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A single note that you play today has the potential to echo through eternity. I’ll say it in a much less poetic way. The things we do can last in other people’s minds for a long, long time. Sometimes it comes back to you, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes the effects are amazing, and sometimes they’re just downright weird. In high school, I did something that reverberated through thousands of students for years, and I wasn’t aware that this was even happening until last year. Can’t wait to tell you about it in 5 4 3 2 1
In English class of my senior year in high school, we read parts of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In the beginning of the book we were give, the famous prologue was written in Middle English. That’s not quite old English but almost unrecognizable now. Our first assignment was to memorize the prologue, in Middle English, and then recite it to the class.
I was a pretty poor student in general, but when I had to do any kind of a speech or get up in front of the class for anything I would work double duty to make sure I was prepared – possibly because I was so scared of embarrassment. In fact, I think the fear of embarrassment drove most of my life, up until a few years ago. Sitting in my room, working on the memorization, I realized, “I’ve got a keyboard with beats. I’ve written a few songs. This might be a lot easier if I could turn it into a song.
This was around 1990-91, rap was getting more and more popular, and this song seemed to lend itself well to rapping. So I played a beat on my Yamaha keyboard, and got to work. When I was done, I recorded it with a tape recorder, put it on cassette, and listened to it a few more times until I was confident. The next day, I took the tape with me to school. I don’t remember my motivation at the time, except that I really wanted to teacher to know what I could do with music, and how important it was to me. I handed him the tape.
The following day, during class he called me up to his desk, told me that I did excellent work, and that he was going to give me an A for the assignment. I didn’t have to say it in front of the class, I just got my A. I remembered thinking how cool it was. And he asked me if he could keep the tape. I graduated the next spring in the top 43% of my class and moved on with my life.
In 2017 – 27 years later, I got a message from a retiring teacher at the high school. She asked me if I was the Matt Bennett that recorded the prologue to the canterbury tales? I said yes. She was retiring that year, and she told me that she played a copy of that tape for students for that entire 27 years – and not only that, but all the other English teachers had copies, and they had been playing the recording as well. My life moved along, and all the while this was going on and I had no clue it was even happening. That’s influence, and I was happy to hear that it was positive influence – because I’m sure I’ve done and said some things that reverberated equally in a negative direction.
Let me go back, not as far this time, and talk about a magic trick in 2009. I was performing at restaurants professionally, and I always had a deck of cards with me, because that helps get more work – if you show the right effect to the right person, you get the right gig. I had just finished playing music at a Thursday night open mic.Walking home, I ran into a group of people coming out of a gas station near my house, and we started chatting. I kept talking as we all walked, and they invited me up. I ended up showing them a couple magic tricks with cards, and ended with a favorite. I took a card out of the box, set it face down on the table, and I picked one guy and asked him to name any card. He named the card I set on the table. I said, “I don’t even want to touch it – you turn it over.” He did, and the shock in the group was enormous. How did I do it? I can’t tell you, but the method is so awesome.
Fast forward a year to 2010, I got a small brain disease called spontaneously low CSF, which I may talk about at length someday. I had to get two blood patches, minor surgery I think, and a friend took me home. I couldn’t sleep, and took a walk – I still had my hospital band around my wrist. On the walk I ran into this guy that guessed the card. I hadn’t seen him since the magic trick, he walked over to me, asked me how I was doing. He also asked about the hospital band. I told him I had a small brain disease. He said, “Well, people like you can’t do what you do without it taking some kind of toll, you know?”
So he thought the magic was real, and I let him believe it. I still don’t know if that’s the right thing or the wrong thing. However, it’s not the end of the story. He said, “I’ve got something for you.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out this big silver belt buckle with a bejeweled revolver on the front of it. I didn’t ask why, I should have asked why. Why did he fell the need to give it to me? Was he carrying it by chance, or has he been waiting to see me? Why this thing that had nothing to do with our relationship? By the following spring, I was living 500 miles away, and I haven’t seen him since. I still have the belt buckle, and as far as I know, he still believes that I’m psychic and that it’s taking a toll on my brain.
These were little things, one little decision that echoed in the halls of the school and is possibly still echoing, and one that echoed in the mind of a handful of people, especially one guy. I like to take a view of my life occasionally, by picturing myself sitting in the sand in front of a small lake. Each action that I take in my life creates a ripple, no matter what I do. I can’t control the ripple effect; it is going to happen. What I can control is the vibe I am sending out – am I spreading positive energy or negative energy? How strong are my positive thoughts, words, and actions? How strong are my negative words and actions? I will do what I can to minimize the negative and maximize the positive.
It doesn’t have to be an action like recording a song or doing a magic trick. It can simply be a kind word to someone who’s been having a rough day. That kind of thing may be remembered forever, or it may even be forgotten. But after your kind words, this person may have gone on to change someone else’s day, and they may have gone on to change, … you get the picture.
I’m going to paraphrase Jim Rohn here and say that words are powerful. Words create light and life. What if someone can’t possibly see how they could do well, and while you’re talking to them, some things dawn on them? We can enlighten people so they are no longer in the dark.
Where do your words go? What effect do they accomplish? In Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements, the first agreement is to make your word impeccable. Make sure that you understand that your words really are spells that can influence for good or ill. Make sure that the lake you are rippling is the kind of lake you’d want to be swimming in – because like it or not, you really are swimming in that lake.
In your reflection time this week, run the tapes again of all the words you spoke for the last 7 days, and see where those ripples go. Did you positively influence people? Did you say things that were negative, or hurtful, or sarcastic? When you speak, you actively create your world. How can you change the things you say and do to positively influence people, and your environment.
I’ll be here positively speaking every Monday and Thursday until people realize that mic drops are terribly hard on microphones.