Connect our dots, create a campfire, find our way.

Once upon a time, but not all that long ago, we used to find our way by connecting dots…

It has taken me many years to understand that what I love to do and what I’m good at, is connecting dots. It’s taken me even longer to say that out loud…’Hello, my name is Tink Stephenson and I’m a dot connector’.

Why do I find it so hard to say? Because while I’m in my element connecting and instinctively feel that it is worthwhile, I’ve struggled to see, let alone articulate, the value. Largely because that value lies in the space between two or more dots. In creating something where before there was simply potential. Also, because quite frankly it’s hard to quantify in monetary terms. When the action lies in the realm of potential and connections of future value, it’s really hard to know how to put a price on that…But in the last few weeks, the foundation for valuing my dot connecting has begun to take shape and the catalyst has been the word navigator.

Two weeks ago I went to the Carter Observatory to hear Paul Curnow, a lecturer at the Adelaide Planetarium, talk about Aboriginal night sky knowledge and indigenous navigation. Then later that week, during a conversation about ‘super powers’ I described mine to a wise and smart friend Nick Potter as the the ability to gather a whole lot of ingredients, pull back in order to have a panoramic view of them all, connect the dots and then then zoom in to synthesise. Or something to that affect. Nick’s response was “Maybe you could describe that as “navigator” – super powers – an ability to see the constellations and draw connections among different points of light, create an image or story that connects them and use those images to guide the way”.

I believe you can tell when people are in their element or in touch with their own super power, because they light up, their eyes shine brightly. What gets me positively fizzing with excitement is watching other people light up and then connecting their spark to another and another and so on… Magic lies in connecting people whose spark has been lit. Create a campfire, connect people whose eyes are shining and there is potential for something alchemical.

So to last week and another talk at the Carter Observatory. This one with Dr Julie Teetsov who talked about the history of Western Navigation and her own experiences of celestial navigation as she and her husband sailed from the United States to New Zealand. Early on in her talk Julie mentioned ‘connecting the dots as a way of navigating‘ and I sat up straighter. She went on to talk about the certainty of stars and their capacity to, in some way, allow us to connect with our inner selves. How in these days of sophisticated GPS systems, we may not need the stars to get from a to b, but we still need them. My spine tingled.

In my last post, I referred to Carl Sagan’s comment ”we are all star stuff” by which he meant that nearly every atom inside our bodies was once inside a star. In previous posts, I’ve talked about this point in history as a convergence of crises and a time of massive global transition which will require us all to work together and connect to our selves, each other and nature.

Here’s the thing. You’re all stars. You truly are. Not only are you made of star stuff, but each of you has an element, something that you’re naturally good at, something you love doing and being, something that makes you radiant.  And yet you shine even more brightly in relationship to other stars. When you’re connected to other dots and when you share your story. The power, the potential, so much possibility, lies not just in who we are individually but who we are collectively. The stories our constellations tell.

In learning about ancient ways of navigating, yes, I’m connecting more of my own dots and beginning to seeing its value. Which is good. But what feels great, is this dawning realisation that we really do still need stars to find our way from a to b. If we are to find our way to a brighter, collaborative, infinitely more sustainable future, now more than ever before, we need to connect dots. Your dots. And the potential in that is is making this little star shine very brightly indeed.







The university works in mysterious ways

In the early 90s I studied law and art history at university. Art history because I loved art. The law, because I was advised by my career advisor at school to not just study art history.

I spent five and half years at uni and for the most part, wondered what the hell I was doing. There was no burning desire to be a lawyer. Nor, for that matter, did I want to pursue a career in the history of art. I nearly flagged the whole thing several times to pursue fashion design but didn’t. Partly because I couldn’t sew, in part because of the family pressure (and to be honest my own self imposed pressure) to finish a law degree.

I can still remember sitting in the law library looking around at all those self-assured young people, who seemed to know exactly who they were and what they doing and feeling an almost overwhelming sense of discomfort in my own skin. I had no sense of the direction in which my life was heading.

I’m not sure how many people were in my year of law school, hundreds I guess. Obviously, there were many I passed daily in a corridor and yet never had a conversation with. One in particular haunted me for all my years at uni, because she appeared to be everything I wished I was.

Lucinda (not her real name) exuded confidence. She was beautiful, smart and popular. Striding through the law school, she wore floaty flowery skirts in the summertime and trailed the scent of some expensive French perfume behind her. I would look at her, with gritted teeth, and just know that she would go on to be an extremely successful lawyer, marry an extremely lawyer, have beautiful children and live in a beautiful house.

Years passed. I found myself guiding media around a yet to be opened Te Papa. Participating in a disaster relief effort in India. Making a documentary film. Having lunch with a famous author in New York. And today, I found myself in the same street as Lucinda. At least I’m 99.9% sure it was her.

And because this is 2010 and you can find anything on the internet, I’ve discovered that just as I anticipated, she is indeed an extremely successful lawyer, has married one and has children. I’m going to continue to assume that they’re beautiful and that their house is too. I’ll even throw in an Audi wagon and a labrador for good measure.

Was I surprised to see Lucinda in the street? Of course. But what surprised me even more was my own reaction. Not one of discomfort, but absolute delight.

Because it might have taken me a whole lot longer than Lucinda the Confident, but today I am truly comfortable in my own skin. I love what I do, I know who I am, I have found my voice. And although I may not have a floaty, flowery skirt in my wardrobe, I’m wearing the prototypes of my own clothing range and trailing the scent of a beautiful English perfume.

Connecting the dots

Trying to ignore the noise the kitten is making chasing bugs on the window sill, fingers poised on the keyboard, I am full of questions and one in particular is demanding my attention. Why should I start blogging? Each day it seems, I come across another excellent blog with someone who has something informative, entertaining or downright inspirational to say. So why me?

Because actually this is about you. This is about connecting you. To amazing people, to their stories, to very cool and sustainable ‘stuff’ and transformative services.

I believe that a big piece of  this planetary puzzle we’re all a part of, is people who care about each other and the planet, doing what they’re good at and doing what they love. Being, as the marvelous Sir Ken Robinson would say, in their element.

I’m in my element connecting people. Connecting people to each other, to goods and services which I (and more to the point other people who know far more about these things than I do) believe will make a contribution to restoring the planet.

Recently I watched Steve Job’s commencement speech at Stanford in 2005. He talks about connecting the dots and how so often, it’s only in retrospect that we can connect them.  For me, the challenge and the joy, is in figuring out how to connect some of the dots as we look forward.