Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.
An article in the Guardian caught my eye and furrowed my brow this
week, as it denigrated the benefits of positive thinking. In particular, it took to task “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill, the self-help book from the 1930s, and a bestseller ever since. This reminded me of so many instances where people, in print or in person denounce ideas and philosophies without fully understanding or testing them. It seems that too many people are looking for the easy way, the quick fix or the shortcut to health, wealth and happiness.
I have heard people ridicule and demonise all sorts of things, claiming that they don’t work or are a matter of luck. More often than not, the people who make the most noise about them have never read the book, never tried the technique or given the method chance to work. I am thinking of those who condemned the Atkins diet, when only following a small selection of the recommendations; or those who pour scorn on the Law of Attraction without following all of the steps in the formula. I even read a piece in a magazine declaring that brainstorming doesn’t work, but deep in the summary it admitted that it only didn’t work if the process was not followed correctly.
Both Hill and Stephen Covey invoke natural law, calling it the law of gender or the law of the farm – some things, most things happen when they are ready. Seeds take time to germinate and grow, bread dough needs time to rise, successful farmers only harvest when the crop is ready, and many of these ideas will work, but only if we use them correctly and give them enough time to work.
Of course I am, on occasion as guilty as others. I scoff at fad diets, believing it better to change your diet rather than “go on a diet”. However, I know people who have found diets that have worked for them, so good luck to them. Six months of nothing but Guinness and bananas will not be to everyone’s taste, but it helped a rugby friend to lose a lot of weight! We all have different experiences, and all learn differently from them, but do avoid condemning new – or old – ideas until you have tried them, or at least read the book! I have read these books and have doubts about some of their claims, and am sure nobody can become thin, rich or famous just by wishing for it, but thinking positively about your goals and ambitions is an important step to success in any field.