Deep breath. Calm yourself. Now: go.
Hi friends. I’m happy you’ve joined me here. After much thinking, talk, and hesitation, this blog now officially exists outside of my own head. Some may thinking “Um, starting a new blog? That happens about… 8 times a second?” The answer to which is: likely. But throw in a modicum butt-load of fear of doing things that make me feel exposed to ridicule (I won’t even start on perfectionist tendencies here), and an apparent baby step easily transforms into something much more. Thanks for leaping with me.
I’ve been by-the-books and obedient of categories & authority more often than not throughout my life: – the product of a unique mix of eastern cultural influence / family dynamics / personality / societal dictations (among other things). So throughout high school and university, I got great at tapping into that to become a master of checking off the boxes, seeking definitions, meeting (or exceeding) the clarified criteria, figuring out what other people wanted and delivering… basically, I got very good at working the system, doing what I was told, and getting things DONE. These are great skills to be sure – but lacking as stand-alones.
Until a few years ago I feel I largely lived, studied, and worked as if business, sciences, design, computer sciences, engineering, arts, etc. were mostly independent disciplines. They have overlap of course, but big picture: they just don’t mix. I mean, they’re in separate faculties for a reason! A scientist has no business working with an artist in the real world… (sadly this false assumption seems to play out heavily in the actual ‘real world’). In the same vein: school, work, volunteering, family & friends, life – these were somewhat siloed categories that I struggled to juggle; they just didn’t fit together in a way that made good sense, and a couple of things always took the backseat.
I was somehow missing that crucial piece of knowing: the relatively recent overarching understanding that it all ties together, and that everything makes everything else make sense.
“A lot of people… haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.” – Steve Jobs on interaction design, 2005
The funny thing is, I had had plenty of diverse experiences throughout my life, giving me plenty of dots to play with. Doodle-potential like you wouldn’t believe! But I did what many kids do in high-school and onwards: cultivated an identity that fit in instead of standing out, that looked good instead of odd, and then worked damn hard to make that truth. This was especially salient for me as a third-culture kid as I tried to piece myself together from two often-conflicting “menus”.
And that’s the sad little catch-22 right there, isn’t it? In all our haste to conform, to fit into the mould & go after the big ‘success’ and ‘happiness’ pieces, we oftentimes sweep aside the very things that would actually make us successful. Packed away in a chest with the other frivolous things, in shoe-boxes under the bed – because now it was time to get serious, get in the game, and get ahead! So my dots stayed largely unexplored & unconnected; a treasure trove of incubated potential patiently waiting while I was off trying to conquer the world.
“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run — in the long-run, I say!— success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it” – Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning (1946)
My unconventionally unconventional journey began somewhat accidentally. Allowing myself the freedom to step back and take a brief break, I slowly shifted from a focus of (over)”doing” to one of “being”. (This territory may include lots of introspection, thinking, reading, asking why until you’re sick of hearing yourself say it, etc.) In the process of pulling those dots out of storage and connecting with myself, the hazy silo-veil that I’d been perceiving the world through also began to lift away.
Now, progress is always incremental, sometimes so stealthy that we don’t notice, but always sprinkled with milestones that stand out in retrospect. An important event for me to recognize was a self-definition breakthrough I had in March; a seemingly innocuous exchange with someone at a conference made me really stop and realize: I’m seeing connections that some others are missing. Others with titles, with expertise, with insight. I have unique value to offer; I’m creative. (This event was a one-two punch in importance, because the ever-important event description didn’t include me as an invited type of audience; I thought it would be valuable and went anyways – a daring move to by-the-books me of yesteryear).
Fast forward >> this was my day just shy of three months ago, on April 18th: hit with such inspiration and drive that I actually felt it viscerally, I sat and started writing like a crazy person. Ideas were pouring out of me; cue cards were everywhere. It seemed to be the product of that incubated potential, unleashed. The phrase “jotting down thoughts; connecting the dots” flashed through my mind… and lazily hung around.
“From the perspective of the brain, new ideas are merely several old thoughts that occur at the exact same time.“ – Jonah Lehrer on memory & creativity, How We Decide (2009)
thoughtsaredots was born to embody the constantly eye-opening, awe-evoking, knock-me-back realization that everything is connected. If this is a “no, duh” statement to you – beauty. I want to be more like you, and hope we get to chat one day soon. For those who didn’t roll your eyes all the way into your head, you’re closer to the space that I’d come from. Because when I say everything is connected, I do literally mean everything. Sometimes overwhelming, yet awesome in the truest sense of the word.
Thankfully, I’m still great at all those skills that my formal training helped me hone in. But now I’ve pulled back my lens to bring more diversity & potential into focus. Paired with a recent propensity to disregard divisive labels and bend boundaries – there’s really nothing stopping me but me (much more on that to come). I sometimes struggle now to to see things as parceled into separate entities. There’s not a single thing that I’ve experienced over the years – studying biological sciences & arts psychology, dance, event management, various leadership roles, acting, philanthropy, personal relationships, Bikram yoga – that fails to coalesce…
So here we are. This blog will be as I am: a work in progress. Part personal, part pondering, all genuine. Stick around if you’re curious – we can see where this goes together.
Humbly, ~ H
The big dots of the post
• It’s always the right time to shift perspective, to change trajectory. I’m a 20-something born-again dreamer and reforming realist, mindfully overriding my old perfectionist & procrastinatory tendencies to make big things happen.
• There’s a place where life and diverse disciplines like the arts, sciences, business and technology intersect; I call it home.
• My path is my own – not fully “conventional”, nor fully “unconventional”. I’m negotiating this as I have all the countless other in-betweens in my life, making my self-identity as a creative connector that much stronger.
What about you? Do you feel you’re stuck in silos or do you draw diverse connections all the time? Has any stealthy progress crept past your radar lately?