Are You Looking for a Magic Bullet to Your Goals?

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A freeze-frame of a bullet shot through water

Have you heard of the term “magic bullet“? In healthcare, magic bullet is referred to as the perfect drug that selectively targets a disease in a body without any side effects. The concept was popularized by Paul Ehrlich, a German physician and scientist. Today, magic bullet is commonly used to refer to a powerful, fast-acting, yet easy solution to a difficult problem. That “secret sauce,” if you may.

You see it around you, in marketing claims. “Earn $10,000/month with just X hours of work!” “Lose XXkg in just 4 weeks!” Or “See how I gained XX,XXX subscribers in just X weeks!”

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Yet, do magic bullets exist? Are there fast and easy solutions to our goals, our pains?

Examining Certain Magic Bullets

Let’s look at some common internet marketing claims:

  • “Look at how I made [insert $X amount] just by sending ONE email”
  • “Build your 6-figure online business with just X hours of work each week”
  • “This ONE secret method helped me gain 20,000 visitors in ONE week”
  • “Look at how I’m earning $XXXX while touring Bali/Thailand/Europe!”

What’s the problem with these claims? They seem to suggest an ease in getting said results with little work. Yet, is it true?

  1. “Look at how I made [insert $X amount] just by sending ONE email” Earning money online or via email is never from that ONE email sent but from the years that you spend building a relationship with your audience, and prior to that, building your audience. With no audience, there will be no sales to speak of. And even if you have an audience, it doesn’t necessarily mean that these people believe what you say or will buy from you. Trust takes time to build, and to build trust, you need to first have the expertise.
  2. “Build your 6-figure online business with just X hours of work each week” — How many people actually succeed online? Very few. 9 out of 10 startups fail[1], and this number is even higher for blogs. A survey of 1,000 bloggers revealed that 81% never make even $100 from blogging.[2] Only 2% are ever able to spend less than 2 hours a day blogging while making more than $150K a year, i.e., the dream scenario for most who blog. And what’s the chance that a chunk of these folks sell products on how to “get rich quick” and “make money online,” i.e., getting rich by selling the idea of being rich?
  3. “This ONE secret method helped me gain 20,000 visitors in ONE week” — It is one thing to get traffic spikes and another thing to get a high traffic that sustains. Years of building an online platform have taught me that traffic spikes mean nothing when they don’t sustain. Incidentally, many of these blog sites that exclaim about their traffic growth never show the traffic stats 1, 3, 6 months down the road.
  4. “Look at how I’m earning $XXXX while touring in Bali/Thailand/Europe!” — See my reply to #2. Interestingly, the people often boasting about living the “free” and high life are usually the ones trying to sell you some exorbitantly priced course on how to achieve financial freedom by starting your online business. As shared in #2, only 2% of folks ever achieve this scenario, and some of the folks in this 2% are essentially rich from selling a dream. Most of these people usually earn the bulk, if not all, of their income selling said courses.

Another common industry where magic bullet claims are rampant is the slimming industry. In Singapore, you see miracle transformation ads by slimming agencies in newspapers and shopping malls. Some of these are even endorsed by celebrities, suggesting great credibility.

Yet, how many of these claims are true? I can’t speak for all of them, but when you look deeper, it’s clear many of these claims have caveats. Firstly, even though these slimming companies are trying to sell their machine therapy/treatments, their “programs” inevitably require you to go on a very strict diet, like not eating after Xpm, cutting out carbs, avoiding X and Y food, and so on. While it’d be naive to think that weight loss can happen without tackling your diet, what’s the role the services they are selling (be it machine-aided therapy or others) actually play in the actual weight loss, beyond aesthetic firming? How much of the weight that is lost is really due to the treatment and how much is due to the diet?

Secondly, large weight losses in a very short amount of time usually consists largely of water loss, not fat loss. The best example is when I did my 21-day fast in 2011 — I didn’t eat anything for 21 days, yet my weight loss wasn’t the same throughout this period. Guess when I lost the most weight? If you say the first few days, you are right.

Graph: Fasting Weight Loss

During the first 5 days, I lost the most weight, at 4.8 kg (10.6 lbs). For the 2+ weeks after that, I lost my weight at a constant rate of 0.2–0.3kg (4.4–6.6lbs) a day, which was in line with my calorie deficit. My fast ended on Day 21. Read: My Fasting Series

Why such a large loss at first? That’s because my body was using my glycogen (stored food reserves) due to my calorie deficit, and consequently the water bonded to it. As every unit of glycogen is bonded to 3–4 units of water, if you have 1 kg of glycogen, you automatically lose 3–4 kg of water with that.[1] That’s 4–5kg of weight lost in total, which is huge. That’s why rapid losses at the beginning of any weight loss endeavor is very normal — it happens to everyone, and there’s nothing “magical” about that.

Thirdly and very importantly, most slimming “solutions” do not tackle the root reasons of weight gain. Root reasons like emotional eating, poor stress coping mechanisms, and unresolved issues manifesting as physical weight. As a result, even when one does lose weight on these programs, many invariably put it back on. Suddenly, it’s clear that it’s not about how fast one loses weight, but how one loses and keeps it off. Without tackling the root causes, one can yo-yo diet all their life and not get anywhere with their efforts.

Last but not least, let’s look at the beauty industry. An industry where fast changes and flawless transformations are the norm, and where flawless displays of conventional beauty are everywhere.

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But how much of that is true? First, there’s a big question of whether there is even merit in pursuing the beauty standards pushed onto us by the beauty industry, and whether these standards reflect the true nature of beauty (read my posts on beauty here and here). Secondly, what you see in advertisements is always often touched up, including food advertisements. I shared the Dove Evolution commercial before which reveals the heavy makeup and retouching that happen behind the scenes for many beauty commercials today. No doubt beauty products serve some benefit, like making your hair smoother or hydrating your skin, but do they actually achieve the kind of end effect seen in ads? You decide.

Once I interviewed an aesthetics doctor for Celes.TV (the interview was unfortunately not published due to audio and other post-production issues), who told me that many beauty clinics photoshop their before/after pictures to make the treatments seem impressive, to drive sales. An aesthetics doctor is someone who does aesthetics treatments like botox, fillers, liposuction, and so on. Photoshopping of such treatment pics is clearly unethical, though I don’t understand why photoshopping of beauty ads has come to be normal and legal — to me, both mislead and create a false illusion. Because of that, he gets patients with unrealistic expectations, wanting results that he knows aren’t possible from the treatment alone. For the sales-hungry doctors, they don’t care — they just grab sale, do the treatment, and let the patient deal with the consequences.

This Yahoo! article shares some horror stories surrounding the beauty industry in Singapore, which I recommend you check out. These issues can happen to you too, especially if the industry is largely unregulated where you live.

End Note

So what does it mean?

I personally believe in the 80/20 way. The 80/20 way is to focus on 20% high impact actions that will help you achieve maximum results in the shortest amount of time. I wrote about the 80/20 principle here and I personally employ it in my life, be it my work or relationships. I analyze and adopt strategies that help me grow my business effectively. I focus on relationships that give me the most emotional reward: my family, best friends, and you. I also adopt eating habits that gives me the most health rewards: including choosing complex over refined carbs, drinking plain water over sugary drinks, cutting down on fried/oily foods, and consuming a plant-based diet.

But magic bullets, which are shortcuts to success or the easy way out for a difficult goal or pain, really don’t exist. At most you learn strategies and methods that help you tackle a goal in a more effective way, which are things that I diligently cover and share on the blog, and also things that I meticulously walk you guys through in my courses. However, there is still hard work needed at the end of the day and commitment needed on your part. Until you do so, change can never happen.

I’ve found that when someone is looking for a magic bullet, especially desperately so, it’s usually because they are at their wits’ end. That happens because they’ve tried whatever they could to achieve a goal, but failed anyway. When that happens, there’s even more impetus to examine what’s going on. Why are you looking for a magic bullet? What went wrong? Why are you in such an urgent need to achieve this goal? Usually it reveals fundamentals that aren’t there yet and a misplaced urgent need to achieve the goal. For example, a woman who feels that she needs to lose massive weight and look stick thin in order to attract love. Someone who wants to quickly start a blog and make big money to get out of debt. Someone who wants to make lots of money to prove a point, as opposed to out of the desire to help others and give value.

In such a case, there’s even more reason to take time to work on the fundamentals and address the root issues, rather than look for the easy way out — be it in weight loss, finding love, getting out of debt, achieving financial freedom, business success, or blogging success.

Personal growth isn’t meant to be easy. It’s also not meant to be quick or immediate. It’s something that you work on day in and out. Just like nurturing a great relationship or cultivating a friendship, it takes time to find your way in a goal and navigate your way to success. And it’s okay. It’s okay to be slow. It’s okay to take your time with certain things. It’s okay to fall behind the curve sometimes. Rather than rush and rush, subject yourself to obscene standards, and/or pursue certain results at the expense of everything else, I rather you take your time to figure things out and work on being the best you, at your own pace and time, while not being complacent about things. There’s little sense in pushing for artificially forced results with little regard of the big picture, not unlike stretching a plant with your bare hands just so it can grow taller faster. It’s stupid. It’s counteractive. It’s also self-damaging.

The faster you stop looking for the magic bullet to your goals and pains, the faster you can be on your way to be the truest you and live your highest life. On the surface it may look like you are taking a detour. Why slow down when you want to move fast, fast and super fast? But trust me, what you are doing is in fact the fastest path to achieve your goals. And more.

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My articles in the articles section will help. I’ve grouped the articles into key categories, so browse the section relevant to you now: be it improving your productivity, pursuing your passion, starting your business, finding love, or something else.

By the way, I noticed that the internet today seems rife with ads claiming to help you achieve riches, earn passive income, start an online business with a thriving customer base quickly, or [insert some magical goal]. Please, for the love of god, practice discernment. Most of these courses are junk, even by folks with supposed social proof; most of these courses are nothing more than overpriced information that does little to help you succeed online. Online success is significantly harder than it seems, and most of the trainers in this domain today are really getting rich from claiming to teach others to be rich (or start an online business, however you call it) vs. having something concrete that will move a needle in your business goals. I share more on this here: 5 Harsh Truths About Blogging (And 6 Tips If You Want to Start a Blog/Online Business) [PEP010]. The reason why errant sellers continue to do so well is because they know how to prey on buyers’ weaknesses. Weaknesses like one’s desire to get rich quick, to find love, to look good, to achieve freedom in life, to break out of the unhappiness they are facing. Does any of this ring true to you? Have you ever felt drawn to these magic bullet ads/products/services because deep down, you wish to swiftly solve these pain points? Only to be sorely disappointed later on when the issue remains? That’s a magic bullet claim for you — it talks big, it claims a lot, but inside, it’s just a hollow shell.

The next time someone tries to pitch a magic bullet claim to you, remember: you know better than to jump on big promises and quick fixes.

Much love to you and I look forward to talking to you soon. 🙂

This is part of the Skills Development series:

  1. Skill Building 101:
  2. Add-on tips:
  3. Obstacles you’ll face:

Image: Bullet

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