Beware of the Happy Talk!
Pitbull of Personal Development
I am aware that my approach to personal development is not the norm and not what most people are used to or comfortable with. People gravitate to the easy stuff: the stuff that makes you feel good but doesn’t really offer much practical advice. I have attacked that stuff at every turn from the stage, on television and in all of my six best-selling books. I know that one of the reasons we are in such a mess today is because we embrace the feel-good/fluff-myego/ tell-me-I’m-special mentality of the entitled, and resist the roll-up-your-sleeves/suck-it-up/stop-whining/get-overit/ go-back-to-work mentality that I so firmly believe is necessary for a happy, successful, prosperous life. And I know that the feel good and be happy every minute mentality is ruining our kids and leaving them totally unprepared for the real world where you get knocked down and you have only yourself to turn to.
It came to a head for me recently when I saw a post from a popular happy talk website that had been shared about a hundred thousand times on social media. It was entitled, “5 Simple Rules For A Happy Life.” These are the rules:
1. Don’t be overly emotional – have faith.
2. Don’t ever give up – keep trying.
3. Don’t make things complicated – keep it simple.
4. Don’t take things too seriously – laugh at problems.
5. Don’t be a grown up – stay as youthful as a kid.
This is the typical kind of ignorant blather that people latch onto and wind up disappointed because almost all of these 5 Simple Rules are bad advice.
1. First, “Don’t be overly emotional – have faith.” Okay, I agree with being overly emotional. We have become a society that loves to cry over about everything and gets giddy over a picture of a plate of vegetables on Instagram. Reality television is full of emotion: anger, uncontrollable weeping, laughing when nothing is funny, etc. So, I am with them on this part of their rule, but it’s the “have faith” thing I have issues with. Some of you are saying now that I must be either an idiot and/or an atheist to have issues with that. Neither. My question is, faith in what? The religious will immediately go to “ Faith in GOD!!!” Okay, fine. But I have watched people put their faith in God for my entire 60 years on the planet and have seen them end up with squat. Why? They got the faith part but forgot that other scripture that says, “faith without works is dead.” They have faith but that’s all they have. So, have faith, but get off your butt and work on your problems too. And have faith in yourself while you are at it. No one is coming to your rescue. Stop having faith that the government will provide. The government is both broke and broken. Look to your own abilities and work ethic and put some faith there.
2. Second, “Don’t ever give up – keep trying.” People love to say, “Never give up!” They quote that Winston Churchill story where that is his entire speech. Stupid speech, in my opinion. Yep, I am right and Churchill (though a great man with many great speeches) was wrong telling people to never give up. If you are doing the wrong thing or doing the right thing the wrong way, and you never give up, you are not going to achieve your desired results. You need to give up! I think a better speech is, “When you find yourself on a dead horse, get off!” or “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging!” Those are good speeches. Who is the guy who originally said those things? That guy deserves some credit. Only keep trying when you are doing the right thing and run into some difficulty. Then, persevere! Difficulties and failures are natural and to be expected. But even then, stop, regroup, re-examine, change your approach and get back after it! Sometimes giving up is exactly what you need to do! Use your head and don’t buy into a cliché simply because it sounds good.
3. Third, “Don’t make things complicated – keep it simple.” I have said for years that people make things harder than they are and that they need to simplify. So this rule is the best of the bunch. However, some things really are complicated and underestimating the complexity of a situation can be as equally devastating as overestimating the situation.
4. Fourth, “Don’t take things too seriously – laugh at problems.” Really? Laugh at problems? I have seen people who laughed at their money problems for years and then called on me to help them. They should have gotten serious years before because now it’s too damn late! So, you’re broke! Laugh at being broke! Sure, that will help. Or your 35 year old still lives with you and you support him in every way. Laugh about it! That will get him out of the house. Don’t laugh at your problems. Solve your problems. Write them down. Break them down into smaller, more easily solvable pieces. Take a problem very seriously and go to work on it so you can get that one out of the way and get prepared for the next one. Life — real life — is a series of problems and the better you get at solving them and solving them quickly, the more time you have to enjoy!
5. And last, “Don’t be a grown up – stay as youthful as a kid.” This Rule #5 is the worst advice of all of them. We have an entire generation refusing to grow up and their parents are enabling it. Nearly 70% of grownups today are still financially supporting their grown children in some way. We have the highest percentage of grownups still living with their parents in the history of civilization. We need these “kids” to grow up! And we need parents to grow up and be parents to their children and teach them the skills they need to survive and thrive as adults. We need all people above the age of 18 to stop acting like a bunch of children and be responsible adults!
Except for kids. We are rushing our little kids into adulthood way too fast. We overschedule their time with activities and they end up so busy they can’t be kids. Encourage more play time and more interaction with other kids — outside and away from computer screens. And please don’t let your little girl push you into shaving her legs and wearing makeup and growing up too fast. Peer pressure is an ugly thing and while your kid might hate you for it in the moment, someone needs to be the adult and protect your child from growing up too fast. Teach your kids the principles of adulthood; honesty, integrity, a good work ethic, and doing the right thing — but all in the context of being a kid.
And a word to all of you getting a few wrinkles and some gray hair: stop believing that you have to stay as youthful as a kid. Most of the time, you look ridiculous. Age healthily and gracefully. I don’t like getting old either but it’s part of the journey of life and I am doing my best to embrace it regardless of the old man I see looking back at me from the mirror.
Okay folks, that might sound like a curmudgeonly rant to you and that’s fine. I will get hate mail and a lot of “yeah BUT, Larry” mail and lose followers over it. But I’m good with that. I am not going to defend my position to you or argue with you about my comments. That’s part of growing up: you say what you believe and don’t apologize for believing it. My hope is that each of you can find one little nugget you can personalize and use to create a happier life.
Larry Winget is a six-time New York Times/Wall Street Journal bestselling author. His newest book is What’s Wrong With Damn Near Everything: How The Collapse Of Core Values Is Destroying Us And How To Fix It. He is a member of the Speaker Hall Of Fame, has starred in his own television series and appeared in national television commercials. Larry is a regular contributor on many television news shows on the topics of money, personal success, business and parenting. Find out more at www.larrywinget.com and follow him on Facebook at Larry Winget Fan Page and on twitter @larrywinget.
You can find all of Larry’s books on Amazon HERE!