Published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, February 8, 2021
“The Power of Positive Thinking,” 1952, by Norman Vincent Peale, was on the New York Times Best Sellers list for 186 consecutive weeks. The book blended a heady stew of religion-psychiatry with a light touch of bright shamanism, served with a creamy garlic sauce of Horatio Alger, and voila, a meal fit for a king or at worst a true believer, wanting to get ahead.
This mid-century hunger spawned a pantheon of preachers who sermonized on the theology of the power of prosperity. My personal favorite was Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II, better known as Reverend Ike to those of us who listened to his ministry. “If you can see yourself in a Cadillac, then you will have the Cadillac.”
Well, Normie and Ike, it turns out that you are now back in fashion with Gen Z, as well as with some of my younger, more spiritual CEOs. It is now called “manifesting,” and Ruth La Ferla, a New York Times reporter, has called out this new age for this age. And the young tech entrepreneurs have embraced it.
She writes about a 35-year-old Bronx-bred fashion designer, who “as a child launched his dreams into the universe,” and the next day his dad brought home the Power Ranger Flip Heads that he wanted so badly. Today this magical thinking, along with tarot and psychic astrology, are filling the need for wellness and comfort in the young and the restless, who can make little sense of the world today with its attendant “imposed social and economic malaise.”
La Ferla says, “The law of attraction is a belief that your experiences have a direct correlation to your thoughts,” and true believers have “faith that we can manipulate energy.”
Wow. I am so old and out of touch. My insensitive response is dude, just hunker down and do the work. La Ferla says, “Manifesting has become one of the defining memes of 2020.” Who knows, maybe I could manifest up a Lambo.
La Ferla, in her article titled “Manifesting, for the rest of us,” interviewed Marta Langston, 18, a high school senior who said, “The law of attraction is part of the new enlightenment.” She sees manifesting as “exactly like placing an order from a catalog.” Tell that to Bezos, and you have a startup.
La Ferla also writes about a psychiatrist, Dr. Denise Fournier, who says that “people want to believe that they can close their eyes and wish for a mega-mansion.” She tells her client that this is insanity, that the world does not work that way. But fake news works, so why can’t dreams?
Now, forgiving a bit of my arrogant snot, I need to confess that I think “visualization” has some real merit. I tell my current crop of CEOs not to be unduly limited by their current metrics or the reality of last month’s numbers. I encourage them to see ahead — and having seen, then in a concrete way to plan, but to plan further than what they could see. Stretch is not the same as wish.
A CEO I work with says his company needs to raise $2.5 million. I suggested, why not raise $5 million? He says that the numbers don’t support that based on what he had learned “in the past effort to raise money.” The key here is “past effort.” Could you manifest a future based on hard work that would qualify for that financing? Can you envision a possibility that may not actually, today, be possible, but might be possible?
I do not support or believe in any of the above woo-woo about divine thought and bending a spoon with your mind, but we all need to allow for the possibility of good things to happen.
La Ferla also writes about Marianne Williamson, a writer and Democratic presidential candidate, who believes we must “say yes to what we know can be true.” Not is, but can be.
A corollary in my little world is that we need to speak it in order to make it concrete. I have told you in the past that I talk to myself on the bike ride. I contend that saying it out loud, is different than thinking it. I wrote recently about hearing and listening. Well, it is OK to listen to yourself.
This fantasy space of self help is filled with shamans, promoters, phonies and crooks, but I know that the power of visualization, married to real effort, can be magical. I dream of VC with the light brown hair.
Rule No. 694