Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
Yesterday I gave a 20 minute speech at the amazing Vortex Immersion Dome in Los Angeles that was very well received. I did not find out that I was speaking until Friday night because Suzanne Taylor was just swamped with details and forgot to tell me. I prepared the speech Saturday, but had to dump most of it and sort of wing it Sunday morning. Oh, and by the way, I drove to this event with two icons of consciousness research (who are also wonderful people) as my passengers; Dr. Larry Dossey and physicist Russell Targ. All around me at this event, which was livestreamed, were people telling me how wonderful my writing was and how glad they were to meet me.
In one fell swoop I had been magically transported from being a relatively anonymous blogger with a decent following toiling away in obscurity to somehow becoming a person of some importance. I don’t know how it feels to win the lottery, but I think this might actually be better. Which brings us to the obvious question: How on earth did THAT happen? The answer, as it almost always is, is that this was a combination of intentionality, serendipity and hard work.
To be absolutely honest, I WANTED this to happen and I very deliberately went to work focusing my intention to set it in motion. I have been spending quite a bit of time and energy visualizing and putting energy into willing something to happen along these lines, although I knew better than to be too specific. (I have more goals, of course, but I’ll get to that later.) And happen it did. But while a great deal of serendipity was in play to put me in the right place at the right time, it was also absolutely required that I was utterly and completely ready for this opportunity when it finally came.
I needed three things: 1) A job that would allow me to leave town on a moment’s notice; 2) A blog that was very, very good and had a decent readership; 3) Very good public speaking ability. None of these three things come about by accident. There is no way to fake it or slip through. You have to plan for it and work at it. I had to make a series of deliberate decisions about what direction I wanted to go and how I wanted to go about it many years ago in order for all of this to come together.
I’m sharing this personal background information to help those of you who sincerely believe in the power of intentionality, but are having trouble getting it to work for you. We don’t create success for ourselves solely by dreaming about it and visualizing it, although these are certainly crucial steps in the process; we also have to put our feet in motion because it’s in taking concrete steps toward success that we make the change from idly fantasizing about our dreams to making them actually happen. Acquiring the necessary skills is part of it, but more than that, there is a fundamental change in our thinking. We get feedback along the way and this helps us to increase our confidence and toughen us up; both of these are crucial to success.
Many years ago when I got into construction I had a choice to go the full blown house-builder route and decided against it. I knew from the beginning that I did not want to get tied down with long term projects, employees and large amounts of paperwork. It did not meet my goals because if I did that I would not have the flexibility to take advantage of other opportunities if and when they came up.
I had no idea at the time what those opportunities might be, but I wasn’t going to put myself in a position that I might regret later on. So I chose the less prestigious and lower paying route of being a high end licensed handyman.
As it turned out, this was a good idea because my business doesn’t have the highs and lows of ordinary house building construction. I’m also better suited to this because I’m naturally happier with oddball type work (and very successful at it) and I have time to write and do other things. The job isn’t all consuming and I make more money per hour than most people even if I don’t make a lot overall. As I said, this was a very specific choice that I made.
Like most sensitive people, I lean towards taking care of other people, since this brings me a great deal of personal satisfaction; but while this is an admirable and useful trait for the self employed, it is equally important to look out for yourself. Time and again, I had to raise my rates over the first few years as I adjusted to the reality of having to cover the expenses of running a business and running my personal life with only the money I was bringing in from a job that has no guaranteed hours.
I had to set minimum standards of what I would and would not do; I had to learn to push back at unreasonable requests and ignore customer fears as well as make sure that I collected the money at the end of the job. I learned how to project confidence and authority. This job forced me to respect myself; which I had not learned growing up.
This was an immense help to me when I went down to L.A. I met a lot of really wonderful people down there who are doing things that I have an enormous amount of respect for. Authors, artists, musicians, filmmakers, etc. Some of these are things that I wanted to accomplish, but never succeeded at. Although I am still incredibly grateful and thankful for the experience, I was not overwhelmed by it. Something inside of me acknowledged that I had earned the right to be there.
I started my blog in 2009 after I did some posts on the DailyKos. There were too many skeptics and I wanted to connect with psychic people who were intimidated by that environment so I moved over to creating my own blog. I was already a pretty good writer, but I had to learn my subject, so over the years I have read a great deal and added to my library so that I could understand my topics better. I made a conscious decision not to create posts that were simply off the cuff opinion type stuff and to do what I could to add relevant research to my writing.
It took awhile to get good at this and if you look at some of my earlier posts, it’s clear that they’re not all that great, but I kept at it and slowly improved. It’s really only been in this last year that people have taken notice of my writing. At some invisible point, others began linking to and referring to my writing on a regular basis and I began steadily increasing my readership. Something seems to have changed well before the TED drama started, but I’m not sure what.
There is a funny thing about writing that everyone who does it has to learn: you never know what is going to be popular. You have to give up being attached to a particular idea that you are absolutely sure is the greatest thing you’ve ever written because the reaction may very well end up being a resounding “meh.” Meanwhile, you throw together an article in a couple of hours giving it barely a thought and sometimes forgetting that you even wrote it only to have it be a great and influential success. It takes time to learn what sort of things people really want from you and what your overall message is; but you also have to learn to let go and not take the failures personally.
When the TED story broke I was neither the first, nor the best reporter of it. That honor goes to C4Chaos. I didn’t try to compete with him; experience had shown me that it’s not my thing. I was, however, well connected and my well written article, which came out a couple of days after the whole thing started was the one that went viral in the psychic community. Partly this was due to an already good readership that spread the word, but also because I shared it psi researcher Dean Radin, who put up a link to it on his own blog.
I also had the skill and experience to properly define what was going on and to give it a proper perspective. The feedback that I’ve received is that people liked my reporting, but they loved my analysis. My intuition and inspiration did not have to do the heavy lifting. They just told me to stick with the TED story and eventually led me to Suzanne Taylor, who had been reading my blog. From there, things really took off.
Public speaking is just something that you have to practice a million times, preferably in front of an audience. It’s a skill that is basically acquired through brute force. First you have to get over some of your stage fright and then slowly add layers of skills to your repertoire to improve incrementally. To get better, you can’t simply keep doing the same thing over and over; it’s too easy to fall into a pattern of mediocrity.
You have to keep practicing changing your patterns to get better. It’s hard to do and uncomfortable. I’ve been in Toastmasters, a non profit speaking organization for quite a few years so that I have an opportunity to speak on a regular basis when I feel like it . . . and when I don’t feel like it. In Toastmasters you’re constantly timed, so you learn to be very aware of how long your speech is.
By the time I got to the Vortex Immersion Dome for the most important speech I have ever done, I’d given probably 300 speeches already with audiences ranging from just a few friends to 300 people including participating in about 20 speech contests. I was a bit nervous, but not frightened. I knew I was capable of giving a decent improv speech on a topic I knew well, throw in a couple of relevant jokes and making it coherent over approximately 20 minutes and ending on time. (In fact, since I was improvising, I used the clock to tell me when to change directions.) My wife (who does not sugarcoat things with me) tells me I paced too much and I said “um” and “ah” way more than I should have, but these are small forgivable things; the important part: getting the message across with feeling, was accomplished.
The only reason I spoke at all was because I had asked for the opportunity. And the only reason I had the courage to ask for that opportunity was because I had enough experience and feedback to be sure of myself. When the moment came, I was able to seize it.
Which brings me to my most important part. All of these skills that I had acquired were, by themselves, not enough. Being a good writer and speaker and having confidence in myself did not generate the necessary magic; they were just there when I needed them after the magic had done its work. Something more needed to be in play and that was a sequence of synchronicity, serendipity and opportunity that I took advantage of.
I wasn’t originally on the TED website and had no idea what was going on until someone else mentioned it on a forum I regularly visit. I certainly didn’t have any input into the never ending bad decisions that TED was making. Suzanne Taylor and I just happened upon each other in the comment thread at TED. It was her choice to tell me what was happening and her choice to allow me to blog about it. I had no control over that. I had the odd sense of jumping in front of a parade that was already in progress and then finding that I was pretty good at it and people were OK with me leading it.
There is an old saying that we all make our own luck and I think that this is literally true. I think that when we have goals, we need to put hard work into them in order to both gain skills and shape our thinking into the direction we want to go. Changing our thinking from wanting to be good at something to knowing we are good at something is a crucial step. And we need to visualize what we want, but allow things to happen in their own way.
Doing the work is part of this. If you put yourself out there, you will succeed sometimes and fail others and if you do it often enough, you stop caring much about any individual effort. You just go out and do your best because at some point you realize . . . that’s all you can do.
I see how all of this recent activity has raised my profile and I consider it a good start. My real goal is to transition into a career of speaking and writing where I pull in an income that averages about $10,000 a month. (I’m in an expensive area; it’s not as much money here as it sounds like.) It’s enough to be comfortable and allow my wife to finish her masters and pursue her PhD without having to squeeze classes and working full time into her schedule. Five years ago it seemed like a pipe dream; two years ago it seemed like I was getting there. A couple of months ago I was getting restless and feeling ready for change; now? I see some light at the end of tunnel.
The thing is, I just know that something will come along to propel me to the next level. I just don’t know what.
So remember: visualize, focus your intention, imagine your dreams . . . but be prepared.