“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… Believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference.”
Steve Jobs said this in his commencement address at Stanford University. The story behind it took place during his youth. Jobs had just dropped out of college because he didn't know what he wanted to do with his life. But, he was still attending classes (“dropping in”) that he was interested in.
One day, he dropped in to a calligraphy class out of curiosity and learned a lot about fonts and typeface. Years later, when developing the first Mac computer, Jobs remembered this course and had the idea to add multiple font options to the word processor.
Today, all computers have a choice of font, and this might not be the case had Jobs not gone to that class. Jobs didn't go to the calligraphy class because he knew that one day he would develop the Mac and would want to incorporate font options into the word processor. He simply went to a class he was interested in, and it came in handy later in life. The dots only connected in retrospect.
I've been thinking a lot about this story lately, as Total Attorneys celebrated its eighth anniversary this month. I didn't know a lot about the future when I began Infra-Strategy (Total Attorneys' former name) in my apartment back in May of 2002.
The business began as an web development and IT services company on the tail end of the dot com bust. I didn't know that we would evolve into offering technology services for small law firms. But in retrospect, everything that has happened in the last eight years makes sense and had to happen to get us where we are today.
While my background before starting Infra-Strategy was focused on web development and e-commerce, I decided that I wanted to offer IT services as well when I started the company. While looking for potential IT services clients, I discovered Google AdWords as a way to augment my cold calling efforts.
Google AdWords ended up being a big missing piece to the business plan. If Infra-Strategy hadn't offered IT services in addition to web development, I wouldn't have learned the power of Google AdWords so early.
While IT services are no longer a part of Total Attorneys, its contribution is still felt today, as leveraging online legal marketing continues to be a key part of our strategy.
While looking for potential clients in 2002 I cold-called Kevin Chern to explain our web development and marketing services to him. We worked great together. Three years later in 2005, Kevin ended up becoming my partner and joining Infra-Strategy as President. This wasn't part of a long term plan in 2002 and wouldn't have happened if I hadn't become an effective cold caller.
At the time, I couldn't have possibly connected the dots between the minute before I made that call and today. In retrospect, that first sales call was incredibly important for our company.
I think part of what the Total Attorneys story gets at is that you should treat everything as a learning experience or an opportunity. Total Attorneys' success over the last eight years can be credited to the people who have helped build it. Each one has has their calligraphy classes that got them to this point, and they continue to add dots to the Total Attorneys story that we will be connecting in the years ahead.