Bread crumbs — Some stay the course

January 26th, 2015

Steve Jobs spoke highly of belief and confidence in the Stanford commencement address he made in 2005:

“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. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path.”

Steve Jobs was giving this advice to young people, barely graduated, at the starting gate of careers and lives full of promise. These young people have not had a great many dots behind them, connected or not. They may not have even had the chance to try to connect dots at all. If they have tried, the horizon looking back cannot appear too distant so the string of connections is short. At least, it is short from my point of view.

The horizon forward for these graduates can appear to stretch off into a misty haze called the future. It is little wonder that we summarize this condition by saying, “Young people think they will live forever!”

Our condition — you and me and the 10,000 boomers graduating each day into a life of retirement — is almost a total reversal of the lives of these graduates. All I did was get up every day and carry on. But when I look back over my shoulder, I have the shocking realization that decades lay behind. It is the remainder that is short. Relative to college graduates, we — the boomers graduating into retirement — have many more dots to view looking back. We have fewer dots looking forward.

Connections looking back

I can connect lots of things going back. Some are great. Others? Not so much. For example, I’m one of a small percentage who’ve been married for nearly 50 years. And I’ve done that with one spouse. And, lest you die of suspense, I think that is one of the connections that has been great!

Some say that she and I have raised each other. (I like to think we’ve done a good job too.) The path into the past often had trials, but we can follow the crumbs back for nearly five decades. We see the hills back there and the valleys. We’ve known struggle. We’ve known joy. We celebrate that whole chain.

But we’ve also celebrated many things that have “come together” over the years. We can trust God —our “gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever” — because we’ve seen the dots merge.

What about you? Are there relationships that stretch back for you? Maybe a marriage? Maybe a friendship?

My wife and I share another path that stretches back. It has a huge break in it. We made fond friends while I was in graduate school and only had the once-a-year, Christmas-newsletter contact for several decades. But our longing for connection caught up with us in retirement, and we have become reacquainted with these friends again.

We met one of the couples just last week. My friend said, “You know, our conversation picked up and took off just where we’d left it back there.”  We were fond friends then. We continue that friendship now.

I hope you were wiser and kept up with your friends from afar. If not, maybe you can reach back and reconnect the dots.

We can probably stretch back and connect the dots on the things as well as people. What do we love to do? My wife and I have fond memories of traditions that we’ve maintained — like family meals and holiday celebrations.

These trails that go back are rich. How do we discover them all? How do we find the connections amidst all the flotsam that has accumulated over the decades? 

We’ll take up with that notion in my next post: “Bread crumbs – Some courses are bumpy”

Does your retirement plan include a healthy portion of  “friends and family”? You can begin to take stock with the help of my retirement assessment at It doesn’t cost anything and may very well give you some ideas to follow-up on.

Ed Zinkiewicz

…the retired guy

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