I often fail to move forward with some project (i. e. getting healthy, losing a few pounds, writing a book, taking a course) because I’ve failed in the past.
Today, I read the following excerpt by Michael Neill, a life coach, who bills himself as the “genius catalyst.” I subscribe to his newsletter and its content frequently moves me out of my inertia and into a better place, mentally.
Imagine a friend of yours receives an extraordinary offer from an eccentric millionaire. This mysterious benefactor sets a timer for ten minutes and hands your friend a coin. Each time your friend flips the coin in the next ten minutes and it comes up “heads”, he will receive $1000.
The timer starts, but to your surprise, your friend doesn’t immediately start flipping the coin. Instead, he stares off into the distance as if to psych himself up for the task at hand.
Finally, after almost two minutes of deep breathing and intense concentration, your friend flips the coin for the first time – and it comes up “tails”. To your chagrin, he doesn’t just pick up the coin and flip it again. Instead, he glares at it on the ground as if it has somehow betrayed him.
A full minute later, he picks the coin up and with a grimace on his face that could be fear, sadness, anger, or all three, he eventually flips the coin again – and again it comes up “tails”.
Nearly four minutes have now passed, so you decide to offer your friend some encouragement. “All you have to do is just keep flipping the coin and you’ll make thousands of dollars!” you enthuse.
“You don’t understand,” your friend says sadly. “I’ve got “tails” twice now – that’s $2000 I’ve lost and I’m running out of time.”
“That doesn’t matter, Dude” you say, almost shouting. “You’ve still got plenty of time! Just keep flipping!”
“That’s easy for you to say,” your friend says. “You don’t have the life experience I’ve had. When I was a little kid, I flipped “tails” auditioning for the school play and I wound up being the 3rd tree on the left in the forest scene.
Then, when I was a teenager, I had the chance to go to the big dance with my dream date, but I flipped “tails” and wound up having to go with my cousin. And don’t even get me started on all the “tails” I flipped when I tried getting a job after graduation… I just can’t face getting “tails” again – it’s all too much!”
Nothing you say seems to make an impression on your friend, and you watch in amazement as he stands, sullen, coin in hand, watching the timer count down to zero without ever flipping it again.
We can easily see our friend’s foolishness – after all, no matter how many times he flipped the coin and it came up “tails”, the next flip could still come up “heads”. Over time, even with some bad luck, he could have easily made tens of thousands of dollars.
But what we fail to see is that each time we turn the word “no” into a story of rejection, betrayal, injustice, or karmic retribution, we are acting just like that would-be coin flipper. Our story of “no” paints us into a corner where we are too afraid to even ask for what we want, be that a job, a sale, a date with our dream lover or even a date with destiny.
The truth is, “no” doesn’t mean we are a bad person or doomed to failure. It’s not evidence of a conspiracy against us by the fates or proof that our parents/teachers/siblings were right about us and we never will amount to anything.
It just means “not yes”. That’s it. “Not yes, not yet.”
What the heck, we only go ‘round once. Time to start “flippin’.”