Sunday, April 3, 2011
Connecting the Dots
I find myself using the expression "connecting the dots" more often these days. Remember those childhood drawing books where you followed the numbered dots which led to an outlined picture of a horse, train, airplane or some other image of childhood fancy? It has dawned on me that most of our lives are spent doing this...if only in a more allegorical sense.
People have often asked me how I have found it so easy to move and change so often in my life? For whatever reasons, it has always been easy and adventurous for me to pursue new places and cultures...adapting to change better than most. When I take a moment to analyze how I do this...I fall back on my "connecting the dots" analogy. I start with knowing key people or information within a business, geographic location or a culture...and expand my vision and knowledge from there as fast as I am allowed to know it.
In business, success is often about simply "connecting the dots" of relationships and information. If you are able to connect people to information, you should be able to determine in a very organized way how to accomplish what you envision for your business or career. As Dale Carnegie taught us in "How to Win Friends and Influence People", to be accomplished in business or selling yourself, it is crucial that the other "dot" you are connecting to feels important and that you relate to each other. If we are too isolated or unwilling to recognize the value of the other "dots", we will find ourselves unable to complete the potential of our lives. We need other dots...
"Cause and effect" comes into play for this subject as well. One's relative level of success can often be determined by how well you connect the dots in sequence. Most people want to jump ahead of the game as quickly as possible. They don't want to learn by "sequence" or deal with the details of 1-2-3-4-5...they want the instant gratification of jumping to 10...or 100..without connecting to the experiences or details required in between. So many leaders have rushed so fast to "get ahead" that they have risen quickly to their level of incompetency. Many corporate and world leaders are ineffectual because they don't understand how to "connect the dots". They have no understanding of the "matrix" and are primarily just focused on their own self survival. They don't seem to understand that their survival depends on the "matrix" underneath them surviving as well.
Connecting the dots is no exact science...primarily because as you grow up, the matrix becomes more complex and people no longer "put the numbers" for you to follow. It takes more imagination and knowledge to know which dots to connect with in order to build the "picture" of your life that YOU want to make.
Many of us are content to sit on our current dot in life...maybe accepting half or less of the picture/vision we had for our lives. Because we are uncertain about the next dot, we instead live looking back on our past dots and in many cases decide we have gone as far as we want to. For some of us it is too scary to leave the current point in search of the next one. Many of us have forgotten what it was we were trying to create in the first place.
Some of us have taken so many shortcuts in life that we have no sense of the design in our lives. This cause and effect in life is similar to taking a trip...if you go too long and too far in the wrong direction...it takes you that long to get back to a cross roads. That journey can be painstakingly boring because you have "already been there and done that". Yet, retracing and going backward, at least in our understanding, is often the first step in moving forward.
It is also a reality that some of us are better and faster at connecting the dots than others. Some seem to have an unflinching eye and steady hand in creating the life that they envisioned early on. Others of us are so full of indecision and doubt that we fall far behind the rest and will never finish what we started in this life. If we make too many mistakes of this nature, it is sometimes wise to reconsider what you want to create and limit the amount of dots you are going to pursue.
I personally struggle with this aspect myself. My mind imagines me doing a LOT of different things. I HAVE done a lot of different things and continue to pursue more than my share of ideas and aspirations. Yet, as I realistically look in the mirror and come to terms with my own mortality, I realize that it is now more about quality dots in life than quantity.
As a musician, dots have been important to me as well. Many musicians call written music "dots". The dots on a staff in the right sequence and combination determine the beauty of a musical piece. Dots in harmony make beautiful affects...dots in dissonance can make living unbearable.
Of course, people in our lives are like dots as well. I think psychologically and otherwise we ARE the sum of all the important people and relationships we have had in our lives. Some have been a joy, some have brought significant pain. Some dots have held us "in place" for long periods of time...others have spun us off into hundreds of other connections.
Finally, we must analyze our SELVES as a dot. Do we help other people build the mosaic of their lives in a beautiful way...or do we tend to throw them off their own path of connecting dots? Do we harmonize with other dots to make a pretty picture...or do we unconsciously or even purposely seek to destroy the continuity of the matrix we have found ourselves in? As a dot in someone-else matrix, do we demand their total attention to our one dot...or do we propel and encourage them to multiply and grow beyond OUR point of reference? Do we find value in being a PART of someone-else' beautiful matrix...or do we demand their focus to be on our simple point of reference, thereby limiting their potential to "connect the dots" themselves?
I do believe that by connecting with the right matrix of dots...that matrix can carry us much further in life and understanding than we can ever reach alone or disconnected. Lets get connected...and start growing again this beautiful picture we call life. Its about ideas, discoveries...and PEOPLE.