A "cascade effect" is a sequence of events in which each produces the circumstances necessary for the initiation of the next.

According to scientists, Mold and Stein, the term cascade refers to "a process that, once started, proceeds stepwise to its full, seemingly inevitable, conclusion." 

There are positive and negative cascading effects. For example, if you start exercising, that will lead to other positive outcomes. If you start smoking, that will lead to other negative outcomes.

A cascading effect is the first domino that leads to the toppling of other dominos. 

I recently had a conversation with a marketing expert, Joe Polish, who looks at life as a series of dominos. Joe is known for connecting people together and sees those connections as the "first domino" that leads to a sequence of other things. 

Be The "First Domino"

Being the first domino in other people's lives is important to Polish, given his background in both business and addiction. He strives to be the first domino, or cascading effect, in people's lives, helping them move in a positive direction. This desire comes from Polish's belief that "life gives to the giver and takes from the taker." 

Polish is actually in the midst of creating his own field study. I myself, as an organizational psychologist, am actually going to support this research. Polish's goal is to discover the primary "first dominos" that have led people to where they are in their lives. 

Examples of "first dominos" could be:

  • A book you read that changed your life
  • A mentor or teacher who saw potential in you when others didn't
  • An experience you had that changed your course in life

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once said, "A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions."

That's the essence of a first domino. An experience that creates an immediate shift in trajectory. And that's what dominos are really all about-- trajectory. They are one event that leads to other events in a specific but often unpredictable direction. 

These first dominos can be either positive or negative. Trauma is a first domino, that if not resolved, leads down a negative path of addiction and avoidance. Conversely, the right event, book, or relationship can be the first domino that changes everything for you, in a positive way.

Polish runs one of the world's top entrepreneurial networks. His goal is to create an environment where "first domino" experiences can occur, whether through relationships, strategies, or knowledge. 

What Have Been Your "First Dominos"?

Here's a quick exercise for you to consider. Look at your life right now. What have been the primary events, experiences, people, etc. that have led you to where you are?

Go back.

Think about the chain of events that have brought you here.

Where did it start?

Who did it start with?

If you can, go back and thank the people in your life that have had an impact. Gratitude is key to creating more "First Domino" experiences.

As entrepreneur and leadership expert, Michael Fishman said:

"Self-made is an illusion. There are many people who played divine roles in you having the life that you have today. Be sure to let them know how grateful you are. Example: the person who introduced you to the person who introduced you to your spouse or business partner or client. Go back that far."

Then ask yourself, based on where you want to go, what Dominos do you need to push over?