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ISSUE #117
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ArrowLet There be Retards
My Special Time at the Creation Museum

Ian Murphy

ArrowGhosts of Tim Leary & Hunter S. Thompson
Freedom vs. Authority under the 40-foot pulsating rainbow vagina
Joe Bageant

ArrowThose Lazy Iraqis
It's hard to pull up your socks when your legs have been blown off

Allan Uthman

ArrowHoward Zinn's Message of Hope
Extortion through inaction

A Monkey

ArrowThe Secret to Attaining Awesomeness
A lucrative six-step program
Phillip Kolba

ArrowJerry Falwell: Stone Fucking Dead at Last
A fond farewell
Matt Cale

ArrowAn Open Letter to Libertarians
An offer you can't refuse
Stan Goff

ArrowExperts: Cockburn Adds to Global Warming
Liberal pudit trades positions with GM

Charles Komanoff


ArrowThe Beast Page 3
Non-threatening Negro Literature

ArrowKino Kwikees: Movie Trailer Reviews

Your completely accurate horoscope

[sic] - Letters


The Secret to Attaining Awesomeness

by Phillip Kolba

I find myself among the recently unemployed, and I face a dilemma common to those in this condition. On the one hand, I’d prefer not to find another job. On the other, I don’t know anybody who still operates on the barter system, so I need a source of income. How to resolve this conflict?

During a particularly productive period of my unemployment, I was browsing best seller lists on the internet and discovered that The Secret reached the top of the New York Times hard cover advice list, and the BookSense hardcover nonfiction and fiction lists.

I haven’t read The Secret or watched the movie. I refuse to subject my brain to such a hazard. But I’ve pieced together more than I want to know from the rants of those who’ve been brave or foolish enough to experience it.

The basic premise of the work is that you can bring about whatever you want simply by thinking about it — what the author calls “the law of attraction.”

This strategy apparently works with any goal. An acquaintance of mine, after watching the movie, now fervently believes she can fly. I don’t mean she’s comfortable stepping onto a plane. Literally — flapping-her-arms, jumping-off-a-cliff flying. I assume she hasn’t yet attempted lift-off or I would’ve joined her in the hospital after I laughed myself into an apoplexy from learning about it.

Exerting that kind of influence is enticing, and consumers of self-help literature seem insatiable for some reason, so the self-help market should be able to support another product.

The formula is pretty simple. Take a nuanced psychological theory, like positive thinking, which suggests that optimism, high self-esteem, and satisfaction with life predict healthy psychological, physical, emotional, and relational functioning.

Reduce it to a simple catchphrase that’s only tangentially related to the original theory. Make impossible claims about the efficacy of your catchphrase to change people’s lives. Finally, disseminate it in a shiny package and inflate the price.

An obscenely inflated price has the dual purpose of making you filthy rich and building a loyal customer base motivated by cognitive dissonance. The high price creates the illusion of great worth. If you convince a customer to pay that price, and he discovers your product isn’t worth what he paid, he is motivated to convince himself otherwise. The alternative is that he risks damaging his self-image by acknowledging that he is gullible enough to be deceived by dishonest marketing.

If I were to research a psychological principle that I could put into practice, that would come dangerously close to doing actual work. Instead, I’m going to simplify an existing self-help philosophy on the pretext that I am evolving the ideas of previous great thinkers. Thus I will maximize my ratio of loot to effort.

The job from which I was laid off was computerized note taking — basically stenography, but with a laptop instead of a fancy typewriter — for certain college courses. I was assigned to cover the “Image Consulting Certificate” program. There were six courses, taking 90 hours in total to complete, and costing the students $1,200 each.

I’ve condensed those lessons into six principles, each one introduced by a quote from one of the classes. (These are actual quotes I took from my notes. I couldn’t make this stuff up.)

I present to you: The Life is Awesome Society’s "Six Principles to Make You Awesome at Life" certificate.

Health: “Personal growth might make you feel ill. That’s your body releasing toxins, so just bear with it.” The ability to ignore your body’s danger signals is necessary to complete this certificate. Beware of serial killers, however, because they are attracted to people who do this. Still, it’s a small price to pay for being awesome.

Public speaking: “Begin your speech with a quote. For example, Cleopatra once said, ‘To be or not to be.’ ” Better yet, begin every speech with that exact quotation. You’ll impress the audience with your literary prowess.

Fashion: “When in doubt, overdress and feel confident doing it.” Don’t worry about whether you should wear a tie or a bowtie with your suit. Instead, go with an emperor’s robe made from the finest Indian silk and embroidered with gold thread, cover your head with a carved ivory helmet, and carry a jewel-encrusted scepter. Traveling atop a war elephant is optional.                                    

Business: “Remember World War 3 — women who had trouble feeding their families would still buy creams.” The implication is clear: Start another world war to stimulate sales in any luxury goods you might be selling.

Energy: “Thoughts can affect another person’s energy. To protect yourself from negative thoughts, imagine that you are zipping yourself up. But be careful when you unzip your jacket that you don’t also unzip your energy.” This is of particular concern in colder climates. People come inside from the cold and unzip without thinking. You don’t want to be caught with your energy exposed for some stranger to fondle.

Awesomeness: “Visualize that you’re awesome.” Because you are. Also visualize sending me $9.95 to receive a certificate stating: “Cleopatra agrees: ‘I’m totally awesome.’ ” (Order forms are available at I know it doesn’t seem like the price is very high, but if you consider that each certificate costs me about $0.11 in ink and paper to produce, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s grossly inflated.

You can practice these six principles and at least double your awesomeness quotient. But these principles are only the first step in a long journey of self-improvement. Attaining the certificate allows you to prove to the world how awesome you really are —you could include the certificate on your resume, website, or embroider it onto your favorite pillow. It also means you’ve attained the next level of awesomeness and can continue your costly training.

Above all else, remember that the potential for happiness and success is always within you. But you need to pay somebody else fat sacks of cash to help get it out. Why not make that person me?

Philip Kolba is a recent psychology and criminology graduate, and the editor of Squid & Ink magazine.





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