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:
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.
There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned Hollywood mud-sling to get the juices flowing, as the latest Mickey Rourke-Robert De Niro dust-up proves.
Rourke demonstrates his SuperOptimist bonafides by
- thinking he’s in the same league as Bobby D. This type of blind self-belief that flies in the face of the facts continues to serve him well.
- calling De Niro out for an interview that may not have even taken place, and threatening him with grave embarrassment the next time he sees him. This display of power (albeit one of instagramming, rather than fists flying) was enough to spark a resurgence of interest in the actor, at least for 24 hours.
- attempting and succeeding in gaining attention on social media with a story that’s probably not true.
- continuing to be recognized by the world of show biz, despite changing his appearance with so much plastic surgery that he’s now basically unrecognizable.
We salute “the Mick” for wrestling another few column inches from the entertainment press, and wish him the best in his quest for respect from Sir Robert.
A Muslim, a Catholic, an African American, a Jewish person, a Hispanic, a Wasp, a native American, a lesbian, an old woman, a gender-neutral person, a Chinese communist, a Russian oligarch, an Iranian mullah, a red state Republican and an Upper West Side Democrat walk into a bar…*
First of all, have you smiled? Or are you already getting your back up at the possibility that someone could be made fun of as this story unfolds? This is a litmus test to your future well-being. Can you survive in the cancel culture without cancelling yourself out?
Let’s start with the facts. Humans are the nuttiest creatures on the planet, and our ability to be “triggered” has become so sensitized that each of us now needs a personal injury lawyer just to leave our homes in the morning. Our big brains and thin skins leave lots of time to parse language, self-select into special interest groups, and worry ourselves over slights both real and perceived. Each person would prefer it if other people agreed with their opinions. Naturally, each person would also like the freedom to render judgment on those who don’t.
Meanwhile, tribal hostility has been going on since homo sapiens first noticed differences in their appearance (“Hey, you’re not wearing the same bearskin as me. I’ll feel safer if I make fun of your outfit!”) and will no doubt continue despite corporate offices hanging up “Zero Tolerance” banners. Because humans love conflict, and deep down they love feeling superior to other humans, even when that superiority is based on how “caring” or “woke” they are!
If all the wars of history (current skirmishes included) were not proof enough of this idea, we salivate over professional sports, rooting for the home team to “kill” the opposition and raise the championship flag over our particular city of “winners.”
Meanwhile, the media and industry have been harnessing trigger words for years to gain audience share and exploit our interest in being wise vs. being gullible. We like being triggered when it’s “easy” or “secret” or “free.” We go the other way when it’s “complicated” or “difficult” or “overpriced.”
SuperOptimists understand that people are different, and that these differences should be respected and celebrated. We also know that being overly sensitive is not an enjoyable way to go through life, as you become predictable and boring and whiny and nobody really wants to hang around you (except for other overly-sensitive people).
What’s the best solution? Pure, unadulterated laughter at the absurdity of it all, especially a good laugh at ourselves. We’re all fallible creatures, after all. Laughter is a tonic for all colors of skin, sexual preferences, religious convictions, or gender reclassifications. Laughter is one of the core emotional expressions of joy. Who has ever wanted to turn away more spiritual joy – besides ruthless dictators and antagonists in Charles Dickens’ novels, that is.
So if you think you’re special because you’re a “woke white,” go fuck yourself! And if you think you’re special because you’re multi-ethnic, or a member of a fringe group, or call yourself “they” instead of “he” or “she”, go fuck yourself! As for us, writing this post with the superior attitude of know-it-alls, we’ll go fuck ourselves too!
See? Now we’ve all got something in common!
*As for the joke that started this column, the fact that there is no ending is what’s funny about it. To us, anyway.
In the past six months, we’ve gone from world leaders saying there was no major threat from Wuhan to a rip-roaring pandemic. We’ve seen medical experts say that only the elderly and the immune-compromised were at risk, to learning of perfectly healthy people dying from the disease. We’ve been told that wearing a mask is unimportant, to wearing a mask is very, very, very important.
Now we’re seeing various governors arbitrarily decide to keep their states open in the face of increased outbreaks (but maybe they’ll close their states in a week or two, depending), while Wall Street shouts that the worst is over as 20 million people remain unemployed.
If ever there was a time to question authority, this is it.
Looking back, mass confusion is not a new phenomenon; it breeds a group of so-called “experts” who take to the airwaves to tell you what to do next. From politicians to religious leaders, opinion columnists, business gurus, life coaches, self-help authors, movie critics: Here’s a set of professional guidance counselors that outwardly preach the ability to “live your best life” by following their expert tips. Yet when in their homes with the shades drawn, they are just as confused, foul-mouthed, and imperfect as you are.
Perhaps more so. Scratching their backsides, yelling at their kids, sneaking glances at pornography, greedy for more wealth and power — just like everybody! Remember, despite their confident, toothy grins, these “experts” are not their book jacket photos.
So what is the “truth”?* Which facts do we embrace? Or is life just a lucky guess after all?
What they (and you) can learn from current events is to laugh at the human condition, chortle at our constant foibles, and re-think what makes you happy in the first place.
One way to start? Ignore everything an “expert” says on a cable news show. As Philip Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield, put it: “Let it be your maxim through life, to know all you can know yourself, and never to trust implicitly the information of others.”
NOTE: The only advice you should follow is your own personal truth. With just this secret alone, you are nine times more likely to find it! (Oh, and wear a mask. That should go without saying, but we’re saying it anyway.)