(originally posted in 2010), slightly revised In life we have choices. We choose where to live, where to work, where to go to college or not to go to college at all, what our career is, who to marry, what kind of car to drive, what friends we keep, what to name out children – assuming we choose to have children. Every morning we choose what clothes to wear, and often what we choose to wear sets the tone for the day. Life is full of choices. When opportunity meets preparation our choices can spark great things! One of the most important choices of all, and the one most people fail to make each and every day, is the choice to be “open”, open of mind to new ideas, new people, new opportunities, new possibilities. You see, when we are open anything and everything is possible. Take Starbucks for example. When Starbucks is open it can prosper, it can make money and help people make connections… Customers come in and purchase its goods (rent space) and usually hang around and talk – exploring possibilities, opportunities, ideas, philosophies, solving problems, creating solutions, starting businesses or just finding a space to be alone for a brief, adult “timeout”. The following excerpt from an article published in USA Today on April 16, 2006 provides a glimpse into the cultural impact of Starbucks – that is, when it is “open” … Starbucks and other coffee houses, he (Bryant Simon, a historian who is searching for the meaning of modern life amid the round tables and comfy sofas of Starbucks coffee shops) believes, fill “some kind of deep desire for connection with other people.” But unlike the coffee houses of the 18th century London of the bohemian java dens of 1950’s New York, “Starbucks makes sure you can be alone when you’re out if you really need to be,” he said. “You get the feeling you’re out in public, but you don’t need to talk to anyone.” Simon’s research has made him finely attuned to the many varieties of the Starbucks customer, from the twenty-something female friends at a nearby table to the middle-aged man hunched over his laptop computer. “This kind of guy is renting space,” said Simon, a boyish 44-year old who vised 25 Starbucks during four days in the British capital. “He bought a cup of coffee in order to have some space. These two women in front of us – where else can women meet in urban settings? “I was at a Starbucks up the street, and there were kids downstairs making out.” Starbuck’s chairman, Howard Schultz, told shareholders at their annual meeting Feb. 8th that the company is focusing on the “Starbucks effect” – that is, putting a bigger emphasis on music sales, movie marketing and other non-coffee products. Simon believes Starbucks succeeds by “selling comfort” in an anonymous, often dislocating world. He says he has lost track of the number of times people have told him that when they traveled to a strange country, “the first think I did when I got off the plane was go to Starbucks.” “There’s a deep sense of unpredictability in the modern world, and what Starbucks provides a lot of people is predictability,” he said. CNN Money went even further, adding in an article by Katie Lobosco, published on March 4, 2015 adding this dimension to the “Starbucks Effect” – “Living near a Starbucks has its benefits for homeowners, whether you're a coffee drinker or not. The value of homes within a quarter-mile of a Starbucks rise faster than those that aren't, according to real estate research group Zillow (Z).” “With tens of thousands of Starbucks locations in the U.S., that's good news for a lot of homeowners. Between 1997 and 2013, home closer to the coffee shop increased in value by 96%, compared to 65% for all U.S. homes.” And so it is with us. When we are open, and hanging out near Starbucks, all kinds of possibilities exist. We have a chance to explore, create, solve, dream, learn, grow, and just simple meditate. When we are open we are a channel for ideas and insights to flow into and through us to others. It’s like the main valve on a lawn sprinkler system – when the valve is open water is flowing through and nourishing the lawn. But when it is closed, death and decay set in. Such is the case with the human mind (and as a result, life) … A closed mind stops the flow of life. It is “boxed” in. Think about it. You meet someone who has something could change your life in very profound and great ways, but because your mind is closed to their appearance, their ethnicity, the fact that they are in “network marketing” you stop the flow. You are like a closed valve on the lawn sprinkler system. Unfortunately, when your mind is closed, the first place where death and decay set in is in your own life. This brings me to the idea of context and meta-context. Context is the “here and now”, the reality of the thing that is happening at the moment at the “rubber meets the road level” in your life. Meta-context is what is going on outside of the moment and context, or the “bigger picture”. In order to remain open, you must understand that you can (operative word) operate in the meta-context, Context is the world of stimulus / response. Meta context is the world of endless alternative possibilities for your response in context. And it is only here, in meta-context that you can choose to re-form your life into the form of your dreams… Thinking in meta-context is “out of the box” thinking. In order to “break out of your box” you must remain “open”. Mark J.