Scott Adams, creator of ‘Dilbert’ and author of the upcoming book Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter, comments on Michael Kruse’s article in Friday’s edition of POLITICO: The Power of Trump’s Positive Thinking.
In Friday’s edition of his daily ‘Coffee With Scott Adams’ Periscope broadcast, the Trump-whispering cartoonist discussed the influence that Trump’s childhood pastor Norman Vincent Peale had on the future president’s attitude and the wider lesson that Trump’s success can teach us.
“In POLITICO, there is an article about the power of Trump’s positive thinking,” Adams explains. “It is based on the fact that Donald Trump’s minister when he was a kid was Norman Vincent Peale, one of the most successful self-help type authors in American history. You could say he was the self-help guy when I was a kid. His books, which did influence President Trump, are essentially about thinking your way to success.”
“Stamp indelibly on your mind a mental picture of yourself succeeding,” Peale is quoted by POLITICO as saying. “Hold this picture tenaciously. Never permit it to fade.”
Adams explains: “[Peale] was the first one who told me that you can change your situation simply by changing the way you thought… The idea is that the power of the mind is unappreciated; if you simply thought optimistically, you could think yourself into good situations. Norman Vincent Peale was so influential on President Trump, that he actually officiated his first marriage.”
SCOTT ADAMS: One of the interesting things about Normal Vincent Peale is that beyond being a minister, and beyond being the self-help guru of all time, he was also accused of being a hypnotist. That is right — he was so influential, so persuasive, that in his time, people thought he might be a hypnotist.
Is it a coincidence that President Trump has this weird optimism that never seems to turn off, even when everything is going against him, as the article in POLITICO talks about?
It talks about how any normal politician would have… run away from the various problems and scandals he had along the campaign trail. But, President Trump shook it all off. He just said, well, I’ll go be president anyway. And that has worked out for him…
Look at the pattern: The interesting thing about Trump ascending to the presidency is that people weren’t even sure if he was the greatest business person, and yet he succeeded wildly. And nobody thought he had the right credentials to be president, at least in classic terms, and yet he succeeded there too. When you see somebody succeeding beyond all expectations, I’ve often said that is the sign of a ‘Master Persuader.’
It also is a sign of somebody influenced by a Norman Vincent Peale-like personality. For someone to reach that far, and succeed against those odds is very unusual — and it takes a certain type of person to do it,” Adams said. “The POLITICO article, of course, tried to figure out how to make this bad. So their spin on it is: Is it just positive thinking, or has he talked himself into a delusion, and he doesn’t know the difference between reality and what he’s imagining about his success in the future?
“You have to stretch pretty hard to get there, but the best way to understand the things he says that don’t sound true is: He is literally thinking his way into a new reality, and the facts are not as important as you might think… What is important is what happens next,” Adams explains. “It is far less important what has already happened.”
“Let me put this another way: The past does not exist… It doesn’t exist. It is only in our minds.”
SCOTT ADAMS: So if President Trump says X fact, and you say, ‘That’s not true! That’s not what happened!’ The truth is it doesn’t exist either way. The past doesn’t exist now.
What does exist is your imagination, and if I imagine a better future, is that going to help?
I think at this point, there is enough scientific research to show that having a positive attitude, and confidence, or even pretending to have those things, does help your performance. So in a very normal way, it does help to have a positive attitude…
But, just for fun, we’re going to extend this, and bring in the idea of affirmations.
I’m not going to tell you that affirmations cause magic to happen, but I am going to give you this context: Humans did not evolve to understand reality. You can see that with the election, right?
Half the country thinks they are living under a Hitler-like dictatorship under the Trump regime. Half the people think we’re entering a Golden Age where the economy is doing really well, and we’re all happy, and everyone is doing good. Those aren’t even the same reality. But the facts are the same. If there is some underlying objective reality, that hasn’t changed. But we’re all putting our own interpretation on it.
You’re seeing a religion that I don’t see, you’re seeing a politician that I don’t see, you’re interpreting why things are happening in ways that I don’t see. We have different movies running in our heads all the time.
None of us really understand reality. Because we didn’t evolve to. We never needed to understand reality.
A clam doesn’t understand reality, but it can make more baby clams — if there is such a thing as a baby clam.
Animals can reproduce just fine, but I don’t think my cat, my dog, and I share the same view of what reality is.
Understanding reality is absolutely unimportant. It is important if you walk in front of a truck, and a truck kills you. I’m not saying that reality doesn’t affect your life. I’m just saying we all have completely different movies running in our own heads.
In that scenario, there might be some kind of steering mechanism, some way you can guide yourself through this movie of yours. Maybe you’re just writing the script the way you want to see it. I …read more