How The Law of Attraction Turned Me Into An Arrogant Prick
If you’re a regular here you know I’m not a huge fan of the Law of Attraction, or rather the lame attempts by most of its supporters to explain it.
It seems from this guest post, neither is Mark Reagan.
Stories come in all kinds.
Many Hollywood stories follow the hero’s journey: a person is usually down on their luck, but they have a dream. They pursue that dream. And against all obstacles, that person – the hero – succeeds, and the dream comes true.
This is not one of those stories.
This story goes more like this: naive young man is duped by experienced mentor into believing whatever he imagines will manifest itself into his life and he will be very successful very fast.
He becomes a jackass and fails.
Getting Suckered By The Law of Attraction
When I was in college, I struggled with a severe bout of depression. Unlike the sad rock/decapitated head blob from the old Zoloft antidepressant commercials, no clouds followed me around.
Instead, on the train home from school, I did my best not to break down in tears in front of everyone (spoiler: I failed).
That was actually great! The alternative, which I contemplated daily for close to nine months, was, instead of crying on the train, was to step in front of the train.
I’m no expert in depression, and I don’t know why I became depressed, all I know is I felt:
- Like I was worthless.
- That I was very talented and was completely letting it go to waste.
I don’t know how you can think you’re worthless and yet very talented at the same time, but I did. It was a magic trick, like cutting a woman in half. I pulled it off every day, and no matter how much my negative thinking cut into me, I always put myself back together.
Fast-forward two years to when I met the woman who would become my mentor.
I had come out of my depression,but I wasn’t great by any means. Sometimes I had melancholy moments (and sometimes I periodically still do, although they’re much shorter as I know ways to work with them).
After my depression and an awkward break-up, I started taking Salsa lessons. I did it in part because I wanted to, and in part to spite a woman.
White Men Can Dance
She said “white guys couldn’t dance,” (often true!) so I decided to take up the challenge and prove her wrong. I dabbled for a year or so, taking lessons here and there but nothing serious.
When a well known instructor moved to town I took a workshop from her. What followed after was one of the best nights of dancing in my life.
I didn’t think I could afford private lessons with her, but since she had just moved here, she had dropped her prices to get clients. I had also just gotten my tax return fresh from Uncle Sam.
So I signed up. First for 10 lessons, and then for another round and more.
My teacher was my exact opposite. She was short where I was tall. A skilled dancer where I was not. Dark hair where I was blond, and so on.
Most importantly, she was the opposite of me in terms of thinking: where I could be extremely negative (I called it “being realistic), she was nothing but positive.
She’d say things like:
“You’re going to be one of the best dancers here!” and, “Everything I touch turns to gold!”
I don’t think she knew the story of King Midas who wished for that same power, and how he ended up turning his loved ones into solid gold statues…
She had a way of telling you exactly what you wanted to hear. And for me, someone who had felt worthless? It was like I finally met someone who saw my true value.
I was hooked.
She was the kind of person who can get people to open up to her. She comes off as extremely trustworthy. More so, she knows how to make you feel good. And when someone makes you feel good repeatedly, they associate those feelings to them.
I started opening up to her.
She started giving me advice.
Law of Attraction Guru
I never had any life guidance before, not like this. In my head she gained guru status and could do no wrong.
She became my mentor and started teaching me the secrets of life.
Or more specifically, The Secret.
Aside from being a dance instructor, she also listed herself as a life coach. In fact, it was the first time I had heard of life coaching.
Her coaching consisted of:
Telling me what to do.
Providing advice that missed the mark.
Using astrology and gender-based “shamanism” as a coaching tool.
And yes, it was based entirely in the Law of Attraction.
(If you know anything about coaching, then this is the opposite of good Life Coaching, especially the “telling people what to do part.”)
One day, as we were chatting at Starbucks, she gave me an assignment. She brought up a website on her laptop and started telling me all about vision boards.
She had me create one and later interpreted it for me, bringing all of her middling cold-reading skills to bear.
And yes, I admit it: I WAS BLOWN AWAY.
“You mean, I can just put images on a board, focus on them and they’ll happen?”
“Yes, Mark, you jackass. They will!”
Later she linked me to The Secret itself. I ate it up. Just piled that BS in my mouth and asked for seconds. She gave me that, too. It was a mixed bag of info. Some of the stuff was legit, like learning forgiveness. Other stuff came from Abraham-Hicks.
For a guy who had come from depression just a few years earlier, and who grew up poor? This stuff was incredible – life changing. My mood increased. I became more confident.
And I became an asshole.
For me, money’s never been much of a motivator. For her though? It was everything.
She looked at my first vision board and told me: “Be greedy!”
And I ignored my gut feeling and said, “Ok.” So I made a second one cobbled together from images on the internet. And a third, until I had one that was “greedy” enough, loaded with material possessions.
At this point, I was far gone down the rabbit hole. My teacher trained me as an instructor and I then even helped her design a new way of teaching Salsa.
I thought I was hot shit. Like being exposed to the surface of the sun hot shit. Every night I went out dancing, I knew I was the best dancer in the club.
After all, my teacher had told me I was.
I Was Delusional
I remember talking to a friend of mine at a party, telling him about my lessons and progress. I pulled out my phone and showed him a video of one of the greatest Salsa dancers in the world.
A multiple time world champion who had been dancing for more than a decade. I had been dancing for almost three years.
I showed him that video, and with a straight face, said, “At the rate I’m going, I’ll be as good as him in six months.”
In Geoff Colvin’s book, “Talent is Overrated,”(al) he talks about the 10,000 hour rule – that it takes approximately 10,000 hours of focused practice (or about 10 years) to become a master at something.
As part of that 10,000 hours, you can get about 3 hours per day of focused practice, and anything after that is diminishing rewards.
I may have been practicing 3 hours a week.
But hey, I was focusing on my vision board. I was manifesting greatness.
My mind became a contortionist. If something didn’t fit with my new worldview, it bent backward to find a position that would work.
There were a few smaller Salsa nights I went to where maybe I was the best there. But that usually wasn’t the case. The best is also entirely subjective, and even objectively I usually wasn’t.
So how did I cope with being the best while seeing people who were clearly better?
In my head I told myself they sucked. I criticized them, picking apart their dancing like I was dissembling a puzzle – judging each piece I found lacking and ignoring the big picture they added up to.
I was also manifesting money.
By this point I was teaching my own Salsa class in a town about an hour and half away. My teacher got me the job – the studio’s current instructors were leaving, and I took over for them.
I was supposed to rake in the cash. After all, it was just going to happen! On my hour and half drive each way, I envisioned the riches coming to me. How the piles of money felt. How they smelled.
Speeding Up The Manifesting Process
I even made an appointment to view a $400,000 luxury apartment. My teacher told me to do that so it would be “more real” and manifest faster.
Other than the one class a week I was teaching, I was unemployed and living off school loan money.
She told me if I did all this, it would be easy.
For my class, I did close to zero marketing.
I didn’t know anything about marketing, except what she told me. And it didn’t seem that important, because:
- I was amazing.
- The universe was doing my marketing for me.
This creates quite the mental dissonance when the reality is:
- I barely knew shit at the time about Salsa and shouldn’t have been teaching.
- The car I drove got about 15 miles to the gallon. Between studio rent and record high gas prices, I was losing money just from driving to and from class.
This is a bad combination, and it led to a moment that cost me half of my students.
I was stressed out. I was worried. And I knew what my teacher would say to me if I told her that the Law of Attraction wasn’t working for me, because she had told me that about others: “If it’s not working for you, you’re not doing it right.”
This is what higher ups in pyramid schemes tell the people below them when they complain. When the system is designed to fail, what else would they tell you?
One day, I had a new guy show up to class. He was very smug, didn’t take instruction well, and left early without paying. His smugness resonated with me – being so smug myself but not recognizing it until much later – and it pissed me off.
Add that into my narrowed LoA world view – I wasn’t just a great dancer by this time, I knew I was also an incredible instructor – and the stress I was under and…
This guy didn’t just leave without paying, in my head he was a thief.
I exploded and told everyone he was banned from class.
The Salsa community in this town was small. Most of the people in class knew him. He told his story about what happened at a party that weekend, and the next week half of my students stopped showing up.
I lost half of my students over a measly fifteen bucks.
It was my fault, but I blamed him. I followed teacher’s example when I followed up with him, giving him a non-apology, which of course only to make the situation worse.
This was easily the most childish moment of my adult career, and it cost me. A month or two later, I was too broke to keep teaching in the distant town and I gave it up to focus on a new class closer to home.
So much for manifesting riches.
After this, the Law of Attraction and my teacher’s image started to unravel for me. In the loss of my class, LoA had gotten a pretty big blow and her credibility with it.
Her credibility took a further dive. Her overwhelming positivity revealed a toxic side: she was unwilling to hear dissent. By this time, the system of teaching I created with her and others was starting to be taught in a few other regions.
But the system had issues. Deep ones.
Any criticism about the deeper issues resulted in my teacher shutting you down.
Her leadership style was less about finding out what was really working, and more about what she already knew would work. With LoA and positivity on her side, how could it not?
She took me off the project I had been working on. After this, I brought up the communication issues our makeshift organization was having. She told me I “was being unhealthy.”
There’s a Tony Robbins example of too much positivity. It’s the person walking through their garden full of weeds yelling, “No weeds! No weeds!”
It’s the same mindset that people like Susan Cain, author of “Quiet,” write about causing the collapse of the economy a few years back.
The people who brought up the issues and problems were marginalized in their organizations and forced out so everyone else could plow ahead off a cliff without any “negativity” to hold them back.
But hey! The Law of Attraction and unrelenting positivity are things that are put forward as a life changing formula. All the riches and success you can imagine!
If It’s A Law, How Can It Fail?
Easy, it’s not. The Law of Attraction, in my eyes, is the brain’s confirmation bias attributing multiple psychological aspects to a single myth (Some of these aspects are awesome, like how visualization works and why it’s important to focus your mind on solutions and what you want rather than what you don’t).
Done with LoA, there was only one more thing for me to get rid of.
Fed up, I sent my teacher an email telling her I was done. I left the system I had helped make to give it a go on my own.
I was not an overwhelming success. In fact, I was barely profitable.
But I was happy.
And after dropping LoA, I found books like Don Miguel Ruiz’s “The Four Agreements,” (al) which gave me the opportunity to have something I didn’t before: integrity.
I read “The Power of Now,” and learned about mindfulness for the first time.
The Law of Attraction, I feel, is a recipe for disaster. Like a pyramid scheme, it’s built to fail. One way to guaranteed to bring yourself down is to create massive expectations that you can never live up to.
It’s what I had done while depressed, and with LoA I did it again, just in a different form.
David Rock has a great section in his book, “Your Brain at Work,” (al) about managing expectations. When we create an expectation in our head, our brain releases dopamine. When that expectation fails to come true, we have a dopamine crash and feel like shit.
With LoA, I created massive expectations for myself. When clear evidence was presented to me against those expectations, I denied it and became a self-righteous prick. But it caught up to me, and I had my dopamine crash.
LoA believers will probably see this and tell me I wasn’t doing it right. That I was manifesting what my vibrations were really focused on, or that I didn’t stick with it long enough.
And maybe that’s true.
But with the Law of Attraction I was unhappy and unsuccessful.
Without it, I found my own truth: that happiness is something I choose. It’s not a side effect of manifesting unlimited wealth and success, it’s a side effect of what I enjoy doing.
And unlimited wealth and success?
I just started my own Life Coaching practice. My success is in my hands, not the hands of a universe that’s going to deliver it to me if I raise my vibrations high enough.
As for my former teacher, I’m grateful for her. She taught me more than she will ever know. And as I work to build my own life coaching practice, I even have a brilliant example of what not to do.
There are life coaches out there who teach their clients LoA, but instead I think I’ll help them improve their lives rather than become delusional jackasses like I did
Mark Reagan is dedicated to helping people break through their internal limits and live up to their potential. Visit him at www.breakmylimits.com