How Things Actually Happen

Last week was the final week of this year’s Creating the Impossible program, and I’m still feeling filled up with the richness of feeling from our final call. People shared their highlights and “ta da!” moments from the past 90 days, including writing books,  gracefully caring for a dying spouse, creating income from out of thin air, and facilitating an encounter between Eckhart Tolle and his biggest fan, a homeless man living in Central Park.

But they also shared their insights and ahas – what they learned along the way that will impact the way they live their lives forevermore. In today’s blog,  I thought I’d share one of the most consistent insights that came up and do my best to connect the dots between everyone’s individual experiences and the universal truth underpinning them:

The delusion that we can usefully predict the future kills countless dreams and splendid plans.Click To Tweet

One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from the Scottish Himalayan explorer W. H. Murray:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.”

What is behind that hesitancy is the thought that we both know what will likely happen if we embark on a particular course of action and more to the point, that we would struggle to cope with the consequences. But so much of what actually happens over the course of any creative endeavor is a mystery, hidden from view until the very moment it appears and demands our attention.

Murray goes on to say:

“Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would not otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man would have dreamed would come his way.”

And this is the wonderful news – that while our minds can invariably conjure up nightmare fantasies of all the things that could go terribly wrong, we generally lack the imagination to predict all the positive assistance that the infinite creative potential of the entire universe will bring our way if only we let it.

For example, someone once asked me if I could tell them how I met my wife so that they could “model my strategy” to create their desired end result of a happy marriage. “After all”, they went on to explain, “if you throw a brick through a window the window will break, so if I throw a brick through a similar window, that window will break too.”

While I wasn’t so sure about the metaphor, I was happy to share my story.

“All you need to do”, I explained, “is to run into an ex-girlfriend at a train station.”

“So you married an ex-girlfriend?” he asked.

“No, you misunderstood me,” I went on. “Meet your ex-girlfriend and awkwardly rekindle your romance until you’re both kicked out of your apartments and absolutely certain that you don’t want to move in together. Then make sure she’s allergic to cats so she rejects a nice apartment she looks at with a roomate who has cats but recommends it to you instead because she knows you like them.”

“Ah,” my erstwhile strategic planner concluded, “you married your new roommate!”

“He wasn’t really my cup of tea,” I explained, “but if you really want to do what I did, become friendly with the actor who lives upstairs and his fiancée. Decide that they’re kindred spirits and spend a lot of your spare time with them.”

“So,” my questioner continued, more tentatively this time, “the strategy is to find kindred spirits and hang out with them?”

That sounded less like a strategy than common sense to me, but when I told him he was almost there he leaned in with interest.

“When the couple upstairs splits up, continue hanging out with his fiancee, drinking tea or gin as the hour dictates until one day you realize that she’s your best friend and you’d be devastated if she met someone else. Casually drop off flowers  and a Byron poem about his vaguely incestuous relationship with his half-sister and within two years you’ll be married. 28 years, 3 children, and more life experiences than you can possibly imagine later, you’ll love her more than ever.”

Sarcastic though I’d been, he did get the point:

We plan our lives as though they’re linear, but things work themselves out through a series of happy accidents.Click To Tweet

How do we become more accident prone?

I’ll let W.H. Murray take us the rest of the way home:

I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.”

What have been some of the happiest accidents in your own life?

How have the coolest things in your world come into being?


With all my love,