“You spilled the salt, that’s what’s the matter! Spilling the salt is very bad luck! We’re driving across the country, the last thing we need is bad luck. Quick, toss some salt over your right shoulder.” ~ Lloyd Christmas
We determine so many future outcomes simply by what we expect to happen.
No, not everything will turn out the way I expect it to. Nor will everything for you. But more often than not, our experiences will be heavily influenced by our expectations going into them.
And this is why I purchased a special 3-Disc edition of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours at 11:30 pm Saturday night at a Wal-Mart in Waco, Texas.
Why We Had To Stop at the Waco Wal-Mart
A friend and I decided to take an impromptu trip to Austin this weekend. It’s only about a three hour drive from Dallas, so it’s the perfect destination for a spontaneous weekend getaway.
Our trip there began late Saturday evening, and I was informed shortly upon embarking that we’d be making a pit stop about halfway there.
“We have to stop at the Wal-Mart in Waco and buy a CD,” my traveling companion stated, matter-of-factly.
“Why?” I asked, quite curiously.
“Because every time I buy a CD at that Wal-Mart on the way to Austin, it’s a great trip. And every time I don’t, something goes wrong.”
That was enough for me.
She went on to describe specifics about great times had when CDs were purchased, contrasted with disastrous trips that did not include a CD purchase. But the details were of little importance.
This was a two-person trip. If one person in our duo would be forced into a sense of foreboding all weekend because we didn’t stop to buy a CD, which was clearly her implication, that apprehension was likely to manifest in reality somehow.
Just as Lloyd Christmas wasn’t about to let the spilling of salt ruin his and Harry’s trip to Aspen, I was not about to let my desire to make good time getting to Austin override my respect for the power of our minds to dictate our realities.
So when we reached Waco, we stopped.
This particular Wal-Mart does not have a copious CD collection, so our choices were limited to modern pop hits, a few oldies, some country music, and a few Spanish-language tunes. I was in a Fleetwood Mac kind of mood, and a special 3-disc set with demo and live versions of the Rumours tracks was available, so we went with that.
Appropriately, getting through the checkout Wal-Mart checkout line took nearly a half hour. While waiting, we had the joy of watching a probably-methed-out mother try to parent her young, unruly child while a parade of Wal-Mart employees tried, unsuccessfully, to perform basic functions of commerce at the register.
I joked that this was only happening because we had yet to purchase the CD, thus we had not yet thwarted the Austin Road Trip Curse.
As it turned out, that checkout line misadventure was the last thing that went “wrong” during the trip. But a great many things went wonderfully well (including and especially the food. Mmmm…).
And yes, I think buying that CD had more than a little bit to do with it.
Create Positive Expectations and Eliminate Regret
As soon as she mentioned her CD tradition, a seed was planted. We had the choice to let the seed burgeon into something good or something bad.
By going to Wal-Mart, we eliminated any potential regret we might otherwise had left Austin with on Monday morning. “See, if we’d only stopped at Wal-Mart and bought a CD, then THAT wouldn’t have happened.”
You can argue that stopping at Wal-Mart for the CD had absolutely zero to do with our weekend being discolored by disaster. Maybe you’re right.
Maybe our car would not have been stricken by a flat tire a few miles after we zoomed past the Wal-Mart without stopping (which, yes, was my immediate fear as soon as she told me the Wal-Mart CD story). And maybe I wouldn’t have gone instantaneously and ridiculously pale and bald.
There is no way to know for sure.
Maybe to you, in this particular case, stopping or not stopping would have had no bearing on your expectations for the weekend.
But remove the specifics from the story. The point is simple, and universal: our future is, in part, determined by our expectations.
And since positive expectations beget positive results, and vice versa, it only makes sense to protect positive thoughts and expectations with decisions that will reinforce them. It keeps positive momentum going.
And momentum in life, as it is in sports, can be a very powerful thing.
Plus, as I get older, I become more and more committed to making decisions based on this simple criteria: will I possibly regret not doing it? If the answer is yes, I do it – whatever it is.
In this case, there was no way I’d regret making the stop at Wal-Mart. But if something went wrong during the weekend, I sure would have regretted not stopping, both because of the I-told-you-sos and because I’d have kicked myself for tempting fate so flippantly.
Do I know for sure that there isn’t something cosmically relevant about her stopping at Wal-Mart on the way to Austin to buy a CD that dictates the success of the trip? No, I don’t. And there are just enough inexplicable, amazing miracles in this world that I don’t rule anything out.
Mostly though, it comes down to managing expectations. If not stopping would have given her one iota of apprehension based on past experience, no matter how infinitesimally small, it wasn’t worth it.
So we stopped, and not only did it propel us towards an enjoyable weekend in a great city, we got to supplement our Spotify jamming with some classic Classic Rock. A definite win-win.
While this story may be second hand news to you, and you are free to go your own way when it comes to how much stock you put into this theory on expectation creating reality, I can tell you that I’m never going back again to Austin, with her, without stopping at that Wal-Mart and buying a CD.
As for you, well, don’t stop at your own risk.