You Can Only Count The Dots Backwards

Recently while following an unrelated link, I came across a commencement speech given by Steve Jobs back in 2005.It is a remarkable speech and well worth watching for many reasons however the theme on counting the dots backwards was specifically meaningful. He tells the story of how being firing from Apple was the worst day of his life resulting in disillusion, depression and an abject sense of loss and failure. Yet in hindsight he can see that it was an essential step in his success because without his experience at both Next and Pixar the next generation of incredibly successful Apple products may never have happened. (

This resonated with me as I have been struggling to make sense of the events of my current life and where they were taking me. I realized that I was trying to count the dots forward instead of trusting in life’s unfolding journey. This insight led me back to my Soul Journal where I record the unfolding signs, synchronicities and mystery of my life.  These become a foundation for trust in the outcome because in hindsight I can always see connections: a broken ankle that led to a complete life change, a car crash that resulted in a dramatic personality adjustment, a failed marriage that caused a paradigm shift – the stories are always there to support me in times of uncertainty, I just have to remember to call upon them. I am an absolute believer in recording the magical experiences that life brings us to assist in supporting the uncertainty that can so quickly undermine our faith. However I have also learned that these require us to become more conscious of the patterns as they unfold.

This became particularly transparent in a conversation I had later the same week. A friend of mine suffers from a sleep disorder. It is not critical but totally irritating and she is constantly exploring possible solutions from medical intervention, acupuncture, sleep clinics, meditation etc, many of which provide temporary respite but the problem remains. Later in the conversation, I shared Steve Job’s perspective about counting the dots backwards and suddenly she began to connect the dots of her sleep disorder and how it had frequently been a gift. On one occasion encouraging her to leave a job she needed to exit and on another to prevent her from taking a job that could have landed her back in the same place. Only by counting the dots backwards could the pattern emerge and we begin to fully appreciate the amazing nature of the mystery and as James Hollis observed in Swamplands of the Soul, “When we stand in conscious relationship to the mystery we are more deeply alive.”

NB: This is the first blog I have written using typewriter keyboard software that makes the sounds of an old style typewriter. It’s weird but it makes it more fun to write! (


One Response to You Can Only Count The Dots Backwards

  1. MEB says:

    Hi Trevor –
    This reminds me of one of my favourite quotes: “We don’t learn from experience; we learn from reflecting on experience” – John Dewey.
    Take care. MEB

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