Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard has come in unassuming moments in casual conversation. Moments when I was relaxed and just open to something new.

finch.jpgI can recall many moments like that with my grandfather. My grandfather loved birds. He used to sit for hours watching finches fly in and out of the five story bird house he built. The bird house was on the end of a pole about 30 feet above the ground. We’d lay back in lawn chairs and just watch the birds.

Every fall I’d help my grandfather take down the bird house for cleaning, repair and storage. It was huge and so high up that he’d developed a rather elaborate pulley system to bring it down.

One such day, when I was 8, we were lowering the bird house. I was holding one of the main pulley ropes. Under the weight of the bird hourse, my hands became strained and began to hurt. I told my grandfather, “My hands hurt, I can’t hold it.”

His response, “Don’t focus on your hands hurting. What you focus is on expands. So if you think about the pain in your hands, it’ll get bigger. Instead, focus on getting the bird house down.”

You know he was right, of course. I stopped focusing on how much my hands hurt and the pain got less. I held the rope until the bird house was safely down.

I’ve never forgotten that phrase: what you focus on expands. Through the next three decades I found it very useful. But not only useful, I’ve found it to be truth. Every time I focus on things that are negative or painful, that thing increases. And when I focus on beauty or love that’s what increases.

Char, I wasn’t quite yet a teen. Okay, I was far from it. Yet this advice didn’t only make an impression on me at the time, it continues to do so even today. And it continues to be true.

David Armano had a similar moment recently with his dad. While asking him “what’s the secret?” His dad replied, “You gotta dig. You see, you have to leave a very loose ground in the roots and it has to be deeper.” Amazing piece of wisdom…if you’re listening. Check out the video. It’s great hearing David’s dad in his own voice.

Where have you experienced an unexpected wisdom?

Reader Interactions


  1. Char says

    Your Grandfather’s words are so true! Thank you for taking the time to share this with us and for entering my group writing project – you were a very observant tween to take in that message and continue applying it throughout your life.

  2. Gabriella Kortsch says

    Oh man, how true! What you focus on expands. Your grandfather must have known about the Law of Attraction, which many authors have been writing about for decades (the concept has been around for millenia), or what so many people have found out about via the movie “The Secret”.

    All of it boils down to what your grandfather said: “what you focus on explands”. So if I focus on lack, or need, or pain, or sorrow, guess what? I get more of the same.

    But if I focus on joy, contentment, goodness, abundance, clarity of vision and satisfaction, that is what I get.

    It’s really so simple.

    Wish my grandfather had told me…

    Great article!


  3. Jean Browman says

    Your post stirred up all sorts of memories. I suppose the most unexpected piece of wisdom was when I was a sophomore in high school and a teacher laughed in my face. It was the second quarter of my English class. At the end of the first quarter she had warned us that a big part of our grade the next quarter would be on class participation. Oh, Lord! I was painfully shy but did my best. Sometime in during that second quarter I asked her how I was doing. She just looked at me and laughed.

    It was the friendliest, most complimentary laugh I have ever experienced. The advice, of course, was to lighten up and to have more faith in myself.

    She was a great role model for me. She was young, warm, enthusiastic and had a great sense of humor. She also had a sense of adventure. She told us how she and a friend had hitchhiked around Europe. I decided I wanted to be more like her. I figured I had a long way to go, so I gave myself plenty of time–if I could just be more like her inside of myself by the time I was 35 I would be doing well.

    In the meantime I did manage to get to Europe–for seven months my junior year in college, when I did hitchhike with a friend for a few weeks, and for 13 months in France when I was in my mid-twenties.

    When I reached 35 I remembered her and my promise to myself and figured it had been a great direction to go. She’s one of the great teachers I’ve had in my life, and I still carry them around in my memory and am grateful to them all.

  4. Dawud Miracle says


    Maybe he knew about the law of attraction. Not sure. What he did know was how to not let obstacles stand in the way of what you want to achieve.

    I actually feel there’s more to it than simply what we focus on. Focus stems from a deeper intention of how we live our lives. What I mean by a deeper intention is something like a compass made of choices that sets the overall direction of our life. You could say this in the law of attraction, but I’m still unsure about that.

    I’d love to hear you thoughts in relation to the law of attraction.

  5. Gabriella Kortsch says

    My main thought on Law of Attraction is this (and I’m by no means being original, merely repeating what I have gleaned from the abundant material available about the subject): if you use your emotions – literally the way you feel – at ALL times as a barometer for inner knowing about how far or how close you come to being on the road to attracting into your life that which you want to see there (on any level), you are well on the road to living the Law of Attraction.

    In other words, since the Law of Attraction implies focusing on your intent, many interpret this to mean that you need to “police” your thoughts in order not to have negative thoughts. But how can you do that? Impossible to police them all.

    But it is very easy to pay attention to how you are feeling. And once you notice that you are not in a good place, then you can immediately pull yourself up to a better one. And so begins the process of attraction and intention.

    I have a number of articles about this up on my website (not the blog, that this links to via my name, but the website, which is


  6. Dawud Miracle says


    But do you feel, or have you witnessed, that this is really possible for the average person? In other words, does the average person really have access to and understanding of their emotions?


    Thanks. Grandpa’s been gone for almost 20 years. And I miss him still from time to time. He would have been very interested in the directions my life have taken.


    Wow! What an amazing story. Thanks so much. I really didn’t have a teacher in school who moved me like that. But I do enjoy hearing the stories of those who did. Again, thanks for sharing.

  7. Gabriella Kortsch says

    Dawud: Understanding the emotions is not as important – at this point – as recognizing that the emotions you currently have are no longer good, once you recognize that you just aren’t feeling as good as you did 10 minutes ago, or yesterday, or whatever.

    What this is really all about is beginning to practice keeping yourself on an even emotional keel, where that “evenness” is on the higher end of a hypothetical continuum from 0-10.

    How do you do that? Not so terribly hard, but it does involve become aware of yourself on all levels – body, emotions, and spirit. That is also a question of practice. Once you have achieved a modicum of practice in this awareness of self, you now need to recognize that the responsiblity for your state of mind/heart/spirit lies with you.

    No matter what the external event, how you are inside of you, is your responsibility. Nelson Mandela, Victor Frankl, Alexander Solzhenitsyn can all testify to how well this can work even in the most horrific of circumstances.

    So once you have some awareness of self, and some acceptance of your responsibility in how well you are feeling, you now come to choice. And you always have a choice in your reactions and actions regarding anything that has happened to you.

    So that’s it in a nutshell. But reading some of the articles (newsletters) on my website (, as I mentioned earlier, would be helpful.


  8. Adam Kayce : Monk At Work says

    The earliest “unexpected wisdom” I remember came from a series of fantasy books I read as a kid (I blogged about this recently), the Thomas Covenant chronicles.

    In the story, the ‘hero’ travels to a mystical world and meets a giant named Saltheart Foamfollower. The hero is a pretty cynical, melancholy guy, but he never dampens the giant’s spirit — in fact, the giant often laughs when Covenant is complaining.

    When he asks the giant why he laughs, the giant replies, “Joy is in the ears that hear.” That one woke me up, big time — and I’ve never forgotten it. It shaped my life really strongly, too… on many occasions, it helped me to stay buoyant in deflating circumstances.

    I often get pearls from books and movies, where the message doesn’t seem to be directed towards imparting a lesson.

  9. Dawud Miracle says


    Thanks for the explanation. There’s still something missing for me. I’ll see if I can find it on your site (whose link I made live).

    I’ll let you know what I ‘discover.’

  10. Gabriella Kortsch says


    For me it was reading “The Magus” sometime in the 60’s, which they then made a great movie of with Anthony Quinn, Michael Caine, and a very young and beautiful Candice Bergen.

    In that book I became acquainted with these four lines of T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding”:

    We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.

    and they meant so much to my very young spirit.


  11. Kate says

    What a gift. To have a mantra that sums up how to view life as you grow is remarkable thing to be given at such a young age.

  12. Dawud Miracle says


    I love that. Mind if I use it from time to time?


    I’ve loved that piece for years myself. And how true it is.

    Sufis speak of the jewel hidden in the mountain of our existence. It makes me think of mining the depths of our being, ever searching to uncover the jewel. Yet in what we find, we return, richer in knowledge and experience, to the place we began.


    Thanks. You’re welcome to it. I’m pretty certain my grandfather didn’t create it.

    What’s just as lovely is that I’ve found it to be true in every circumstance in my life.

    ExPat Mom,

    I share it with you so you can use it – if it has value to you. It reminds me that I always have choice in how I see the world – or myself in it – even if the choice is in my thoughts about it.

    The way is simple, only the steps are complex.

  13. Gabriella Kortsch says

    Essentially it’s what Joseph Campbell referred to as “The Hero’s Journey” (marvellous video of him being interviewed about that – you can watch it at the very bottom of my blog), and in this hero’s journey, Campbell says this:

    The hero’s journey always begins with the call. One way or another, a guide must come to say, “Look, you’re in Sleepy Land. Wake. Come on a trip. There’s a whole aspect of your consciousness, your being, that’s not been touched. So you’re at home here? Well, there’s not enough of you there.” And so it starts.

    The call is to leave a certain social situation, move into your own loneliness and find the jewel, the center that’s impossible to find when you’re socially engaged. You are thrown off-center, it’s time to go. This is the departure when the hero feels something has been lost and goes to find it. You are to cross the threshold into new life. It’s a dangerous adventure, because you are moving out of the sphere of the knowledge of you and your community.

    When one thinks of some reason for not going or has fear and remains in society because it’s safe, the results are radically different from what happens when one follows the call, If you refuse to go, then you are someone else’s servant. When this refusal of the call happens, there is a kind of drying up, a sense of life lost. Everything in you knows that a required adventure has been refused. Anxieties build up. What you have refused to experience in a positive way, you will experi­ence in a negative way.

    If what you are following, however, is your own true adventure, if it is some­thing appropriate to your deep spiritual need or readiness, then magical guides will appear to help you. If you say, “Everybody’s going on this trip this year, and I’m going too,” then no guides will appear. Your adventure has to be coming right out of your own interior. If you are ready for it, then doors will open where there were no doors be­fore, and where there would not be doors for anyone else. And you must have cour­age. It’s the call to adventure, which means there is no security, no rules.

    When you cross the threshold, you are passing into the dark forest, taking a plunge into the sea, embarking upon the night sea journey. It involves passing through clash­ing rocks, narrow gates, or the like, which represent yes and no, the pairs of oppo­sites. There will be a moment when the walls of the world seem to open for a second, and you get an insight through. Jump then! Go! The gates will often close to so fast that they take off the tail of your horse. You may be dismem­bered, lose every­thing you have. This is Christ leaving the Mother, the world, and going to the Father, the Spirit. This is Jonah swallowed by the whale, its jaws being the pairs of oppo­sites.

    What this represents psychologically is the trip from the realm of conscious, ratio­nal intentions into the zone of those energies of the body that are moving from another center: the center with which you are trying to get in touch.

    As you now go towards the center, there will come more aids, as well as increas­ingly difficult trials. You have to give up more and more of what you’re hanging on to. The final thing is a total giving up, a yielding all the way. This is a place directly opposite to your life experiences, and all that you’ve been taught in school. Psycho­logical­ly, it’s a shift into the unconscious; otherwise, it’s a move into a field of action of which you know nothing. Anything can happen, and it may be favorable or unfavorable.

    The deeper you go, and the closer you get to the final realization, the heavier the resistance. You are coming down to those areas that are the ones that are re­pressed, and it’s that repression system you have to pass through. And there, of course, is where magical aid is most re­quired. The hero may here discover for the first time that there is everywhere a benign power supporting him in his superhuman passage.

    There is a lot more in the book…a book I highly recommend: Reflections of the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion Edited by D.K. Osbon, c. 1991, HarperColl­ins, New York.


  14. April Groves says

    What a beautiful post! I have just found your blog and taking it all in.

    The best advice I ever got was from my mom. As children, we were always encouraged to speak our mind, but, we were never to be disrespectful. Momma would tell us, “You can say whatever it is you want to say, as long as you remember who you are saying it to.”

    She thought she was preventing a sass back to her, and she did. But she also planted seeds of good parenting, effective marital communications, personal responsibility, business savvy, good friend qualities…the list goes on.

  15. April Groves says

    Your face behind the blog page is amazing! Thanks so much for sharing! I am inspired to add pictures to my own page now! But, we have to wait to talk about teenagers…with four girls – the oldest is 10 – I can’t handle teenage talk just yet 🙂

  16. Dawud Miracle says


    Thanks. Please do. And let me know so I can ‘meet’ you and your loved ones.

    And I’m fine waiting on the teenage talk. I have a strange suspicion that much of how a child navigates their teenage years has to do with their early development and parenting.

  17. Dawud Miracle says


    I love it. And most hurts are cured by a hug and ice cream. This should be one of those “unexpected wisdoms” we’re talking about.

    Thanks for including your photos. I really love them.

  18. Vivienne Quek says

    This is the law of attraction working. What you focus will expand, so if we kept thinking how hard life is, the tougher it will be. We should focus on what we want and not what we don’t want

    The latest unexpected wisdom I got is from T. Harv Eker’s “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. He said “… successful people are bigger than their problem … and unsuccessful people are smaller than their problems.” So if we are bigger than our problems, the problems are simply inconvenience.

  19. Dawud Miracle says


    Doesn’t the word, “should” make you focus on what your ought to be doing instead of what you’re doing? Just food for thought.

    Harv has some good stuff. Nice piece to share. My current favorite is Seth Godin’s Dip: Knowing When to Quit (and Knowing When to Stick) where he explains that successful people have quit a lot of things to become successful.

  20. law of attraction says

    I will never let myself forget the phrase:
    “What you focus on EXPANDS”

    And above all I would say ” Secrets of the Millionaire Mind is all time Kept secret so I do !”

  21. double bed frame says

    I actually feel there’s more to it than simply what we focus on. Focus stems from a deeper intention of how we live our lives. What I mean by a deeper intention is something like a compass made of choices that sets the overall direction of our life.


  1. […] of dmiracle has fond memories of his Grandad and the words he spoke when Dawud was 8 years old – “what you focus on expands” – you will have to read the entry to truly understand […]

  2. […] of dmiracle has fond memories of his Grandad and the words he spoke when Dawud was 8 years old – “what you focus on expands” – you will have to read the entry to truly understand these […]

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