Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Connecting the Dots

"You can't connect the dots looking forward you can only connect the dots looking backwards. So you have to trust they will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing 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." -- Steve Jobs

I didn't grow up wanting to be a minister. The only time I stepped into a church was when my grandmother brought me on Christmas or Easter. I grew up wanting to play baseball, preferably for the San Francisco Giants for whom my idol, Willie Mays, played. But while I hit .350 on my high school team, baseball became one of my avocations and not my vocation.

Some people, I think they are rare, know what they want to do at a very early age and then do it. Most of us have to keep trying different things until we find something that feels right. And when we find it we have to keep paying attention to the stirrings of our spirit because calls aren't fixed and static, they are alive and ever-changing. Our lives are like the connect the dots puzzles I played when I was a kid - we don't know what the picture is until we are finished.

When you look back at your life does it seem like a giant connect the dot puzzle that makes sense or does it feel like you are still in the middle of the puzzle and hoping it will make sense one day? Or maybe a little of both. If I play connect the dots with the jobs I have had in my lifetime it begins with shining shoes at age 9, delivering and then selling newspapers, working in a butcher shop, flipping hamburgers at A&W and then eventually becoming a store manager, working at the phone company in service and sales, in management, marketing and training, getting fired, going to seminary and becoming a minister. As a minister I've worked in membership and administration, three congregations, all very different, and as an Executive Director. So what does it all mean?

The last few months I've been telling people that this journey to Assisi and Silicon Valley seems like a connect the dots puzzle that I've started on and don't know what will come of it. Since I am 50% Italian and grew up in San Francisco and San Jose perhaps it is a journey home. Since I'm passionate about the lessons, wisdom and energy of business and spiritual contemplation it is an exploration into where these practices intersect for the individual and common good. Since I love travel it might just be a good excuse for two great trips.

The greatest gift, and perhaps learning, so far has been asking people to suggest books, people, ideas that come to them when I tell them what I'm doing. This has brought the connect the dots image to a whole new level. Checking out a website, talking to someone I never would have thought of, reading a book or visiting someplace that wasn't in my guidebook, all lead to a different image when the dots are connected. And if you think about it, isn't that the story of each of our lives? We are in the midst of connecting the dots and every person we meet, every place we visit, every job we have, every joy and sorrow, is a new dot that changes who we are and what we will leave behind. Sometimes we know it at the time but usually it takes a little while.

Steve Jobs said the words above in the commencement speech he gave at Stanford in 2005. I have always known about the speech but only listened to it a few weeks ago. It is must watching/listening for anyone who aspires to be a calltrepreneur and wants to live a life following their passion and dreams. In other words it is for everyone. One of the seven principles of Unitarian Universalism asserts that we are all part of an interdpendent web, and so we are. Perhaps it is a more poetic way to say that we are each a dot or two in the giant connect the dots game of life.

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