ABCD: Connect, don’t just collect!

ABCD. That is the mantra that runs through the DNA of Sir Richard Branson’s companies. As one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time, apart from being an engaging writer and syndicated columnist, his philosophy is simple but important: Always Be Connecting the Dots.

This formula is not only applicable to industry; it is relevant to all spheres of life, especially education. You begin education by learning ABCD and you succeed in it by Always Connecting the Dots. Even when you complete schooling (you never complete education), you find out that succeeding in your career and life requires one thing: Always Be Connecting the Dots.

There is a world of difference between collecting the dots and connecting them. A person who has collected the dots will be parading degrees, diplomas and certificates while complaining of unemployment, joblessness and idleness.

A person who connects the dots, however, knows what to do with his education in such a way that he is not idle or helpless. He thinks out of the box and sees opportunities where other people see nothing. There are many opportunities around us but it takes the sixth sense to think of them and the third eye to see them. This ability lies in connecting the dots.

Meanwhile, you cannot connect what you have not collected. You don’t build a house without first making or collecting the bricks. Thus, collecting bits and dots of knowledge without connecting them is ultimately counter-productive. The bane of many youths today is that they only COLLECT dots, they don’t CONNECT them. Connect, don’t just collect!

It is the inability to connect the collected bits of knowledge that made an Ekiti State University engineering graduate to attempt suicide this April. His reason: “There is no state that I have not gone to in search of job in the past 10 years, but none for me…. I came to Akwa Ibom State because this is my last hope… But unfortunately, since I came, I discovered that even many people from Akwa Ibom are also crying because of poverty and joblessness.” The question is: what kind of engineer would be “jobless” for 10 years?

As I wrote in anothér column recently, “it is connecting the dots that constitutes the kernel of innovation.” And what is innovation? According to one of the greatest inventors of all times, Thomas Edison, “innovation is one per cent inspiration and ninety nine percent perspiration.” You cannot connect without perspiring; you cannot succeed without sweating.

This is why it is confounding that many young people now want to enjoy their way to success. Hard work used to matter as the foundation of success. Nowadays, however, many impressionistic youths believe that they only need to be “smart”. Dubiety, dishonesty, disloyalty, immorality and all damnable things are part of being smart or connecting the dots in a wrong way.

How do you connect the dots in the right way? The late technology wizard, Steve Jobs, provided the answer in this famous commencement speech: “You can’t connect the dots by looking forward; you can only connect them by looking backwards. So, you have to trust that the dots will connect in your future. 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.”

But many Nigerians are let down. Taking some students for example, rather than focus on learning or acquiring knowledge, they just want to have certificates. Though the school or institution they attend is primarily meant for learning, they devote most of their time to socialising, online and offline, clubbing and burning their precious time away.

At the end of the day, the dots don’t connect as they are found to be unemployable and incompetent. I do not begrudge those who want to become millionaires while in school but the linear approach, which the ABCD also represents, is that there is time for everything. There is time to learn; there is time to earn. Only few people can combine the two effectively.

It is therefore desirable to make a good use of one’s time so that the dots will eventually connect. The dots would connect if you spent your yesterday well and you use your today judiciously. You can trust the future will be good. In other words, if your today is education, acquire it well and trust that it will lead to a great future.

Lastly, Steve Jobs has more words of wisdom: “Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”