Essays Introduction

Decisions Using Intuition & Creativity


No Left-out People

As If

The Crystal Structure

On Leadership

The Myth of Success

Doers & Creators

I, Committee
Without meaning to, I have developed a superstition. By making a prediction - certainly stating it aloud, but also by simply feeling it - one has contributed to making it come true. As a result, I prefer a positive forecast or at least an intelligent one based on what I really know.

What interests me, and the reason that I am writing, is the possible process of cause-and-effect. Is this a superstition, or is it a real phenomenon?

"Be careful what you wish for, you may get it." I am convinced that by deciding that someone wants something (not, "wouldn't it be nice if I had..." but, "I want...") a person is more than half way to getting it.

Because of a friend's connection with est (a human potential organization which uses group encounter techniques to train people), I once pointed out to him that part of the est system produces an easy victory. At the outset of the training they ask the trainees to write down what they want to achieve by taking est. Without the time to think about it - without even realizing it - these people make a firm declaration. What a powerful commitment that becomes. It is not surprising that such goals are often quickly achieved.

There is a piece of popular wisdom that extols the virtue of being a pessimist. "The pessimist never expects much so s/he is always pleasantly surprised when something turns out well, and is not disappointed when it does not." Almost everyone has heard that line; and I suspect that a majority subscribe to it. It is an easy position to take, and one feels as if one is playing-it-safe. The problem is that the pessimist is declaring that this or that will turn out badly.

To what extent do declarations about the future (good or bad) influence the course of events? Can any of the process of influence be recognized?

It is my experience that the most powerful force available to humans is a good idea combined with the means to communicate that idea. In this context, a good idea is simply one that is practical and can be easily communicated to others. I would like to think that, generally speaking, a positive, creative idea is stronger that a negative, destructive one.

There are two ways that someone's idea about something is communicated. First, the initiator uses some medium to express it. Secondly, others discuss it. They also discuss the initiator. Whether the discussion is by a prestigious columnist, or a labourer at coffee break, it is all gossip. This gossip contains more than a transfer of information; it includes the attitude of the person talking, a degree of evaluation, and opinion. There is a strong element of judgement - of both the idea and the initiator.

Through gossip the idea grows as it develops adherents - or withers as the idea or the initiator is rejected...because during gossip, the gossipers usually inject their personal opinions, and by doing so are declaring whether they want the idea to succeed.

We are often taught that gossip is bad. It may not be bad; it may be part of the way that a community accepts or rejects what it wants to do as a community. It is the way that it becomes a community instead of a merely group of people.

How often, in private conversation, do we sit in judgement of others and their aspirations? "There is no way that I would vote for someone like that." "I really think that so-and-so deserves to get the job." "Did you know that Jennifer was really impressed by Frank's proposal?" "The guy's a joke, how can you take him seriously?"

It is seldom that the object of such gossip finds out what is said - or when it it is discussed with him/her the comments are often tailored to the be acceptable to the person. It takes a very sensitive person to be able to read in people's eyes what is really being said.

The point that is obvious, and is often overlooked, is that people are always gossiping. If someone has an idea, a hope, or an ambition that requires the participation of others in order to come to fruition, those others will discuss it. The bigger the concept the more the gossip. And everyone who has an opinion - whether they are involved or not - will be free to comment.

There is energy here. If the gossipers feel positive about a person, and they want the concept to succeed, the concept can develop a life of its own. Barriers to success vanish as if by magic. Other people will want to strengthen the concept with their support, additional good ideas, and assistance.

The reverse is also true. We all have seen ideas that may be technically all right, but try as the individual might, nothing seems to happen. It is no coincidence that this person is often heard complaining that it did not work because so-and-so was against the idea, or somebody let him/her down by not holding up their end of the bargain.

The success of a project, hope, or ambition relies upon the positive attitude of the initiator - in all endeavours, and the viability of the concept. The process - the source of energy - involves the tacit approval of the community, which is generated by gossip.

This part of the process is obvious because everyone participates consciously and we can often see it work. Sometimes it can be manipulated; by being aware of it, by word-of-mouth campaigns, etc.

I suspect that the process is even more subtle and powerful than simple gossip would provide.

An experiment carried out in the United States showed that in that country of two hundred million people, no one was more that five handshakes away from knowing anyone else. This leads me to believe that the consciousness of the whole community is far more extensive, and can be influenced far more simply, than any individual can imagine.

Is my fear of negative predictions really a superstition, or is it an unconscious recognition of the power of the prediction itself: that the declaration of the nature of the future can create a lot of pressure to fulfill the prophecy?

My observations suggest that predictions based on a desired future, rather than the real belief of future possibilities, does not work. It simply destroys the person's credibility.

The words energy and power have been used in this discussion. A good idea, and the means to communicate it, can develop its own power of human inertia to make almost anything happen.

We are accustomed to seeing most individuals move in their own small world, often having little to do with the great projects of the day. However, by adding their negative voice to a million other dissatisfied voters they can stymie the plans of an unpopular political leader. Like a molecule in a wave, they are part of all the great events around them: with their positive resonance the size of the wave grows, and by being negative it diminishes.

I think that when a community moves in concert the result is very powerful. If the whole of humanity could ever want the same thing the result would be magical.

Knowing how to sense these waves, how to influence this energy (I do not think that it can be seriously manipulated) can give one access to the greatest power available to humans. There is nothing that cannot be accomplished.

This leads to a formula for success. Begin with a good and positive idea; then find the means to communicate the idea. Remember that communication goes on all the time; that you radiate the potential success or failure of the idea even when you are not thinking of it. (I am convinced that the idea, and its success must be more important than historical credit.) If it is really a good idea others will want to contribute and be a part of it - and a part of a million associated aspects of the idea. Let them. Encourage them. Expect that a million seemingly unrelated events contribute to the energy. Provide positive resonance to things that you sense are positive - it all contributes to the success of your project, and all other good projects.

All of the foregoing is so obvious, and demonstrable that I might not have used the term superstition. But it goes further. To me, it is not clear that future predictions lead to simple human activities where cause-and-effect can be observed. "I'll bet it will rain this afternoon." "The stock market is due for a significant drop." "These are hard economic times." "Well, we won't have many tourists visiting our city this year." If I were concerned about the consequences of any of these, probably I would not make these statements unless I thought that these predictions were absolutely inevitable. Instead I would say what I really know. For example: "Those clouds seem to be piling up. They could become thunderclouds." I have imparted my knowledge more accurately and I am not committed to having it rain.

Does the process and the energy extend itself to affect the weather, the stock market, tourism, etc? Of course I do not know. The market and tourism have to do with human activity and one can imagine an influence here. To assume control over changes in the natural elements is probably mystical. But it takes no extra mental effort, and, since I believe that the process is powerful and usually operates unseen to the initiator of an idea, I include these areas as well. Frankly, it is so difficult to develop an attitude of positive resonance - it is so easy to be negative - that an evaluation of each situation seems impossible, and might be counterproductive.

Finally, the strongest incentive to maintain the attitudes suggested here is that it seems to work. Projects seem to happen, and ideas flourish. And - nothing gives me more confidence that this - my predictions seem to be improving in accuracy. I cannot say whether this is because the predictions are based on knowledge (even if scanty) and not a careless suggestion, and are believed to be possible (not merely a hoped for consequence); or if it is that the predictions contribute to producing future events. Maybe both.

I would be interested to receive any comments you may wish to contribute. Please send me a note to


Return to Essays Introduction
Return to Ballantyne & Associates

© 1982 August 19, Robert J. Ballantyne
All rights to this essay are reserved.
It is here only for your enjoyment
at your computer screen.