Steve Jobs Was Right: Why You Can’t Connect The Dots Looking Forward
As Steve Jobs said: ‘You can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards.’ But the result of those dots is that I find myself now not only talking the talk but also walking the walk. I wish I didn’t have to do both.
About a year ago I launched Fellow HQ a personal site aimed at ‘men who have lived and learned’. A year later the site has become a business, and pivoted so that’s it’s aimed at ‘men who have lived and learned – and are ready to start again’. It’s a critical difference.
What I saw all around were men losing their jobs and indeed careers and industries in all the creative fields from design to photography to editorial and marketing. I could empathise because it happened to me.
But the key was noting how many of them, often but not exclusively aged 40+, were thrown on the scrapheap by digital technology and how many were destined to stay there because they couldn’t use that same technology to get back up. That was me too.
I’d lost my creative agency, marriage, house and all the usual things one loses when it all falls apart. I blamed the web, technology, geeks. I decided it would all have been fine if it hadn’t been for those pesky kids.
OUT OF THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL
What got me out of the downward spiral was embracing technology. And what helped me do that was reaching out to someone I’d worked with decades before. James Bareham, a photographer and creative director in New York, had witnessed the same decline in his industry, but had grown to understand and love technology, which had kept him relevant — almost by accident. From that connection came the end of the one-man show website and instead the start of a business aimed at helping men get off that scrapheap and back into the fray, heads held high.
We bump into people all the time who are suddenly both redundant and irrelevant. Many bemoan that the world has left them behind and that they need to do it all over again – get a website (‘but I’ve been quoted ten grand!’), get some business cards, an office. In other words they’re simply trying to reproduce themselves, creating a digital version of their analogue selves. You can’t do that.
Instead we have created a brand/ a business/ a website where we’ve done virtually all of the work ourselves, apart from actually coding the website. We’ve probably spent £3000 ($5000) all in, and possibly could have done it for less. Admittedly, that doesn’t put a value on our time — but then, hardly anyone else does either. There’s no office, instead there’s Skype, Google Hangout, emails, since he lives in New York and I live south of London. Communication is frequent and easy, using technology to make things easier and cheaper. We’re in business, helping men to get back into business themselves.
‘TECHNOLOGY KILLED MY CAREER, AND THEN IT SAVE MY LIFE’
When I look back at things I said out loud or on social media just a couple of years ago I see how angry and frustrated I was. That’s gone now, and I know that technology was both the cause of that and the reason I’m now living again. If I had to pick a title for a post that most encapsulates what we’re about it’s this: ‘Technology killed my career — and saved my life’.
It would have been nice if I’d not have had to go through the same dark times as so many men to get to where I am, but perhaps there’s no real empathy without experience. And the men we’re talking to have experience – the key is to use it with technology.
That way the dots will line up nicely going forward.