Thursday, July 3, 2014

Connecting the dots

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life." - Steve Jobs

I have not written in a long time. It's not that life hasn't happened. It did. And it's not that there has been a lack of profound moments to write about. That's not it either. It's just that there was (and still is) a lot of good work to do. And there was no urgency to write about it as various thoughts were cooking in my head (or my soul, I am never entirely sure where they originate and develop).

There is something important I have uncovered, or perhaps re-discovered. And now a message has formed and it feels urgent enough to share.

Let me start by saying that I think I may have been the last person who finally bought an iPhone. I remember the date - October 5, 2011. It was the day Steve Jobs died.

I ordered the phone (partly because it was time to let go of my old phone and party as a tribute), watched the news and his now famous commencement address from 2005.

The commencement was about many things but the biggest message I remembered (or was I meant to hear and remember that particular message?) was this: just do your thing and trust that the dots will connect.

Today, as I am writing this blog post on my iPhone, I am thinking about all the dots that have connected and may have yet to connect, and I feel an enormous sense of gratitude. Why you ask? I will tell you. I started a number of new things a while back. In fact, I feel that I’ve been starting and finishing all kinds of things (colleges, papers, projects, commitments, etc.) for some time now. And I often got a lot of questions “What is that certificate for?” or “will you get more money or a bigger job as a results of X, Y or Z” or “Don’t you have enough going on?” or “Don’t you ever sleep?” Or sometimes a well-meaning, but a little hurtful “do you ‘still’ paint?” which to me sounds like “gosh, you should have just grown up already and given that up by now.” To all of that, most of the time, I smile and say “I don’t know exactly how it will all hang together, but it will. I believe it will.” There is something liberating about this kind of confidence. It’s not arrogance or sense of self importance. It’s actually the opposite. It’s an admission of my vulnerability and lack of wisdom to "know it all". My humanness, if you will.

I find that the dots most often connect in the most magical and unexpected ways. And sometimes they connect in a very “sneaky” and unrecognizable ways as if to say “peekaboo, didn’t expect me to show up here, did you?” And it’s ok with me. And while I am an active participant in the nitty-gritty of it all, I don't even think about that. I just do. But when I have a small luxury to stand back and appreciate the outcomes, albeit as small as they might sometimes be, for me that is the beauty of the Divine Universe at its very best. The Universe working exactly as it should.  

All of this is not exactly a new understanding for me. A while back I wrote about "Universe's helping hand when the painting I was doing a research paper on was “magically” brought out of the storage right in front of my eyes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But now it's about a newly uncovered appreciation and awe.

My grandma used always says to me "you won't carry anything you learn on your back." What it means is that whatever you learn or accomplish will be of benefit to you or those around you down the road, such as a new skills, new language, new degree, etc. It will serve you or the world at some point in your life and in some way. It’s not going to be a burden “on your back” and it will come in handy.
As a coach (and I suppose as a human), I am often asked "What’s the formula? How do you do it?” And “it” in this case means “plunging in, getting things done and still feeling grateful.” Or at least that’s what I think it means.

Well, darlings, I’ve been thinking about it and here is the “magic” formula. Don’t be disappointed though, it’s not all that sophisticated.

Step 1: Just show up, as completely as you can.

Step 2: Get your hands dirty. Do the work. All of it. Whatever “work” means in your context. It could be filling out a 20 page application to college, updating your resume, writing your business plan, having a difficult conversation with someone important in your life, just getting up in the morning, preparing for an exam, painting over a spot on your new art work after an unfortunate accident with red wine…or something totally different.

Step 3: When tempted to quit, don’t! Simple as that. It’s going to get hard. You’ll question your commitment. It’s going to get uninteresting and unsexy. One of my favorite  business thinkers is Peter Drucker wrote: “Like so many brilliant people, he believes ideas move mountains. But bulldozers move mountains; ideas show the bulldozers where they should go to work.” Basically don’t be too in love with your beautiful ideas, put them in action! Become that bulldozer. Get shit done. Now, keep in mind, there are no guarantees. Plus guarantees are laughable and meaningless anyway. Could it at times (or a lot of times) feel like all your hard work is “for nothing”? Absolutely. Could you still trust that it is leading to your next important dot? Absolutely.

Step 4:  Trust that the stars will align and the dots will connect. And trust that they connect even if you can’t tell how and when and where. Most times you won’t be aware or wise enough to notice. Be ok with it.

Step 5: Be grateful. You know that saying “just happy to be here.” Really become one with it. Be happy to be here, wherever “here” is. And appreciate the actual journey, just on pure faith alone.

Step 6: Watch for the signs and listen for the whispers of fate. Can you see them? Hear them? Feel them? Learn to notice. And when you notice, well, that’s the sweetest part. Just take a deep spiritual bow. Say a prayer of gratitude, not just for the dots themselves but for the Divine glimpse of clarity you were awarded.

Step 7: Repeat step 1.

So you may be wondering, how do I know that the dots connected? I am not sure all of them did. I can never be sure. But I still feel grateful. I believe some of my dots are forming a new constellation and it feels sweet and humbling. This is not a celebratory dance or egoistic self-indulgence. It's actually the opposite. It's an acknowledgement that there are higher powers at play and I appreciate being invited to the dance.