How Things Happen: Don't Diss the Miracle

Biological clues to magic and manifestation.

Posted Dec 31, 2020

"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it."  —Roald Dahl

The new year is approaching. And from far and wide, you will hear of resolutions, planning tools, systems, methods, and logic that are clear, enticing, and seductive. How do you plan for the great uncertain future? What is most likely to make you more successful? What is the secret sauce to getting exactly what you want?

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First, I'll share some clues from biology that success is not strongly dependent on grit, deliberate practice, or taking things one step at a time. Psychology professor Marcus Crede conducted a study of 88 independent samples representing 66,807 individuals and found that "grit" may not really be a "thing" and that even if it were, it plays a very minor role in success. 

Then, Princeton psychology professor Brooke Macnamara also looked at 88 studies and 111 independent samples and found that deliberate practice was not all it was cracked up to be either. It explained 26 percent of the variance in performance for games, 21 percent for music, 18 percent for sports, 4 percent for education, and less than 1 percent for professions. Essentially, that meant that practice makes you far from perfect and is not really the "key" to success. And as long ago as 1968, psychology professor Edwin Locke explained that—with a few caveats—harder goals produce higher performance.

Does this mean that grit, practice, and doing things one-step-at-a-time are not helpful at all? No. But it does suggest that they are less central to success and far from the secret sauce. Many people work very hard at the same thing for a long time and get nowhere. Think of how diligent some people are at work, yet only a few creep up the ladder, and most do not make the breakthroughs they aspire to achieve.

From my clinical and coaching experience, I believe that grit, practice, and tiny goals will only yield success that is proportional to the magic that people are willing to tap into. Metaphorically speaking, these tools are like spoons that feed the gods of manifestation. It's not how you feed the gods but what you feed them that matters. And the gods of manifestation are most inspired to deliver their miracles when faith interacts with facts in the sauce you feed them.

In the annals of medicine, you will find stories of how a paralyzed woman rose and walked after lying next to the corpse of Saint Diego d’Alcalá in 1555. And how a 3-year-old boy came back to life after a mother’s plea to Saint Andrea Avellino in 1678, and how a young woman was cured of meningitis following appeals to Saint Vincenza Maria Lopez y Vincuna in 1928. You will also find books on how people have recovered from Parkinson's disease, experienced surgical miracles, or about how one person recovered from stage 4 melanoma. Because these events do not occur commonly or are not easily replicable, science calls these events "chance." I find this astonishingly egotistical and naive—to assume that what we cannot yet achieve at scale, we should give up on—or that what we do not understand must not exist.

Gravity existed long before anyone understood it. So did the moon. Only those who believed dared to look for this magic. And so, my thesis and wish for you for 2021 begins: That deep in the heart of this beautiful life, magic, and miracles are throttled by "facts," struggling to breathe and desperately searching for your will to believe. May you be inspired to find it amidst all the "facts" that guide you.

As William James, the father of American psychology, once said, "Science, like life, feeds on its own decay. New facts burst old rules; then newly divined conceptions bind old and new together into a reconciling law.”  

I believe we are entering an era of magic and manifestation and that the many facts that fail us are invitations to examine what they hide. When we do, we will find the substance of miracles, which in their unique nature will bear the facts of our unique lives.