Connect the Dots
What a pediatrician can teach us about figuring out our lives.
“Trust that your life will unfold for you. You don’t need to force it.”
If you were to show up at my apartment on a Sunday afternoon, you’d know I was in the kitchen for two reasons: the smell of some type of simple (but tasty) meal prep for the week, and the sound of a long-form conversational podcast. This past week, it was chicken soup and the Vance Crowe podcast.
I was just casually dissecting a rotisserie chicken, intrigued by the podcast guest’s stories about the challenges young people face in the world today, when the episode hit on a point so meaningful I had to drop the chicken, rinse my hands, and pause the podcast.
You see, Dr. Tim Jordan began to talk about what he calls his “Dot Theory.” He compares our development over time—not just as a child, but into our adult life—to the classic children’s book activity of a connect-the-dot drawing. As we start to recognize tasks, hobbies, or other things we enjoy and we pursue those things, it’s like we’re connecting one more dot. When we’re young, we don’t have to know what the whole picture will be; the important thing is to connect the next dot. We don’t do this aimlessly, as we connect dots that make sense as we find ourselves drawn to one thing over another. As we connect more dots we may start to sense what the picture should be, and so we’ll continue connecting dots which bring us closer to the final picture.
Most of the conversation about the Dot Theory spans from 27:45-33:30 (but I highly recommend listening to the whole episode):
A couple other key takeaways I found valuable:
People around you, even people you care about, may tell you what you should want: think carefully if what you’re pursuing is actually what you want, too, or if it’s only what someone else wants for you.
Young men and young women face many similar challenges, as well as some which are different; pursuing both male and female mentors and close friends will help us to understand one another more effectively while also learning from those who can most closely help us navigate the unique challenges we face.
As you go about your life this week, think about the dots you’ve connected on your way to where you are now. Look for more dots to connect: ask to spend 20 minutes on Zoom with a professional who is doing something you find interesting, talk to a new person at the gym, or sign up for a cooking class. You never know where the next dot will take you, but you can count on it teaching you something about the next one.
A Thought to Ponder
Dr. Jordan talks about the importance of defining what “having it all” means to you; that is, if you could live the life you love most, what would it look like? Jot some thoughts in your journal, talk to a friend, or share your thoughts in the comments below.
I was fortunate to be a guest on Vance’s podcast at the beginning of the year. Listen to the episode here: