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Grieve the Shit: Have the Courage to Get Motivated without the Straitjacket of Positive Thinking

Grieve the Shit: Have the Courage to Get Motivated without the Straitjacket of Positive Thinking

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Published by Bill McLella
This is my counter-intuitive motivational speech, which argues that grief is the path to motivation, not positive thinking.
This is my counter-intuitive motivational speech, which argues that grief is the path to motivation, not positive thinking.

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Categories:Types, Speeches
Published by: Bill McLella on Aug 31, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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August 31, 2010
Grieve the Shit
Have the Courage to Get Motivated without the Straitjacket of Positive Thinkingby Bill McLellanHi. My name is Bill McLellan, and I am a heretic. You see, I don’t believe in positive thinking. In my circles,the world of sales, entrepreneurship, and motivation, that’s heresy. I’m one of the few people you might evermeet who believes that the very opposite of positive thinking can be most motivational.And that’s what I want to do today: I want to motivate you. I want to motivate you to go out and make tenmore sales, win ten more championships, walk down the path of personal transformation, and overcome theobstacles in your life. But I don’t want you to indulge for one minute the notion that positive thinking can helpyou down that road. It can’t.What, you might ask, do I mean when I say Positive Thinking? Positive thinking is a hodgepodge philosophythat essentially teaches that thinking positive thoughts and feeling positive emotions will bring you greatersuccess in life, work, business, sports, etc. It generally has four characteristics I want to focus on. First, itteaches that thinking good thoughts will make good things happen, and vice versa. You’re essentiallyresponsible for the things that happen to you because they happen as a result of the thoughts and feelingsyou indulge. (I say that’s baloney, but more critique later.) The second characteristic of positive thinking isthe belief that what happens is not as important as how I think about what happens. The experiences of mylife, however dreadful, don’t matter as much as what I think in response.That may or may not sound right to you, but it leads to the third characteristic, the maxim that the only thingyou can control is your attitude, so you can decide to be happy no matter what. Happiness is a choice,positive thinking believes, and it’s a choice that can be made no matter what is happening. Finally, to bolsteryour ability to always make this choice to be happy, positive thinking gurus counsel you to surround yourself with positive people, read positive books, watch positive movies, and whatever you do, don’t watch the news.
August 31, 2010
If you want success in life, you have to be happy all the time, and if you want to be happy all the time, youhave to insulate yourself from all the negativity out there in the world.Remember I said that I believe the opposite of positive thinking is more motivational. The opposite of positivethinking is grief. The hard work of grieving has more power to motivate you and make you happy than all thetalks and books on positive thinking you could ever ingest. So, why grieve? First some of the obvious answers:contrary to popular belief, sometimes life sucks. Every once-in-a-while, the shit hits the fan. Occasionally,people will die, and all too frequently, death creeps into life and makes everything seem meaningless. There isevil and injustice in the world. There is poverty and war and ecological disasters. Relationships break apart.Businesses fail. Dreams die.Still, with so much to cry about, we’re taught since we’re children that big girls and boys don’t cry. We’retaught to look the other way when things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be. We’re taught to keep a lidon our emotions. We’re taught that if we keep a positive attitude and a positive outlook on life, things will getbetter. But they won’t necessarily. Sometimes they get worse.In a world where things go wrong, here are ten reasons positive thinking will ruin your life:1. “A Dry Eye Goes with a Dead Soul.” ~ Victor Hugo in
Les Miserables
2. Positive thinking will make you look down on others who don’t “make it” in life, since they obviouslydidn’t think positively enough.3. It will make you surprised and angry when real shit happens to you, even though you always kept apositive attitude.4. It will give you the false illusion that the goings on of your brain can control the universe. You will bedisillusioned.5. It will make you a pain to be around when everyone else is grieving.6. It will make you numb to the outside world and to your own inner emotions.7. Grief leads to wisdom.8. Positive thinking will blind you to the need for radical change—in the world and in your life.9. Your pent up anger and frustration has got to come out sometime, and you won’t be able to controlwhen.10. Positive thinking will rob you of the chance to grieve the shit in your life. Squelched grief hurts.Sure, you say, positive thinking may be unhealthy, but doesn’t it motivate people better than grief? Let meintroduce you to an ancient Greek concept known as catharsis. Today, especially among advocates of positivethinking, catharsis is a lost art form; but catharsis occurs when we let art provoke our darkest emotions andthen purge us of those emotions, at least temporarily. Sad movies, sad books, sad music all enable us to
August 31, 2010
experience our own dark emotions. They can prompt us to renew the process of grief we may have stifledbecause grieving was too difficult or we felt like being “tough.” By facing our dark emotions and goingthrough the process of grief, we cleanse ourselves and make happiness possible again. The feelings don’t goaway completely, but they become more and more manageable.Grief may be the path, but it isn’t the destination. I’m not here because I think anyone is too happy and needsto be knocked down a peg or two. I want you to be happy and feel a deep inner sense of motivation, but youwon’t get there without walking the path of grief through catharsis, and finally ending up at courage. In mysystem of counter-intuitive motivation, courage is the cardinal virtue. You don’t need someone to tell youthings are better than they are; you need someone to shoot straight with you and help you face an uncertainworld. I like to say, if there’s shit there, and you pretend it’s not there, chances are you’re going to step in it.Courage is what we need, not positive thinking.Really feeling dark emotions takes courage many don’t have. You can begin the process of transformation inyour life simply by owning up to your dark emotions and making the time to feel them. If you want realmotivation in an uncertain world, if you want to give it your all with no guarantee of success, if you want torisk big on the chance that you might win or lose big, then you need courage. You don’t need positivethinking.Another thing most people need and deep down really want is change. They want better sales numbers, theywant to be kinder to their spouse, they want to be cancer-free, or they want to start winning for a change.But positive thinking is totally inept at producing change, because it blinds us to the need for change. Realchange requires us to recognize there is a problem with the status quo, and that takes courage, not positivethinking. With real courage, you can actually change in a world that makes change difficult. You can makechange happen. You can conquer the shit. The shit is no match for you! (So why pretend it’s not there?)So while you’re overcoming the shit, here are ten best ways to grieve it:1. Open yourself to being affected by the outside world.2. Surround yourself with a variety of people, from those who have their poo in a straight line to thosewho don’t.3. Read books that challenge you and expand your horizons.4. Watch movies that evoke a wide range of emotions.5. Look for things that need to change and apply your creativity to the situation.6. Take time to feel sad about the bad things that have happened in your life.7. Don’t be afraid of negative thoughts and feelings; they won’t hurt you.8. Ponder the meaning of life and death.

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Welcome back Screwtape! Good writing, Bill.
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