Beginnings and Endings

I cnduo’t bvleiee taht I culod aulaclty uesdtannrd waht I was rdnaieg. Unisg the icndeblire pweor of the hmuan mnid, aocdcrnig to rseecrah at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mttaer in waht oderr the lterets in a wrod are, the olny irpoamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rhgit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whoutit a pboerlm. Tihs is bucseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey ltteer by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Aaznmig, huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghhuot slelinpg was ipmorantt! See if yuor fdreins can raed tihs too.

Could you read the above with little or no problem? Probably the answer is yes. The reason, from what the paragraph itself says, is that the human mind doesn’t process the individual letters, but the whole word. As long as the first and last letter is correct, the middle ones can be jumbled without preventing our translation of the meaning.

I get another lesson from this also. The importance of beginnings and endings. I’ve been taught how important they are in writing, and I can hypothesize how important they are in life.

In Writing

Start with the big picture and then zoom in to the micro level. You must have a strong opening to your book or story to make someone want to read it. A strong ending will leave them satisfied and wanting to read your next book. When chapters use this same principle, that is what keeps us up till 2 a.m. to finish a book. How can you not turn the page when a chapter ends with a cliff hanger and the next one sets up an intriguing situation?

Like the eye “skips” over the jumbled middle letters in the words above, so does the reader sometimes skim through your text. To be sure they don’t miss some vital meaning, it’s important to front- and end-load your paragraphs and sentences. A great writer knows writing this way also makes the text more impactful.

Does this mean that what happens in between isn’t important? Certainly not. Even in the word scramble above, HOW the middle letters are scrambled determines how easy or difficult it is to interpret. Notice the word slelinpg in the second to last sentence. At first glance, it could easily be read as sleeping instead of spelling until you realize there is only one E and two L’s.

In Life

Some of us are born into pretty crappy life stories. Everything from poverty and abuse to just your ordinary, everyday dysfunctional family. Then there are those lucky ones who are born to people with great parenting skills and/or lots of money. Which beginning do you think gives a person a higher probability of leaving an impact on the world when they die?

However, like the word “slelinpg” in the word scramble, the circumstances of your birth does not determine your destiny, it just determines how hard a row you have to hoe. It’s my theory that if you start out with the odds stacked against you and wind up a success (however you want to define it), your beginning qualifies as a strong opener. Likewise, if you do nothing meaningful with your life despite the front-loaded jump start you were born with, you’ve written a poorly lived life despite that wealth of assets.

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