In life and business, we often want to control things. We want to be sure about which path to take and where it will lead. We want to see the dots and know how to connect them.
As a college student, I studied engineering. I loved learning a formula, solving for the variables, and getting a correct answer.
As an entrepreneur, I’ve had to (and continue to) unlearn that approach. There are too many variables, most of them out of control. Scary, I know. It makes it impossible to look ahead and find the “right” solution.
Take a look at this great quote from Steve Jobs’ famous commencement speech from 2005.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. 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.”
Back in 2003, I quit my one-and-only post-college employment after only three years as an engineer. I jumped into real estate investing because I’d read Rich Dad, Poor Dad.
I didn’t know it yet, but this was the first “dot” of many that I would manage to connect in the coming years.
Participating in the real estate investing community led me to consult real estate investors about marketing. (I’d gained marketing chops—as well as would-be mutton chops—over several years of promoting my band, Desmo.)
Eventually, consulting lead to the idea to run a one-day seminar about marketing for real estate investors. I booked a room at the local community college and filled it with 25 people grossing $8000.
This experience was a revelation to me. I could make good money sharing my knowledge!
On the advice of a friend, I’d recorded the seminar so that I’d have a course to resell. (Do something once, make money from it many times over.)
I sold the course through my local network but soon ran out of potential customers. At that point, I went online, looking for ways to market my course.
One day in early 2005, I read about podcasting in an email newsletter. I’d never heard of podcasting, so I Googled it. (It turns out Google didn’t know what podcasting was either because it tried to correct my search.)
Podcasting hooked me instantly. As a marketer, I saw massive potential in podcasting. As a musician, I understood how to produce audio. As a former software engineer, I understood the technical setup. As a teacher, I loved having a new medium for sharing knowledge.
Thanks to a little foresight, mixed with a good dose of naivety, I decided I wanted to be the foremost expert in business podcasting. I launched the first site that provided a complete podcasting tutorial in every-day terms. The site took off, leading to a book deal, international speaking gigs, and consulting clients.
At the same time, I started three podcasts. One of them, Internet Business Mastery, was the first-ever podcast about online business. I started the show with a friend just for fun.
We had no way to know that it would grow to 30k listeners and catalyzed a multiple-six-figure business providing education for new entrepreneurs.
In 2016, I was ready to move on to something new. My experience teaching beginning entrepreneurs had taught me that I loved working with people who had a specific message they felt compelled to share with the world. This realization led to what I do now, helping thought leaders turn their expertise into new, scalable income sources.
Looking back, I can see all of the dots that led to where I am now. I can see how one thing led me to the next, then to the next, and so on. But there was no way I could see where I would end up when I quit my engineering job.
I had no idea yet that my marketing skills were so, well, marketable.
I had no way to know that a thing called podcasting would change the trajectory of my career two years later.
Each of these unexpected and rewarding “dots” along my path showed up because I had enough faith in myself and what I wanted to take action.
I had enough faith in myself to run a seminar when I’d never done one before.
I had enough faith to start a podcast when hardly anyone was launching podcasts let alone ones that made money.
I took the next best action at many junctures along the way based on the “dots” I’d uncovered up to that point.
Wherever you are in your career and business, I invite you to remember Steve Jobs’ quote. Remember, you are in the process of discovering the dots as you go.
Have faith that things will end up better than anything you can imagine because you don’t have all the information yet.
Follow your curiosity, follow your intuition, and look forward to the unexpected turns and twists that your path will reveal.