When I first wrote this post, it was a download of thoughts! Lots of thoughts. No structure, but lots of thoughts. As I read back through it, I found myself connecting the dots and realised that I could say everything I wanted to much more concisely. Connecting the dots; it has become a really focal part of my life ever since I listened to a brilliant speech by the late Steve Jobs from 2005. What he said flies in the face of what we hear from so many of the so called motivational speakers.
“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.”Steve Jobs (2005)
You can watch to the full 2005 speech from Steve Jobs and I would highly recommend it as a game changer.
What does it really mean?
I lose count of the number of ‘inspirational speakers’ who continue to tell us that we should never look back, only forward. It’s one of the most dangerous lies peddled to us. The sentiment may be rooted in good intentions but the reality is short-sighted and totally robs us of the prosperity gained by leaning on our life experiences.
If we literally take this falsehood at face value, we will only ever be looking ahead and the experiences we should learn from will be lost in the rear view mirror.
I am constantly looking forward but I also acknowledge that I am the sum of every experience and moment of my journey.
I find it really important to look back but it is never in regret or longingly, simply to see how far I’ve come.
And how far is that?
As the crow flies, it’s between 2 and 3 miles from my front door in Battersea. And on tonight’s run, I found myself stood opposite the eerily quiet Victoria Coach Station. It was eerie not because it was silent but it was silent at 5.30pm on a Friday evening, shutters across several of the main entrances.
You see, I’ve known Victoria Coach Station in frightening silence, during long nights when I was homeless and and it presented the one hope of warmth and solace from the dark London streets. It was never truly silent; it is after all a 24 hour operation and I was not the only frightened or homeless person in there seeking shelter from the streets of London in the late 1990s.
Of course, as you will read many times on this site, that life of serious mental illness, suicide attempts, homelessness and debt is very much in my rear view mirror. But it is precious.
I don’t look back to use it as a reminder that I’ll never go back there. I don’t need that type of motivation to know I’ll never go back there. However, I do have it as a reference point of where I have been and quite how far my coach has come. And most importantly, it is the fuel which helps me to drive the coaches of others who are struggling now but for whom their darkest moments can also be left behind.
So when I ran past there this evening, I really was able to live in the moment. A deep moment of reflection, purpose and determination, one which tells me that the journey may indeed have been a spectacular one to get this far, but one which has so much left.
Reflecting on how my dots connect, the nights spent in fear are every bit as valuable as any success in shaping me into the person I am. Every single experience is a dot and every day I can reflect on how connecting the dots equip me for what I face in the present and the future.
Most importantly, it also reminded me that we cannot and must not ever think that we have do it alone. I’d be nowhere without the love and compassion of those who have elevated me from those dark, fearful nights in Victoria. What am I if I don’t give it all back?
Living in the moment
In writing this, I’d had a day during which I was ill at ease from the beginning of it. It was my first day off since the Christmas break, a time which has been hectic at best and utter chaos in reality! Instead of relaxing on a day off shared with my wife, Claire, I was already worrying about all the things I have to do at the weekend. The sum of what I have to do at the weekend is much less than the abacus of my mind was adding up, but when you are feeling a touch overwhelmed and fatigued, it is easy to magnify things.
It took Claire to remind me of one of the bits of coaching I often give to others, that being the absolute necessity to step into the moment. We live so much of our life worrying about what we didn’t do yesterday or what may not go to plan tomorrow, it absolutely renders us joyless today. In so much of my speaking around mental wellbeing both during and pre-pandemic, it is something that I’ve really preached at the top of my voice…
Every day, find something which allows you to live in the moment. It can be reading, writing, music, talking with a friend; whatever it takes to free your mind of the regret of yesterday and anxiety of tomorrow. That freedom, more often than not for me, is found in running. And so it was this evening.
Past or present
So you may be asking whether you should be looking back, ahead or neither!! Are we living in the moment or connecting the dots to our past.
The reality is that they are not in silo, isolated from each other. However, we absolutely have to be living in the present but embracing that the present is shaped by connecting our dots from the past, and that the dots we connect now are shaping our future life and purpose.
In 2021, I am hoping to run 21 marathons for some brilliant charities. Two of those are Mind and The Running Charity. I’m sure you know all about Mind, but probably less about the Running Charity. My desire to support them is grounded in their work to rebuild the lives and give resilience tools to young homeless people. You can find out more by visiting their website.