There’s this thing that happens to me all the damn time.
The backstory is that I consume a lot of media. Books, documentaries, online news resources, really horrid television, podcasts, magazines… I have favorite resources and genres, of course, but I try to consume as much as I can and as widely in taste and viewpoint as possible both for my job and to satiate my own curiosity.
The more I consumed, the more often I found this damn thing would happen where I’d find a coincidence in two (or more) seemingly unrelated things I’m consuming concurrently or within a short amount of time. And I’m not talking about a coincidence like the main person’s name is the same or that they occur in similar times or places. I’m talking really specific similarities that I would never have bet on finding in both entities, especially given how closely in time I am consuming them.
At first I took pause, chuckled at the odds, and went on my way. After it happened a few more times with really different medias are very niche topics, I took serious note. Because whether I chalk it up to pure unintentional coincidence or some divinity or the universe trying to lead me in a certain direction… this phenomenon in my life now stops me in my tracks. Because it seems the odds are in my favor in a way I don’t quite grasp.
When someone else mentions this happening and I agree, or when I mention this happens to me all the time, I can never give a specific example because I flat out forget. Because I am a forgetful person.
But no more. Because from now on, I’m keeping track:
John and I started watching two Netflix documentary series: The Eighties (of CNN’s decades series) and Chef’s Table. One night, we completed an episode of The Eighties (Tear Down This Wall) and decided to watch something lighter to end the night. We flipped on the next episode of Chef’s Table in our cue. This one happened to be on Tim Raue. Who lives and works in Berlin, Germany where, apparently, the Berlin Wall was a huge factor in the stifling of culinary progress during the eighties that he has singlehandedly revived.
And sure, given the two topics of these two docu-series episodes, the coincidence is clear and this is one of my less ineriguinging examples… but you have to admit, those two exact episodes coming up in our cues concurrently?
Um… what are the odds?
My husband is a Mark Cuban superfan and I must say, dude’s got some bright ideas. Not to mention he’s rich AF. One of Mark’s most famous quotables is this, “Don’t follow your passion. Follow your effort.” I have to say, especially after hearing what he has to say on the matter, I certainly agree.
The connection? I recently read (listened to the author-read audiobook, so quotes are not exact) Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame). In it, one of her most prominent points echoed so similar to my husband’s role model. Liz implores readers not to follow their passion, but their curiosity. Which, when she described her own experience with this tactic, curiosity sounded a lot like effort.
And sure, it shouldn’t be surprising that two people known for their life of successes in their fields would have similar mindsets when it comes to getting stuff done. But it was on that wave of familiarity that Liz, again, prompted a switch in normal mindset. She notes that people will ask what you would do if you knew you would not fail and, in turn, asks a different question: what would you do if you knew you would fail?
I liked it. I held onto it for later. I moved onto my next book, an anthology of essays called Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World (edited by Kelly Jensen, who I follow on Twitter and has rocked my world thusly). One of the essays within is from Texas politician Wendy Davis (of abortion rights filibuster fame) where she poses this, I kid you not, “Have you seen that quote from American pastor Robert Schuller,’What is the one thing you would attempt if you knew you could not fail?’ His words, of course, were intended to inspire us to tap into our dreams for ourselves. But I would ask a slightly different question: What are you willing to fight for, even if the odds are stacked against you, even if you’ll most likely lose?”
And this coincidence, unlike the Berlin Wall one, wasn’t just a timing aspect. Who ever could have known that the idea that struck me so hard in one book on creativity would emerge in the very next book I read on feminism?
What are the odds?