Backstory to: “Go With the Flow Until You Are Hungry”

Backstory #19 – Reading: about 3.6 minutes (excluding the included original blog post)

In May 2006, Dr Wally Johnston asked me to “stand in” for him on regional public radio. My immediate thought was, “How do you stand in for someone on the radio when listeners cannot see you?” That ridiculous thought was what I now call a “hush” thought. A hush thought is a thought we think in self-defense to prevent a damaging or embarrassing thought from being spoken out loud.

My hush thought was trying to stop me blurting out, “You must be joking!”

Unspoken hush thoughts did not easily fool Dr. Wally. “Don’t worry,” he smiled, “Your strange accent will protect you. Listeners won’t care what you say, as long as you say it. They want to hear you, not hear what you have to say.”

That’s called encouragement? Well, it must have felt like it because I agreed to do it. I closed my mind and jumped.

I should have kept my mind open a bit longer until he explained how this radio thing worked. But I jumped before I heard his simple but brutal instructions. “You have 60 seconds on air to make your point. No more. No less.”

I immediately thought of Blaise Pascal who, five centuries ago, apologized to a friend for the length of his letter. “I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” Like Pascal and even Mark Twain, who had apparently said something similar, but later, I understood my now inescapable predicament. When you must say something meaningful within a specified time, time speeds up and you run out of time before you run out of words.

Within days, I was writing and recording. I laboriously wrote and recorded two 60 second radio pieces every week. It slowly became less laborious. But that took years. Almost ten years.

How did I do it? I jumped. Every week I jumped again. Here’s what I learned from jumping the second time, and the time after that.

The first time, when Dr Wally asked me to stand in for him, I closed my mind to what could go wrong. I jumped with my mind closed. But once I had committed, I had to jump with my mind wide open. Mind wide open is the only way I can access ideas, ideas that I could, maybe, turn into 60 second radio pieces.

The first jump, with mind closed, was a decision to let go, and go with the flow. Any Boomer, or 1960s anti-hero, will remember the hippie-dippy tingling triggered by the mere thought of going with the flow.

But a funny thing happened to Boomers, and me, on the way back from their own private Woodstock. We realized that Going With The Flow was only Step One of many. If we had treated Going With The Flow as The Only Step, we would have become perpetual Peter Pans. And then? And then next generations would not have had amazing technology to play with today. Nor benefited from countless inventions and the wisdom of experts. Like me.

It took more than a few personal Woodstocks for me to “get it.” I did my fair share of jumping with mind closed, of going with whatever flow would float me. Yet, I learned it was the jumping with mind-open that started journeys, the ones that mattered. And jumping with an open mind gave me ideas, ideas for the radio.


And it is a Big But.

But I had to capture these amazing ideas before they floated away. I had to grasp them and expand on them, edit them for grammar and spelling. I had to cut them to fit into 60 second spoken recordings. And I had to speak them, sounding natural and clear, to capture them as 60 exact seconds, fit for public radio. Take 1. Take 2. Take X. Cut. Cut. Cut!

The process was simple, but tricky. I had to shut my mind to overcome my initial fear. But from then on I had to open my mind and shut it, over and over, week after week. Open to catch an idea, shut it to grasp the idea before it floated off.

Going with the flow works. But it works wonders if you harness the flow to feed, not your hopes, but your actions.

Here is the original post #134:

Go With the Flow Until You Are Hungry

Reading time: about 0.8 minutes

I am confused. I read something on the internet recently that has me questioning one of my favorite seven rules for easy success. As we all know, if it’s on the internet, then it must be true. So I have to take it seriously.

Here’s what I stumbled onto: Only dead fish swim with the current. Wow! If true, this destroys my belief that easy success comes from going with the flow.

My limited biology knowledge had me admitting to some logic in the statement. Plankton drifts on current; fish swims against current with mouth open; fish feeds.

Trusting the internet as I do, I immediately searched for The Truth. But the only answer I could find was “yes and no.”

To counter my confusion, I have now changed my success rule: Go with the flow until you are hungry. Then turn around and make a little effort to feed yourself.

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.