Mario wanted to have sex with me.
What I’m about to confess happened when I was in my early 20s, so get in your brain DeLorean, turn on the flux capacitor, and let’s head on back to the past—all the way to the 1980s.
Mario was my client. Well, not mine personally; I had founded my own computer training company a couple of years before, and my client—my only client—was the huge bank for which Mario was Human Resources Director.
That’s why I felt like I was going to die when, during one of the regular high-end lunches I took Mario to, he made it very clear that either I went to bed with him or else.
I couldn’t sleep for days, trying to figure out how to get out of this dilemma. The way I saw it, either I did what Mario demanded, or my 62 employees would lose their jobs, and I’d be plunged deeply in debt left with two empty buildings, 124 depreciated computers, and 124 pink plush computer-mouse covers that looked like real mice (which back then I thought were adorable).
I felt responsible for the situation and berated myself for having allowed Mario’s increasing requests to prevent me from diversifying my clientele. I knew the dangers of having all my eggs in one basket, yet I had made that big, basic mistake. Those were useless thoughts, I know. Sigh.
I did not tell anybody about this. Not even my mom, who had come to work for my company after retiring from her 40-year government job. I know she would have offered to help. (She found Mario very attractive.)
* * *
There was no way I’d give in to Mario’s repellent demand, but what could I do if my only two choices were doing what he wanted or losing everything I had worked so hard for?
I wish I’d known in my 20s how to manage conflicts like this, but I didn’t. I neither had the tools nor the self-confidence to speak up: my fear of making things worse prevented me from confronting Mario.
* * *
I knew his threat was real, so I resorted to convoluted maneuvers to save my company. I’ll share with you what I did, even when it’s really embarrassing.
I sent Mario an envelope with three things: a ticket to the largest annual Las Vegas-based computer tradeshow in the world, a round- trip plane ticket to Las Vegas, and a letter inviting him to join “us” in attending this expo, “so we could evaluate the latest computer-training technology and its potential benefits for his bank.” His traveling arrangements and expenses would be taken care of, obviously, and I’d pick him up at the Las Vegas airport. I mentioned I’d fly in a few days before to coordinate meetings with our IT providers.
Mario gratefully accepted and didn’t mention his, ahem, “request” again, and I certainly wasn’t going to.
When Mario landed in Vegas, my friend Luke and I picked him up at the airport. I introduced Luke as my “software provider,” but you’ve probably already figured out that he was a friend I had flown to Las Vegas as my chaperone and accomplice.
The three of us explored the expo all that day before returning to our rooms to freshen up and get ready to meet for dinner. What Mario didn’t know is that I had a plan and it was already in motion.
Phase one: Immediately after dinner, I excused myself, alleging a headache. Phase two: After I’d escaped, Luke took Mario somewhere else and hired a drop-dead-gorgeous-blonde call girl. Phase three: Later that night, Luke called me to report that he had just left Mario in his room with—? I don’t remember the name Luke gave me for the blonde, so let’s call her “Bambi Mae.”
Final phase: The next morning we all met for breakfast. Shaking inside, I gave Mario the speech I had rehearsed a million times that morning alone. Looking him in the eye, I firmly but pleasantly said, “Mario, as I have shown, my company can give you everything you request. However, I don’t do everything myself but delegate to experts in each area, as I’m sure you’ve realized after meeting our “PR Manager,” Ms. Bambi Mae Garcia.
* * *
After that trip, Mario’s bank and my company had a fruitful relationship for years to come, with no more talk of Mario’s request. What happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas.
If I faced a similar dilemma now, there’s absolutely no way I would handle things this poorly. My solution was convoluted and unethical (not to mention expensive).
Still, there was one good thing about what I did: I found a more “colorful” way to solve a problem that, had I been fixed on a “black-or-white” decision between two mutually exclusive and fixed options (having sex with Mario or losing my company), would have led me to a dead end. (Or, more likely, to living under a bridge using pink plush mouse covers for shelter.)
I didn’t have a name for it then, but what I did was Color Thinking™.
I was able to find a solution that was beyond the only two obvious alternatives I originally had when I saw the problem in black and white. And that’s one of the foundations of the mindset of abundance I now call Color Thinking™.
A World of Color
If you’ve ever stopped what you’re doing to enjoy the stunning beauty of a crimson sunset, gone scuba diving in a coral reef, or stood hypnotized while one of your favorite paintings finds its way into your heart through your eyes, then you know that colors give us pleasure beyond words. Sometimes in ways as simple as when we find a new color of lipstick or a shirt that makes us look great—and feel great.
Imagine for a second a world without the vibrancy of yellows, blues, or reds. Think of how much we’d be missing if we saw only two options: a total absence of color (white) or all the colors lumped together (black).
We would not choose to see the world only in black and white (B&W). However, with our minds, we sometimes “see” the world as if it were only B&W. We’re so used to doing this that we don’t even notice we’re missing out on so much.
That’s why I coined the term Color Thinking™ to label the alternative: our ability to consciously “see” the range of options that exists between the two extremes for a scenario.
Seeing the world as B&W is called “dichotomous thinking”: either I win or I lose; you love me or you don’t; you’re with me or you’re against me; you love ramen or your taste buds stopped working; someone is smart because their beliefs are in line with mine or they’re stupid because they don’t see things as I do (think politics, religion, or football). Either X or not-X.
People who see only the extremes in situations are not seeing all the shades of gray in between (and some scenarios contain more than fifty). They have a mindset of scarcity. But so do people who see only shades of gray—they’re still missing the glorious oranges, greens, and purples, for example.
Seeing with our minds in B&W, or even in shades of grey, reflects a mindset of scarcity. In contrast, Color Thinking™ is living with a mindset of abundance. It’s training our minds to see more alternatives and, as a result, make better decisions, implement better solutions, and find more paths to happiness and success.
I know what you’re thinking: “Wait a minute. Sometimes in life things really are only black or white.”
You’re right! Zebras, pandas, and dominoes come to mind. Not to mention the Yin-Yang Taoist symbol, this book’s interior (it’s cheaper), cows, Dalmatians, orcas, skunks, soccer balls, Oreo cookies, Snoopy . . . well, look, you get the point. But there are very few of those examples. In most cases it’s our mind that self-imposes the limitations that allow us to see only B&W and miss all the possibilities within the color spectrum. We tend to embrace a scarcity mindset by default.
Most of us are fortunate to have light receptors in our eyes, called “cones,” that are optimized to detect different wavelengths of light, and with just three cones most people can distinguish millions of distinct colors.[i] We also have “mental cones” to ColorThink™. The difference, though, is that our visual cones usually work on autopilot, outside of our awareness, whereas our mental cones need to be trained.
In this book, you’ll learn to use your mental cones to ColorThink™ and start enjoying a world of vibrant color with your mind as well as with your eyes.
Using your mental cones is as easy as changing some of the words you use—you’ll “see.”
* * *
[i] Some people, unfortunately, suffer from color blindness, where at least one of these cones is missing or mutated, and this makes it harder for them to tell red from green. On the other extreme, some women have an extra type of cone, which gives them “super color vision.”