Looking Backwards, Connecting the Dots

So the day came.

I have not much to say like everyone else on the web and mess media. I don’t want to go on skin-depth things like how he transformed the computer industry and the world – I didn’t even agree most of the tactics he used (like, all closed-source, closed and single distributor model for the iOS platform, etc.).

I want to share something personal with you here, instead.

I did a lot of things that didn’t make sense to my parents, nor to myself at the time. Ever since mid-school, I spent countless hours making websites. I was the computer guru to my high school classmates because the guestbook/chatroom service I built was practically the online social network to them. When I went to college, I chose to take physics as major instead of computer science because I thought there were more wonders in the mechanics of the physical world instead of inside a computer. That turned out to be true, and the wonders unfortunately succumbed me; my grades in physics classes were never higher than the one and only computer science class I took. I didn’t know what to do at the time; I didn’t want to, and couldn’t go for the regular career a physics-major in Taiwan would usually do, that is go to graduate school, and to TSMC/UMC or other semiconductor companies straight from school, the flagship industry of Taiwan – The promise land with dicent salary and social recognition.

Nevertheless, I got my B.Sc. anyway. I stall a bit by deliberately not to meet the graduation requirement (which is, ironically, English requirement) and stayed for a fifth year. I joined MozTW and took care of Firefox localization, started to get to know people in the technology circle, many of whom are big names I admired. I gave lectures at meet-ups and events, wrote web application for Firefox promotion. I co-organized events, designed event websites. I built a paper toss game in the IE9 hackathon event and was awarded an XBox 360 + Kinect. Eventually, I am recognized by people as a qualified front-end developer.

(Full text of Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address)

I don’t actually remember when I see the speech for the first time. At first it didn’t make an impression. It was not until some day, I realized “connecting the dots by looking backwards” is exactly what I did, and do right now: Without these “personal homepage” I wrote before college, I wouldn’t know how server-client architecture works. Without my college projects in the physics department, I wouldn’t have any idea how to organize a full-scale rich-content website, nor the chance to improve my communication skill. Without MozTW I wouldn’t be known by my talented peers. Even physics has a part when I looked backwards – The paper toss game I wrote at the IE9 event is actually based on physics simulation skill I learned in school. I hated that class, but without the knowledge the game wouldn’t have such animation effect.

Indeed, Steve was right all along. “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. … This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”, he said. By looking backwards, I found everything I did somehow makes who I am today, and they surely made all the difference.

This is what Mr. Jobs meant to me. Nothing technological nor innovative, purely personal. So long, Steve, you lived a good life. This post is my tribute to you, and you will certainly be missed.

7 thoughts on “Looking Backwards, Connecting the Dots

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  4. Great writings! Though I still cannot connect my dots for the moment but hope later in future when I re-read your post or Steve Jobs commencement I will be able to connect all the dots.

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