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"Some are rock, some are water," the Dream Guide said. "Most are a bit of each."

"You mean the rocks don't change much?" I asked.

"Right," she said. "Call it stubbornness, call it integrity, call it whatever, but those who are mostly rock just barrel through life expecting everyone else to change around them."

"And water?"

"You might call them pushovers, you might call them adaptable, but as living things, we all react to the environment around us in some way. That makes up our water component."

"So how does this apply to me?" I asked.

"I'm going to show you how to strengthen your rock components. I'm going to teach you to believe you have a pen in your pocket, even when you don't."

"How is that helpful?" I asked.

"Bear with me." She held up her hand. "First you start with doubt. You can't feel a pen in your pocket, so maybe there's nothing there. Then you just assume it's there. And we start building castles in the sky."

"So we're building on flimsy foundations."

"Exactly," she said. "Bear with me. After you assume you have a pen, you have to ask yourself what the next step is. Paper over your assumptions with new thoughts, until your original doubts have been completely obscured by added layers. For example, you might leave your house with notepad in hand, assuming you have a pen. You might assume you want to draw trees at a park. You might assume your friend wants pictures of trees. You might assume your friend will love drawings of trees on her wall. By the time you're thinking about that, your original doubts have been completely buried."

"Until I'm hit by the rude awakening that I have no pen at the park," I said.

"Are you sure?" she asked.

That took me off guard and I was almost tempted to check my pockets, but I stood firm. "Yes I'm sure."

"But this isn't really about making pens appear out of thin air," she said. "This is about the other doubts you have in your life. Do other people like me? Are they secretly saying bad things about me? Are they planning to do bad things to me?"

"And how will this help?"

"Ok, let's say you start with the assumption that they secretly all like you. It doesn't matter if it's true or not, just wrap yourself in a layer of those assumptions. What do you do then?"

"Um, I'm not sure."

"If you haven't thought that far, start doing it. If everyone likes you, you can assume they want to help you. Add that layer on top. If they want to help you, you have to come up with some project they can help you with. You see where we're going with this? You keep building up assumptions in the direction you want. Maybe you want their help building a house. Maybe you assume one of them is or knows a good electrician. So instead of preparing to protect yourself from attack, you're instead asking them for a good electrician. Your assumptions and beliefs determine your actions."

"So those added layers are supposed to be me building up my rock?" I asked.

"Yes, the more you harden those fixed parts of your personality, the more you force others to flow around you. Hold fast to your frame around reality and those who don't care as much will come to see it your way. Rock against rock is going to be a tough battle, but rock against water is easy. People don't really know themselves anyway. If they don't particularly care what they want to do Friday night, it means they are much easier to convince to do what you want."

"You don't think they'll hate me for being pushy?" I asked.

"You're letting doubt get the best of you again. Don't imagine them hating you. Imagine them already wanting to do what you want, and just needing you as an excuse to do it. The next layer after that is transportation, then who pays for the whole thing, then what you do afterwards. If you skip right to talking about what you do afterwards, you've thrown in so many assumptions that almost everthing else is pushed aside. And your own buried doubts become even harder to find if your friends never heard them in the first place."

She picked up a stone from the lakeside and as if in demonstration, cast it into the water.

"Here's another example. Let's say you and your friends are hanging around a chessboard, and you're worried someone will make you look bad at chess. Push things along. Assume they don't want normal chess. Assume the match has already progressed. Set up the board yourself. Assume everyone is on the same side. Convince them to show you what a game is like with just a king versus a couple knights and bishops. If they don't particularly care about what they're doing, their water is going to part to make way for your stones. If you hold your frame of reality steadfast enough, you can even shatter less firmly held frames. But their frames will become more water than rock if your own frame is that you are all on the same side. Are you getting this down?"

"Right, yes," I said. "If we are all on the same side," I repeated.

"But don't try to convince them that you are on the same side," she continued. "Assume they've already been convinced. Then ask yourself what should be done after they've been convinced, and add that to your layers of assumptions."

"Ok, so if we're on the same side already, what should we do next," I repeated.

"Exactly," she said. "Maybe there's some project you've always wanted to work on, or you have to assume they're all dying to help."

It was then that I realized the pen I was writing with wasn't there before.