How Defining Moments Changed Steve Jobs’ Life

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Yesterday I was sitting next to my husband in a café in London and found myself blurting out: “Oh my gosh, if I didn’t meet you, I would have worked in a company my entire life.”

I scanned all of the choices, decisions and actions I’d taken the last 4 years and came to the conclusion: my life today, as an American Entrepreneur living in London, is officially unrecognizable from what it would have been.

In coaching, ‘meeting my husband’ is what we call a defining moment: a moment that changes the trajectory of our lives forever.

Steve Jobs brilliantly calls defining moments ‘dots’ in his Stanford commencement speech, saying;

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward: you can only connect them looking backwards. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect to your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.

These ‘dots’, or defining moments, can come disguised as:

1. Falling in love: In love with a partner, a person, a place, a cause that pulls our heart down new pathways

2. Learning something new: When we read, learn or have an experience that completely alters our previous thoughts, beliefs and perceptions

3. Having one life-changing conversation: We’ve all had that conversation or one comment from a parent/teacher/friend/stranger that permanently shifted something within us

4. The day we say, “I’ve had enough”: The moment we’re done being depressed, done with a toxic relationship, done with living someone else’s life

How to recognize defining moments

Defining moments can come like a lightning-bolt and be as clear as day: like a shot of insight and awareness that is palpable.

Or they can be rather elusive and only clear in hindsight by connecting the ‘dots’, as Steve Job suggests.

No matter what kind of defining moment you experience, nearly all of them come with one guarantee: they’re guaranteed to create uncertainty, get you out of our comfort zone and stir up emotional vulnerability.

Take my story. Can you imagine the kind of uncertainty, out-of-comfort-zone and emotional vulnerability I faced having a 15-month long distance relationship? And moving permanently to a new country? And setting up a business? The inner struggle was real.

And yet, Steve Jobs argues that these are the very moments are exactly we’re called to experience.

We must practice following our inner guidance. We won’t know how everything is going to play out. But if we trust we’re being guided, all of the best aspects of life like true love, joy, opportunities, freedom, can start to appear for us.

What if I missed the boat?

Don’t worry if you feel you had a missed opportunity or wish you did something different. What’s important is that you connect the ‘dots’ -- focus on today. As long as you’re alive, defining moments will continue to happen for you.

All it takes is just one chance meeting, one realization, or one conversation.

Are you ready?



Tracey Livingston