The Oracle of the Incorrect

I had a friend once who was always wrong.

Not about everything, mind you.

If you asked them the capital of Peru, for example, they would probably correctly answer “Lima.”

Or if you asked them the best way to get to their apartment, they’d give you the closest subway stop.

They were, however, 100 percent off in one, singularly important (to me) area:

Any advice about my life.

I harbor four or five examples where they gave me the worst possible career and relationship advice––intelligent and reasonable opinions to be sure, but decidedly wrong for me-–most of which I wisely ignored.

You see, fortunately I deduced the pattern early on.

In fact, I began seeking their counsel during particularly difficult moments, only so that I could do the exact opposite of what they advocated.

Their predictive failure became strangely comforting.

I’m sure you remember the Seinfeld episode where Jerry suggests to George that “if every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.”

And that’s the function they served for me:

The Oracle of the Incorrect.

I’m in the middle of an interesting marketing seminar where the theme has explicitly been “Do Something Different.”

I created the new September Meditation of the Month around that exact exploration.

Obviously, there’s the classic definition of insanity, incorrectly attributed to Einstein that quote detectives believe actually comes from a Narcotics Anonymous pamphlet from 1981:

“The definition of insanity
is doing the same thing over and over again
and expecting different results.”

And yet there’s also the opposite truth, ascribed as an alchemical proverb, and often quoted by the founders of Jivamukti yoga that:

Through repetition the magic is forced to rise.”

How exactly does one decide if one more attempt will result in magic…or commitment to a mental ward?

I often tell this story when I’m coaching clients.

I had another friend from college, one who was steadily climbing his way up the partnership ladder at perhaps the most prestigious law firm in the world.

As time went on we saw each other less frequently, although it was always the classic scenario of picking up exactly where we’d left off last time.

One day I called him at the office to schedule a catch-up lunch only to discover he’d left the firm.

In fact, he’d left the legal profession altogether.

Intrigued and even a little concerned, I couldn’t wait to hear what had made him give up 3 years of grad school and 7 years of corporate toil.

A decade ago, I found a lot of value in a very successful mindset coach’s offerings.

One of his core teachings, however, was that if you don’t have what you want it’s because you’re unwilling to do the thing you secretly know you have to do.

I was never sure if that was really true.

Yes, Doing Something Different might be necessary but that doesn’t always mean it’s the thing we’ve been avoiding.

In fact, we might not have discovered our “Something Different” yet.

It might not even have to be as dramatic as “Opposite George” assessing a situation and then performing a 180-degree shift.

A small pivot might be all that’s required.

Like correcting the wi-fi password, sometimes adjusting one tiny element in life’s complex equation––even a single digit––gives you complete access to, well, everything.

I know someone who despite their lack of success refuses to do anything different.

They are deeply committed to a single film project that remains incomplete.

In fact, I donated to their first kickstarter campaign almost a decade ago.

I believe everything has been filmed which is fortunate because not only has the original cast aged a decade, one of the stars has also switched type.

(Think “high school cheerleader” grown into “soccer mom”).

Long ago, since it met only deaf ears, I gave up trying to offer any advice.

Since they won’t listen, I’ll share my 2 cents with you:

To paraphrase Abraham-Hicks, the best way to complete this project and bring it to a new level, is (without abandoning it) to start another one.

Doing so will free up so much psychic space and relieve so much desperation.

New momentum will be created, momentum which could rescue Project Number One from endless obscurity. 

They won’t listen becausealas they are entirely focused on “not giving up.”

Please note, I actually do think that Persistence is the cardinal virtue for a successful artistic (maybe any) career.

And yet if there’s a complete absence of adaptability, an utter refusal to innovate, you’re taking the slow lane to failure. 

When my former lawyer friend showed up for lunch, I asked him what he was doing now.

His answer astonished me.

“I’ve become a massage therapist,” he revealed.

I’d known him for well over a decade and couldn’t recall a single moment where he’d talked about massage or any healing practices whatsoever.

I congratulated him, of course, and asked how he came to his new profession.

He revealed that when he realized he was miserable at work and something had to change, he determined that he needed 3 things in a new job.

1. Unlike the law firm, there could be no work to take home, no being on call, or dealing with emergencies.

2. He wanted (again unlike the law firm) people to always feel glad to see him andfeel even better when they parted.

3. Finally, he needed to make $X an hour, half his rate as a senior associate, to pay for his condo’s mortgage.

Massage Therapist perfectly fit those 3 criterion.

Before the next brief could be drawn up, he was enrolled at the Swedish Institute.

I still marvel at his hyper-rational way–one might even say legally-minded––of dramatically transforming his life and, more importantly, having the courage to truly Do Something Different.

Sadly, at one point my friend who was always wrong moved back to South America.

We are loosely in touch but it does seem odd to suddenly reach out in a crisis to ask their advice only so I can do the exact opposite.

Fortunately, I like to think I’ve gained true confidence in my own bolder, more off-the-beaten-path life choices.

I’ve learned, as my marketing seminar advises, that in order to achieve different results, I must remain open to doing something different.

It may be as basic as changing an online strategy from images to videos.

Or as bold as leaving one promising career and starting another.

Or it might just be getting an additional degree you’d never considered, something I’m doing right now with my Executive MBA.

In any case, soon I’ll have more to share about how I’m applying this to what I’m launching this fall.

What’s far more important is that––as the new meditation suggests––we all remain open to discovery, willing to explore the possibilities that might arise if we’re brave enough to actually Do Something Different.

Namaste for Now,

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