I like motivational quotes, I really do. Some of them are really profound, insightful or even give practical pointers. Others, however, just weird me out. The latter category is awfully prevalent on social media.
Some people love quoting Paulo Coelho’s pseudo-philosophical book ‘The Alchemist’. I read it and, despite a few interesting parts, was mostly really bored with it. One line from the book is quoted so much that it started to bother me a little though. The statement that “if you really want something, the universe will conspire to help you achieve it”.
That seems odd to me. Does that mean that every starving kid in the world just doesn’t want to be fed badly enough? Isn’t it kind of a slap to the face of every person who has lost someone they loved, implying that perhaps they didn’t want their loved ones to live badly enough? How the hell does that quote even work? What happens if two people want the opposite thing? The person with more ‘want’ gets his way?
Am I too stupid to understand his work or is some of it really just a bunch of rah-rah fluff to make anxious, depressed and insecure people feel better about themselves?
I’ll stick to Timothy Ferris’s stance on the matter;
“For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. “Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.”
If you want to read stuff that I consider both inspirational as well as realistic, go read ‘Total Recall’, the autobiography of Arnold Schwarzenegger who used hard work and an inquenchable desire for success to garner numerous achievements in strength sports, bodybuilding, business, acting AND politics.
Or try Goethe’s “The Sorrows of Young Werther” about a guy who commits suicide after not being able to cope with lost love and the absurdity of life. You might cry over this one – I almost did. This book was strangely comforting, especially realizing that if you can relate to the main character’s feelings, you’re not alone.
I can also recommend Tim Ferris’s 4-Hour Workweek, where I got the above quote from. It’s not so much about actually achieving a 4-hour work week as it is about creating both the right mindset and the right circumstances (and smart marketing) to live the life you want.