Can We Ever Really Change What We Are?


mohinder“When we embrace what lies within, our potential has no limit. The future is filled with promise; the present rife with expectation. When we deny our instinct, and struggle against our deepest urges, uncertainty begins. Where does this path lead? When will the changes end? Is this transformation a gift or a curse? For those who fear what lies ahead, the most important question of all – can we ever really change what we are?” –Mohinder Suresh, “The Fix,” Heroes.

So yesterday was day number four of this, my newest venture and adventure, The Domino Principle. If the launch of this blog this past Monday marked the tipping over of the first domino in the chain that I’ve envisioned in order to bring The Domino Principle to fruition and broad visibility, then yesterday that first domino resulted in the tipping of the second domino in the chain. And it set into play consequences very likely to tip many more dominoes in the future.

It was also my first real opportunity to talk to people in public about what The Domino Principle is all about. Over the past month, as I began to develop and mature the concept, I’ve been bouncing ideas around with people who are close to me. But those people know me. They are used to me being, well… different. They know I come up with things that no normal person would ever think of or consider, and that sometimes (but not always) I actually find ways to make them work, sometimes quite spectacularly. They encourage me, and they humor me.

The people I talked to yesterday were primarily really smart business executives and reporters, and they were mostly people who didn’t previously know me. So talking to them was very, very different. I had doubts… would they understand the value of what I am trying to do, or would they think me a crackpot off on some wild tangent? Litmus test time!

One-on-one conversations introducing myself to someone would invariably go through three distinct phases, something like this…


Me: Hi, I’m Cliff Kurtzman, and I’m with The Domino Principle
Them: Oh! What’s that?
Me: Well, it is a new venture that I launched this past Monday.
Them (eyebrows raised): Cool! And what does the company do?

Me: [Now here I used several different replies talking to different people, with the intention of seeing how people might react to different ways of looking at things. Here are some elements of what was included in different replies:]

We help people understand how the repercussions of disruptive events, like the dramatic drop in the price of oil, the expansion of global terrorism, the fiscal consequences of having an out-of-control national debt, or the environmental effects of global warming, will affect ourselves, our families, and our businesses.

We are building a global brand around the idea of helping people take control of their lives and shape their futures.

We’ve started by launching The Domino Principle blog, which is a place where people can connect to have important conversations, the conversations that help navigate difficult waters, as we each seek to shape our future and understand our place in this fragile world.


Them: Well that sounds kinda neat, but… how do you make money?

Me: [This is an inevitable question, but one I prefer to answer without getting terribly specific. There are many ways that one might monetize the brand and the blog, but I don’t give out my business plan to random people. So I tell them, quite truthfully…] At the moment, our focus is on exploring ways to make an impact and help people, and build audience for our blog. Once we’ve done that, we see a variety of ways to generate income.


[So at this point, the look I’m getting back from the person with whom I’m talking is nearly always the same. They half smile, with eyebrows slightly squinting. The look says… this is interesting, but it is weird, and extremely vague. The look says that they don’t really think it makes sense for someone to do what I’ve told them I’m doing. And then comes the inevitable question. Always.]

Them: Soooooo, what is your background? [Or… What did you do before this?]

Me: Well, I did my Ph.D. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering at M.I.T., and then I came out to Houston and worked for several years for a company that was commercializing the production of new materials in low Earth orbit. I wanted to fly on the Shuttle, and never made it because of my eyesight, but at least two of my M.I.T. classmates did! Then in 1994 I founded the first online marketing and web development company in Houston. Then I ran a management consulting firm for a few years, and when I saw the potential for social media to really take off, I started MyCityRocks, a company that operates an online ticket marketplace, kinda like StubHub but better. It has generated more than $30 million in sales since 2007, and I’ve had a lot of fun with it, but I decided it was time for me to do something new and challenging with my life, so I’ve started The Domino Principle.

And by the time I’ve gotten about 1/2 way through my reply, the squint is gone. When I’ve finished my reply, the half-smile has become full. There is a complete change in facial expression and body language. My explanation seems to provide enough context for the person to consider that I might actually be able to do what I’ve told them that I’m trying to do, and that if I can pull it off, it might potentially provide significant value to themselves and the people important to them. And they often ask or offer ways in which they can help.

Of course, I ask them for their story as well, and usually business cards are exchanged. My new business cards went to the printer in California last week, and arrived here in Houston on Monday, just in time for me to be able to hand them out. It brought me a smile when one of the reporters spent some real time examining my card and mentioned it was quite cool… yes, it is worth putting attention into the details so you can stand out in a good way!


Yesterday was a good day. The chain reaction of the dominoes has begun. People liked what they heard, and I was made an offer that should vastly expand the readership of this blog and the influence of The Domino Principle. I’ll tell you more about it once the ink has dried.

AKnightsTaleYoung William Thatcher: “Can it be done, father?  Can a man change the stars?”

William’s father: “Yes William. If he believes enough, a man can do anything!”

–A Knight’s Tale

DOminoes are activists. Their first name is DO. I could use just a little help from my friends to enable The Domino Principle to gain sufficient critical mass to become more successful and useful. Our readers, like you, are influencers, and YOU can DO something quick and easy that would use your influence to help us out. Below each article we publish on The Domino Principle blog (like this one), you’ll see buttons to share the article on social media. Please use these buttons to share our articles, especially the option to share our articles with your friends on Facebook. It will really help spread the word of what we are trying to accomplish!


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