Affect and cause and effect.

It was early in the morning and I felt a bit rundown.
I’d returned home late the night before from a speaking engagement.
And I felt like I was, I don’t know, falling behind.
So I brewed a cup of coffee, turned on the TV, and grabbed my iPad.
While cleaning out my inbox, I came across a thoughtful email from another author.
He was looking for a mention or review of his new book, Soulful Branding.
And he had attached a PDF version and a media kit.
I was ambivalent.
I was dealing with scores of emails.
Plus I have a stack of unread books piled up on my coffee table.
But I never dismiss people.
So I open the attachments and quickly scanned the contents.
Looking for something . . . compelling.
My attention was bouncing between his email, Twitter, and news headlines.
When near the end of the media kit, I read:
“The book concludes with the real life story behind how the song Amazing Grace was created.”
At that precise moment I heard President Obama’s voice.
So I looked up at the television.
And saw him singing . . . Amazing Grace.
Coincidence?
Synchronicity?
I’m highly skeptical of paranormal claims.
Like the author, 3,000 miles away, sending out mental vibrations.
And those frequencies connecting with my thoughts and desires.
That’s magical thinking, not cause and effect.
And anyway, my thought was, “I wish he didn’t send me this email.”
But I do believe that coincidences can be made meaningful.
By a process of affect and cause and effect.
Here’s how it works.
That unusual event affected me.
Which caused me to write this piece and email it to the author.
And now . . . who knows?
Perhaps other affects and effects will connect to this nascent chain of causality.
And spin events in some new and interesting directions.
And that’s the most exciting part of this story.
And of yours.
You see, it doesn’t really matter what affects you.
What matters is that something does.
And that it compels you to try something new.
Then that action may affect you and cause another, and then another.
And that new chain will eventually replace the old chain of habit.
The one that presently binds you.
“But,” you may be thinking.
“Wasn’t being driven by a coincidence to write this piece, ‘magical thinking?'”
Absolutely not.
Because I have no belief whatsoever in any type of outcome.
I just did what moved me, in the moment.
Try it sometime.
It’s wonderfully freeing.

P.S. If you’re interested in creating a powerful brand, you should definitely read Soulful Branding.

The paradox of hope.

Do you remember the Greek myth about Pandora?
Not the streaming music service.
The first woman created by the Gods.
She was given a box (actually a jar).
And was instructed to never open it.
Fat chance.
Anyway, out flew all the evils of humanity.
Hate, pain, disease, Internet popup ads.
When Pandora was aware of what she had done, she quickly closed the jar.
And trapped one item inside.
Elpis.
Hope!
But why hope?
Is hope evil, like the other contents?
Nietzsche thought so.
He called hope the worst of all evils.
“Because it prolongs the torments of man.”
I appreciate where Friedrich was coming from.
I’m also predisposed to scoff at hope.
To face up to the realities of life.
But I see it a bit differently.
Hope is a double-edged sword.
Yes, it can be evil.
Especially when it keeps us on a misguided path.
One that causes us to live a disengaged or inauthentic life.
Which inevitably gives rise to the other evils in that jar.
Burdensome toil, regret, despair.
But hope truly is a paradox.
Because hope also helps us remain optimistic.
To push forward in the face of adversity and setbacks.
Hope moves us to pursue our desires and to change the world.
But hope can also blind us.
To a suppressed existence.
Or to our quixotic ideals.
And keep us blissfully numb.
Or seductively engaged in a pursuit that we can’t possibly attain.
David Mamet wrote, “We all hope. It’s what keeps us alive.”
And he’s right.
But being alive and living an authentic, inspired life are quite different.
To be fully alive, you must know when to abandon hope.
When to smash the jar of conjecture on the hard ground of reality.
Embrace your individuality.
Change course.
And allow unexpected possibilities to create life anew.

Eat the rice.

I’ve been privy to the lifestyles and routines of scores of athletes.
Boxers, collegiate wrestlers, weight lifters, downhill skiers.
And I’ve come to realize a simple distinction.
Between them and just about everyone else.
It became clear to me at the gym last week.
When I witnessed a guy eating rice from a plastic container.
“What the hell are you eating,” I asked.
“Rice.”
“Rice? At 9 o’clock in the morning?”
“It’s part of my program,” he replied matter-of-factly.
And quietly walked away.
There you have it!
No need to discuss it.
He does what he does, because he believes that it needs to be done.
Period.
One of my University roommates did hundreds of pushups each night before bed.
Another would sit against a wall in an invisible chair, while reading his assigned text.
None of them invented their extreme diets and painful exercises.
Nor did they particularly enjoy them.
But they wanted to be the best.
So they sought out advice.
And then followed that advice.
There’s the distinction (do you see?).
Why do people continue to attend conferences, participate in webinars, and hire consultants?
To get the answers?
So they can use the information to become the best?
I don’t think so.
All of the questions have already been answered, repeatedly.
Instead, they’re searching for validation.
They’re looking for permission to do what they feel like doing.
The other day I decided to hard-boil some eggs.
So I did a quick online search to find a recipe.
One that would produce moist yellow yolks (not dry green ones).
And, most importantly, eggs that were easy to peel.
I found one.
In fact, I found a lot of them.
So, did I follow the instructions to a T?
Hell no.
I was distracted.
By my cat, my smartphone, the latest issue of The Week.
And what eventually happened?
I bitched at each and every one of those eggs as I struggled to peel them.
I see and hear people bitching all the time.
What I rarely see are those same people doing pushups.
Sitting against a wall.
Eating rice from plastic containers.
And following their recipes to a T.

Am I missing something?

Someone took issue with my TEDx talk (again).
Specifically where I make this heretical assertion:
“It’s a faulty metaphor, that the brain is a computer. It’s not.”
So he or she commented:
“This guy (me) needs to look into the definitions of some words, e.g. ‘computer’.”
And so I did.
And every definition I’ve found makes use of these words:
Machine, device, electronic, program, operations, mathematical, logical.
Nowhere did I come across animal, biological, impulsive, emotional, stories, illogical.
Am I missing something?
I don’t think so.
Last week, I was walking down the street with my philosophical attorney friend.
(Rare, I know).
It was a beautiful day and we had just finished a wonderfully rich conversation over lunch.
As our gazes wandered ahead of us, I called attention to the not-so-obvious.
“You know, you and I are not seeing the same thing right now.”
He didn’t bite.
“Of course we’re not. Perception is selective, subjective.”
“And,” he added, “You’re not seeing the same thing you were seeing the last time we met.
And I’m not referring to the blossoming flowers and trees.”
(Turnabout’s fair play).
“How’s that?” I bit.
“You were quite concerned about the future, and it was coloring your perceptions.
You seem more alive today, brimming with possibility.”
He was absolutely right.
The “data” being “input” into my mind was not only selective and subjective, but highly dependent.
On my mood, my present interests, my focus and desires.
As John Milton so dramatically expressed in Paradise Lost:
“The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven…”
Doesn’t sound much like a computer to me.