Years ago I read this miserable book called The Secret. Spoiler: this book’s is garbage and I don’t care about ruining it for you. Not one bit. In any case, the book is about the idea that we bring to ourselves whatever we want through the power of positive thinking. Essentially, if you believe (but SECRET, you have to REALLY believe) that you’re going to make a million dollars this year, then you will make a million dollars this year. It doesn’t define any system of scaffolding for achieving your goals because according to the book, you JUST have to believe. And if you believe and you DON’T get the thing that you believed in then the problem is that you just didn’t quite believe enough. Because anyone who has ever ACTUALLY believed something was going to happen has achieved these goals. This book is worse than feces.
Recently, my social media timelines have been inundated with beautiful landscape scenes, overwritten with phrases like, “be the change you want to see” and “if you can believe it, you can achieve it.” Now, at the core, there is nothing wrong with those philosophies. The world could use a solid dose of positivity and people who change the world through their action. It’s not the positivity that bothers me. It’s what I call the Seinfeld Superman effect.
I’ll start by saying (hides behind dumpster) that I never liked the show Seinfeld. Not at all. I think it was dumb and I just never got into it. But I love Jerry Seinfeld’s standup routine. In one bit, he’s talking about the ridiculousness of the packaging on his Superman Halloween Costume/pajamas and he says,
“I love the person who thinks that they ARE Superman by wearing these pajamas but has the common sense to check the box….”
As I said, I like motivational quotes, but I’m in awe when people say things like, “that quote changed my life.” Really? That quote changed your life? If all it took to change your life was a picture of a kitten hanging from a branch with a text bubble that said, “hang in there”, there is a legitimate problem with your life. In the same sense, if you were trudging along living a miserable life and someone says, “be the change you want to see” and you just…do that…why weren’t you doing it before? Did it really take a picture of an eagle flying over a mountain top to get it through your head that you should take your fate into your own hands?
I’ll be honest, there are a few books that have changed my life. The Legend of Bagger Vance changed the way I look at the quest for perfection. The Way of The Peaceful Warrior changed the way I look at happiness and its pursuit. A Different Kind of Christmas (when I was a child) changed my perspective on race and equality.
But at no point, ever, has a quote changed my life. At no point have I just WISHED myself more successful and it’s an insult to the hustle and hard work that’s required to succeed when you suggest otherwise. It’s infuriating to see someone suggest that just being happy and believing in yourself will make you successful. Will it help? Hell yeah it will help. When you believe in yourself you’re more confident, you’re more willing to take risks and thus more willing to get that big win. But that’s not what The Secret, or those posters of people looking longingly at mountains, is all about.
You can absolutely have a positive impact on your life by having a positive attitude. But please don’t suggest that JUST thinking positively is going to make you successful. No. Work your ass off. Also be positive. But work harder than you’ve ever worked before. THAT’S the actual “secret” to success and honestly, even then there’s no guarantees. But it’s a start and it’s a lot better start than a picture of a calm and tranquil ocean overlaid with a proverb.