An Age Old Saying
You may have heard of the expression “Connecting The Dots”. I dare to say it probably has been around for decades, if not centuries, perhaps transcribed in meaning from many cultures and languages to our english one today. Some time ago, I started to delve deeper into exploring its meaning and I wonder how many other people even fully understand what it means, how to recognize it and most importantly, how to apply its meaning in their own life. In this article I will best explain what it means to me and why you should understand its application well enough to benefit from recognizing and apply its pattern in your life.
Let’s Define Your Dots
Before we start connecting them, let’s first define what a dot is. What exactly is a dot? It can be most anything to each and every person. To be specific, there is no specific definition. Over time everyone creates their dots. But I chance to guess that not everyone knows how to connect their dots. If your dots remain unconnected then you have lost opportunities just sitting there in your past. Maybe this is you ?
Creating Your Dots
A dot is everything you do or try, people you met and crossed paths with, past projects, and events you took part in during your personal development journey. Dots are anything you have invested time and effort into. That is what makes up a dot. You may think of those dots as a waste of your time; another of your poor judgement calls. But all of your past dots served some important purpose to you then and your journey forward to present day. Many are transferable skills you carry forward. These past experiences could be people you met and connected with, articles you wrote, speeches you have presented, skills you learned and developed, even organizations you have touched or been part of. It really is a dot – an island of some value, experience, memory or knowledge you have created and added to your repertoire which makes you, your past journey and where you are cast going forward. Wether it took an hour, a day, month or years, you move on, migrating to something new or your “next big thing”. In short, most anything of your past accumulation or discovery becomes a “dot”. Dots are islands of intellectual property – YOUR intellectual experiential property. These dots are unique to YOU and no one else. Don’t forget about your dots. So what purpose do your “dots” serve, you may ask?
Connecting Your Dots
As you grow older, you will start to collect many of these dots. Those dots you created are great, because at some point in your life you will begin to connect some of them and create your new path forward in your personal growth, life journey, developing your passion or answering your calling. You will reflect on your dots and recognize commonality from dots of your past to your current presence. You will realize that whatever new thing you are moving to or starting, you are not starting from ground zero anymore. You really are starting from some past dot that bears some similarity or commonality to your current situation.
Something that you learned during the creation of your past dot, begins to bear fruit for you in your current situation. Regardless of what you did to create your dots, there are always newly learned skills which enhanced you and your skillset; your experience. If anything else, it has grown your confidence in proving to yourself what you can do. For Steve Jobs it was his enrollment in a calligraphy class, out of shear curiosity, which he credited to his early conception of what is today the Apple OS; the graphical user interface or GUI. Sometimes the connection of these dots happen soon after they were created, as when you migrate or transition from one of your dots straight into your next dot. For example, when you were younger you were into photography, then stopped. Now you are picking up going to video, using all from your past dot in photography to aid you in videography.
Dots Like Rocks Across A Stream
I grew up in a small country village in a northern climate where nearly 1/2 the year was winter. So when spring arrived we as kids loved crossing streams on our outings to the surrounding forests. With spring runoff a river was a blur we would not dare cross. It was one massive body of water and only the shore on the other side was visible. We could not get across. But as the waters subsided to tranquil flows into summer, larger rocks would appear randomly across the stream bed which we could now see and select and jump onto, in an attempt to get across to the other side. These rocks appeared as dots. With some quick vision, we were able to quickly connect the stones, dots, that were within 1 easy step of each other. Sometimes it was a game with our friends to see who could get across first.
Seldom was there a straight line across like a highway. Always, these rocks we picked to stand on were randomly scattered and we found ourselves zigging and zagging, meandering into segways, choosing rocks that were either flatter, drier and even larger, to help us get across. Sometimes, despite picking a bigger rock, it was most unstable and we would slip as it rocked and caused us to slide into the water. But it was an adventure of quick thinking and living with our decisions. Eventually, we would get to the other side, though never in the shortest distance and quickest time. But in that process we did get to learn a few things and view the stream and shoreline from a different viewpoint, as we travelled across the stream. It was a journey. We were able to see, choose and navigate those rocks, the dots, to carry ourselves across to the other river bank.
What Are Your Dots
What are your dots? Dots can be most anything of your intellectual property and your doing. Someone you met with a connection, a new skill you learned, your ideas, through a hobby, a failed business you poured your heart (and money) into for several years or even a mindset you placed yourself onto during your next awakening. When we are small we may have exercised thoughts that made us happy. As we entered our teens, going fishing with a new fishing rod was our great getaway. Gradually as we mature and gain more financial strength and stability, we widen our expanse of dot creation perhaps to other countries during holiday travel or even permanent relocation.
Then at some point in our adult working years, when we begin to mature and solidify who we are and reflect back to where we came from, we may gain certainty with how we want to journey with the remaining years of our lives. And that is when we may begin to feel how nicely some of our dots created from past begin to connect to move us forward with more clarity, confidence and purpose. Not all dots will be connected and used, but just the same, creating those dots is a part of us exploring and perhaps some of those, what we would call wasted dots” really spawned 2 or 3 others. So none are really any waste. All our dots are like those rocks glistening across the stream, as you look toward the other side and how to get across the stream.
You can never have too many dots. Your previously created dots can become the launching pad to your next dot in the making. Sometimes the connection path of specific dots happens naturally. Other times, it may take you an evening of reflecting on your past and realizing how far back you were already working towards a skillset, desire or calling you now feel you are ready to answer to. And some dots just seem to finish and remain in our past, without any migration forward. But they have served their purpose of giving you a more experiential existence. Rather than saying you heard it from someone else, you can take joy in saying, “I went through it myself”. That gives you much empathy for others in similar situations.
Keep creating your dots, and always look at how some dots may be naturally lining themselves up to cast you forward, wether in career, family, life and your personal life journey. Some of your dots may be guiding you toward what you must do going forward, like a guiding light. Learn how to recognize your dots and what some of them have in common for you to follow.
Click on the Steve Jobs pic above for a short 5 minute motivational video by Steve Jobs – Connecting The Dots