Life Of Percentages

We, as a society, try to use words like “beliefs” and “positivity” as explanations of how we overcome certain things. I realized recently that it doesn’t matter how positive or how much you believe in something, things can always take a negative turn.

There are thousands of Self Help Books designed to make us better people. Authors like Tony Robbins talk about how positivity can solve your problems. People use literature and research as methods for constructing positivity.

Let’s use the scenario that I have a life threatening illness and there is a chance I may die. On one hand I am the roaring Ra-Ra confidence of the American spirit. Where I believe I can overcome ANYTHING! Let’s say I live…is it because of my positivity or because I took the right things? People will talk about how confident I am and how nothing can take me down because I believe. Not “just” because I took the right things.

On the other hand I am negative and depressed constantly. I feel like I have no value in this world and will die alone. But let’s say I take the medicine still (which I will go into later on) and I live. Do you think it was my negative attitude that rewarded me with life? Again, maybe me taking the right things cured me and not a mindset.

I had 2 life threatening concussions. I had bleeding in the brain and doctors were shocked that I had no symptoms at all and didn’t miss a step. At the same time of my first concussion, actor Liam Neeson’s wife (Natasha Richardson) hit her head on soft snow and died of a head injury. I hit my head on ice so hard that my skull cracked and I was perfectly fine while she died. So did I overcome my injury with my positive sensibility? Did my body say “Heal now” and it did? Or does this reside in the category of “shit happens”?

Jim Valvano gave one of the greatest speeches in history. He was diagnosed with cancer and gave an emotionally roaring speech at the ESPN awards ceremony about how anyone can overcome anything. A few months after his speech he died…..of the same cancer that he made us all believe that he can overcome. Meanwhile people who maybe have a more serious diagnosis of cancer and who aren’t as positive may live.

The reason I put in parenthesis the part about the medicine was because (even though I am mostly bashing the notion of positive attitudes as methods for success) you still have to have a small notion of positivity to want to take something in the first place. If there is a 1% chance that you may live after hearing that you have a life-threatening illness, then you have a chance. I could be a devout Christian and have my heart filled with the Holy Spirit and still die. Meanwhile, I can be a negative atheist who has the same thing and live. Putting my hands together in prayer isn’t going to guarantee success.

Mercer College beat Duke in the NCAA tournament last season. Are you going to make the argument that Mercer College was more positive and wanted to win more than Duke? Or can you make the argument that Duke’s shots weren’t going in and Mercer had a better game plan? There are 68 teams in the tournament so therefore you have a 1/68 chance of winning it all. There are no certainties in sports. If you make it to a tournament, then you have a chance to win. Don’t let odds makers determine outcomes.

We love the David vs Goliath type of stories. Movies like Rudy and Miracle show us how people overcome impossible odds and come out on top. What a better story? How LeBron James has overcome adversity and has finally achieved all he was predicted to or how Bill Russell has won 11 titles in a row because he played on the best team in the league at that time?

I don’t mean to shit on people’s beliefs or positive energy. I trying to be a best-selling author and overcome disappointment constantly. I get rejection letters from publishers and still I send more out. Why? Because it’s something I want to do for a living. There is a big chance that I may never achieve my dream and have to settle for another career choice.

So I believe in being positive because without taking that first step you might not get what you want or take what you need to survive, BUT I don’t believe that thinking positive or reading the right material will automatically solve your problems.

Like I said about sports and certainties, there are also no certainties in life. If you have a 1% chance of living, then you have a chance of living. If you have a 99% chance of living then you still have a 1% chance of dying.

We love to hope that there is some otherworldly force that can help us in times of peril. That our positive energy can therefore challenge the laws of the universe so we may come out on top, but sadly that is hysterically untrue. Sometimes, to be blunt, shit happens. And there are no guarantees with medicine, self-help books and Ra-Ra speeches.

Joe Reyes