One Thing Gurus Say That Drives Me Crazy (and How An Astronaut Helped Me Understand Why)
“Only visualize success. You’ll only attract negative energy if you think upon the negative”
That’s just bad advice.
I know lots of people love the Law of Attraction. And when it is properly applied, you won’t actually hear me quarrel with it. But when it is misrepresented in a way that is dangerous to people, it bothers me a lot.
It’s always troubled me, but I had sometimes struggled with how to explain why in a way that peddlers of faux-positivity couldn’t dismiss as just being negative. Until an astronaut helped clarify it for me.
Years ago, I had the good fortune of meeting Chris Hadfield backstage at an event. If you don’t know him, he commanded the International Space Station. I’ve met a lot of interesting folks in my time, but he is singularly the most authentically confident human being I have ever met. There wasn’t an ounce of arrogance. He’s just a guy who truly knows and accepts what he is capable of. And clearly that’s a lot.
He told the story of being blind while on a space walk outside the station. Something had gone wrong with the air mixture in his suit. Mission Control told him to turn off his air.
While he was outside the Station.
While he was floating in space.
And he did it. He waited. They then told him to turn it back on. He did. And he was fine.
How was he able to do that so calmly? He trained for it. He summarized it succinctly in one line. ‘You have to visualize failure.”
In his business they train for every kind of failure so they are prepared for it. They try to find the ways things can go wrong so they can avoid. Because for them, it truly is life and death.
It doesn’t mean you dwell on failure. But it does mean that, when you are planning, you must challenge your thinking. You must consider the ways your plans could fail and then build around that to scaffold around those weaknesses or vulnerabilities.
I recall introducing this idea into a pair of clients who are partners in a business that is responsible for planning large projects. I suggested that if they challenge their teams to find 7 ways a given project plan could fail, they’d wind up saving a ton of time and end up with happier clients.
Hilariously, they got up from our meeting and rushed into a meeting in an adjacent boardroom. They walked in said “Find 7-12 ways this plan could go wrong.” Their team looked at them as if they’d lost their minds. But they did it. This is now an integral part of the planning process and their clients love them.
The reason that visualizing failure isn’t negative or counter to the Law of Attraction is that it’s still based in the belief that the initiative can and will succeed. You are simply taking a higher level of responsibility to ensure it goes well. It saves us from the blind spots that develop when we fall in love with our own ideas.
So, the next time you make plans, stop and ask yourself “how might this go wrong?”
Then do something to make sure it doesn’t!
(For more great advice from Chris Hadfield, check out his book "An Astronaut’s Guide to Life On Earth")