We think we’re living life as a line.
We go from Point A to Point B. Birth to death, with as many big milestones as possible in the middle: graduations, marriage, promotions, kids, etc.
But if you zoom in on the line, what you’ll see is actually a lot of dots, so closely spaced that from far away they only look like a line.
And if you zoom in even more, what you’ll see is that each dot represents one tiny moment.
Life is not a line. Life is a series of dots.
These moments, strung together, are your happening-right-now, one-time-only, no-refunds-offered life.
Not every moment is enjoyable. But every moment is worth noticing.
The opposite is also true: When you zoom out on a dot, it’s part of a line.
Let’s say you go on a first date with someone new. They’re charming, funny, and make a great impression on you. This first date is your dot.
Your second, third, and fourth date are all great too. Now you’re starting to create a line.
By the time you’ve been together for a few years, when you zoom out, you’ve built a long line.
Sure, there have been some outlying dots, and some ups and downs, but overall… it’s a pretty a nice line. You have confidence that you can build a good life with this person.
What if you had determined your life partner from just your very first dot? It could have worked out… but the trend could have gone the other way too.
That’s decision making from a line. The longer the line, the more information you have.
The earlier you can start collecting dots, the better your decision making can be.
Mark Suster wrote about this concept as it applies to venture capital investing. He says his tendency to invest in lines versus dots can sometimes frustrate entrepreneurs, who want to fundraise quickly and then “get back to business”:
“The first time I meet you, you are a single data point. A dot. I have no reference point from which to judge whether you were higher on the y-axis 3 months ago or lower. Because I have no observation points from the past, I have no sense for where you will be in the future. Thus, it is very hard to make a commitment to fund you.”
Wisely, Suster advises entrepreneurs who hope to fundraise down the line to start relationships with investors early, way before they need capital.
It might sound frustrating to constantly produce dots to build your trendline. But focusing on building a line rather than one incredible dot – one great impression – takes the pressure off the moment and allows your big picture qualities to shine.
As Suster says, “How can you prove tenacity, resiliency or ability to pivot in a single data point?”
This applies to applying to jobs (or hiring others), forming friendships, and building trust in any new relationship (including with yourself.)
What line are you building, right now? And what’s the next dot?