The Key to Success: Lines, Not Points

Posted June 26, 2012 by Marcy Twete in On the Ladder
Troy Henikoff is the CEO and Founder of Excelerate Labs, a tech start-up incubator in Chicago. At Tech Week, Troy gave a piece of advice to entrepreneurs that, for me, crossed over the lines of entrepreneurship into all of our professional lives. He said, “Invest in lines, not points.” From an entrepreneurial perspective, what he means is that and idea isn’t enough, a person isn’t enough, it’s seeing the growth over time of a person, a company, and an idea that will create buzz and interest from investors and potential collaborators.

When it comes to your career, think about the same thing – are you drawing a clear line? Or are you investing too much time and effort in specific points?

Here are some common mistakes we all make by investing in points vs. lines:

  • Staying in a job because it looks good on your resume. Too often, we stay in jobs for the wrong reasons. Especially for young professionals, there can be a fear that leaving a job too soon will make you look like a “job hopper.” If you need a push, check out the Career Girl article, “Why It’s Time to Change the Way We Talk About Job Hopping.” Worrying about how something might look on your resume is working too hard on the points, not the lines. It’s better to have a trajectory and a career that fulfills you than to look like you’re staying “long enough” in a job.
  • Judging a book by its cover. Have you ever met someone and thought they were inappropriately dressed, and judged them because of it? That’s looking at a single point, not a line. Perhaps you need to give that person another chance to show their true professionalism. You never know what happened that day. Maybe they were sick, or spilled coffee on their outfit and didn’t have a good backup, or maybe they’re going through a difficult time personally. Working to look at lines gives someone a few chances to prove themselves and eliminates first impression judgment.
  • We make bad choices. A part of investing in the lines of our career is being able to look ahead at where we want that line to go. It we’re just looking at the points, those things that are happening today, our decision-making skills will suffer. Conversely, though, if you look at the trajectory and the lines of your career and make decisions based on where you want to see the line go, you’ll make positive decisions for your life and your career.

Start today investing in the lines that spell progress in your career, and less in the points that seem to be every day panic-stricken incidences.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."