Another post in the improving your learning from A to Z series.
There are two parts to connecting the dots. Collecting and connecting. It reminds me of an episode of the popular Seinfeld TV show.
Jerry reserves a rental car and goes to pick it up. He arrives at the rental car company and asks the agent for the car he reserved. Here’s the quick exchange:
Agent: I’m sorry, we have no mid-size available at the moment.
Jerry: I don’t understand, I made a reservation, do you have my reservation?
Agent: Yes, we do, unfortunately we ran out of cars.
Jerry: But the reservation keeps the car here. That’s why you have the reservation.
Agent: I know why we have reservations.
Jerry: I don’t think you do. If you did, I’d have a car. See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don’t know how to hold the reservation and that’s really the most important part of the reservation, the holding. Anybody can just take them.
This illustrates a simple point about our dots, collecting dots is important but connecting the dots is the most important part.
But before you connect, you need to collect.
Collecting the Dots
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” Henry Miller
Dots are experiences you have throughout your day and life. These experiences (dots) are the raw materials you use to connect. A wide range of experiences helps you broaden your perspective. So, you should have many different experiences to keep a healthy inventory of dots.
The more variety of experiences you have, the better connections you can make. Collecting the same dots doesn’t help you make new connections, it keeps you trapped like a tiger in a cage.
Don’t Trap Yourself
“The energy of the mind is the essence of life.” Aristotle
Having the same experiences makes your mind pace back and forth like a wild tiger in a cage. The tiger paces back and forth on this same experience and has a primal urge to break free and collect dots in his natural environment. He knows there is a bigger world out there. He doesn’t care what anyone else’s agenda is, he just wants out, he needs out.
Your mind, like the tiger, needs to get out and collect more dots. If he doesn’t get out of the cage, he will eventually get tired and stop pacing. So will you.
Don’t give up!
Set the Tiger Free
“So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we have the key.” The Eagles
You have the key to let the tiger out. The key is to have more experiences, different types of experiences. So, open the door and let the tiger run free.
Feel the earth on your feet, first the front paws, then the back. Embrace the wind on your face. Smell the clear air and natural scents. Connect with your environment. You can go anywhere and do anything.
Getting More Dots
“The only source of knowledge is experience.” Albert Einstein
Now that you’re free, how do you collect more experiences? There are unlimited ways you can collect or connect dots and you may even connect a dot while collecting a dot. Here are 30 examples of how to collect more dots. Many of these items are simple, the harder part is doing them.
- As a customer, buy or use one of the products you sell.
- Do job rotations outside your primary area.
- Spend time as a customer support representative.
Do the opposite of what you normally do. Get out of your routine. If you usually:
- Spend time with people, make time to be alone for a while and hear yourself.
- Eat lunch in the same spot everyday, go somewhere else to eat.
- Fly when you travel, take the train or bus.
- Kids on the playground or dogs run at the park.
- Go to an airport or train station and watch people.
- A grocery store or restaurant during peak time and watch how people behave.
Personal Knowledge Management (PKM)
- Collect and manage digital dots.
- Write a blog post or make a comment in an online article.
- Attend a conference using the backchannel.
- A book that has nothing to do with your job or interests.
- Re-read a book that you loved when you were younger.
- A magazine that you would would usually not purchase
Travel and explore to:
- The town where you live (pay attention to the details).
- Another state, territory or country. It’s a big world.
- A place you used to visit regularly as a child.
Try a New Hobby
Volunteer your time for an hour, a day or a week. See what someone else’s life is like by:
- Using your your existing skills.
- Hosting an international exchange student.
- Helping your local food bank or elderly home.
- A museum that you’ve never seen.
- A friend or relative that you haven’t seen in a while.
- The place were you or your parents were born.
So, seek out new experiences to broaden your perspective. Start small and get uncomfortable. But be careful, don’t seek out experiences in order to get the high score in a game, you’ll miss the point.
The point is to have an open, curious perspective as you interact with the world around you. There is a lot out there.
“Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” Leonardo da Vicci
Why is it easier to connect the dots for a character in a movie than in your own life? Often times when you’re watching a movie or TV show you connect the dots for the main characters before they do. “I can’t believe she can’t see that!”
It seems obvious, right? It’s because you’ve the been invited into the story to connect someone else’s dots.
Imagine if you could sit back and watch your own life unfold in a movie. Wouldn’t that be a lot easier to connect the dots for yourself? You could see what happened in your past knowing what you know now. You could pause, rewind, fast forward. You could see all the little clues that you didn’t see before.
Well, there are ways to do this in your own life too.
Connecting Your Dots
“Use the force, Luke.” Obi-Wan Kenobi
How do you to get more dots? Obi-Wan says “use the force”, I say “use the curiosity.” Your curiosity will guide you.
Connecting dots is your ability to join your experiences into new ideas. You’re giving birth to new ideas that you can use to take future actions in your life.
To connect dots, you use various thinking skills like critical thinking, lateral thinking, creative thinking or no thinking to connect dots.
It can happen anywhere. You can connect dots while driving in your car, taking a shower or while having an engaging conversation with a co-worker. There is no perfect answer for how to do this – keep an open and curious mind.
Many of the items listed in Learning A to Z help you connect dots. The A,B,C’s are foundational and D thru Z are activities to help you learn.
Try to be more aware of your actions. Before participating in an activity, remember that you:
- Are accountable for your own learning
- Can do it – believe in yourself
- Are a dot connector
Then, select an activity based on the mental focus required. The activities listed below are organized by the amount of mental focus required for each activity.
Your brain requires a lot of energy to think and you should rotate the mental focus you’re applying to activities.
For example – many people have more energy in the morning. Try engaging in activities requiring more mental focus in the morning and choose activities needing less mental focus in the afternoon. Or cycle activities (e.g., from more focus to less focus to more focus, etc) to give your brain a workout, then a rest.
Some activities can swing to either side and be either more or less focus. For example: Reading a fun book required less mental focus than reading a scientific book. Go with your gut and do what works best for you.
Activities on the right require more mental focus.
Activities on the left require less mental focus.
Activities in the middle can swing to either side and require more or less focus (your choice).
Get Out and Connect
“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” Frank Hebert
On your journey, remember:
- Collecting dots is important but connecting dots is the most important part.
- You hold the key to let the tiger out of the cage. Set him free.
- Go have a variety of experiences to create a healthy inventory of dots.
- Use your curiosity.
- Try an activity and rotate based on mental focus required.
Here are 26 ways to self direct and improve your learning
A – be accountable
B – believe in yourself
C – connect the dots
D – deconstruct new skill
E – engage with others
F – focused practice
G – get started
H – hypothesize, test, adjust
I – use your imagination
J – find joy in learning
K – personal knowledge management
L – listen more
M – make space
N – build a network
O – observe
P – use performance support
Q – question assumptions
R – read every day
S – use spaced repetition
T – tinker with things
U – unlearn and relearn
V – be visual
W – write frequently
X – exercise regularly
Y – yield
Z – get Z’s