The Domino Effect
Blog Post › Transformational Leadership
“If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.” ― Thomas A. Edison
An Uber-Enlightening Experience
Depending on the driver, transport from an airport to a hotel can be enlightening or just another passage of time in a car between locations. I recently encountered the former. The Uber driver, in his mid-sixties and donning a license plate on his car that read, ‘DOMINO”, picked me up at the airport for what turned out to be a long ride in traffic to the hotel. Plenty of time to chat. Between phone calls and text messages I needed to attend to, the driver told me the story of how DOMINO came to appear on his license plate. I was to learn that the game of dominoes meant more to him than a vanity tag; in fact, for the three-time world champion domino player, the game is a vehicle for making a difference in other people’s lives.
Unbeknownst to me, and according to my master domino player driver, dominoes is a game played competitively at the amateur and professional levels, nationally and internationally, in clubs and tournaments. Like poker, the online version also attracts millions of players. The game is thought to have originated in China during the 12th century and appeared in Italy in the early 18th century before spreading throughout Europe. In many Caribbean countries, dominoes is considered their national game. The driver’s response to my question, “Isn’t dominoes a game of luck?” had me convinced that I will no time soon walk into a pub where dominoes is being played and try my “luck.” While he did not deny that luck plays a part in the game, his dissertation on giving up points to make points; bluffing; patience; positional maneuvering; and other dominoes strategy gems made me believe that luck is an innocent bystander to the game.
If it were only that an Uber driver introduced me to a new game that I had otherwise known little about, it would have been an interesting conversation. After his dominoes tutorial, the driver went on to tell me why he continues to play the game twenty-five years after competing in his first competition, and in retirement from a successful career in real estate: connecting with others, to make his life and theirs richer. Utilizing his skill in the game of dominoes, he reaches out to inner-city youth to teach them the game and to fill their idle time where the prospect for trouble often lurks. He teaches them pride in attaining a skill, while in the process improving their self-discipline, confidence, and application of basic math. His efforts earned him a meeting with the Chief of Police in Dallas, who expressed interest in applying the teachings from dominoes to police officers, to relieve stress during downtime, sharpen focus, and build upon camaraderie.
After I reached my destination and watched the driver pull away, I realized that I had just received a 90-minute lesson on the topic of leadership. It wasn’t an earth-shattering epiphany I left the car with, but rather a subtle message that emanated from one man’s story about the game of dominoes and serving others: if only I were to choose one good intention from the many I have stored away to revisit on a future day and act on it, there is the possibility I could change a person’s life, and they someone else’s life, which in turn could lead to another’s life changed, and another’s, and another’s.
The domino effect starts with me.