Magical Thinking

Psychologist Richard Wiseman offers some tips on how to be more lucky. (Via Caterina.)

Wiseman’s approach reminds me of Martin Seligman’s Learned Optimism. This kind of thing makes me supremely uncomfortable. Sure it’s important to mentally buck up but conclusions like these seem vast over-simplifications of complicated situations. Not to mention an excuse to blame people for all the bad things that happen to them, ranging from job loss to cancer. And yet there’s something tantalizing and comforting — and okay, maybe something verging on the truthful — in the notion that you could think yourself well or happy or successful or rich or thin, if only you knew how. Someone should write a history of the positive thinking movement. (Perhaps someone has. If you know of a good one, email me at I think of it as a recent, mainly American phenomenon (pull yourself up by your bootstraps and all that) but I’m sure it’s got a much deeper history.

And, of course, I can never think about positive thinking without thinking about Death of a Salesman. As a kind of antidote.

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