What do you mean, you don’t know who Charli D’Amelio is? She’s only the most popular personality on TikTok, with 76 million followers and counting! (The number changes constantly, there’s a live feed of the count here.) So what does Charli do to earn these followers? Dispense sound financial advice? Speak out against racial injustice? No. She dances to pop music, mostly around her parents’ house in Norwalk, Connecticut.  And she’s damn good at it too. Why, she’s become so popular that she even has a line of official sportswear, in case you need a new hoodie:

Charli D'Amelio hoodie

You may not have 76 million viewers on TikTok, but you can wear her sweatshirt.

Now it’s easy to look at Charli dancing in her bedroom, decide that it would be great to become a big star by dancing in our bedroom, and make a few 6 second videos in a quick quest for fame and fortune.  The reality? Though it sounds like a fairy tale, 17-year-old Charli didn’t just switch on her iPhone camera and become an overnight sensation. She’s been a competitive dancer since she was 3, was raised by a fitness enthusiast mom and a businessman dad who sweated over her career, and spent years working on choreography and routines away from the limelight.  She’s also an optimist, gazing out at the world and not being intimidated by other dancers, celebrities, and cat video uploaders all jockeying for our somewhat divided attention.

So how can you follow in Charli’s dance shoes? There’s a common saying in many professions that you should “fake it until you make it.” This applies to jobs from fashion modeling to selling used cars to pursuing social media likes. When you are new in a job you don’t have the confidence and skills, but you can develop some aspects of competence by mimicking those who do.

This notion is popularized in treatises expounding laws-of-attraction thinking, like that of Rhonda Byrne in her book “The Secret” and its subsequent cottage industry of conferences, coffee mugs and a current spin-off movie on Netflix.

As Byrne preached to her acolytes: “How do you get yourself to a point of believing? Start make-believing. Be like a child, and make-believe. Act as if you have it already. As you make-believe, you will begin to believe you have received.” But this is nothing new, as Madame Blavatsky, Norman Vincent Peale and Zig Ziglar attested before her.

Today this idea is the go-to trope of countless parents, personal coaches, and positivity gurus. Unfortunately, “Fake it till you make it” also has a negative side — while the make-believe approach may enable .01% of the people to rise above, it can’t work for everyone. That’s why every handshake artist in a business suit doesn’t become a CEO, why 99.5% of writers never have a bestseller, and why every teenager dancing on TikTok won’t get their own reality tv series.

The essential problem that blocks “success through a positive attitude” is a little thing called reality. Yep, reality is a real cock-blocker of make-believe. It’s amusing that Americans, once among the most practical people in the world, have become “reality deniers.” Whether it’s living our lives through the lens of social media or questioning medical science during a pandemic, we think we are are able to bend reality like magicians or morph into an image of perfection for our “followers.”

As the current Covid count is proving, reality ultimately triumphs over delusion.* The SuperOptimist encourages you to embrace the truth about yourself, both the good points and the not-so-good. If you get comfortable with reality now, it will serve you well in the future. Once you have a firm grasp on the facts (“I’m lousy at math. I’m good at crosswords. I enjoy frozen desserts. I’m a developing a slight paunch due to frozen desserts.”) then you can face the world with the determination to overcome your weaknesses while playing to your strengths.

And if you do want to get famous on social media like Charli, then embrace what it takes to succeed: talent, luck, timing, and consistency.  Good luck!

*Only the President of the United States and his apologists are not convinced of this.

 

 

 

 

They who dream by day are more cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only at night. E.A. Poe*

We have written about dreams before, and for good reason. What else in life can offer so much pleasure and escape from the confines of reality, yet not cost a dime or leave a scar (assuming you don’t identify as a somnambulist.)

In addition to imaginative conjuring during the witching hours, it’s high time to celebrate the brain activity that occurs when eyes are open, yet focus on the external world is relaxed.  We may think daydreaming is a small part of our cognitive motoring, but it actually accounts for up to half of all our waking thoughts.

So rather than spend half your life with your mind-wandering in a state of semi-conscious incapacitation, exercising a bit of discipline on your flights of fancy can  prove most rewarding. “Deliberate daydreaming” is both good fun and 132% necessary to generate ideas that can propel the world forward. Especially as we enter a crucial period where our very lives depend upon solving big issues like economic inequality, climate change and how brick and mortar stores can overcome the amazon death grip.

Constructive daydreaming involves an intentional shift in focus away from whatever is in front of you (computer monitor, packed subway train, half-eaten fruit salad) to the “default mode network” of the brain, which can spark better ways of problem-solving. Pre-loading an area of interest before taking off for la-la land can focus one’s dreaming, making for time spent (somewhat more) wisely.

Of course, some people view daydreaming as a form of procrastination and insist that it’s bad for business.  The suits in corporate are apt to chastise an employee with their feet up, pencil slack, and a thousand mile stare on their face. But don’t let the nabobs of negativism get you down. Instead, hand them this article from a Harvard-branded “strategic facilitator” and tell them to leave you alone for the next several days.

And if you want to increase your Autopilot Cogitation Potential® a hundred fold, we suggest you pack your thoughts and fly to Daydream Island Resort, reopening this month after being whacked by Cyclone Debbie two years ago.

Finally, a word of caution: if you find it difficult to emerge from the spaced-out state once you enter it, you may have developed a condition known as “Maladaptive Daydreaming.” If you’re finding yourself drooling onto your desk, or idling at a green light until the driver behind you knocks on your windshield with a crowbar, there’s help for you here.**

*While some might question the benefits of daydreaming like Mr. Poe, his work was certainly the better for it. 

**Like all addictions, compulsive fantasizing must be self-diagnosed.

 

 

Sleep science is all the rage, along with bespoke mattress companies, open-cell, poly-foam pillow design, and the promise that melatonin will lure you gently into that good night, minus the hallucination and hangover of pharmaceuticals.  Yet your subconscious couldn’t care less about the new sleep sound machine you’ve configured to “relaxing rainforest.”

Once you start snoozing and the heavy REMs arrive, the dreams come forth in bunches.  Naturally, you’d prefer to be uncovering a treasure chest filled with gold doubloons, seducing the fairest of them all, and waving from an open convertible as the ticker tape alights on your shoulders along the Canyon of Heroes.

But think about it: waking up from pleasant dreams into the cold light of reality is much more difficult than bolting upright after experiencing a twisted nightmare. As you wipe the sweat from your temples and realize you haven’t actually lost a limb to a tiger shark, or been fondled by your father, you can be grateful that the day ahead won’t involve a flock of purple vultures feasting on your intestines.

So celebrate all dreams, especially the god-awful ones.  They can serve to give you a new lease on life.  After all, you’re not standing naked in front of your classmates from grade school minus the speech you were supposed to memorize.*

*This can actually happen if you don’t remember to dress properly in the morning. Please make sure you belt your trousers securely.

Bonus suggestion:  Don’t try to repress undesired thoughts before bedtime. They’re more likely to find their way into your dreams that night.  This according to a study at Goethe University, Frankfurt. 

Illustration: Dream interpretation of birth.