There is No Spoon—Perception Is Reality

Our minds actually create our reality through perception and our minds can actually influence reality. Science and parapsychology combine with an age-old management mantra to get spooky!

How an Age-Old Management Gem Gets Mind-Bendy When We Apply Science

If you’ve read any self-help material pertaining to communication, you’ve no doubt come across the statement that a person’s perception is their reality. Usually this comes in the conflict resolution or direct leadership section of the book where the author is trying to get you to understand that not everyone sees everything through the same lens. And while most authors use this statement metaphorically to call out a person’s natural tendency to remember certain bits of a conversation and forget others (as they fit or don’t fit within their own mental construct), I’m talking like actual reality! The one that’s right before your eyes! (Or is it?)

Yes, I grew up watching The X-Files. I wanted to be Fox Mulder. But that doesn’t mean I was (or currently am) a crackpot. I believe in science, the scientific method, measurable quantities, facts, and well-supported theories. However, the more I dig into perception, the stranger it gets.

Before you tune me out, let’s get into to some hard, undeniable scientific truths.

Your Mind’s Eye Doesn’t See What’s In Front of You

We perceive the world through our senses. The big 5 are sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. Some would argue that there are several other senses that we can layer on but that gets into the realm of pseudoscience and we’re going to steer clear of that for today. The heaviest hitter in the big 5 for most people is sight. Unless your vision is altered in some way, you’re likely relying on your eyes for the vast majority of sensory input. Now, other senses often play a bigger part in memory recall (especially sound) but for this discussion were talking about the immediate construction of our individual reality—perception.  

So, we could argue that your eyes don’t lie and everything we see in front of us is real. I’m going to tell you right now that’s wrong.

Perhaps you already know that every person perceives colors differently due to physical differences in the eye. I once had a pair of pants that I absolutely considered to be blue but every time I put them on, my wife called them purple.

But did you know your mind also takes the stimuli your eyes pump into it and messes with that as well?

The Blind Spot!

Each of your retinas—the bit in the back of your eye that’s loaded with photoreceptors—has a considerably large empty spot in which there are no photoreceptors. This, logically, would create a blind spot somewhere near the center of your field of vision. But you don’t see an empty spot, do you? That’s because your mind take clues from the nearby photoreceptors, does a little jiggery-pokery, and fools itself into erasing that blind spot.

This article in Scientific American goes into detail about this phenomenon and even gives you several methods by which you can trick your brain into revealing this blind spot—it’s kinda freaky if you’re up for it.

Victorians (specifically physicist Sir David Brewster) attributed this magical band-aid that covers the gap in your field of view to God, however, modern scientists believe that this “filling in” is a manifestation of what’s called “surface interpolation.”

“. . . an ability that has evolved to compute representations of continuous surfaces and contours that occur in the natural world—even ones that are sometimes partly occluded (for example, a cat seen behind a picket fence looks like one whole cat, not like a cat sliced up).”

Leslie G. Ungerleider of the National Institute of Mental Health, Ricardo Gattass of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Charles D. Gilbert of the Rockefeller University, and other physiologist are currently exploring the mechanism behind this process at the neural level, however, for our purposes, the phenomenon represents just one of the ways your brain alters the real world to create your own personal reality.

Your Brain Treats Imagined Stimuli the Same as Real Ones!

Okay, so your brain is a tricksy thing that plays fast and loose with objective reality. It takes real input, smudges it a bit and makes you think that this altered perception is real. That’s cool (not really).

But what if I were to tell you that your brain also makes imaginary things very real?

I’m not talking about manifesting a rabbit in a hat or wishing for a million dollars only to answer the door for one of those publisher’s sweepstakes guys. I’m talking about the fact that your brain treats imagined stimuli in an almost identical way to real stimuli.

Research published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience measured the mental “effort” musicians expended while playing music, listening to music, and imagining music. They used various measures including pupil dilation and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on trained musicians and non-musical types (like me!) What they found is that regardless of whether the musician was actually playing, listening to, or mentally imagining themselves play a song, the measurable effects on the brain and the body were nearly identical. (As you would expect, the effects were very much muted on those who had no experience actually playing music.)

The effect isn’t limited to musicians though. Research conducted at The University of Colorado at Boulder and published in Science Daily looked at imagination therapy and it’s the very real improvements patients with phobias made using it. For this study, people with certain phobias were asked to imagine their specific phobia—dogs, spiders, heights, etc. Simply doing so created very real physical fear responses in the individual—increased sweating, faster heart rates, more rapid breathing. However, the study went on to prove that repeated imagination sessions in a environment that was proven to be safe—a therapist’s office—actually decreased the physical response to the actual phobia in real life just like traditional exposure therapy!

Want more research into how your brain fools you every day?

There’s even a cognitive scientist named Donald Hoffman who has made a concrete Case Against Reality.

But now that we know this, what can we do with that information?

Your Brain Can Actually Change Reality

This is where it gets even weirder. I’m going to tell you know that your brain can actually change reality. Not in the hippy-dippy sense that positive thoughts lead to positive outcomes (though they actually do) but in the sense that the very act of perceiving something can change measurable reality.

The Studies Back the Statement

Perhaps you’re familiar with The Baxter Effect. Discovered by Cleve Baxter—a former CIA interrogation specialist) this measurable phenomenon became the basis for the wildly popular Secret Life of Plants.

In essence, Baxter was messing around with a potted plant in his office one day when he had a little too much time on his hands and hooked the poor thing up to a polygraph (lie detector) machine. Baxter noticed that when he expressed harmful thoughts toward the plant (specifically, burning it) the plant exhibited measurable electrical responses similar to those humans express when placed under stress. Baxter then recreated the experiment multiple times and found that even if the plant was miles away, it still reacted in a similar fashion at the exact time he thought about harming it.

His thoughts created a response in the plant!

Another lesser known experiment by Helmut Schmidt involved random subjects, random numbers, and some random lightbulbs.  In short, Schmidt hooked some lightbulbs to a random number generator. The bulbs should have theoretically lit completely at random—which they did when not being observed by test subjects. However, when Schmidt introduced the experiment participants and told them to “psychically” manipulate which lights came on, he recorded results that were 1%-2% higher than would be expected by chance.

Of course, if you’re looking for a more commonly accepted demonstration of how your perception of reality actually changes reality, look no further than the extremely well documented placebo effect. Multiple studies over generations have shown that when people believe they’ve been given medication, their medical conditions measurably improve—even if the pills they’re given are nothing but sugar tablets!

In fact, scientists like Alia Crum, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Director of Stanford’s Mind and Body Lab, are still trying to find the limits of the placebo effect. So far they’ve found that:

  • People who believe doing physical work in a job counts as exercise actually live longer
  • Telling subjects a milkshake is “indulgent” makes the person feel fuller
  • Making a subject believe a drink is caffeinated actually increases blood pressure

So what does this all mean for you?

Your Reality is a Creation of your Mind and Your Mind Affects Reality

Combine real results uncovered in those two fields of research we dipped into above and the statement that your reality is a creation of your mind and your mind can actually change reality becomes disturbingly/delightfully true.

I’m not saying that imagining a pile of money at your front door is going to result in you becoming rich. I will tell you that going to work every day with the expectations that you’re going to have a crappy day will—more often than not—result in you having a crappy day.

Does projecting positive thoughts about money and wealth in general directly lead to more wealth landing in your lap as Jen Sincero suggests in her book You are a Badass at Making Money? Maybe not. But I can tell you that positive thoughts about money and wealth will improve your attitude about making that money and actually putting in the work necessary to “make it rain” will be a hell of a lot easier.

Now, you don’t have to take this leap with me, but I personally believe in a higher power at play in the universe—not necessarily a bearded dude on a white cloud (Christianity) or Alanis Morisette who can destroy you just by opening her mouth (Dogma).

My personal higher power is more like that proposed in Unified Field Theory or a Universal “Intelligence” that can influence (and be influenced by) our thoughts. I’ll get into this more in another post because it deals with parapsychology, reincarnation, similar beliefs and iconography in disparate ancient civilizations, and the like.

However, even if I’m wrong about all of that, my practice or projecting positive thoughts into the universe isn’t going to do any more harm than putting a few more people in a better mood for the day. If I’m right. . . well, let’s just say Einstein once called Quantum Entanglement “spooky action at a distance.”

An Introvert’s Guide to a Wealthy Life is now available in Kindle, Paperback, and Hardcover editions!

Spotting Synchronicity

How spotting synchronicity can help you make life-changing choices

Or the Role of Fate In Your Personal Growth

You may not know what synchronicity is, but you’ve definitely experienced it. Say you’ve been thinking about calling your mother and the phone rings. Surprise! It’s her just checking in. Or maybe you’re craving pizza all day to come home to the luscious aroma of melty cheese and spicy pepperoni wafting from the takeout box on the kitchen countertop. Maybe you’re toying with the idea of applying for a new job or taking on a new career entirely over your morning coffee and the guest on the morning show that’s playing on TV is speaking about how she did just that and it changed her life forever!

That’s synchronicity in its most simplified form. Many people get it confused with coincidence, but it can be much more powerful and have truly life-altering consequences if you know how to spot it.

What is Synchronicity?

The OED defines synchronicity as “the simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.”

It was the Swedish psychologist Carl Jung who came up with the word after pondering the phenomenon of acausal parallelism. (Synchronicity has a better ring, don’t you think?) Young, who was closely associated with the controversial sex-obsessed Sigmund Freud, believed that these events—even though seemingly random—had deep-seated, powerful meaning.

Indeed, Jung believed that synchronicity was not left to chance alone and that the inner workings of a person’s mind played a role in either the manifestation or the realization of those “coincidental” events. The man placed so much weight on these milestones that he believed synchronicities could provide insight, direction, and guidance for those who recognize them.

Jung spotted these events himself—even during the treatment of his patients—and ascribed significant meaning to them. Indeed, in one anecdotal attribution, Jung describes a seemingly random occurrence in which a woman’s dreams coincided with the improbable appearance of an extremely rare insect!

“Shortly after, the woman began describing a significant dream of a golden scarab (a costly piece of jewelry). As she was describing this beetle in more depth, Jung heard a tapping at the window behind him. He opened the window and revealed a live goldish-green scarab beetle, not native to the area.”

Arts of Thought

My Personal Experience with Synchronicity

Since I became aware of the phenomenon of synchronicity—albeit through the mind-bending Matrix movies and other pop culture sources—I have spotted far too many to recount here. However, there have been several Big Ones that really made me stop and take stock of my situation, my personal life, and my career. The following story is true—although it seems to coincidental to be so—and represents a string of synchronicities that shook me out of a professional funk into which I’d fallen and spurred me into action.

I was walking through Target one day on a mission to find something else entirely when I decided to browse through the books—something I often do anyway. This day I so happened to stop at the self-help section (which I never do because most of those books or smoke and hokum) when I spotted a copy of Jen Sincero’s “You are a Baddass at Making Money:  Master the mindset of Wealth.” It was 20% off so I took the bait and bought the book.

The next day, I was sitting on the couch reading how your mindset could really affect your income because of your spiritual/quantum connection/entanglement with what Sincero calls the Universal Intelligence. At the time, it was sounding like a bunch of New Age hippy-dippy hooey to me–Think and Grow Rich sort of stuff. However, I had previously been exposed to the Unified Field Theory in physics (via the works of researcher Graham Hancock) so the possibility that Sincero was onto something itched at the back of my skull.  

There I was vacillating between belief and disbelief, the TV babbling in the background, when I paused to collect my thoughts and Tamron Hall was interviewing Maria Failla—a Broadway performer who had her career cut short by Covid Lockdowns and turned her passion for growing houseplants into a lucrative business and bustling online community via her podcast series Bloom & Grow Radio.

Kinda spooky that I just happened to look up when this lady was describing how the synchronicity of her Broadway show being cancelled corresponded with her renewed interest in growing healthy houseplants. I still wasn’t convinced though.


I went back to reading only to look up a few minutes later when Tamron was interviewing Javiera Montoya, a former corporate financier who left a seven-figure salary to pursue her passion career baking bread! Of course, she turned that career into a money-maker as well, getting feature placement in The Huffington Post, getting on television shows, on television shows,

Here this woman was, telling the world how she faced adversity from co-workers, friends, and families to embrace this new passion project and change her life forever.

I was—in a word—shocked. So much so that a little giggle escaped my lips.

What were the odds that I would be reading a self-help book about being courageous enough to make the sort of money I wanted and deserved doing something I was good at and passionate about at the same time as two people who had trod that path before me were being featured on National Television in My living room? (Keep in mind, 9 times out of 10 when I’m home alone the television is off.)

This synchronicity was just too powerful for me to ignore!

I’m not saying that I believe the Universal Intelligence Sincero writes about beamed Tamron Hall into my living room so I would take the first steps on this new personal, professional, and financial journey. However, like Fox Mulder is fond of saying, I want to believe.

The Key to Profiting From Synchronicity

“Synchronicity is an ever-present reality for those who have eyes to see.”

Carl Jung

As life-changing synchronicity can be, most of us simply coast through life without even noticing these events. If we do notice them, we often chalk them up as curiosities and make jokes about “living in the Matrix, man.”

This habit adds no value to our lives other than entertainment. With a little practice, you can profit (personally, emotionally, professionally, even financially) from synchronicities but you have to recognize them first.

You can train yourself to be open to these synchronicities and spot them when they occur. It feels a bit weird and the first time or two—like you’re stepping into the twilight zone or embracing some Eastern philosophy founded by a bearded guy sat atop a mountain. However, once you get over the spookiness (or the goofiness) of the situations, you can then analyze the individual synchronicities and how they could possibly apply to your life, your personal journey, and your career aspirations.

The first step is pausing and acknowledging even small acausal parallelisms. Believe me, they’ll get easier to spot when you do.

Tracking Fate’s Footprints

Jonah Calinawan, a self-described accountant, artists, and mythologist, is a proponent of the power of synchronicity and began tracking these coincidental events he experienced in his life (with bar charts and everything!)

JOnah Calinawan's chart showing the synchronicities he's noticed in his life.

Not only has he spotted multiple “small synchronicities,” (some of which he classifies as “interesting & strange”) but also several “life-changing” examples including meeting his partner of 22 years, how a dream led him to pursue a Ph.D., how a chance meeting with a stranger led to a career that lasted 15 years until he decided to give it up to become a fulltime artist.

I’m not saying you must break out the spreadsheets to keep track of the synchronicities in your life (unless you want to), but at the very least you should be open to them, aware of them, and analyze them when they occur. If you want, take it a step further and keep a daily journal. Note down when these synchronicities happen and what you think they mean at the time.

Here’s to Getting a Little Spooky

I’ll admit, I’ve been a conspiracy theorist for years. I love the debate around UFOs, alien visitation, ancient civilizations, and all that weird stuff that falls outside the norm. Hell, I wanted to be Fox Mulder and even went so far as to dress like an FBI agent for a while in high school (who needs friends, right?)

It’s through this lifelong investigation—for the lack of a better word—that I’ve come across actual science in the fields of neurobiology, physics, electromagnetism, psychology, and various other fields that actually support the theory that there’s some sort of extrasensory “paranormal” universal binding agent surrounding us all (like Master Yoda’s explanation of The Force). We’re talking heavy hitters in their fields like Albert Einstein, Carl Jung, Neil deGrasse Tyson, CIA Interrogator Cleve Backster, Stanford scientist Russel Targ, and many more who have produced real, measurable results pointing at “spooky” influences on the real world around us.

If plant’s can somehow tell what you’re thinking, if coincidence isn’t just coincidence, if your perception of reality is really limited by your brain and not your senses, then who is to say that opening your mind to the possibility of breaking out of your shell, diving head-first into new roles, and making more money than you ever thought possible isn’t a key component of actually making it happen?

An Introvert’s Guide to a Wealthy Life is now available in Kindle, Paperback, and Hardcover editions!