My original introduction (pulled) and collection of failed cover designs.
The most important question in the universe is the one that nobody wants to ask: “Why does stuff happen?”
You might have an idea about this – that things happen by chance, or that God is involved, or that you’re the one moving the plot forward. But having an idea about these matters, what I call Fortune, is not the same as really asking the question.
Fortune is more than a cookie. It’s the serendipitous flow of good things and bad. You know it’s Fortune when it fuddles your sense of causality.
Motivational coaches tell us, “you’ve got the power.” And we tell our toddlers, “You can do it; you can do it.” But from my experience, our grand strivings rarely work out as planned.
We have this simplistic sense that “being good” should yield some kind of reward in life or that misfortune signals some kind of moral deficiency. But looking at life as a series of inputs and outputs obscures the deeper forces and dramatic arcs that propel our stories.
Some people follow Deepak and Oprah and see Fortune following the “energy of attraction” – that our positive feelings manifest our desires in the world. Could this just be a gussied-up version of “I deserve a reward” or what cynics from Chicago might call “magical thinking?” Did I mention that I’m from Chicago?
Then there’s Connie, my CDC scientist friend. She insists that fortunate events result strictly from the fundamental physics of a physical universe.
Conversely, my meditation teacher explains that “it’s all written,” that there are immutable patterns underlying the world that play out like the frames of a motion picture.
I should add that my wife and I recently discovered the teachings of the Indian saint, Meher Baba who explains that Fortune (why stuff happens) results from lifetimes of accumulated karma. The follow-up question should be: What kind of depository stores our karma?
And then there’s me. When I scratch beneath the surface of any of these points of view, I can’t help but think: Maybe they aren’t mutually exclusive.
In case you’ve noticed, I capitalize the word Fortune. If God can be a proper noun, why not Fortune? Fortune is just as mysterious and unknowable as the Big Deity, and even better, She alters her face to appear as fate, destiny, chance, miracles, and Divine intervention. But mostly, Fortune is disguised as so-called Everyday Life (reverentially in caps).
At critical junctures (usually when we’re young and adventurous), Fortune brings together the people and ingredients needed for our hero’s journey — the “inciting incident” in screenplay terms. You might see this as luck, synchronicity, or divine guidance, or you might simply plod along without paying much attention. It doesn’t matter because Fortune makes every journey meaningful. Every quest invites a dose of pain with the pleasure, and surprise with the certainty. That’s because the ebb and flow of failure and success follow the natural laws of the universe. I should add, unless you’re my mom.
As one of the first self-made women in the world of public relations, my mother lives in a world that seems pliable to her will. According to the joke in our family, if you wanted NBC News to show up at your birthday, she could make it happen. So it comes with great irony that she’s the one who first taught me to accept the flow.
One night as I laid in my childhood bed, I had a perplexing realization: The world simply didn’t make sense. The day-to-day frenzy seemed so infinitesimal from the vantage of the stars. Is this a dream? A movie? What is outside the outside? What is the container for space and time?
My questions weren’t verbal, but I was upset by the dimensional problem of living in this world.
So, I shuffled my little bunny feet to my parent’s bedroom. “Mom,” I cried, “I am having trouble going to sleep.”
“It’s okay if you don’t sleep,” she assured me. “You can just rest.”
Wow. She gave me permission to let things unfold on their own. If sleep happens, so be it. The irony is, a half century later, I’m learning to be okay with the flow while my mom still tries to “will” herself to sleep with all manner of products and pills.
When I was twenty-one, an “altered state” sent me on Fortune’s quest like a coon dog following a scent. I studied with gurus, dervishes, and philosophers to help me part Fortune’s curtain. I also put Fortune in the ultimate test tube through a lifetime of creative and entrepreneurial pursuits.
As a brand strategist, I learned that “good creative” was ultimately achieved by what we derogatorily called “pulling it out of your ass.” In other words, solutions appeared when and where they were needed.
In my Sufi school, I learned how the two missing black notes on the piano keyboard (the Octave) explain why human ambitions are so readily thwarted. I also learned how doors of opportunity open and close in the same manner that molten glass flows.
These were nice ideas, but again and again, my experience also proved that life is a series of knots and pulling at the ends actually makes problems worse. Fortune’s one identifiable constant is her cunning defiance of mental expectation.
After forty years of evolving certitude, I was forced to jettison my entire bucket of ideas when a financial, medical, and emotional wipe-out changed the rules of my game. I wasn’t pressured to completely let go; I simply wasn’t given any other options. So, I put my life into Fortune’s test tube and hence, this book.
The good news is that transformation always comes packaged with a compelling story. My story includes, among other things, Chick-fil-A’s new coffee brand, the world’s greatest con man, Dusty Springfield’s side man, Woodstock’s Wavy Gravy, the birth of music videos, Rumi coming to America, Skylab’s fiery plunge, and a host of lovers, losers, and teachers on the path of Fortune. Each takes their turn on my narrative arc.
This book is a metaphysical memoir written (mostly) in real time. Just so you know, my comfortable life takes a terrible hit in the first four chapters. For the next ten chapters, I share how I got here — my back story. In reality, I’m just vamping for time, hoping like crazy that Fortune will save my ass from emotional and financial demise (and prove the thesis of this book) before I run out of chapters.
But how can it not? Like a demon roller coaster from the Twilight Zone, Fortune is the A-ticket ride you can never get off.
Stay with me and thanks for reading.