshman year in college I was enrolled in a Western Civilization history class with a very good professor. It was a Monday-Wednesday-Friday class and after the first two sessions and I was enjoying the class but then on Friday a new professor showed up. It turned out due to a scheduling change he was switching sessions with the original professor, so he would be taking over the course. By the end his first lecture I knew I had to get out of the course. He was that bad.

So I ask my assigned faculty advisor, who was a Computer Science professor, what I should take instead of history and he said “what about intro to computer science?”. I said, “OK” and I took the initial course in Pascal programming. I did OK, so I took another. And another until I ended up majoring in it. I got an internship at an Internet start-up my senior year because of my first computer science professor and from there have been working in the industry ever since.

I’ve often wondered whether I would have ended up in this industry and in my career, responding on this blog to someone I’ve met because of said career, had those history professors not switched sessions twenty years ago.

-ryan

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2 Anonymous September 4, 2011 at 12:20

What a great example, Ryan. Thanks so much for sharing it! The more I think about it, coincidences are so much easier to see when you look backwards in time….
The interesting thing is that the decisions we make early in life can affect so much of our livlihood later in life.
Hope you still have History as a hobby!

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3 Nigel September 29, 2011 at 15:38

I experienced remarkable serendipity on Sunday.  Let me tell you about it.

I bought an old fridge freezer on eBay from someone in Maidstone to preserve my garden produce with.  My kitchen is overflowing.  It cost me £36 cash.  I only had two, £20 notes and a £10 note to pay with and the seller has no change.  Opposite her house though there was a small convenience store so I went in to ask if they’d change down my £10 note.  There was a small queue at the counter so I joined the end.  After a few seconds another customer joined the queue behind me and immediately asked me if I could change up ten £1 coins to a £10 note for him.  Now what are the chances of that?

I set me wondering about random coincidences and how they fool people into thinking there must be some greater force at work.  This is why people buy lottery tickets even though the pay out is half the pay in.  It explains religion and it explains why the scientific way of thinking has not spread much beyond academia despite being the most powerful way of thinking man has ever invented.

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