Monday, June 15, 2020

4602 Misery and Positive Thinking

Most of our eyes are focused on misery nowadays. And with good reason.  There are so many things about which to be miserable. President trump and his gazillion side effects.  The economy (lipstick on a pig,) inequality among the races, inequality of compensation, endless wars and the still almighty COVID-19.

But within this compost heap are some diamonds people succeeding at this and that.  How do they get that way?

A lot of it is blind luck. Being in the right place at the right time with the right stuff.  Some of it is horse sense.

This space has long been hostile territory to the Positive Thinking Crowd.  We believe that the coiner of the phrase, the late Norman Vincent Peale was one of the most dangerous civilian thinkers of the 20th century.  Why? Because with great humility and good intention, he codified “positive thinking” as an axiom, something that cannot be reduced into its common parts because there are none.

That’s untrue. But many believe it to this day.  “Look at the bright side.” “Every problem bears the seeds of its own solution.”  This leads to “negative thinking” as its own axiom.  It’s not axiomatic either.

There’s nothing wrong with positive thinking per se until it moves into the realm of delusion. 

But in this age of many miseries, there are things and people that are succeeding.  For example, there are general merchandise retailers expanding or at least holding their own in a shrinking industry. There are newspapers that are expanding or at least holding their own as the printed word sinks to its rightful place in the world of media.
Most if not all those successful entities share some characteristics. They carry little or no debt. They do not expand unnecessarily or extravagantly or too fast. They do not rely on fads but embrace them timidly.  And many of them are privately or closely held -- no real ties to Wall Street, to analysts, to brokers, to hedge funds, to private equity funds and other financial flimflams.

They are goal oriented without being obsessive.  And there’s the rainy day stash.  Even the mighty Apple and the equally mighty Berkshire Hathaway have a ton of actual American dollars in a Scrooge McDuck style vault.

The people who make the companies work, generally don’t have the time to read self-help books and follow the rituals, habits and thinking processes the books describe.

A word about those books.  Well, more than a word. First, they’ve been bedside reading since the gradual advent of the Bible and other writings labeled “sacred.”

Then, the most helpful help in all of the self-help books combined: Read the table of contents.  That’ll tell you whether the book is worth anything.  And the author of that idea was Napoleon Hill, one of the most prolific self help writers of all time.

Second good advice:  the key to all those books is in the title. Most of the rest of the book will be packing peanuts and how the author rose to great wealth or great romance or great reputation though largely through happenstance and circumstance and then claimed to have found this or that Grrreat Secret.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ® 
Any Questions?
© WJR 2020

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