I always cringe when positive thinking gurus go around telling people, “There are no limits! You are only limited by your own thoughts! You can do anything and achieve anything as long as you think you can!”
Because I, the skeptics, and the negative thinkers know, that the world doesn’t work that way.
For instance, I know that no matter how hard I train, how many techniques I practice and drill to perfection, how determined and positive I am, I’ll never be able to beat Mike Tyson at his peak (heck, or Mike Tyson NOW) at boxing. My talent, my muscularity, my reaction time to evade and time punches, and so on, are simply not there. If I have to beat Iron Mike in something, I’ll choose writing software. Somehow I’m quite confident I’m better than him in that one.
Similarly, no matter how correct their diet, how spotless their routines, how flawless their lifting techniques, 99.9999% of the guys out there will never have biceps as big as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s. Their genes simply don’t permit that. Whereas the ones with the right genes go on to become the next Ronnie Coleman or Dorian Yates.
Have you ever tried so hard at something, only to see a “natural” breeze through all your obstacles in a tenth of the time you needed to get through them? Of course you have. It’s annoying, I know. But that’s also a fact of life. I think an important part of growing up is finding out that you WILL find a ceiling, and be OK with that and accept that. But an even more important thing is to really find out whether the ceiling you are seeing and hitting against is your true ceiling, your true limitations, or a false, fake, self-imposed ones.
That, is the truth of positive thinking. To find out your true ceiling. It is NOT true that there are no limits. That’s bullcrap. Everybody has limitations. But you’d better be damn sure that you’ve developed yourself to your own full potential, instead of hitting a ceiling that is put there by your insecurity, your fear, your laziness, your negative thinking, or whatever.
This can be quite disheartening at first. Because if you’re like most people, as you grow up, you get to witness your (perhaps unrealistic) childhood dreams being shattered one by one. And in the process, it’s easy to fall into the so-what’s-the-point-I-might-as-well-stop-improving-right-now thinking pattern.
Why do you think parents are so often charged guilty of telling their children to be “realistic” and to “forget their big dreams”? Because 99.9999% of the parents have gone through this before. Only 0.0001% have continued to develop themselves and find that their limits are higher than everyone else in the world–they become Olympian gold medalist, world-class musicians, Tiger Woods, Warren Buffett, and so on.
In fact, before I figured this out, I used to be quite negative about this whole thing. I used to think: what’s the point of even trying when the best I could ever do, to my full potential, is most probably only mediocre?
And now I think I have the answer.
- Cos until you’ve tried it and do it to the best of your ability, you won’t know. In all probability your true ceiling might be the highest in the world. You might be world-class at something, you just don’t know it yet. Say, can you memorize the first 21 digits of Pi? Then you’re already world-class.
- You keep doing it because you like it, even when you’ve found that you’re far from world-class level. I love programming, and it’s something that I’ll still do when I’m 60. Even if I’ll probably will never be the world’s best programmer. But I don’t care. I like it.
(Or probably I am the world’s best programmer. Since I’m so humble.)
So what the heck are those positive thinking, supposedly self-improving gurus are for? The good ones help to find out your true capacity. Because I suspect we never really get to know how high the true ceiling of our potential really is. It’s not limitless, surely. But it may also be much higher than we’ve ever dreamed of. And we need the gurus to lie to us and keep telling us there’s no limit so we won’t stop until we’ve hit our real limit. And that probably means that we shouldn’t stop, ever.