People like to say the “Universe” is working against them when things don’t go their way. Or vice versa, the “Universe” loves them when lucky happenstance comes their way. Sometimes, these same people like to say the “Universe” is sending them messages.
The “Universe” (with a capital U), in this sense, is like some cosmic entity like fate, karma, or God.
But let me throw something at you that’s not as woo-woo.
What if… this concept of the “Universe” exists… but it isn’t some weird, mysterious thing? It’s not chakra, astrology, feng shui, tarot or your inner goddess divinity. It’s not some great being in the sky looking down upon you either.1
You see, I believe there is something out there in the cosmos toying with your life – sometimes messing with you, sometimes pouring buckets of luck on you… but it’s not what you think it is.
It’s actually logical, rational, and explainable. And what’s more – there’s a practical way to leverage the “Universe” to make your life better.
Sounds a bit crazy, doesn’t it?
I’ll explain everything in just a moment. But first, I need to tell you a story.
Why Do “Things” Keep Popping Up?!
Someone I mentor recently wrote me…
I’ve noticed that “things” seem to keep popping up.
He told me how exhausted he was from a long day. His girlfriend had gotten sick, so he drove her to the doctor, then pharmacist, then back to her work… while sneaking in snippets of time to build his business when he could.
“Things”… as you may have guessed already… is “life” happening. Little emergencies. Family asking for favors. Unexpected fights with loved ones.2
Most of the time, this is no big deal. But what happens when “things” pop up more often than usual? Is that just bad luck? Is the “Universe” sending you a message?
Later in my client’s email, let’s call him Jason… he waved these “things” off as…
I believe this is part of me not budgeting my time better via a schedule.
Now, Jason already has a full-time job. It pays OK, but not great. And like most people on this planet, he wanted more. He wanted to change into something more lucrative… like copywriting. So through a mutual acquaintance, Jason got a hold of me to coach him through this tough transition.
Here’s the thing:
I’ve mentored people who want to get into my niche industry for almost a decade now.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned – more than anything else – it’s that 99% of my job is NOT teaching them how to write better copy. It’s NOT helping them develop some system to get more clients. It’s NOT time or project management either.
Don’t get me wrong. Those matter. However, my real job as a mentor is to help you understand what those “things” – those unexpected “life events” – are exactly… why they happen, and how often they happen.
You see, this isn’t the first time Jason talked to me about his girlfriend. They’d had fights over this decision to jump careers. She felt neglected. He felt misunderstood. He wanted to make things better for the future. She felt like the sacrifice took too much of a toll on their relationship.
Neither party is wrong here. Neither of them are right either. They want different things.
And when that happens… when you’re not aligned with the people in your life… the number of inconveniences, fights, complaints and “things” like life events… increase in frequency.
Or in other words, it feels like…
Yes, The Universe Hates Your Guts
Let’s break it down. What is the “Universe”?
I’m going to define “Universe” (with a capital U) in a practical and perhaps “narrow” way to get this conversation going. You don’t have to agree with me at first, but just walk with me for a bit, ok?
The “Universe” is the people closest to you in your life. Your family. Friends. Colleagues. The people who depend on you, and the people you depend on. Basically, it’s your social network (the real one, not the Facebook or Instagram one).
But let’s break it down further…
You see, if you strip away the romance, relationships are inherently transactional. You do X for someone, they give you Y in return. This isn’t just about money. It could be love, support, care, energy, teachings, power, good feelings, reassurance, whatever. In fact, sometimes, it’s not what we’re doing that affects others. Sometimes, our very being the way we are offers reassurance to other people.
There’s an unspoken “contract” in relationships. People have expectations of us, and we have expectations of them. Some are one-sided. Some are two-way. Regardless of how it’s balanced though… this social contract has a certain level of “homeostasis”. As long as we get what we want… we’re happy with the way things are.
But here’s the thing. (You know where I’m going with this already, don’t you?)
When you try to transform yourself (As in Jason’s case)…
Whether we’re trying to make more money, change jobs, move, get fit, start a business, a new hobby, lose weight… It affects our ability to fulfill the current obligations we have to people. And a lot of times, we’re not even remotely aware of the hidden contracts we have subconsciously signed with others!
And of course… people in our social web react. More often than not, they don’t like it. They’ve come to depend on you for X for years now, maybe even decades and now, all of a sudden, you’re cutting back on X. (Remember, “X” can be anything.)
You’re rocking their homeostasis. You’re bending (and sometimes breaking) the unspoken rules of your social contract. The “Universe” (your network) doesn’t like it. People get irritated with change. People can’t deal with change. We’re happy in our lukewarm homeostasis bath. We like staying in here.
So this social web, this network, your tribe… the “Universe” is going to test you when you try and shift the power dynamics of your relationship.
It will say to you, “Oh yeah? You think you can just transform and change your daily routines and habits?"
We’re Going to Throw “Things” At You
Here’s the deal:
When you try to make changes and cut back on “X” (whatever that might be)… people are going to do one of two things (and sometimes both):
- They’ll think of new ways to get “X” from you
- They’ll give you “shit-tests” to see if you’ve really changed
The first one is where those “things”, those life events, start popping up more. All of a sudden, they’ll call or text you more. Some will get angry. Some will complain. Some will get sick. Some will be passive aggressive. Some will create more drama.
Right now –
You’re deeply embedded in a network of people who need you to be exactly the way you are… or their entire existence, their very survival, is threatened3 In some cases, that is literally true. You can’t just abandon your kids in the forest. They’ll die.
But more often than not, a lot of those relationships are not at risk of death. They just feel that way and they’ll fight you tooth and nail to stay the same. They need their daily dosage of “X”. And when they can’t get it…
A Lot of Them Will Give You Shit-Tests
That’s when people push your new boundaries to see if you’re for real, or if you’re faking it and you back down.
That’s why transformation is hard.
Consciously or unconsciously, people give each other shit-tests all the time. Especially strangers meeting for the first time. Or in this case, when people make changes in their life.
First time I became a manager, a couple of my former peers/colleagues shit-test me. They had clearly done something wrong, but they wanted to see if I would do anything about it. I had just been promoted to become their boss. They wanted to see if I’d stand my ground and discipline them… or if I’d back down because we were friends.
I thought we were friends. I thought they wouldn’t put me in a position so I’d have to say “no” to them. I thought they wouldn’t openly defy me and/or assumed they got special privileges because we hung out outside of work.
Nope. That’s not the case with people. People shit-test when there’s a shift in power dynamics.
Now – the old skool 80’s self-help gurus will tell you to cut these people out of your life. Just cut them. Cut them out of your life! They’re negative naysayers and they’re holding you back. Some of these gurus will even tell you that they’re jealous of you making changes. They’re thinking “you’re better than them”. They want to hold you down.
While this may be true in some cases…
It’s more likely these are people who deeply care about you and don’t have evil predatory intent. They’re not out to “get you” and “keep you down”. They probably have reasons for why they think what you’re doing is risky. They don’t want you to get hurt. They’re afraid of how bad you’ll get if you fail. Maybe they tried and failed in their past. Maybe they saw their best friends try and fuck up and they’re still fucked up over it. Maybe they’ve heard stories.
The point is…
Don’t Expect This to Be Easy
Going up against the “Universe” is hard. You can bet that more “things” will pop up.
When Jason wrote he could fix this with “scheduling”, I had to let him know that was a band-aid. That is, scheduling helps, but it doesn’t fix the root problem.
This is one of the BIGGEST reasons why Joshua and I created The Cave. Self-help gurus like to sell you on some strategy, system or “seven steps” to solving these problems… when in reality, it’s a tangled, emotional mess of human relationships.
There’s no simple black-and-white solution here! We’re talking about PEOPLE. One of the most complex organisms on the planet!
Instead of “organizing your schedule better”… It’s more important to manage expectations by letting people in your network (on a need-to-know basis) that you’re making changes. Let them know you might not be as available. Some will like it, some won’t.
This is the hard part of the transformation process. It’s difficult. Most people give up because they get tired of their web telling them to stop. Your web will keep telling you to stop and go back to the baseline. Go back to the “way things were before”. That’s what webs do.
And it only gets tougher as you make permanent changes. Get ready for more “things” to be thrown at you.
Here’s the deal:
Reality is defined by the rules we set and enforce… and the rules other people set and enforce on us. When Buddhists say you “make your own reality”… they’re talking about how you set and enforce your rules and boundaries.
People are going to test your rules and boundaries, especially when you change them. Whether you like it or not, people are going to bump up against your boundaries and see if they can bypass your rules.
In the same token, as you create new habits, behaviors and routines, you’re going to “try them on” out in the world. You’re going to ask for things you were too afraid to ask for before. You’re going to walk into places you “weren’t supposed to” before. You’re going to say things, make declarations, refuse requests, accept new challenges, or simply ignore things that might have bothered you before.
And you too, will be giving people shit-tests.
You see, the “universe” is much larger and expansive than I previously defined. (That’s a space joke for you).
How you act, what you say, the energy you give off… the universe of people around you… not just your closest friends, family and colleagues…. But on the peripheral of distant relatives, old acquaintances and random strangers… They’re going to “notice” you’re doing something different too. That you’re hacking the Matrix.
When we change who we are (or try to), we send out ripples to the world.
But eventually – it settles. If you persevere, and push forward, and stick to your guns… people accept your “new you”.
And you transform the relationships you have with your “Universe”. You renegotiate your contract with them. Some will accept the new you. Heck, some will be happy for you and support you.
In some cases, things won’t work out. Certain people in your life simply won’t accept the new social contract you give them. That’s life.
That’s the cost of change.
But I sure hope you tried first. That you made an effort to keep them in your life if they were important to you. That you figured out accommodations, compromises or win-win solutions.
And please recognize that the ones you had to break up with you are not wrong. Don’t paint them as villains. And the ones who stuck around through your changes are not heroes either.
You made a change and therefore the universe changed too. It’s not good or bad.
“Just Get Up And Do It”
Jason and I had a long email thread about this issue. Near the end, he wrote me:
All that said, this is a lot deeper than I would have expected. I used to believe it was just a matter of “just getting up and doing it” as I would hear so many podcasters and entrepreneurs say. It’s so much more than that. At least for me it is.
Yes, Jason, it is so much more than that.
Self-help gurus who keep saying, “just do it” and persevere have never sat right with me… especially when they’re so casual about cutting people out of your life.
Because here’s the thing…
You Are One With Everything
We’re not islands. We’re not at the mercy of Gods, Fate or some cosmic energy.
Yes, sometimes we get caught up in events that are totally out of our control. And there are times where we receive unexpected gifts from the universe.
But at the end of the day - it’s not some magical force that’s driving it. It’s other people. It’s our relationships. It’s our family, our culture, our government, our planet. The seven billion fellow passengers on this lonely rock hurtling around the Sun, orbiting the Milky Way. (Dammit, I got all astronomy on you in the end anyway.)
There’s a great Buddhist concept called Indra’s Net in the Atharvaveda.
Imagine a spider’s web that goes forever and infinitely. And in every single “eye” or vertex of this never-ending web, there’s a multifaceted diamond.
And in the reflection of each and every single one of these diamonds are all the other diamonds in this boundless net.
You are one of those diamonds amongst the multitude. And your words, deeds and thoughts… affect all the other diamonds around you.
This is the “Universe” (Yes, with a capital U).
Now go make some ripples or something.
Get outta here.
I’m not talking about astronomy either. This isn’t about space, or galaxies and stars. For that, I highly recommend Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s latest book: “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry”. ↩︎
Don’t most fights start off unexpected, though? ↩︎
HUGE SIDENOTE: As you’re going through the difficult process of transformation, you’re also going to be struggling against your internal dialogue AS WELL. But that’s a different post (or ten) ↩︎