“You never know where you’re going to find something useful.” ~Two-bit Guru~

Once upon a time—this story isn’t a fairy tale but they do have some things in common—there was a psychology professor whose early traumatic experiences during WWII caused him to develop a revolutionary way of organizing his life. And there was a football coach who instructed his players to gaze at fish in an aquarium.

The professor had a name that’s easier to pronounce than spell, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Me-HIGH Chick-sent-me-HIGH-ee). The football coach had a very common name, Jimmy Johnson, but a very uncommon way of coaching football.

The psychologist created a concept called Flow. Flow can be defined as a person’s total absorption into an activity. When you’re in a state of flow, you’re in the zone, focused on the present. You feel good. This sounds like how you feel when you meditate, doesn’t it?

The coach seemed like an ordinary kind of guy who wouldn’t ever be found reading a psychology book written by a university professor, much less one named Csikszentmihalyi. Johnson, the Dallas Cowboys coach, actually was the kind of guy who not only read the professor, but he put what he learned into practice. That was why he had his players stare at fish tanks, to teach them how to better focus. I wouldn’t doubt they spent some time in serious meditation, too. Jimmy Johnson wanted to win and was open to exploring any possible paths to that objective.

So how did this turn out? The Dallas Cowboys won the 1993 Super Bowl over the Buffalo Bills 52-17.

I wouldn’t have known anything about Jimmy Johnson or Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi except one Monday night in 1998, I happened upon a pre-game TV vignette hosted by Frank Gifford, in which he told the story, with a lot more details than I remember now.

I have read several of Csikszentmihalyi’s books and find his work fascinating. This sequence of Coach Johnson discovering Csikszentmihalyi, and my discovering Csikszentmihalyi by accident, and the positive effect on my own life, could be made into an observation about favorable coincidences. There might be a simpler way of looking at it, though.

Stay open to everything because you never know where or when you’re going to learn something useful.