Listening to the universe

universe-03One of my personal goals in the last few years has been to listen to my own intuitions and trusting them to guide my life’s next steps. It’s hard to unlearn the habit of self-doubt (vacillation between choices and therefore indecision, really. But as the song says, if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice). As I have started to trust my inner voice, I’ve heard the Universe answer back, and I’m learning to listen. Small ways, little things, coincidences really.

This morning I woke up at 5 a.m., and when sleep wouldn’t come again decided to go get a little work done at the local cafe. Before diving in, I pulled up my feedly.com news feed, which I hadn’t really used since setting it up in December with my brother, my source for new tech these days (January has been a busy month… SIGH.)

universe-02Scanning my feed, I clicked through to see the paper 777 model made out of manila folders and glue, checked out a DIY tartan skirt (look for knitted plaid somethings from me soon) and downloaded some free round icons. Having swallowed sufficient refreshing caffeinated beverage to bring the brain more fully online, I turned to an article on typography and why it matters.

It provides some great information on typefaces, and I tucked the link away to use in some future information design class. But it was the quote of Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement address that woke me up.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents’ savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn’t see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn’t have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, 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.

universe dotsAnd there it is: trust. Trust, and getting past the fear, the buts, the I can’ts. Every small coincidence helps me feel like the dots I’m placing now will connect up in the long run. And really, who knows what they’ll make when I join them together?

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