Our fascination with “connecting the dots” starts at a fairly young age. Most of us have played with connect the dot books as a kid; each page of the book had a cluster of numbered dots on it. All you had to do was draw a line that followed the sequential order of the numbers. As you connected each number with your pencil or crayon, a picture magically appeared – usually a house or a flower or a cow. Life was easy then; all you needed to do was follow the simple rules and the result appeared.
Fast forward to more challenging times. You have now graduated to “connecting the dots” via the Nine Dot Puzzle, a brain teaser form of Zen koan. This puzzle consists of three rows with three dots in each row – picture a tic-tac-toe game sheet. The goal of the Nine Dots Puzzle is to link all of the dots using four straight lines or less, without lifting your pen and without tracing the same line more than once. Our natural tendency – to work within the nine dot box - results in frustration and failure.
In order solve the nine dot puzzle, one must move out of the constraints of the rational mind – not so easy to do. Solving the puzzle requires moving beyond your perceptual boundaries of a box and natural tendency to stay within the imagined constraints of the nine dot structure. Literally thinking “outside of the box” in your approach will enable you to link all of the dots within the parameters of the puzzle instructions.
Fast forward to even more challenging times – "connecting the dots" to make sense of your life. As you move through life, it’s human nature to approach and want to understand it through the template of cause and effect. It’s comforting to think that if I do “A” then“B” will be the result. In other words, it's comforting to think that we can always control our outcomes. With experience and the resultant wisdom that comes with life unfolding, we soon learn that control and understanding is not always possible.
Steve Jobs, in his Stanford graduation speech, talked about “connecting the dots”in life. The essence of his wisdom was that, try as we might to “connect the dots” into our future, we can only do this connecting looking backward. According to Steve's wisdom, what we need to embody is trust – trust that our various “dots” will connect in the furture as we take action to move forward in life.
For me, this sense of trust that my"dots" will ultimately come together in the future has facilitated many twists and turns – personally and professionally. A trust mindset has also elegantly set in motion many adventures and experiences that ultimately led to a future that was even better than what I could have imagined. Sometimes, not being able to “connect the dots” into the future, is an incredible gift from the Universe.