The magic of cause & effect

low gravity

Years back, when I first found my way to AA, I used to roll my eyes at old-timers’ earnest promises that “things will get bet­ter.” Don’t get me wrong. I loved AA from the start and didn’t ever think seri­ously about going back to drink­ing. (I was lucky that way.) Still, it struck me as absurd that peo­ple I’d never spo­ken to thought they could pre­dict my future. What made them so cer­tain? How could they pos­si­bly know?

It took a long time—months, in fact—before it finally hit me: “Hey! Maybe if you stop pour­ing gal­lons of a toxic depres­sant into your sys­tem things are likely to look up! Maybe, if you stop ingest­ing a sub­stance that wreaks havoc on your rela­tion­ships, life will (as a gen­eral rule) tend to run more smoothly!” Amaz­ing. Who knew?

These thoughts came back to me the other day when a Very Nice Thing hap­pened. Brazen Careerist founder Pene­lope Trunk—who, of all the blog­gers on the planet, is prob­a­bly the one I most admire—commented on the post I’d writ­ten about the ben­e­fits of blog­ging (or more specif­i­cally, about how research sug­gest­ing that blog­ging may help new moms could well also per­tain to the newly unemployed).

Here’s what she wrote:

Amy, I really like this post. I started blog­ging when I had my first baby. I didn’t do it inten­tion­ally as a way to con­nect. I did it as a way to make sure my career didn’t tank while my emo­tions were tank­ing. But I totally under­stand how blog­ging could help new moms.

The other thing I love about blog­ging is that blog­ging gives me a way to share all the inter­est­ing research I come across. I’m with kids most of the day, and believe me, they really don’t care what I’m read­ing about. The blog is a way to keep my life intel­lec­tu­ally stimulating.

And, I love the research you have in this post. It makes me feel con­nected to read it and talk about it :)


I was so excited! Not just a pro forma “thanks for link­ing to me” but a real live gen­uine com­ment reflect­ing on what I’d talked about and how she liked what I’d said.

And what had I done to spark this happy devel­op­ment?  Okay hold on to your seats. After link­ing to her blog on mine, I told her that I had done this.

Could any­thing be sim­pler or more obvi­ous? And yet, I almost didn’t do it. Here’s why: In the world in which I blog, Pene­lope Trunk is a celebrity. I thought about the zil­lions of emails she likely gets each day. I didn’t want to be tedious. I didn’t want to push. I didn’t want to annoy her. (And she can be annoyed.)

But in my delib­er­a­tions, I’d some­how over­looked two cru­cial facts: First, if you don’t tell some­one you wrote a post about them, they most likely won’t find out.* Sec­ond, if you do tell them, there’s a chance they will actu­ally read what you wrote and turn out to like it.

Give how uni­ver­sal this cause-and-effect stuff seems to be, it’s remark­able how often I have to remind myself to pay atten­tion to it. True, if you make an effort to con­nect with some­one it’s pos­si­ble you’ll annoy them. But if you don’t make the effort, chances are good you won’t con­nect at all. Yes, you’ll avoid the down­side risk, but you’ll also miss the upside. Cause and effect, it turns out, tends to cut both ways.

* Unless you’re Pene­lope Trunk, and then they most likely will.