The Magic Mirror Trick

Robert Ringer made his name decades ago with his book, Winning Through Intimidation, followed by Looking Out for Number One. For years, I hadn’t seen hide nor hair of him, but it seems he’s still writing. The latest piece in his blog addresses the downside of being what Larry Elder terms a “victicrat” — someone who is determined to overdraw his victim card to the maximum possible level.

Focusing on the Real Enemy — You

in this article I’m going to focus on the most foundational aspect of overcoming what appears to be a hopeless situation, something I’ve always used as the first step toward getting back on my feet whenever I’ve been down. I call it the Magic Mirror Solution.

As an example, let’s say you’re feeling down because some malevolent miscreant screwed you out of your commission or your share of the profits in a big deal. As a result, you’re furious about what he did to you, which is quite natural — natural, but not good for you.

The problem is that so long as you’re focused on what the other guy did to you, your mind is frozen in the past. And if that’s the case, you shouldn’t even attempt to do anything constructive until you first thaw out your gray matter.

There’s an old adage that warns, “You’ll never smell like a rose if you roll in a dunghill.” Trust me, it’s true. No one in this galaxy has dealt with more certified members of the Dastardly Dunghill Gang than I have, so I’m in a position to speak from firsthand experience.

What the Magic Mirror Solution teaches us is that it’s not the dunghill guys’ responsibility to warn you ahead of time that you shouldn’t trust him. It’s your responsibility to open your eyes and your brain, and not only learn to spot these villainous vermin, but keep them out of your life.

Starting today, make it a habit to forget about what anyone else did to you. Forget about the bad breaks that foiled your best-laid plans. Forget about all the guys who are landing the good jobs and the good deals even though you know, in your heart of hearts, they aren’t good enough to carry your lunch pail.

If you insist on thinking of yourself as the victim, you’re using energy that could be better spent elsewhere, and it’s your own fault if it isn’t.

Now, you may actually be a victim. In that case, you will probably be very angry. But at whom should you be angry?

But let’s be optimistic here and assume that you’ve dispensed with the time-wasting exercise of projecting your missteps onto others. What’s next? Simple: Get mad at yourself. That’s right, yourself. Get really mad.

I cannot tell you how cathartic and powerful this exercise is. The reason it’s so liberating is because it frees you from wasting time and effort thinking about things over which you have no control, such as changing others.

This may be painful to hear, but the guy who screwed you in that big deal doesn’t believe he did anything wrong. He really doesn’t. Even if he robbed you blind, he long ago rationalized that you deserved it because of something you did to him — even if you didn’t do it!

I don’t know you or him, but I can tell you this much, sight unseen: You will never get him to admit he did anything wrong. Which is good, because once you understand and accept this reality, you can spend your time focusing on the real enemy in the mirror, which is you.

This is a very easy exercise to practice, so let me spell it out in the simplest way possible: Just look in the mirror and ask, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the dumbest one of all?” If the mirror comes up with any answer other than you, get another mirror.

But if it answers back, “It’s you, you idiot!” then you’ve just taken the first step toward turning things around. Trust your mirror’s judgment, get mad at yourself, and vow to become smarter.

Whenever I’ve put myself through this drill — focusing on my own ignorance, my own bad judgment, my own delusions, my own dumb investment decisions, my own irresponsible behavior, my own naïveté — my own everything — it has never failed me. And once I worked up a white heat of anger toward myself, that’s when I knew I was in a position to start turning things around.

“Never again” is not a hope, or a polite request. It’s a demand, backed by anger, both at those who oppressed, and at those who let the oppression happen.