The Two Best (and Worst) Magic Words

The two most powerful magic words I know aren’t open sesame, presto chango, or even por favor. They’re two words that have the power to open your heart and mind to limitless possibilities and innovations: what if.

Just like Ali Baba used open sesame to reveal treasure by opening what had appeared to be solid rock, what if has the power to crack open seemingly impassable (or impossible) obstacles, revealing the treasure within them.

And just like magicians might say presto chango to change one thing into another, what if can transform a roadblock into an opportunity.

For instance, if you encounter a roadblock in your business, you can approach it in several ways: You could try to power your way through it, like drilling through solid rock. You could simply throw your hands up in defeat and give up altogether. Or you could say what if… 

  • “What if there were another way of looking at this?”
  • “What if I could connect with someone who could help me move beyond this?”
  • “What if this challenge turns out to be a blessing in disguise?”
  • “What if this ‘obstacle’ is actually keeping me safe or pointing the way toward a better solution?”

The same holds true for creative blocks, personal challenges, or almost any difficulty you might face. Instead of saying, “I don’t know what to do.” You could ask yourself, “What if I did know the answer?” or “What if I tried a different approach?”

You can also use these words to ease your way into far-fetched affirmations. For instance, if positive affirmations such as “I am a powerful creator of unlimited abundance” or “I feel absolutely amazing in every way” feel too pie-in-the-sky for you (in other words, you feel like you’re lying to yourself when you say them), you could rephrase them starting with what if: “What if I could create more abundance in my life?” or “What if I could start to feel even a little bit better today?”

And when it comes to writing, nothing’s more powerful than these words (often called “The Magic What-If”), which form the beginning of almost every great premise:

  • What if a girl from Kansas were transported to a magical land?
  • What if a prince and a pauper switched places?
  • What if teenagers from feuding families fell in love?

You’d be amazed at what wisdom you reveal within yourself when you simply open to the possibilities these two seemingly simple words can point you toward. However, like so many other magic words, when misused, what if has the power to cause immense suffering. When you look back at your life and think “What if…” about missed opportunities, these words can fill you with unbearable regret:

  • “What if I’d pursued my big dream instead of playing it safe?”
  • “What if I’d jumped at that opportunity while I had the chance?”
  • “What if I’d dared to reach beyond my comfort zone?”
  • “What if I’d answered my true calling?”
  • “What if I’d said yes?”

Used in this context, the magic of what if turns into the heartbreak of if only.

Even in these moments of regret-filled reflections, however, you can pivot these magic words to help you open to wondrous possibilities. For instance, you could ask yourself:

  • “What if there’s still time to pursue that dream?”
  • “What if it’s all working out in divine timing?”
  • “What if that window of opportunity hasn’t fully closed yet?”
  • “What if that window of opportunity did close…but another better one is now open?”
  • “What if those years weren’t ‘wasted’ after all, but were the perfect amount of time I needed to gain wisdom, experience, and the desire to move forward?”

No matter what your dreams may be, what obstacles you may face, or what regrets you may feel, these two little words — what if — can help you bring more magic into your life. You might not fully believe it, but what if you did?

If one of your dreams is to write a book that inspires — but you’ve felt overwhelmed by all the challenges involved — Your Soulful Book can help you avoid regret (of looking back, years from now, thinking, “What if I HAD written that book?”) and embrace positive possibilities (“What if I DO write my book this year?”)!

This heart-centered program (created by me and my wife, Jodi Chapman) provides all the tools, resources, and community/one-on-one support you need to successfully write, publish, and market your book.

To learn all about this program, take advantage of the limited-time bonus gifts + discount, and take the next step toward your dream of holding your very own book — and sharing it with the world — please visit

I Just Did Something Totally Stupid

I like to think of myself as a reasonably intelligent guy, but today I did something that was just plain stupid. It didn’t make any sense. It wasn’t a good thing to do. And my timing was absolutely terrible.

In retrospect, I can see that it was stupid. What makes it even worse, though, is that I realized that it was stupid before I started doing it — and even while I was doing it — yet I kept on doing it anyway.

Just to set the scene: this is one of the busiest times of the year for me. I’m launching two […] Continue Reading…

Idle Time Is the Angels’ Playground

I just read the words “Idle time is the devil’s workshop” for about the thousandth time, but it just now struck me how cynical, fear-based, and diametrically opposed to my own worldview this proverb is. Maybe it’s because I recently took almost a week off — five days filled (or not filled) with lots of idle time…and no sign of the devil!
Those days off were wonderful. My wife and I relaxed, took afternoon naps, went to the beach, explored a nearby town we’d never visited, played tennis (for the first time in about 16 years!), went on a real date, ate yummy […] Continue Reading…

5 Life Lessons from Bird by Bird

As part of the Your Soulful Book writing program, I recently re-read Anne Lamott’s modern classic, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

The first time I read this book — over a decade ago — I was primarily focused on learning to write better. This time around, however, I was struck by the subtitle’s truth: so many of these “instructions” really do apply equally to life beyond the page.

Of the book’s many profound life lessons, here are five of my favorites:

“It is so much easier to embrace absolutes than to suffer reality. Reality is unforgivingly complex.”

I’m not sure […] Continue Reading…

No Pain, No Pain

Sometimes we learn from people who model what we want. Other times, we learn from those who model what we don’t want!

In my previous post, I discussed someone who falls into the latter category: a guest on the TV show This Time Next Year who justified her inability to find love by claiming that “Men don’t want to commit” (Once again, using myself as counter-exhibit A, I’ll borrow Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers’ one-word catchphrase: Really!?!) This time, I’m using another counter-example from the same show (which really is a great, inspiring show 99% of the time — I promise!) to address one of the most pernicious attitudes out […] Continue Reading…

1 DO + 1 DON’T of Romantic Relationships

If you’re looking for love or would like to improve the romantic relationship you’re already in, Valentine’s Day can be the best time of year…or the worst! It seems like everyone is talking (and frequently giving advice) about love and romance. And while much of this is wonderful — a celebration of love — a lot of it is negative, self-defeating, and untrue (or at least not necessarily true).

Everyone’s experience of love (and everything else) is different, so I’d never want to dismiss or downplay what someone else has been through. But over the last 16 years of being in […] Continue Reading…

A Timeless Message of Hope

I wasn’t planning on writing a timely post for Martin Luther King day this year, but I saw something yesterday that inspired me to do so: I watched David Letterman’s recent interview with Barack Obama, and when the far-ranging conversation turned to civil rights, Letterman recalled walking with John Lewis across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, 50 years after the Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965.

As you may already know, during the first march (a legal, nonviolent protest against discriminatory voting regulations), state troopers attacked the unarmed marchers with nightsticks and tear gas, and even beat Amelia Boynton (one of […] Continue Reading…

David Cassidy’s Last Words

Last month, former teen idol David Cassidy died at the age of 67.

The world has lost some pretty big rock stars recently — including Tom Petty, Walter Becker of Steely Dan, Malcolm Young of AC/DC, and Pat DiNizio of The Smithereens (not as well known as the others, but one of my all-time favorites) — but none of their deaths haunt me as much as Cassidy’s.

This might seem odd since I wasn’t even a fan of his. I never watched The Partridge Family, and I don’t really know his music. (I only vaguely remember hearing “I Think I Love You” as a kid, but that’s […] Continue Reading…

Inspiration from a Young Mother

The stories in our new book, Goodness Abounds, follow two basic guidelines:

They have to be true stories about goodness.
The “good-doer” has to be someone other than the author.

Because of guideline #2, these stories aren’t about authors “tooting their own horn” (which is fine in many contexts — but that simply isn’t the focus of this book). Sometimes, though, even while they were shining a spotlight on other people’s goodness, I couldn’t help but admire the authors themselves. This was definitely the case with Jerri Eddington’s story, “The Baby and the Bus Driver.”

In this piece, Jerri pays tribute to a bus driver who […] Continue Reading…

The Empowering Alternative to Nature vs. Nurture

Where do you stand on the “Nature vs. Nurture” debate?

What do you think makes us who we are: Is it the genes we inherit from our biological parents? Is it our environment and the way we’re raised? Or is it some combination of these factors — and, if so, which factor has the  biggest influence?

You could make a convincing argument for either position: On the Nature side, you’ve probably heard stories of twins raised separately who went on to live remarkably similar lives. On the Nurture side, you can clearly see the effect of environment and upbringing by observing how frequently people […] Continue Reading…