Was talking with my friend Mitch Horowitz recently about purpose and positive thinking. Mitch is a writer, speaker, and publisher that has dedicated his life to man's search for meaning. In his book, One Simple Idea: How the Lessons of Positive Thinking Can Transform Your Life, Mitch tracks the history of the positive thinking movement and the results are truly eye-opening
If you're a person that is serious about understanding the psychology behind different motivational techniques, I highly suggest you pickup a copy of Mitch's book, which is now available for pre-order in a new paperback version.
I also spoke with Mitch about the book. Hope you enjoy our conversation below.
Brandon Steiner: Who did you write this book for and why did you write this book? (One Simple Idea)
Mitch Horowitz: I wrote it for serious people who wonder whether motivational philosophies work, and where such ideas even come from. Positive-mind philosophy has impacted every aspect of our lives, and – despite the current media controversy – positive thinking does actually work, medically, psychology, and spiritually. The “power of positive thinking” is not just the stuff of inspirational calendars and refrigerator magnets. It’s a vital, ethical, and defensible philosophy.
BS: I couldn’t help but notice the incredible list of endorsements you have received for your book. From Businessweek to Ken Burns to astronaut Edgar Mitchell to MLB pitcher Barry Zito and more- why do you think your book has reached such a diverse audience?
MH: Whenever I begin a book, I’m trying to defend something – some idea or person who has perhaps been treated unfairly. My aim is to seek out serious people who will join me in reconsidering a concept that current opinion, usually in the fields of academia and journalism, treats dismissively. I’ve been fortunate to build bridges to readers and thinkers who are willing to take a second look at reasonable, but rundown, topics like positive thinking.
BS: When did you discover the power of positive thinking?
MH: As a young adolescent I dealt with divorce and financial disaster in our home by seeking out practical philosophies. My reading spanned from Ralph Waldo Emerson to the Talmud. I was struck to find that many ethical philosophies involve some form of what we popularly call positive thinking.
BS: What are the first two noticeable impacts that positive thinking can have on one’s life in the short-term?
MH: First, you become a better person to be around: you are more respected at work, and you give your family a bit of a break. Second – and I challenge everyone reading these words to test me on this – you begin to encounter helpful coincidences. You run into people who may be willing to support a project, or meet you halfway on something. That can be an alluring and even mysterious process. It begs questions about the properties of the mind.
BS: Do you consider Norman Vincent Peale “the Godfather” of positive thinking?
MH: Peale’s genius was to take a philosophy that had already existed in various mystical forms, under names such as New Thought and Science of Mind, and translate it into language that was acceptable to the church-going public. Peale’s 1952 book The Power of Positive Thinking remains the landmark in the field. I see him less as the forefather than as the great popularizer.
BS: Has your view on the subject changed in the two years since you wrote your book?
MH: If you can believe it, I’ve become more radical in my perspective that the mind possesses causative properties. That’s a difficult statement to swallow in our rationalist age, but in all fields of study – psychology, medicine, neuroscience, and quantum mechanics – our conceptions and questions about the properties of the mind have constantly broadened and deepened, and never receded. I think our generation is on the precipice of a new conception of the mind. In some ways we’re like Victorians whose worldview is about to be turned upside down by the theory of evolution.
BS: What is the state of the positive thinking “industry” today?
MH: I find it too predictable and humdrum. I’m bored by all the social-media posting and “free prize inside!” promotion. The field has grown too small, too proscribed in its aims. For me positive-thinking is, frankly, a way for everyday people to get back in touch with a sense of primal power and possibility, which we suspect that we have access to, but we’ve lost the trail of. Now, I also want to help people sell things and get rich; I believe in those aims. But, more so, I want to storm heaven. And I believe the mind is the key to that.
BS: What’s next for you?
MH: My next step is a work of practical metaphysics, which I hope will reignite the intellectual dynamism that philosopher William James brought to positive-mind philosophy before his death in 1910. It will also be an exquisitely simple book, filled with exercises and techniques. I want to bring people a philosophy of results.
BS: Thank you, Mitch.