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The Power of "Yet" by David Baum, PhD, DMin

The belief in a thing makes it happen. –Frank Lloyd Wright

I’ve had the great delight to spend some time with LA-based jazz composer Larry Karush. Larry is a deep thinker, passionate in his music and extraordinary in his abilities. He said something quite remarkable one night. “I compose songs that I can’t yet physically play,” he quietly remarked. Imagine that. He doesn’t write what he can play. He writes what he can’t play. Then he figures out how to perform with his hands what he first envisioned in his mind. In some ways, this is the role of the artist: to see a world not yet possible and then figure out how to do it.

In my own coaching work, one word can help move a client into a more optimistic mindset. It’s the word “Yet.” Put “yet” at the end of any statement and it immediately turns a negative point of view into one of hopefulness, of something more.

“I don’t speak Spanish.” “I don’t speak Spanish yet.”

“I can’t run a marathon.” “I can’t run a marathon yet.”

“I’m not happy in my life.” “I’m not happy in my life yet.”

“Yet” is the language of possibility. It directs the mind toward a future fulfillment when we are stuck in the limiting present. Impossible things happen all the time, but to achieve the impossible demands a more active approach in the way we think. It requires, as Larry Karush exemplified, a belief in one’s ability to figure it out. What can then follow is a new and never-before-heard composition.

In the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, a real estate agent named Signor Martini says to the main character and author, Frances Mayes, “Signora, between Austria and Italy, there is a section of the Alps called the Semmering. It is an impossibly steep, very high part of the mountains. They built a train track over these Alps to connect Vienna and Venice. They built these tracks even before there was a train in existence that could make the trip. They built it because they knew some day, the train would come.”

A helpful teaching to move us forward comes from anthropologist Angeles Arrien, who advises that in every life, we have two important advisors that sit on our shoulders. On one shoulder, our inevitable death implores us not to waste a minute of the precious gift of life—the length of which cannot be predicted. This task is harder than it looks in our fast-moving and multi-tasked world. We rush around trying to fulfill the obligations of our life, and we, unfortunately, forget to take occasional stock of the impermanence of it all. We take for granted our vulnerability and ephemeral status. Countering this tendency can be a challenge because we fear death—or more likely, the process of dying.

On our other shoulder sits the second ally—our destiny. It asks, as was beautifully written by the poet Mary Oliver, “What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Here we must each consider what we were put on this earth to do: what difference will I make, above my accomplishment and acquisition, that will really matter and repay the loan in full from my time on this planet?

One approach to understanding our destiny comes from Rabbi Baruch Spinoza. He advised that destiny can be found by thinking about the following three questions for a full season: “What made me happy today?” “Where did I experience comfort, satisfaction and a deep peace today?” and “What or who inspired me today?” By tracking these three questions, you will know without doubt what your heart holds with deepest reverence. 

As you proceed through the new year, ask yourself the following: What dreams have I left undone, languishing in a drawer of fear and doubt? What do my death and destiny advise me then to do? When ready, move into action. Start by setting an intention with the word “yet” at the end, and trust that if you build the tracks, your train will come.


David Baum, PhD, DMin

For more than 30 years, David has facilitated big conversations that create big change. With two doctorates— the first finding horizontal connections as a social psychologist and the second looking for vertical ones in divinity—he seeks the overlap. His why is always the same: to create connection without dots.

David has worked on conflict mediation in Northern Ireland, designed walking peace meetings in the Middle East and large-scale change projects for Shell Oil, Barclays, GE and Fidelity Investments. His clients have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Conrad Hilton Humanitarian Prize, the World Children’s Prize, the Malcolm Baldrige Award and the Clinton Global Citizen Award. He's also worked in a circus. No one has ever accused him of being boring.

For more information about David, visit: 603-491-1663

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