When the Dots Connect
Like so many other times, I was sitting on my bed propped up with a pillow while reading an academic journal article pursuant to my doctoral studies.
The particular subject matter doesn’t matter here, but the author was describing a concept he and his colleagues are developing and it occurred to me that I had just read something related a couple days prior in a book I had just bought.
Excited to be connecting the dots, I set my laptop down and ran across the room to my book shelf to grab my new book. Can academia get any more exciting?!
While reflecting on this event, I realized that this was just the latest example of when I have been able to find a connection between two seemingly disparate ideas. I’m not tooting my own horn here; this is just how high impact learning works for people and I think it deserves some mindful attention.
My career began in the military. I vividly remember my very first job; everything was new to me and I put a lot of effort into learning as much as I could about this new world and all of its parts, practices, and processes.
I performed well, but it was tough because EVERYTHING was an education. When I arrived at my second duty station a couple years later, I had a much different experience. I had learned a lot and I wasn’t the new(est) kid on the block anymore.
I was able to relate current challenges to past challenges, and in doing so, I was in a much better position to select a winning course of action.
But I’m not just making the case for learning; I’m making the case for critical thinking through the observation of relationships.
I’ve often spoken of making unique contributions, whether at work, at home, or elsewhere, and I think this is particularly important within the personal development journey.
The idea is that if you only strive to master a topic, like management for example, you’ll only be learning how to perform management the way other people do it, possibly even the way your current colleagues do it. It would be a much better way to add value to strive to master management while also striving to master yourself through personal development.
Just like my examples above, you can then find ways to bring more of yourself into your management work to really make contributions that nobody but you could make.
It’s critical thinking; it’s the way you play with ideas; it’s the ability to create something that is new and valuable and greater than the sum of its parts.
Final thought: After watching my daughter, Violet, do something silly, hilarious, and probably dangerous, my wife commented that Violet is 50% her mom, 50% her dad, and 100% herself. What a wonderful notion. No matter the dots we are able to connect, the result is something entirely unique and uniquely valuable.