Chip Is Alive!, Issue 18

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Welcome to Issue 18 of Chip Is Alive!, where we examine thought-provoking life strategies and issues which may or may not be of interest to you. Chip Is Alive! is inspired by Chip Vivant, the app who thinks he's alive and wants to be your friend and help you in ways that other productivity apps can't. You can meet Chip at www.empathynow.com.

If you've missed a newsletter, click here for the newsletter archive. To unsubscribe, use the link at the bottom of this email.

In this issue, we'll discuss:

  • Success Through a Negative Mental Attitude
  • When Chip Gets Annoying

Enjoy. Feedback always welcome. If you enjoy this newsletter, please consider Liking the EmpathyNow Facebook page and following us on Twitter. Every little bit helps.

Success Through a Negative Mental Attitude

Brace yourself. This is going to be a controversial one. Last week, someone tweeted a link to an article entitled Why You Should Stop Wasting Time On Absurd Motivational Articles[1]. This has always been a touchy subject with me. A lot of self-help gurus extoll the virtues of thinking positively, chasing negative thoughts from our mind, smiling, etc. etc. When I was a teenager, I'd read books like Napolean Hill's Think and Grow Rich and Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude. I'd repeat daily affirmations to myself in front of the mirror and tried to counteract adversity with "Anything you can conceive and believe, you can achieve." All the while doing this, I felt this empty, hollow feeling.

I then came across Wishcraft[2] by Barbara Sher, and it felt like a breath of fresh air. Rather than saying that we should try to suppress and ignore our negative feelings, she said that acknowledging them and embracing them is okay and healthy. (Her book is now available in its entirety online and the relevant chapter is Chapter 5.)

I recently made my opinion of this known in a semi-public forum and a highly successful person whom I admire and respect adamantly disagreed with me. He admonished me that Think and Grow Rich is the study of the most successful men in history and my balking at it should cause me to consider whether the book is wrong or whether maybe I needed to reevaluate my current worldview and behavior.

Here is a snippet of my response to him:

Before we go any further, I need to ask if you believe if there's only one way to achieve what one would call "success", "happiness" or what have you, or whether you think that different people are wired differently and maybe use different techniques or hacks to achieve their goals. I'm not talking core temperament and beliefs here, I'm taking techniques and hacks..... I think there's a lot of richness and degrees of freedom on how to arrive at those goals which depend on one's personality type. What may work for some may not work for others.

Similarly, you hit the nail on the head when you said my thinking is exactly that which creates the results I produce in my life, and I think that anyone who believes otherwise is deluding themselves. That said, I think there are a lot of paths to getting there. Rereading Ippolito's article, I can see why you're turned off by it. I happened to find it humorous because he was making a 180 degree turn from the Mary Poppins type mentality that I have a hard time with. To be clear: I don't believe that being bitter, spiteful or a grouch are paths to happiness, but the core issue addressed here is : how does one cope with the inevitable fear, uncertainty and doubt that comes with any new endeavor? My 13-year-old-kid take on Napoleon Hill (which I haven't revisited since then, so feel free to correct me), is that you need to smile, think happy thoughts, repeat "Everything you can conceive and believe, you can achieve", and other vapid, hollow things which leave me feeling fraudulent and empty. One thing that I've learned is that life is too short to ignore one's authentic feelings.

The exchange with this person continued and I think it ended well. I tried to clarify that I didn't think that Napoleon Hill was hogwash, it's just that his techniques didn't resonate with me. He brought up how he had been negatively affected by certain people's expression of their negativity, which I found completely valid. I have also traumatized people by expressing my negativity and I consider it a shortcoming. I don't condone the expression of negativity as a cathartic release if those present don't buy into this technique. I concluded:

IMO, for what Sher is describing to be effective:

  1. All parties must understand what's happening, be okay with it, and buy into it....
  2. It should be a short, fleeting steppingstone (think Frodo Baggins using that damned ring in an emergency) to shrugging those feelings off. The key here is acknowledging and validating them briefly before ushering them out the door rather than ignoring them, which never works with me.

The crux of the matter is that different things resonate with different people, and that there are a lot of richness and degrees of freedom on the path to self-improvement.

That said, I'm interested in your take on this. Post your comments under the post for this week's newsletter on the EmpathyNow Facebook page (and feel free to Like this page if you haven't already :) ).

Juggling Update

I've started again. Stay tuned.

Chip's Tips: Chip Keeps Bugging Me!

From a distraught Chip user:

I have started lying to Chip to get him off my case. I know I can just change my settings at empathy now.com but I keep forgetting and then don't have time. What if his reminders included a link like an unsubscribe that would kick in after so many prompts that are unopened, ignored, or skipped?

First off, I've blown off Chip on many occasions, so I'm not a saint here. That said, like I've said before, I was the one who chose those tasks and said they were important to me. If I stop the reminders, I'll assuredly let these things slip for years again. So I let the reminders come and feel guilty about them, then eventually restart the thing I that I told myself was important.

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