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chairman, Learning and Performance Institute @DonaldHTaylor

Donald H Taylor S

teve Jobs’ drive was integral to his success. After he was sacked from Apple in 1985,

it wasn’t long before he launched new ventures in computing (NeXT) and film (Pixar). 12 years later, a troubled Apple invited him back as the only person who could apparently save it. Te appointment worked. $1,000 invested in Apple in 1997 would today be worth $200,000.1 Te lesson of heroic stories like this appears clear. Te famous have a drive that inevitably leads to their destiny. Te rest of us should be pitied for our lack of direction. But that apparent destiny is a

chimera. It makes for snappy headlines and good articles, but a closer look at these lives usual- ly reveals a long, tortuous path to success. Jobs was no exception. For Jobs, being sacked was a huge

blow, but also an opportunity to learn different ways of doing things. “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.” And it wasn’t just during his dozen years outside Apple that he learned how to make the company the success it was. Te Apple founder had a sense of design that was core to his company’s success, but he wasn’t born with it. It developed through his restless curiosity. One contributing experience: attend- ing a calligraphy class while at college. Te class was not a requirement, just something that interested him. He later ascribed the Mac’s use of propor- tional fonts and multiple typefaces, and more, to “dropping in” on this course. It might seem a long way from a

calligraphy class to Apple’s distinc- tive design, but Jobs was just what we all are – a product of our past. He may have “dropped in” on that class at random, but his choice to apply what he had learned later was any- thing but a matter of chance. And

Don Taylor explores how interests and experience in our lives shape the roles we choose

this applies to us all. It doesn’t matter what your role is; when you look back, your experience has led you to the point where you stand now. Tere’s a phrase for apparently random experi- ences making sense as you look back at them: ‘retrospective coherence’. Tere is nothing mystical here,

it’s how we are. We naturally learn more about what interests us. If we are fortunate enough that we can choose where we work, we will eventually move towards roles that suit us and the way our experiences have shaped us. Tis is particularly true of L&D.

People come to the field by different paths, bringing with them a range of experiences. Whatever these are – and I know L&D professionals who have been actors, salespeople, operations managers and more – these experiences enrich what we all do. If you are lucky enough to be in this position, celebrate the unique perspective your experiences give you, but also consider what new experiences you can add. Whether it’s reading widely outside L&D, pursuing a new hobby, or undertaking a programme of study – as Steve Jobs found, it all adds to who you are. Tere was only Steve

Jobs, but there is only one you, and the wider your breadth of experience and reading, the more you bring to L&D.

Donald H Taylor is a 25-year veteran of the learning, skills and human capital industries, with experience from design and delivery to chairman of the board. He blogs at

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