My words, my world…
This post is a summary of my lecture with a bunch of smart young student entrepreneurs few days ago. It all started when one of them popped the question “Sir, have you heard Steve Jobs’ speech at Stanford?”. I said yes and also told him that I have seen the video so many times and used it as a case in my MBA classes, that I remember many of the lines as well. The student continued “he mentions about connecting the dots and I haven’t quite figured that out. I mean, I want to be an entrepreneur. But I don’t know how to connect the dots of my life so that I become one. Where do I start, which dot to chose next…”.
I have been asked this question many times before. My first 2 books, Plunnge and Seek, tried to look at the question from a different perspective and for different audiences. I think career is a big chunk of our lives. But building one is not easy. First of all, we don’t know where to start. Even if we do find one dot to start from, we want to be sure of the dots ahead of us. The last thing we want is to end up in a wrong place and regret it later. But unfortunately, it is impossible to connect the dots ahead. Jobs says it in his speech as well. One can only connect them backwards. My suggestion is that instead of focusing on connecting the dots, focus on collecting the dots first.
My suggestion is that instead of focusing on connecting the dots, focus on ‘collecting the dots’ first.
Let me explain my suggestion with an analogy of a game called “connect the dots” from children magazines. There is an empty page with few numbered dots. The dots don’t mean much unless one connects them to bring out a picture. It is like a puzzle. To do so, one has to follow the dot numbered 1, find the next one and so on till the last dot on the page. This would result in a picture of a cartoon character or an animal. Since the dots are so few and numbered, only one picture emerges. But interestingly, if we pack the page with more dots, more possibilities emerge. The more the dots, the more variety one can have in one’s life or career. Remember the principles of computer graphics? The more dots or pixels one packs in the image file, the more clearer and beautiful the picture becomes. That explains why cameras with larger MegaPixel resolutions result in better selfies :). There is a marketing term for it as well – HD or high-definition. Well…The same principal applies to our careers and lives. You want an HD career – pack more dots in your life.
You want a HD career – you need to pack more dots in your life.
I will give 3 examples to support my theory of “collecting the dots”. The first one is what Steve Jobs himself said in his speech at Stanford aptly titled “stay hungry stay foolish”. He took a course in Calligraphy which helped him design the fonts of Apple computers. When he took that course, he had no idea how it will help in his journey of entrepreneurship. But when he saw the dots backwards, it made a lot of sense. The second example is of Shahrukh Khan who happened to come to our IIMB alumni leadership summit- IIMBUE 2015, recently. He explained how he stumbled into movies. His formative years had no plan for movies. In fact, he was into sports. But by a quirk of fate, he had to drop out and sign up for a theater program. He said that he chose theater just to keep his mind occupied. It wasn’t a planned decision and he moved on. Some time later, his family was looking out for a rented apartment to live in Delhi. The landlord offered him a role in an upcoming TV serial. He took it and India saw “Abhi” on the idiot box in Fauji saying “I say chaps….”. The rest, they say is history. He soon became a cult and even today,at the age of 50, continues to be a super star. He now has a business empire that spans sports, movies, fashion, retail etc. Again, the dots didn’t connect at that time. But when he started collecting them, they helped him shape his trajectory. The last example is a more recent one – Uber. It seems that in early 2010, the founders of Uber tweeted “Looking 4 entrepreneurial product mgr/biz-dev killer 4 a location based service.. pre-launch, BIG equity, big peeps involved–ANY TIPS??“. A guy called Ryan Graves saw the tweet and responded “Here’s a tip. email me :)”. Imagine Ryan Graves’s picture of life today because of that single dot that he was willing to collect. He took a chance and got the job. Uber’s idea clicked and is now valued over $50Bn today. As it turns out, Graves’s share of that is about $1.4Bn.
So what are these dots? And how does one start collecting them. Stay tuned to my blog and I will write a separate piece on that soon. Before I sign off, I want to leave you with the following quote.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover….Mark Twain
You can read this article on Business World Online here