Dots

We all have something to say and someone’s attention we want. But our resumes and cover letters, or the websites we create to sell our products, most of it sounds the same as everyone else. No one notices, as we look like out of context dots in a children’s puzzle.

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A relative of mine was in town and I was brainstorming things he might find entertaining in Chicago. I mentioned the Art Institute, a beautiful museum with a famous art collection.

But my relative said, “We went to an art museum some years back, so it’s not something I have to do anytime again soon.”

By “years back”, he actually meant over a decade ago. And in other words: he’s seen one art museum, he’s seen them all. If you’re an art lover, you’re sad, but more than a few people reading this feel the exact same way as my relative.

And many share this point of view about something - some type of event or place that people seem to value and want to attend over and over again, but it just seems like more of the same to the rest of us.


Fifteen years ago my wife and I were in Venice, Italy. And we were soaking wet.

It was pouring out. A bunch of tourist attractions were closed due to flooding. Eventually, we stumbled upon the Peggy Guggenheim modern art museum. We didn’t know much about modern art, but we knew the museum was dry inside.

Fearing that the little placards next to the paintings were going to be in Italian, we rented an audio tour.

And that audio tour completely changed my perspective of modern art.

No longer were we looking at random pieces of art from people I’ve never heard of before like Max Ernst, but now my ears were filled with the stories of their lives. The struggles, inspirations, and relationships of the artists connected the paintings together in such a powerful way, I’ve never looked at art the same way again - addicting me to it. I now visit art museums in most places I travel to, have joined the Art Institute, and have even revisited the Peggy Guggenheim a decade later.


I was reminded of this the other day when I found myself watching all 23 minutes of a TED talk by a guy named Sting. Which was weird.

First, I don’t watch many talks online or offline. Second, I don’t listen to Sting.

So how did he get me to pay so much attention?

He created a performance just like I had at the Peggy Guggenheim museum. He sang a song, told a story about growing up and how it influenced these songs, sang another song, told another story…

It was captivating.

He gave me an appreciation and interest in his work that I wouldn’t have had just hearing one of his songs on its lonesome.


When I was creating Draft, the software I sell to help people write better, I knew I was going up against millions of more well-funded and publicized things getting people’s attention.

How was I going to stand out?

Experiences like I had at the Peggy Guggenheim showed me a way to get people to notice: connect the individual, likely-to-be-overlooked dots with stories.

So instead of mimicking all the other websites out there appearing to share the same template of features - “Share with Friends”, “Detailed Analytics”, “Dashboards in your Dashboards” - I created an About page with a short manifesto of why I even bothered to get started. The emails I send about new Features share small stories why each feature was created. And this blog further tries to connect it all together.

Those stories keep Draft alive among everything else out there competing for attention.


The features on our website, job descriptions on our resumes, even paintings in a famous museum, or songs from Sting, to many, look like random dots.

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You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

But when we use our stories to connect these dots together

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We create profound, unique and much larger images that more easily get the attention they deserve.

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You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.

Steve Jobs


The connect the dot artwork above is from the talented Thomas Pavitte. He has a whole collection of interesting Dot-to-Dot artwork, including the unofficial record for the most complicated connect the dots drawing ever created.

P.S. You should follow me on Twitter: here.

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