I was introduced to the Rule of 7 in 2002. It appeared in a textbook assigned to me when I took over an Introduction to Critical Thinking class. The Rule essentially goes like this: a person needs to hear new information seven times from seven different sources for it to stick. Internalizing this was a lifesaver. I was teaching in a rural college, where I encountered theses like, “Youth in Asia should be illegal,” “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” and where my students felt entitled to debate whether those in the LGBTQ community should be allowed to adopt children and declared themselves “not racist, but…”
I also taught many bright, open-hearted students. In fact, they were the majority, but those defiantly ignorant ones stuck with me. I’ve been reminded of them often in 2017 because it seems they’ve taken over the news waves, the White House, the country. And as much as I would like to steer (shove) the unkind and the willfully ignorant into seven different encounters with the truth so they would wake up, I know I can’t be the seven. I can only be the one.
The Rule of 7 reminds me of Aesop’s fable, “The Crow and the Pitcher” (and yeah, in middle school I nerded out on my Aesop’s fable collection, Grimm’s fairy tales, and Greek mythology; I still love them all). The tale is about a thirsty crow who finds a pitcher of water. She can’t reach the water through the narrow opening, the pitcher is too heavy to tip, and she’s about to die of thirst. That’s when she notices pebbles lying on the ground and gets a bright idea. She drops the pebbles in, one at a time, until the water is high enough for her to drink.
Those pebbles represent the truth, but we each have only one we can drop into the pitcher. We must speak up—we are being led by a madman and our democracy is in danger; sexism, racism, ableism, heterosexism, and ageism are real and immeasurably destructive; true change requires deep discomfort and hard work—and silence is no longer an option. The problem is compounded because this societal disruption is playing out for many of us on a personal level. I’ve experienced terrible rifts in my family this year. I want to fix everything, convince everyone we can do better, but in the end, I’m only one person, one experience, and I'm only allotted one pebble to toss into any person’s pitcher. They need to discover the other six somewhere else.
Realizing this makes me both melancholy and empowered, a mixed bag for sure. But I haven’t told you the best news yet, which is that, if you live the Rule of 7 when interacting with people whose worldview and choices make you sad, it frees up MOUNTAINS of time to create, live, march, love, and play. By the way, thank you to everyone who's tossed a pebble my way, and continues to share their pebbles. I need 'em.
Be the One in 2018.
p.s. Enough about dealing with them. Let’s talk about you and me, and how we’re gonna write a different story for 2018. Please leave a bit of joy—a photo of someone you love, glitter and sequins, a great sentence you read or wrote, a kindness you witnessed or heard about, favorite GIF, your guiding word for 2018, etc.--in the comments below. Any happiness posted here before January 7 will enter you to win, no strings attached, one of ten seats in my online, self-paced Rewrite Your Life class which shows you how to transform your life experiences into a healing, kick-ass novel.
p.s.s. If you need this online class but can’t afford it, email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) before January 7 to let me know. No details necessary. I trust you.
p.s.s.s. That awesome vintage image was created by Milo Winter and is in the Public Domain.
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