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57 Dominoes to the Moon

By Jillian Broaddus and Chuck Cusumano

If you grew up before the era of Playstation 5s or virtual reality gaming, you may have found entertainment on a slow, Sunday afternoon in a simple box of dominoes.

In fact, dominoes precede all of our childhoods: the earliest mention of the game traces back to thirteenth century China, and a more modern version – akin to the pastime we know today – appeared in eighteenth century Italy.

From 1700s Europe until now, dominoes have remained relatively unchanged: rectangular tiles featuring a line dividing the face and an engraving of a certain number of dots (“pips”) on each side. For those who truly know how to play the game, there is a scoring system associated with the pips, as well as a set of rules that determines a winner and loser. However, if you’re like us, you grew up only doing one thing with dominoes: building a snake of vertical tiles as long as possible, until a trembling hand, the wag of a dog tail, or the shaking from a shutting door sent your streak tumbling across hardwoods with a crushing clatter.

Whether you’ve played dominoes or not, you’re probably familiar with the expression “the domino effect”: defined as a cumulative effect produced when one event initiates a succession of similar events. For instance, consider this scenario in which a young boy’s choice to play soccer sets in motion a domino effect that determines his entire life: his soccer playing led to his scholarship to a particular college, which led him to an education that determined his first job, which led him to a career path that determined the city he lived in, the people he met, and the family he created.

You probably have a similar example of the domino effect in your own life. It can be easy to see how one decision creates a path that opens certain doors and closes others. However, consider another aspect to the domino effect which isn’t as often discussed: the cumulative power of our small decisions to create unbelievable magnitude.

Gary Keller and Jay Papasan offer insight on this phenomenon in their book, The One Thing:

“In 1983, Lorne Whitehead wrote in the American Journal of Physics that he’d discovered that domino falls could not only topple many things, they could also topple bigger things. He described how a single domino is capable of bringing down another domino that is actually 50 percent larger. Do you see the implication? Not only can one knock over others, but also others that are successively larger…”

According to Keller and Papasan, if this were carried out on a larger scale, the 18th domino would be similar in height to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the 23rd domino taller than the Eiffel Tower, the 31st domino higher than Mount Everest, and the 57th domino would nearly bridge the gap between the earth and the moon.

So, what does this all imply? Your small steps, seemingly inconsequential decisions, and deliberate actions today can have immense ramifications down the road! What you do now can lead to even greater capability in your subsequent action. Your choice to eat healthy, start training for a marathon, invest your money, or begin learning a new skill may not offer instant gratification, but can set in motion a set of dominoes that can lead to outcomes beyond your wildest dreams!

Don’t think about bridging the gap to the moon; just think about toppling over your first domino, and watch where that may lead.

If you need help with creating habits today to set yourself up for success tomorrow, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re here to help at!

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