Criticism of Wallace Wattles’ and Brian Tracy’s Rhetorical and Logical Failures

The following essays from zhai2nan2 are essentially criticizing Protestant idiocy, so they belong under the “criticism of religion” page group.

Preface: Criticizing Wattles

If one person who reads this book gets rich by doing what it tells him to do, that is evidence in support of my claim, but if every person who does what it tells him to do gets rich, that is positive proof until someone goes through the process and fails. The theory is true until the process fails, and this process will not fail, for everyone who does exactly what this book tells him to do will get rich.

-Wallace Wattles, The Science of Getting Rich, Chapter 4

[Comment: If any person actually did follow the instructions and fail, do you think Wattles would be objective and open-minded enough to consider the evidence fairly? I certainly doubt his objectivity!]

“he made lots of money, and had good health, except for his extreme frailty” in the last three years before his death. …
His death at age 51 was regarded as “untimely” by his daughter

[He] advocated the then-popular health theories of “The Great Masticator” Horace Fletcher as well as the “No-Breakfast Plan” of Edward Hooker Dewey, which he claimed to have applied to his own life. He wrote books outlining these principles and practices, giving them titles that described their content, such as _Health Through New Thought and Fasting_…

Wattles claimed that a large but finite number of people had heeded his advice on wealth, and had gotten rich thereby.
Wattles claimed a 100% success rate and a 0% failure rate on his wealth-building advice.

It may be that no one has ever failed to get rich by following Wattles’ advice on wealth. However,
it is certain that Wattles’ body was frail, and he died at an early age, despite following his own advice on health.
Thus Wattles’ advice on health was not infallible, at least in the special case of Wattles himself.

It is necessary, then, to cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.
Do not waste a lot of time thinking or talking about the shortcomings or wrong actions of those in power. Their organization of the world has created your opportunity; all you get really comes to you because of them. Do not rage against corrupt politicians. If it were not for politicians we should fall into anarchy and your opportunity would be greatly lessened.

God has worked a long time and very patiently to bring us up to where we are in industry and government, and he is going right on with his work. There is not the least doubt that he will do away with plutocrats, trust magnates, captains of industry, and politicians as soon as they can be spared, but in the meantime, they are all very necessary. Remember that they are all helping to arrange the lines of transmission along which your riches will come to you, and be grateful. This will bring you into harmonious relations with the good in everything, and the good in everything will move toward you.
-Wallace Wattles, The Science of Getting Rich, Ch. 7

You have no right to use your will power upon another person, even “for his own good,” for you do not know what is for his good. The science of getting rich does not require you to apply power or force to any other person, in any way whatsoever. There is not the slightest necessity for doing so. Indeed, any attempt to use your will upon others will only tend to defeat your purpose.

You do not need to apply your will to things in order to compel them to come to you. That would simply be trying to coerce God and would be foolish and useless. You do not have to try to compel God to give you good things, any more than you have to use your will power to make the sun rise.
You do not have to use your will power to conquer an unfriendly Deity, or to make stubborn and rebellious forces do your bidding. Substance is friendly to you, and is more anxious to give you what you want than you are to get it.
To get rich, you need only to use your will power upon yourself.

When you know what to think and do, then you must use your will to compel yourself to think and do the right things. That is the legitimate use of the will in getting what you want — to use it in holding yourself to the right course.
Use your will to keep yourself thinking and acting in the certain way.

Do not try to project your will, or your thoughts, or your mind out into space to “act” on things or people. Keep your mind at home. It can accomplish more there than elsewhere.

Use your mind to form a mental image of what you want and to hold that vision with faith and purpose. And use your will to keep your mind working in the right way.

The more steady and continuous your faith and purpose, the more rapidly you will get rich because you will make only POSITIVE impressions upon substance, and you will not neutralize or offset them by negative impressions.

Since belief is all important, it behooves you to guard your thoughts, and as your beliefs will be shaped to a very great extent by the things you observe and think about, it is important that you should carefully govern to what you give your attention.

And here the will comes into use, for it is by your will that you determine upon what things your attention shall be fixed.
If you want to become rich, you must not make a study of poverty.

Things are not brought into being by thinking about their opposites. Health is never to be attained by studying disease and thinking about disease; righteousness is not to be promoted by studying sin and thinking about sin; and no one ever got rich by studying poverty and thinking about poverty.

Medicine as a science of disease has increased disease; religion as a science of sin has promoted sin, and economics as a study of poverty will fill the world with wretchedness and want.

[Comment: perhaps if Wattles had been willing to pay more attention to the facts of his own physical frailty, he would have lived more than 51 years!]

Do not talk about poverty, do not investigate it, or concern yourself with it. Never mind what its causes are; you have nothing to do with them. What concerns you is the cure.

Do not spend your time in so-called charitable work or charity movements; most charity only tends to perpetuate the wretchedness it aims to eradicate. I do not say that you should be hard-hearted or unkind and refuse to hear any the cry of the of need, conventional but you must not try to eradicate poverty in any of the conventional ways.
Put poverty behind you, and put all that pertains to it behind you, and “make good.”

Get rich. That is the best way you can help the poor.

And you cannot hold the mental image which is to make you rich if you fill your mind with pictures of poverty
and all its attendant ills. Do not read books or papers which give circumstantial accounts of the wretchedness of the tenement dwellers, of the horrors of child labor, and so on. Do not read anything which fills your mind with gloomy images of want and suffering.
You cannot help the poor in the least by knowing about these things, and the wide-spread knowledge of them does not tend at all to do away with poverty.

What tends to do away with poverty is not the getting of pictures of poverty into your mind, but getting pictures of wealth, abundance, and possibility into the minds of the poor.

You are not deserting the poor in their misery when you refuse to allow your mind to be filled with pictures of that misery.

Poverty can be done away with, not by increasing the number of well-to-do people who think about poverty, but by increasing the number of poor people who purpose with faith to get rich. The poor do not need charity; they need inspiration. Charity only sends them a loaf of bread to keep them alive in their wretchedness, or gives them an entertainment to make them forget for an hour or two. But inspiration can cause them to rise out of their misery. If you want to help the poor, demon-
strate to them that they can become rich. Prove it by getting rich yourself.

The only way in which poverty will ever be banished from this world is by getting a large and constantly increasing number of people to practice the teachings of this book.

[Comment: Do I detect a hint of monomaniacal fanaticism?]

People must be taught to become rich by creation, not by competition.
Every person who becomes rich by competition knocks down the ladder by which he rises, and keeps others down, but every person who gets rich by creation opens a way for thousands to follow and inspires them to do so.
You are not showing hardness of heart or an unfeeling disposition when you refuse to pity poverty, see poverty, read about poverty, or think or talk about it, or to listen to those who do talk about it. Use your will power to keep your mind OFF the subject of poverty and to keep it fixed with faith and purpose ON the vision of what you want and are creating.
-ibid ch 9

YOU CANNOT RETAIN A TRUE AND CLEAR VISION OF WEALTH if you are constantly turning your attention to opposing pictures, whether they be external or imaginary.

Do not tell of your past troubles of a financial nature, if you have had them. Do not think of them at all. Do not tell of the poverty of your parents or the hardships of your early life. To do any of these things is to mentally class yourself with the poor for the time being, and it will certainly check the movement of things in your direction. Put poverty and all things that pertain to poverty completely behind you.
You have accepted a certain theory of the universe as being correct, and are resting all your hopes of happiness on its being correct. What can you gain by giving heed to conflicting theories?

[Comment: Yes, I *do* detect a hint of monomaniacal fanaticism.]

Do not read books which tell you that the world is soon coming to an end, and do not read the writing of muckrakers and pessimistic philosophers who tell you that it is going to the devil. The world is not going to the devil; it is going to God. It is a wonderful becoming.
True, there may be a good many things in existing conditions which are disagreeable, but what is the use of studying them when they are certainly passing away and when the study of them only tends to slow their passing and keep them with us? Why give time and attention to things which are being removed by evolutionary growth, when you can hasten their removal only by promoting the evolutionary growth as far as your part of it goes?
No matter how horrible in seeming may be the conditions in certain countries, sections, or places, you waste your time and destroy your own chances by dwelling on them.
You should interest yourself in the world’s becoming rich.
Think of the riches the world is coming into instead of the poverty it is growing out of, and bear in mind that the only way in which you can assist the world in growing rich is by growing rich yourself through the creative method, not the competitive one.

-ibid ch 10

Your thought makes all things, animate and inanimate, work to bring you what you want, but your personal activity must be such that you can rightly receive what you want when it reaches you. You are not to take it as charity, nor to steal it. You must give every man more in use value than he gives you in cash value.
The scientific use of thought consists in forming a clear and distinct mental image of what you
want, in holding fast to your purpose to get what you want, and in realizing with grateful faith that you
do get what you want.
It is not your part to guide or supervise the creative process. All you have to do with that is to retain
your vision, stick to your purpose, and maintain your faith and gratitude.
But you must act in a certain way, so that you can appropriate what is yours when it comes to you
and so that you can meet the things you have in your picture and put them in their proper places as they
You can really see the truth of this. When things reach you, they will be in the hands of others, who
will ask an equivalent for them. And you can only get what is yours by giving the other person what is
rightfully his.
By thought, the thing you want is brought to you. By action, you receive it.
Whatever your action is to be, it is evident that you must act NOW. You cannot act in the past, and
it is essential to the clearness of your mental vision that you dismiss the past from your mind. You
cannot act in the future, for the future is not here yet.

If you are an employee or wage earner and feel that you must change places in order to get what
you want, do not “project” your thought into space and rely upon it to get you another job. It will
probably fail to do so.
Hold the vision of yourself in the job you want while you ACT with faith and purpose on the job
you have, and you will certainly get the job you want.
Your vision and faith will set the creative force in motion to bring it toward you, and your action
will cause the forces in your own environment to move you toward the place you want. In closing this
chapter, we will add another statement to our syllabus:
There is a thinking stuff from which all things are made, and which, in its original state, permeates,
penetrates, and fills the interspaces of the universe.
A thought in this substance produces the thing that is imaged by the thought.
A person can form things in his thought, and, by impressing his thought upon formless substance, can
cause the thing he thinks about to be created.
In order to do this, a person must pass from the competitive to the creative mind; he must form a clear
mental picture of the things he wants, and hold this picture in his thoughts with the fixed PURPOSE to get
what he wants, and the unwavering FAITH that he does get what he wants, closing his mind to all that may
tend to shake his purpose, dim his vision, or quench his faith.
So that he may receive what he wants when it comes, a person must act NOW upon the people and
things in his present environment.
-ibid ch 11

The normal desire for increased wealth is not an evil or a reprehensible thing. It is simply the desire
for more abundant life. It is aspiration.
And because it is the deepest instinct of their natures, all men and women are attracted to those
who can give them more of the means of life.
In following the certain way as described in the foregoing pages, you are getting continuous in-
crease for yourself, and you are giving it to all with whom you deal.
You are a creative center from which increase is given off to all.
Be sure of this, and convey assurance of the fact to every man, woman, and child with whom you
come in contact. No matter how small the transaction, even if it be only the selling of a stick of candy
to a little child, put into it the thought of increase, and make sure that the customer is impressed with
the thought.
Convey the impression of advancement with everything you do, so that all people shall receive the
impression that you are an “advancing personality,” and that you advance all who deal with you. Even to
the people whom you meet in a social way — without any thought of business and to whom you do not
try to sell anything — give the thought of increase.
You can convey this impression by holding the unshakable faith that you, yourself, are in the way
of increase and by letting this faith inspire, fill, and permeate every action.
-ibid ch 14

Part 1:
Brian Tracy has a lousy sense of “believable and achievable”

I think part of Brian Tracy’s problem is that he has always had very easy-to-achieve goals – such as “earn money.”

I think if Brian Tracy had ever taken an interest in the paranormal, he would realize that his rhetoric is absolutely horrible for aspiring students of the paranormal.

Brian Tracy wrote, in his book Goals:

It has been said that, ì“Attention is the key to life.î” Wherever your

attention goes, your life goes as well. When you decide upon a major

definite purpose, you increase your level of attentiveness and become

increasingly sensitive to anything in your environment that can help

you to achieve that goal faster.

Your Major Definite Purpose

Your major definite purpose can be defined as the one goal that

is the most important to you at the moment. It is usually the one goal

that will help you to achieve more of your other goals than anything

else you can accomplish. It must have the following characteristics:

1. It must be something that you personally really, really

want. Your desire for this goal must be so intense that the very idea

of achieving your major definite purpose excites you and makes you


2. It must be clear and specific. You must be able to define it

in words. You must be able to write it down with such clarity that a

child could read it and know exactly what it is that you want, and be

able to determine whether or not you have achieved it.

3. Your major definite purpose must be measurable and

quantifiable. Rather than ì“make a lot of money,î” it must be more like,

ì“I earn $100,000 per year by (a specific date).î”

4. It must be both believable and achievable. Your major

definite purpose cannot be so big or so ridiculous that it is completely


Keep Your Feet On The Ground

A woman approached me at one of my seminars and told me

that she had decided upon her major definite purpose. I asked her

what it was. She said, ì“I am going to be a millionaire in one year.î”

Curiously, I asked her approximately how much she was worth

today. It turned out that she was broke. I asked her what kind of

work she did. It turned out that she had just been fired from her job

because of incompetence. I then asked her why she would set a goal

to acquire a million dollars in one year under these circumstances?

She informed me that I had said that you could set any major

goal you wanted as long as you were clear, and she was therefore

convinced that was all she needed to be successful. I had to explain to

her that her goal was so unrealistic and unattainable in her current

circumstances that it would only discourage her when she found

herself so far away from it. Such a goal would actually end up

demotivating her rather than motivating her to do the things she

would need to be financially successful in the years ahead.


Well, paranormal phenomena are very believable and achievable. Some of them can be achieved by just about anyone. Others seem to require special talent that isn’t available to 90% of the population.

If Brian Tracy took his students’ goals seriously, I think he would tone down his rhetoric a great deal. However, unfortunately, I think Brian Tracy’s personal goal is to sell books and seminars, not to advance science or popular knowledge.

Part 2:

Fake responsibility is just a trick to inflate undeserved authority


Westerners love to talk about “responsibility.”

I do believe in some versions of this idea, but I think almost all the Westerners who talk about it are self-deceived deceivers.

Let us start from a popular definition:

RESPONSIBILITY – A duty or obligation to satisfactorily perform or complete a task (assigned by someone, or created by one’s own promise or circumstances) that one must fulfill, and which has a consequent penalty for failure.

Read more:

Let us look for weasel words.

A responsibility is a duty to perform the task satisfactorily – very well, who judges the quality of the performance?

Failure has a penalty – but are there any limits to penalization? (Does recognizing something as a “penalty” imply that the inflictor has appropriate authority? For example, if a Latin Street Kings member beats a Crips member who walks onto LSK territory, is that a “penalty” or an unjustified assault?)

My experience is that people who demand RESPONSIBILITY mostly want three things:

1 – to blame other people and reduce their social status, allegedly due to failure to perform tasks;

2 – to find fault with others’ performance levels;

3 – to punish others both in the short term and the long term.

When you label a target as IRRESPONSIBLE, you have the short-term opportunity to punish (e.g. by face-slapping) and the long-term opportunity to reduce social status (e.g. by speaking ill of the target).

Pseudo-puritans are often verbally abusive in bizarrely passive-aggressive ways when they find fault with the performance of others. “You should have known that before you began!” “That would be obvious to any reasonable person! How could you claim that you didn’t know that?” “You know very well why I’m not happy with your work!”

Let us consider what Brian Tracy (a salesman and positive thinker) claims about responsibility:

The antidote for negative emotions of all kinds is for you to accept complete responsibility for your situation. You cannot say the words, ““I am responsible!”” and still feel angry. The very act of accepting responsibility short-circuits and cancels out any negative emotions you may be experiencing.

The discovery of this simple but powerful affirmation, ““I am responsible”” and its instant ability to eliminate negative emotions was a turning point in my life, as it has been for many hundreds of thousands of my students.

Just imagine! You can free yourself from negative emotions and begin taking control of your life by simply saying, ““I am responsible!”” whenever you start to feel angry or upset for any reason.

It is only when you free yourself from negative emotions, by taking complete responsibility that you can begin to set and achieve goals in every area of your life. It is only when you are free, mentally and emotionally, that you can begin to channel your energies and enthusiasms in a forward direction. This is why, without the acceptance of complete personal responsibility, no progress is possible. On the other hand, once you accept total responsibility for your life, there are no limits on what you can be, do and have.

That seems entirely false to me. Brian Tracy claims he has applied this successfully with thousands of students, but we have only his word for that. If I am feeling angry about a broken faucet, and I say “I am responsible,” thinking that it will make me feel better, first I find that I still feel horrible, and then I find that I also feel angry at Brian Tracy for making false promises. Granted, I may forget about the faucet, but I still feel plenty of negative emotions.

Furthermore, it sounds suspiciously like the born-again Christian doctrine that as soon as you say that you accept Jesus as your savior, you are magically saved, and your life is transformed, and you now have a good shot at getting into Heaven, etc. It’s a popular cult-building technique to claim that there is some magical incantation that will change your life; while it may have worked for Brian Tracy, I doubt that it worked with equal efficacy for all of his students.

So, if “I accept responsibility” is not a magical phrase like “I accept Jesus,” what does responsibility mean?

To begin with, responsibility is not omnipotence. If I wake up in the morning and find that it is raining, I do not believe that my emotions and thoughts caused the rain.

However, I am willing to accept responsibility for how I feel about the rain, and what actions I take to deal with the rain. If I decide that the rain gives me a good excuse to put on black eyeliner and cut myself, of course, I am the one really giving myself permission to do those things – the rain is a rationalization.

Likewise, if I decide that the rain makes it worthwhile to take an umbrella before I go outside, I am the one making that cost-benefit judgement call. It might turn out that the rain is very light and the umbrella is not worthwhile.

I do think Brian Tracy does have some sane claims, however, e.g.:

From this point forward, refuse to make excuses or to justify your behaviors. If you make a mistake, say, ““I’’m sorry,”” and get busy rectifying the situation. Every time you blame someone else or make excuses, you give your power away. You feel weakened and diminished. You feel negative and angry inside. Refuse to do it.

To keep your mind positive, refuse to criticize, complain about or condemn other people for anything. Every time you criticize someone else, complain about something you don’’t like, or condemn someone else for something that they have done or not done, you trigger feelings of negativity and anger within yourself. And you are the one who suffers.

That’s fairly good advice, but I will add a giant caveat: acceptance of other folks’ actions does not indicate approval or even forgiveness.

For example: Obama has decided to authorize an order to drop high-explosive bombs on unarmed civilians. I accept this as fact. I do not blame Obama. I also do not condone Obama’s actions. The bombs have already fallen, the maimed children have already spent agonizing minutes twitching around, trying to stop the blood flows from their mangled stumps – all that has already happened, all that is beyond my control, and I have to accept all that as external reality. We can call this a finding of fact.

However, that does not mean Obama hasn’t committed war crimes. Obama, if hauled before any sane court, would be found guilty of mass murder according to laws such as 18 U.S.C. § 2441.

Now, how I REACT to that finding of fact IS my responsibility. I can choose to donate all I own to a peacenik group, I can choose to pray a novena to some appropriate saint, I can choose to weep copiously while tearing up a photograph of Obama, I can choose to smoke Gauloises while writing a Camus pastiche to satirize Obama. I can even try to support the bombing. My actions are my choice – and my thoughts are mental actions.

Brian Tracy has written:

You have determined your entire life up to now by the choices and decisions you have made, or failed to make. If there is anything in your life that you don’’t like, you are responsible. If there is anything that you are unhappy about, it is up to you to take the necessary steps to change and improve it so that it is more to your liking.

I agree, but I think Brian needs a sanity check. If I go outside during a sunny day, and there is freak rainstorm, that doesn’t mean I made a bad decision. There was a .00001 chance of a freak rainstorm, and it just happened. I can still feel good about my calculations – the risks had been calculated appropriately, but even good risk management doesn’t guarantee an absence of unforeseen losses.

Many toxic people will try to bully victims who are down on their luck. The toxic bullies will say, “You suck, and your life choices suck, and you should accept responsibility!” What that really means is, “You should admit that you are inferior and you should lick my boots because I am superior.” That is a prime example of how the notion of responsibility can be abused. As mentioned in the previous paragraph on risk management, you can manage risk rationally and still arrive in a bad situation. If, in that circumstance, bullies find you and verbally abuse you, don’t be too quick to blame your risk management skills, and don’t be too eager to praise the bullies.

Part 3:

Locus of control – not always a fallacy, and sometimes useful for blogging

Brian Tracy has written:


Determine Your Locus of Control

There is a large body of psychological literature that revolves

around the concept of “Locus of Control Theory.” In more than 50

years of research, psychologists have determined that your “Locus of

Control” is the determining factor of your happiness or unhappiness

in life. Here is why.

A person with an internal locus of control is a person who feels

that he or she is in complete control of his or her life. This person

feels strong, confident and powerful. He or she is generally optimistic

and positive. He or she feels terrific about him or herself and feels

very much in charge of his or her destiny.

On the other hand, a person with an external locus of control is

a person who feels controlled by external factors, by their boss, their

bills, their marriage, their childhood problems and their current

situation. They feel ì“out of controlî” and as a result, they feel weak,

angry, fearful, negative, hostile and disempowered.

The good news is that there is a direct relationship between the

amount of responsibility you accept and the amount of control you

feel. The more you say, “I am responsible!” the more of an internal

locus of control you develop within yourself, and the more powerful

and confident you feel.

That is all well and good. But is it true?

Does it lead to greater effectiveness?

A weightlifter might BELIEVE himself to be in total control, getting better and better, while a physician informs him that he is doing his workout incorrectly. In other words, the feeling of accomplishing effective results is trumped by the science of measuring the efficacy of those results.


A somewhat more neutral philosophy of life is to say: The external events in my life don’t happen TO ME PERSONALLY; they JUST HAPPEN. The earthquake last week wasn’t Poseidon trying to spill my coffee; it was just plate tectonics, and my coffee was just operating according to the laws of fluid mechanics. External events don’t exercise control; they are just natural phenomena, like rain or wind; I can take countermeasures if I decide to do that, or I can let it slide if I decide the cost-benefit equation doesn’t justify countermeasures.

Public avowal of responsibility for your own “locus of control” is not always wise, if you are surrounded by toxic people who try to exploit you unethically. Toxic people sometimes take such words to indicate a willingness to be exploited. This does not mean you should stop believing in “locus of control” – but it does mean you should be cautious about speaking frankly to toxic exploiters.

At any rate, the notion of “locus of control” sometimes can be useful for improving your measurable performance in life. If believing in “internal locus of control” makes you go to the gym six days a week instead of three, go ahead and use that belief to improve your weightlifting results.


Brian Tracy further wrote:

Take Charge of Your Life:

1. Identify your biggest problem or source of negativity in

life today. In what ways are you responsible for this


2. See yourself as the President of your own company.

How would you act differently if you owned 100% of

the shares?

3. Resolve today to stop blaming anyone else for anything

and instead accept complete responsibility in every

area of your life. What actions should you be taking?

4. Stop making excuses and start making progress.

Imagine that your favorite excuses have no basis in fact,

and act accordingly.

5. See yourself as the primary creative force in your own

life. You are where you are and what you are because

of your own choices and decisions. What should you


6. Resolve today to forgive anyone who has ever hurt you

in any way. Let it go. Refuse to discuss it again. Instead,

get so busy working on something that is important to

you that you doní’t have time to think about it again.



As an example, with regard to the present blog, I think I can address the above issues publicly:

1. Identify your biggest problem or source of negativity in

life today. In what ways are you responsible for this


The biggest problem with this blog is that it is an attention-sink and a distraction-addiction. This blog is easy to write, but time-consuming. This blog is a procrastination-enabler.

This blog does have some benefits; I wouldn’t receive high-quality information about current events if I didn’t keep this blog up, and I would miss out on intellectual stimulation without it.

2. See yourself as the President of your own company.

How would you act differently if you owned 100% of

the shares?

If I really felt responsible for this blog, I wouldn’t host it on a free service, because control rests with whoever owns the server, not with me.

3. Resolve today to stop blaming anyone else for anything

and instead accept complete responsibility in every

area of your life. What actions should you be taking?

I should probably be doing almost anything other than blogging!

4. Stop making excuses and start making progress.

Imagine that your favorite excuses have no basis in fact,

and act accordingly.

Then I had better not blog any more!

5. See yourself as the primary creative force in your own

life. You are where you are and what you are because

of your own choices and decisions. What should you


I should make better lists of my priorities. Gosh, where could I find a convenient notebook? I just threw away a paper notebook today … I guess I could make those lists on my blog!

6. Resolve today to forgive anyone who has ever hurt you

in any way. Let it go. Refuse to discuss it again. Instead,

get so busy working on something that is important to

you that you don’t have time to think about it again.

I don’t know that anyone ever hurt me by blogging. I might have hurt myself by enabling excessive introspection, but I don’t think anyone else ever hurt me by blogging.


Part 4:

Brian Tracy oversells the payoff and understates the importance of external circumstances

Brian Tracy wrote:

In Charles Garfield’s studies of “Peak Performers,” he made an

interesting discovery. He analyzed men and women who had

achieved only average results at work for many years, but who

suddenly exploded into great success and accomplishment. He found

that at the ì“take-off point,î” every one of them began engaging in

what he called ì“Blue Sky Thinking.î”

In blue-sky thinking, you imagine that all things are possible

for you, just like looking up into a clear blue sky, with no limits. You

project forward several years and imagine that your life were perfect

in every respect sometime in the future. You then look back to where

you are today and ask yourself these this question: ì“What would

have to have happened for me to have created my perfect future?î”

You then come back to where you are in the present in your

own mind, and you ask, “What would have to happen from this

point forward for me to achieve all my goals sometime in the


Refuse To Compromise Your Dreams

When you practice idealization and future-orientation, you make no compromises with your dreams and visions for yourself and your future. You don’’t settle for smaller goals or half successes. Instead, you ““dream big dreams”” and project forward mentally as though you are one of the most powerful people in the universe. You create your perfect future. You decide what you really want, before you come back to the present moment and deal with what is possible for you within your current situation. Start with your business and career. Imagine that your work life was perfect five years from now. Answer these questions: 1. What would it look like? 2. What would you be doing? 3. Where would you be doing it?

The primary difference between high achievers and low achievers is ““action-orientation.”” Men and women who accomplish tremendous things in life are intensely action oriented. They are moving all the time. They are always busy. If they have an idea, they take action on it immediately.

Taking the CORRECT ACTION is the real trick. Blue-sky thinking is easy; constructing a good action plan from the present point onward is much more difficult than Brian Tracy makes it look.

As I have mentioned earlier, Tracy has a lousy sense of what is achievable, and he has a monomaniacal desire to succeed at his personal goals, and thus his rhetoric is dangerously misleading.

Tracy neglects to mention that your ideal dream might depend on circumstances entirely beyond your control. Suppose my ideal job is to be railway track manager at the railway station in Timbuktu, but that railway hasn’t been built yet and might never be built. If I idealize that job and the station never gets built, Tracy’s method fails. (Of course, he never stops to address the people for whom his method fails…)

Tracy’s method IS ideal if you are a soap-flake salesman and all your goals involve monetary success. By believing in Tracy’s salesmanship, you have a 99.999% chance of becoming a great salesman – even if you have to switch from soap flakes to used cars, and from used cars to diamonds.

Positive thinking works better for salesmen and actors than it does for engineers and chemists. Salesmen can make a lot of money by selling valueless things to suckers. In theory, positive thinking ethics would say that one should try to exchange value for value, leading to a win-win situation. In practice, salesmanship seldom seems to live up to that ethical ideal.


Brian Tracy wrote:

ì“Happiness is the progressive realization of a

worthy ideal.î” When you have clear, exciting goals and ideals, you

will feel happier about yourself and your world. You will be more

positive and optimistic. You will be more cheerful and enthusiastic.

You will feel internally motivated to get up and get going every

morning, because every step you are taking will be moving you in

the direction of something that is important to you.

Resolve to think about your ideal future most of the time.

Remember, the very best days of your life lie ahead. The happiest

moments you will ever experience are still to come. The highest

income you will ever earn is going to materialize in the months and

years ahead. The future is going to be better than anything that may

have happened in your past. There are no limits.

The clearer you can be about your long term future, the more

rapidly you will attract people and circumstances into your life to

help make that future a reality. …Imagine that there is a solution to every problem, a way
to overcome every limitation, and no limit on your
achieving every goal you can set for yourself. What
would you do differently? ….What could you do, starting
today, to make your vision for yourself into a reality?

That sounds great for all the people whose goals can be achieved by known technologies. If your dream is to flap your arms and fly to the moon, Brian Tracy’s “unlimited” progress is not likely to make it into a reality.

Unfortunately, I have known many occultists and technologists who believed with great optimism and internal motivation about goals that could not be achieved with any known technology. They have imagined that there were no limits to their goals and progress. They tried a lot of actions that failed. Even though they tried to do things differently, they did not miraculously succeed.

I suspect Brian Tracy is simply not honest. I suspect he knows damn well that after enough crushing failure, one must stop and re-evaluate unrealistic goals.

It is great to ask:
What could you do, starting today, to make your vision for yourself into a reality?

but sometimes the forthright answer is: You can’t do a damn thing! Your methods and your resources will never achieve that goal!

Recall the example of Wallace Wattles, who convinced himself never to question his health and always to be confident of vigorous good health. He behaved very vigorously until he dropped dead in middle age.

Note also that your goal is sometimes very achievable, but it will definitely be achieved by other people long before you have a chance of doing it. Many years ago, I dreamed of being the scientist who would prove various facts about paranormal phenomena. Some years ago, those facts were proven by other persons. I can rejoice that the facts were proven, but I have to admit that I failed in my goal to be the first man to achieve that goal.

Likewise, if a beautiful woman catches your eye and your goal is to marry her, you might find that some other man courts her and marries her while you are still getting ready to act. The goal was achievable – but only one man achieved it, and that man wasn’t you.

Epilogue, with comment from Luther Burgsvik:

I often criticize positive thinking, precisely because I often take it too far.

A typical “positive thinking” teacher has attempted to draw a few more common-sense boundaries than one can find in Brian Tracy’s work.


I don’t know whether this author is a serious Ph.D. who would have the option of teaching, or if he got a low-effort Ph.D. from an unprestigious school. He has a website and if I have a lot of time I might explore it. [Update: The author’s Ph.D. was from a school accused of being a diploma mill.]

However, right off the bat, this Dr. Anthony annoys me by incorrectly citing the sketchy Westar Institute.


The book gets off to a bad start by lazily disrespecting established religion. The author can’t be bothered to append footnotes, and can’t be bothered to look up the correct name of the non-scholarly foundation to which he wrongly attributes scholarly rigor. He seems to think that he is arguing when he is in fact asserting an unsupported personal contention.

How did this joker get a Ph.D.? I’ve seen people asking this question on the Internet,but I have yet to see an answer. [Update: He got a non-rigorous Ph.D. from a diploma mill, as explained below.]




So this guy is willing to disrespect everyone else’s religion, but either he doesn’t realize that he’s making religious claims, or else he feels that he’s the one superior being on planet Earth who can get religion right, even thought everyone else got it wrong.





While he lacks academic rigor, at least he has tried to come up with informal logic based on conceding premises that most people would take to be common sense. I appreciate the fact that unlike Brian Tracy, this Dr. Anthony seems to put some effort into consistency. Brian Tracy says, “Positive thinking can get you anything … well, I lied, not really absolutely anything.” This Dr. Anthony says, “Possibility thinking can make some tasks possible, even though you thought that they were impossible before.” Perhaps Dr. Anthony has a higher IQ, more general academic aptitude, or a tighter focus on consistent wording.


Interestingly, it seems that he bets on horse races, and he feels this is reasonable, because he believes himself to be an expert on horse races.




I respect this notion of “responsibility” much more than I respect Brian Tracy’s notion.

AAB says:
2014/05/30 at 19:35 (Edit)
0 0 Rate This
How did this joker get a Ph.D.?

According to this page on his own website he got his PhD from Pacific Western University:

A few quick google searches later and it turns out that ‘Dr’ Anthony is not a genuine, bone fide doctor. Pacific Western University is under investigation in the USA as a possible ‘degree mill’. CBS News has run a story about ‘fake degrees’ that mentions Pacific Western
( The Australian also ran a story that mentioned Pacific Western University as a ‘degree mill’ ( Finally, Skepdic (The Skeptic Dictionary, run by a man with a real degree, though unfortunately who has a lot of hostility towards the paranormal) also calls the university a ‘degree mill’: [quote]
Pacific Western University, an unaccredited institution that the Swedish government called a fake institution that issues bogus degrees.[/quote] (Source:

So it turns out that just like that other well known self-help guru John Gray (the man who wrote ‘Men are From Mars’ (
), Robert Anthony bought his degree from a degree mill as a means of boosting his credibility. Basically to sell books and enlarge both his ego and his wallet.

1 Response to Criticism of Wallace Wattles’ and Brian Tracy’s Rhetorical and Logical Failures

  1. Pingback: Two Vultures of Scriptual Criticism, featuring Andrew Jackson Davis | vulture of critique

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