The Tin Man, Tom Terrific, and Buddha?

In 1958 and 1959 Gene Deitch drew a cartoon series called Tom Terrific. For 26 episodes Tom, along with his companion, Mighty Manfred, the Wonder Dog, would be featured on the Captain Kangaroo television show where each of the the 26 stories was presented in daily 5-minute excerpts, most of which ended in some sort of a cliff-hanger. I think i was probably going to watch Captain Kangaroo the next day anyway – with or without an episode of Tom Terrific – but I do remember feeling tense or anxious when Crabby Appleton had Tom in some tight spot at the end of a 5-minute clip. I quickly learned that Tom – like most TV heroes – was going to overcome in the end, so I surely never lost any sleep between episodes.


Some readers may already suspect why I’m talking about Tom Terrific today. But before I get to the rest of the message today, please allow me to remind you of another much loved character from MGM’s Wizard of Oz…

“When a man’s an empty kettle

He should be on his mettle

And yet I’m torn apart

Just because I’m presumin’

That I could be kind of human

If I only had a heart!”

Yes, I’m talking about the farmhand, Hickory, who appeared in Dorothy’s dream as the Tin woodsman (played by the beloved Jack Haley.)

woo tin

So what do the Tin Man and Tom Terrific have in common? Yes, they both wear a funnel on their head…

 and so do you and I!

To learn more about the funnel on (or in?) your head, read on:

If you ask a person what will happen when you pour water into the top of a funnel, they’ll quickly tell you that water will come out the bottom of the funnel. If you ask them why, they may hesitate but will usually see or agree that it happens because of gravity, or more specifically, the LAW of gravity.

Do you believe in gravity? Let me assure you that gravity doesn’t care whether you believe in it. Do we ever doubt gravity? Do we wonder if it’s going to work tomorrow? Did you lose any sleep last night worrying about whether your car would be floating around the ceiling of the garage in the morning? Probably not. Gravity, discovered or more accurately named by Sir Isaac Newton, is such a natural part of our world that we rarely think about it. We simply accept it and expect it.

I’d now like to introduce you to another universal law. I urge you to likewise accept it and expect it, but I understand any reluctance you may have. When you take an honest and thoughtful look around you, I suspect you will realize that you have observed this law throughout your life! Once you are more consciously aware of this law you can take more fuller advantage of it.

The “Law of the Funnel” is similar to the law of gravity, but most of us have never been taught the law, and yet we are all subject to it. It is best illustrated using 5 words. In fact it is the shape of the 5 words that give the law its name. A 5-letter word, followed by a 4-letter word, and then a 3-letter, 2-letter, and 1-letter word – when listed in a column, form the shape of a funnel (or inverted triangle.)

x     x     x     x     x

x     x     x     x

x     x     x

x     x


Let’s fill in those 5 words and see our funnel.

The things I THINK

determine how I FEEL

which shapes how I ACT

what I will or won’t DO

and ultimately decide who I am.

T    H    I    N    K

F    E    E    L

A    C    T

D    O


And, like a funnel, whatever we put in the top will come out the bottom!

The thoughts we put into our mind and allow into our mind will eventually and inevitably determine who we become.

Here’s an example of the law in action:

When a person thinks of themselves as a victim of certain circumstances, the thoughts cause them to involuntarily feel a certain way. They do not choose to feel these negative feelings. They simply come naturally (as rain naturally falls downward.) As they feel the negative feelings, the way they act  and the things they do will also be directed by the negative feelings. If they continue in this negative thought process they will in fact become a different person than they could otherwise have been. Futures have surely been altered by the thoughts in a person’s mind. But imagine instead the same circumstances occurred but the person though of themselves as a survivor of those circumstances. A simple shift of thought – from victim to survivor – changes the course of that person’s life.

To be clear, the Law of the Funnel doesn’t mean that by thinking about winning the lottery we can make it so. We have no authority over the lottery, but we do have authority over our thoughts. After all, it’s our funnel! So let’s ask some important questions:

What’s in it?

Who put it there?

Is it true?

Is it helpful?

Is it moving us toward our goals?

Now I understand that the spirit of mindfulness would have us be aware of our thoughts without judging them. But I also understand that holding certain thoughts (until we perfect acceptance) can have a distinctly negative effect upon our well-being. So, iI will always be a fan of mindful practices. They can truly restore and strengthen our neural pathways. BUT (you could tell there was a “but” coming, couldn’t you?) sometimes just allowing thoughts to persist in the mind can be harmful. For instance, giving head-space to thoughts of some past events which detract from our sense of self-worth can lead to actions based upon our degraded sense of self. Not cool – not OK! Allowing those thoughts to “just be” can be very hard. Until we learn to perfectly accept them without being influenced by them (a noble goal of mindfulness) let’s take a hard look at the thoughts that run through our minds and see if some of them need a re-write.

When rewriting a story or reframing a thought, I encourage people to be sure that they are still telling the truth, but perhaps in a way that is easier to bear. By shifting the focus or adjusting our perspective, we can often craft a true version of a story that highlights different aspects and ultimately feels better. It is not advisable – in my opinion – to alter the facts, but to bring the story to a place of kinder understanding – to a place where we can sit with that truth and not be adversely influenced by it.

I believe the Apostle Paul may have understood the potential we each have to change ourselves. He wrote that we needn’t be as we are, we needn’t be as we were in the past, but that we could change ourselves by changing what’s in our funnel. “Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

I believe the Law of the Funnel can help us smooth some of the rough edges off of painful thoughts so we can better sit and be at peace with them.

The Law f the Funnel has always been true and other people have observed and described it in other times and and in other words and in other lands, but I believe its truth is both timeless and inescapable.

“A man is what he thinks about all day long.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A man’s life is the sum of what his thoughts make him.” – Marcus Aurelius

Quotes attributed to Buddha:

“Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think.”

“Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise the wise man, gathering little by little, fills himself with good.”

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.”

So, if we can agree that the Law of the Funnel is real, them let’s try to think about what we think about (brain cramp alert!) and let’s put good stuff in our funnel and the funnels of those around us!

CLICK HERE to download a copy of a worksheet about the Law of the funnel (so you can teach it to your friends.) >>> Funnel 2019

Thanks for taking good care of you (and your funnel!)

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1 thought on “The Tin Man, Tom Terrific, and Buddha?”

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