How Domino Actions Create Waves of Momentum in Your Life

Dominoes are flat rectangular blocks whose top sides feature a pattern of one to six dots, arranged like those on a dice. The other sides are either blank or identically patterned, with a line down the center dividing them visually into two equal parts, or ends. Each end of a domino has a number that corresponds with a suit, such as the suits of diamonds, hearts, clubs and spades in poker. The most common set of dominoes sold in stores contains 28 tiles. Larger sets exist for games involving several players and for domino enthusiasts.

In a game of domino, you place the first tile on the table and then lay subsequent ones next to it. When you match the right tiles, they will push each other in a chain reaction until each has fallen over. The last domino to fall determines the winner of the game.

For Lily Hevesh, the thrill of playing with domino began when she was 9 years old and her grandparents gave her their classic 28-piece set. She enjoyed arranging the pieces in straight or curved lines and then flicking them to see the entire structure fall in unison, domino by domino.

As a teenager, she began experimenting with creating domino art, which led to her YouTube channel and a growing number of followers. Now 20, Hevesh is a professional domino artist, creating mind-blowing setups for movies, TV shows and events.

She creates her creations using a version of the engineering-design process: beginning with a theme or purpose, then brainstorming images or words that might be relevant. Then she draws a plan to achieve the desired effect. Finally, she tests the design to make sure it works.

The word domino comes from the Latin dominium, meaning “flag of power.” It’s said that when the Spanish conquered Portugal in the 16th century, the Portuguese flag was raised, and then all the surrounding kingdoms followed suit, causing a chain reaction that lasted for centuries. The name is also associated with a famous political theory about the end of world history that was promoted by British and American neo-conservatives in the 1950s.

Domino actions are small victories that create waves of momentum in your life. They may be as simple as making your bed every morning—an action Admiral William H. McRaven urged graduates at the University of Texas at Austin to take—or it could be something as grand as designing a pizza-delivery car that features a built-in oven and a redesigned rear window for maximum pizza-warming efficiency.

The word domino has been in use for more than 250 years, and its history is as murky as the shapes of its pieces. It earlier denoted a long, hooded cape worn together with a mask during carnival season or at a masquerade. The modern sense of domino appeared in English around 1750, and it came to France shortly after that. It may have been inspired by the French word domi, which denoted a black domino contrasting with a white surplice of a priest.