Random, determined or coincidence: Why do things happen?

Random, determined or coincidence: Why do things happen?

The Law Of Attraction, made popular by the book "The Secret," asks us are thing determined, random or conicidence

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2014 – A former Washington, D.C. CNN reporter recently had a “one-in-a-million” experience. How is it that the world arranges things?

Do things occur randomly, or is there a greater force that accounts for the occurrence of events? Is coincidence responsible? Why are some people crime or “accident” victims?

The reporter, in her master’s program over a decade ago, came across the works of a scholar whom she wanted to interview for her thesis. She contacted him and he provided a great deal of help. The scholar had developed a theory that many in the field later used, relied upon and cited, but he never published his work or findings about the theory.

The reporter offered her encouragement to the scholar to publish.

Read more Leading Edge Advice by Paul Samakow

The reporter long ago finished her thesis and became a therapist. She was in a taxicab recently in New York City, and, as she was getting out, she found a mobile telephone. A split decision made, she figured if she gave it to the cabbie, the owner of the telephone might never see it again; she desired to make sure it was returned.

The telephone belonged to a close relative of the scholar. The reporter turned therapist was eventually put in touch with the scholar; the old conversation was revisited, and the scholar, again at the urging of the therapist, is now going to publish his theory.

What is the likelihood of this encounter?

In 2006, Rhonda Byrne released what would become a 146-week bestselling book on the New York Times bestseller list. The Secret revealed “The Law of Attraction”; it was published in 46 languages and sold more than 190 million copies. Oprah devoted two of her television shows to the topic. The book is about why things happen.

Byrne told us that positive thoughts attract positive results in life, and negative thoughts attract negative results. The concept is not a new one. Napoleon Hill’s 1937 book Think and Grow Rich is an example of the wildly attractive concept, as evidenced by the over 70 million copies that had sold at the time of Hill’s death in 2011.

The Secret’s premise is a philosophic basis for understanding why people get what they get in life. It extrapolates into action steps suggesting that by changing the nature of your thoughts, outcomes in your life will change.

The criticism of the book and the concept is extensive. An example is that, if one hundred thousand people were dying of thirst during a drought, it is not because those people were thinking a whole lot of negative thoughts.

Kyle Hill, writing for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry in 2013, says,

  • If The Secret weren’t a secret but a reality, “attractiveness” would take on an altogether different meaning. Like degrees of physical attractiveness, everyone would have a degree of mental ability to manifest anything they desired — shoes, cars, diamonds, lovers, outcomes, anything. If brain waves could really make it out of the head and into some cosmic crucible of creation, neurology would be radically transformed (not to mention that it would become the most groundbreaking science in history).

Hill says that, if the law of attraction were the norm, so would be blaming the victim. He offers that every accident, every illness, every misfortune would then be either the result of negative thinking or insufficient positive thinking.

Certainly, if you are sulking or walking around feeling like a victim, common sense and police will tell you there is a much greater chance of being a victim, because criminals can pick up on that and will take advantage. There is something to be said for attitude, demeanor, mind-set or “swagger.”

The concept of coincidence is also one with differing views and explanations.

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David J. Hand explains in his book The Improbability Principle that extremely improbable events are commonplace. An example in his book concerns a man who survived seven different strikes by lightning. Roy Sullivan was a park ranger in Virginia and spent a great deal of time outside in all types of weather. He was struck by lightning in 1942, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1976 and 1977 and says one more strike occurred when he was a child.

What is the chance that someone in a room with you has your birthday? If there are 23 people in the room, it is more than 50 percent, 70 percent if the number in the room is 30. Hand explains this phenomenon with one of his theories called the law of truly large numbers. There are more than 16 million people on the planet who share your birthday. At a pro-football game with 50,000 fans in attendance, 135 will likely have your birthday.

The New York Times ran a story about a woman who won the New Jersey lottery twice and called her chances “1 in 17 trillion.” Statisticians Stephen Samuels and George McCabe of Purdue University then announced that the odds were more like 1 in 30 for a four-month period and even better for a seven-year period, because players do not buy one ticket, but multiple tickets for each lottery every week.

On Sept. 28, 2005, golfer Joan Creswell hit a hole in one at the Barrow Gold Club in Cumbria, United Kingdom. Immediately afterward, then and there, novice golfer Margaret Williams did the same thing.

Clearly, sometimes events happen that seem so improbable and so unexpected that they make us believe that there is something about the universe we do not understand. We are tasked to explain them and might simply conclude that familiar “laws” of nature and causality -– those by which we run our lives -– once in a while break down.

Law of attraction advocates will tell you there are no coincidences, at least not in the sense that things happen randomly or by chance. They say everything that happens does so by bringing together matching energy, whether or not we are aware of it − which is why events can seem random.

The reporter turned therapist’s experience is hard to explain and does not appear to hover in any “attraction” explanation. This view of “happening” is only from the therapist’s view, however. Perhaps if we look at the scholar’s world, we might say it was him somehow putting out the energy about his work and then the random finding of his relative’s telephone triggered his interest to now publish.

Can you avoid becoming a crime or accident victim? Perhaps. Practice common sense. Think positively, avoid the forest if you’ve been struck by lightning more than once, walk with a swagger, drive safely, don’t text while driving, pay attention to the road and other drivers, look to see if there is jelly spilled on the food store aisle and don’t pet someone else’s dog.


Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia and has been practicing since 1980.  He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website

His new book “Who Will Pay My Auto Accident Bills?, The Most Comprehensive Nationwide Auto Accident Resolution Book, Ever” can be reviewed on http://www.completeaccidentbook.com and can be ordered there, or obtained directly on Amazon: Click here to order 

Mr. Samakow’s “Don’t Text and Drive” campaign, El Textarudo, has become nationally recognized. Please visit the website http://www.textarudo.com and “like” the concept on the Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/textarudo.

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