Do you ever get cranky? The high cost of pooh-poohing the success industry

by | Apr 10, 2010

If you’ve ever read a sales letter or listened to a “free introductory seminar” and thought to yourself, “bull pucky,” this article is for you.
It’s about the success industry, what’s gross about it, and–more importantly–the high cost of pooh-poohing it.
The gross piece
I have a low tolerance for big promises about effortless wealth and happiness. I’ve never known of something of great value that was achieved without significant effort, and I resent anyone or who suggests that people who work hard are somehow spiritually impaired.
(Yes, that’s a stressful thought. I’ll get to that in a minute.)
Too much of the success industry is a pyramid scheme. I sell you my success system, then you sell it to the next person, and on and on. I think it’s dishonest, and it can be heartbreaking (and expensive) for the last people in the chain.
And don’t get me started on the come ons about leverage. The flippant statement, “You have to spend money to make money” can be cruel. While there’s truth here, it’s also true that if you don’t have money to spend, your lever won’t lift a thing.
Enough about that.
The high cost of pooh-poohing success
While meditating the other day, I had a blinding flash of the obvious. I had become preoccupied with the shadow side of success, and I was in danger of losing sight of the light.
I was becoming habitually jaded. In danger of throwing the good news baby out with the b.s. bath water.
Because there is good news, you know. There are kernels of truth in the most facile teachings. Useful tools in the most shallow systems.
The good news is that you do have choices
The good news is that you do have choices, lots of choices, over what to do with your life. No, they are not limitless. In my experience you cannot manhandle reality with your thoughts and expect to succeed.
But you can work with the hand you are dealt and make the most of it. You can choose to accept reality, which generates a mood of peace. You can choose to embrace possibility, which generates a mood of healthy ambition.
You can look on the bright side without denying that the dark side exists.
The sad story and the happy story are both stories
Pessimism is the expectation that things will turn out badly. Optimism the expectation that things will turn out well. They are both gambles. Stories about the future. Stories whose plots we can influence, but whose outcomes we cannot control.
But the odds of having an optimistic result increase dramatically when we choose to at least entertain the happier story. We don’t have to believe that we control the universe to adopt the position that good things happen. We needn’t drink the kool-aid of instant wealth to take actions today to increase our well-being tomorrow.
What you can do to choose your story
The first step to choosing a happy story over a sad one is to be aware of which one you are living. When you aren’t aware that the way things seem is a story, your perceptions and choices confirm the story, and before long it seems like the simple truth.
One good indicator that you are caught up in a sad story is defensiveness and justification. Notice when you defend a negative point of view and notice what you get for that.
Another indicator that you are choosing a sad story is resenting happy stories. There’s a big difference between seeing through a scam and being preoccupied with it.
When you realize you’re in a sad story, take a moment to acknowledge it. Pushing it away just gives it power. Consciously inhabit it and let yourself notice what kind of world emerges when you live there. As best you can, don’t berate yourself for what you find. Just notice.
Then ask yourself what world would emerge if you dropped your sad story. See if that world could be as legitimate as the one you’re in now. You won’t need to force a choice, just allow yourself to see the alternatives.
A tool to work with stories
The best tool I know for working with stories is The Work of Byron Katie. The Work consists of four questions and a turn around that thoroughly (and kindly) excavate stressful thoughts and reveal peaceful options. You can get everything you need to do The Work from Katie’s Web site,
Please share your stories
I’d love for you to share your experience with sad and happy stories in the comments.
Photo: hapal via Flickr
Under a Creative Commons License