Recently, Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computer and Pixar Animation Studios, gave a commencement address to the graduating class at Stanford University. He talked about creating passion, life and death, and "connecting the dots." The dots were events in his life, many challenging and many positive, which led to his many successes. He shared with the audience that being fired from Apple Computer, the computer he founded, he was able to step back and develop the idea for Pixar Animation Studios. By achieving the great success at Pixar, he was eventually asked to come back to lead Apple Computer. This eventually led him to spearhead the launching of one the most revolutionary products of the 21st century…the iPod. He feels that he would never have achieved his successes without his failures and setbacks. He was able to connect the dots to see how it all added up.
So I ask you, "Have you connected your dots?"
Here are five reasons why taking the time to connect the dots will give you a roadmap for success in your life:
1. All Dots are Good
Many times we face challenges in our life that, at that moment, look like failures. Because we are focused on the imagined "downside" of the challenge, we lose focus on the good that can come out of the challenge.
I had an ex-Navy civilian in one of my workshops on downsizing. He said he was part of a downsizing process by the Navy two years ago in Ohio. You can imagine he was hurt, upset, and concerned that he wouldn’t find another job after his twenty years in the Navy. Then he refocused himself on what he could do to make this situation positive. He started doing job research, making telephone calls, networking, and sending resumes. Within three months after his layoff, he received his dream job offer from the Navy. It was a technical job he always wanted at a pay scale much better than his previous job. The best part of his new job was that it allowed him to move back to his hometown of Virginia Beach.
All dots are good; it’s the way we look at them that lead to our success.
2. Be Willing to Go to the Next Dot
Due to past "negative" experiences, many times we avoid new challenges because we want to feel "safe." How many times have you heard the following?
"I’m never dating again because of my past experiences with…" "I don’t want to take on the new project because it is too high profile and I might fail." "I don’t want the promotion because of what happened the last time…"
Basing our past experiences on life’s variables that have no relation to the present will make us miss new opportunities. There is an expression I often use, "You need to go through the mud to get to the gold." In other words, we all need to experience the "road bumps" in life to know and appreciate the real opportunities in life.
3. Accelerate the Dots in Your Life
You can speed the amount of success by continuously learning. Continuously work on your communication, career or business, and technical skills so that you can embrace opportunities that come your way.
One of the best ways to learn is by volunteering. I recently had lunch with Carol at a recent conference. She shared with me that she had started working in a school over fifteen years ago because her kids were in the school system. Because of that, she volunteered for as many school-related activities as possible that would involve her kids. She became an expert and the person to go to concerning many school subjects. Recently, an opening in the superintendent’s office came up, and her name was on the short list. Because of her vast experience and, even more important, because many people knew of her expertise, she was an easy decision for the position.
Learning accelerates your dots.
4. Bypass Dots Only with Wisdom
Many times we try to skip a step or two in life. We have heard about people who have "instant" success and then lose it all almost as fast. They never acquired the wisdom needed to maintain their success.
Take time to learn from the events in your life. Like the quote goes, "Smart people learn from their mistakes; truly wise people learn from other people’s mistakes."
5. Go Forward and Connect the Dots
Take time to plan your future events and goals based on your past events. Analyze the positive outcomes from those events and use them to plan for the future. That is the secret to true success.
So go forward and connect the dots, and you will realize your roadmap to success.