In 2005 the late Steve Jobs delivered a moving commencement speech to the Stanford graduation class. He shared 3 stories from his life and if you haven’t watched it I highly recommend you spend 15 mins – it’s well worth your time.
I wanted to talk about one of the stories he shares – connecting the dots. I don’t want to steal the thunder from Steve so I won’t rehash his story in detail. The essence of his message, and in his words is “you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backward. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”
I truly believe in this and I wanted to share a story of a relationship with one of my clients that proves this very point –
Roughly a year ago I ran a survey to understand what makes people happy at work. Was it the work they did, the boss they had, the values of the organization they worked for, the money they got paid or the people they work with? Going in I suspected the answer was going to be ‘all of the above’ however I was keen on understanding if there was a weighting to particular areas, hence the survey.
(A quick summary of what I learnt from over 20,000 data points from the survey – the one thing that seems to drive happiness at work above all is finding and pursuing a career you love)
I was running the survey and promoting it on various social media channels so more people would respond. As I was going through the responses my eye caught some of the comments from Sarah*. Specifically she mentioned gender inequalities in the UK vs Australia i.e. females in UK are better off than those in Australia in terms of opportunities and pay. I thought this was interesting because I assumed how one country is the younger sibling of the other the inequalities would be the same and so I decided to e-mail asking if she could elaborate more.
Sarah responded to my e-mail and shared some of her experiences around the differences working in both the UK and back home in Australia which was fascinating and probably a subject of another post. She was extremely engaging in her response and appeared very willing to enter into discussion which was the start of a fantastic dialogue between us.
Sarah shared a bit more around what she did as well as her perspectives on work. At that stage Sarah mentioned she was resigned to being unhappy in her job and looking to fill the happiness bucket in her life with activities outside work. I must admit at the time this stopped me in my tracks as I believe it is VERY important we enjoy what we do for work given how much time we spend in an office (or working) – but given how early we were in our e-mail relationship I just flagged this one to come back to later.
I also shared with her the journey I was on (helping others find their passion) and what I had done and was doing (the survey of course as well as coaching people one-on-one to find what they love). I also had some podcasts at the time which were discussions with other individuals. Sarah listened to a few of them and found them extremely insightful.
As the survey continued I started to develop my program (what is currently on my services page) and wanted to run a pilot to see how it landed with people. By this stage, despite having never met in person, Sarah and I had formed a really strong connection and I shared my pilot with her. She leaped at the opportunity to be a part of it so she could find what she loves to do and also give me feedback.
Sarah attended my workshop (at that stage it was half a day on a Saturday and now it’s 3 hours on a weeknight) and at the end she had identified a few things that might be her passion. She left the session extremely motivated to take action. When we met after a few months for our first one-on-one coaching session there had been a family tragedy unfortunately and understandably Sarah’s attention was elsewhere.
We then met again this past weekend and Sarah had made some fantastic progress. She had found a different mindset and instead of being resigned to being unhappy at work she had transformed and chose to find happiness in what she was doing at work – a seismic shift to being more positive. She also had renewed clarity of what she loves to do and has already written a few articles with plans of launching a blog very soon. I felt so proud of her!
At the end of our catch up she said this all started last year when she responded to a survey on LinkedIn. She then thanked me for helping her find happiness in her current job as well as the career she loves. That was a truly special moment for me because that right there is WHY I built Workspired – to help others make a real shift in their life and find happiness in their career, which is exactly what Sarah has achieved for herself.
Rewind back to February 2016 when Sarah was sitting on public transport, scrolling through LinkedIn on her phone and some survey on happiness at work comes up – did she know that taking 5 minutes to complete the survey would trigger a series of events that would result in her finding happiness in her career? No!
Did I know that releasing a survey on happiness at work would allow me to help Sarah find a career they love? Absolutely not!
As Steve Jobs says it is impossible to connect the dots looking forward. Both Sarah and I trusted the dots would connect in the future and for us they did. Yes there will be times when you’ll have all these dots with no connections. But then there’s other times when one dot rolls into another and you might end up like Sarah – a completely different outlook on your job and discovery of a career you love – you have to trust in something if you want to go somewhere in life – “your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever”.
* Sarah’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.