Have you heard of the term magic bullet? In healthcare, magic bullet means a 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 used to refer to a powerful, fast-acting, yet easy solution to a difficult problem. In other words, that secret sauce.
You often see it in marketing claims:
Earn $10,000/month with just X hours of work!
Lose Xkg in 4 weeks!
See how I gained XXXX subscribers in just X weeks!
Yet, do magic bullets exist? Are there fast and easy solutions to our goals, our pains?
Examining Magic Bullets
Internet Marketing, Online Business
Let’s look at some common internet marketing claims:
- “Look at how I made $XXXX by sending ONE email!”
- “Build your 6-figure online business with just X hours of work per 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? These internet marketers seem to suggest an ease in getting such results. Let’s assume their results are even real (I highly doubt so in some instances). Is their claim true then?
- “Look at how I made $XXXX by sending ONE email!” — Earning money online is never from sending one email, but from the years that you spend building your audience and a relationship with them. When you have no audience, you have no sales to speak of. Even if you have an audience, it doesn’t mean that these people will believe what you say or buy from you. You need to build trust which takes time, and you need to show that you have expertise in what you’re teaching.
- “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, and this number is even higher for blogs. A survey of 1,000 bloggers revealed that 81% don’t even make $100 from blogging. According to the survey, only 2% spend less than 2 hours a day blogging while making more than $150K a year. Having been in the industry for over 10 years, I can tell you that the actual percentage is more like 0.01% today as the market is so saturated. And of those who “succeed,” many are simply selling products on how to “get rich quick” / how to “make money online.” Meaning, getting rich by selling the idea of getting rich.
- “This ONE secret method helped me gain 20,000 visitors in ONE week!” — It’s one thing to get traffic spikes. It’s another 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 boast about their traffic growth never show the same stats 1, 3, or 12 months down the road.
- “Look at how I’m earning $XXXX while touring in Bali/Thailand/Europe!” — See my reply to #2. Interestingly, the people boasting about living the free and high life are usually trying to sell you some 3-4 digit course on how to achieve financial freedom by starting your online business. As I shared in #2, only a tiny percentage of folks ever achieve this scenario and many of these folks get rich by selling the idea of getting rich. These people earn the bulk, if not all, of their income selling such “get rich” or “start your online business” courses.
Slimming, Weight Loss
Another industry where magic bullet claims are common is the slimming industry. In Singapore, you see slimming ads everywhere in newspapers and shopping malls. Some are even endorsed by well-known 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 that many of these claims have caveats.
Firstly, even though these slimming companies try to sell their machine therapy/treatments, their “treatments” 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’s naive to think that weight loss can happen without addressing your diet, what role does their supposedly patented services (machine-aided therapy or whatever) actually play in the actual weight loss, beyond aesthetic firming? How much of the weight lost is really due to the treatment and how much is due to diet? You decide.
Secondly, a large weight loss in a very short amount of time is usually driven by 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.
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. Every unit of glycogen is bonded to 3-4 units of water. If you have 1 kg of glycogen, you automatically lose —4 kg of water with that. That’s 4-5kg of weight lost in total, which is huge. That’s why rapid losses at the beginning of any weight loss effort is very normal — it happens to everyone, and there’s nothing “magical” about that.
Thirdly and very importantly, most slimming treatments do not tackle the emotional reasons of weight gain. Reasons like emotional eating, poor stress coping mechanisms, and unresolved issues manifesting as excess physical weight. As a result, even when one does lose weight on these programs, many put it back on later, and in spades.
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 go through yo-go weight loss all their life and not get anywhere with their efforts.
Last but not least, let’s look at the beauty industry. An industry where flawless transformations and fast effects of skin care and hair care products are the norm, where flawless displays of beauty are everywhere.
But how much of this is true? First, there’s a big question of whether we should even pursue the beauty standards pushed onto us by the beauty industry and whether these standards reflect the true nature of beauty. (Answer: They don’t. Read: The Beauty of Self.)
Secondly, what you see in ads is always touched up, including food advertisements. I shared the Dove Evolution commercial before which reveals the heavy makeup and retouching that happen for many beauty commercials today. No doubt beauty products have some benefits like making your hair smoother and hydrating your skin, but do they actually achieve the kind of effect seen in ads? You decide.
Once I interviewed an aesthetics doctor for Celes.TV (the interview was unfortunately not published due to audio issues), who told me that many beauty clinics photoshop their before/after pictures to make their treatments seem impressive. An aesthetics doctor is someone who does aesthetics treatments like botox, fillers, and liposuction. Photoshopping of such treatment pics is clearly unethical. Because of that, he gets patients who have unrealistic expectations, wanting results that aren’t possible from the treatment alone. For sales-hungry doctors, they don’t care — they just take the patient’s money and do the treatment, and let him/her deal with the consequences later on.
This Yahoo! article shares some horror stories surrounding the beauty industry in Singapore which I recommend you check out. These can happen to you too if the beauty industry is unregulated in your country.
So what does it mean?
I believe in the 80/20 way, which is to focus on 20% high impact actions to achieve maximum results in the shortest time. I apply the 80/20 principle in my life. 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 adopt eating habits that gives me the most health rewards: including drinking plain water over soda or sugared drinks, cutting down fried/oily foods, and eating a diet with adequate macro-nutrients (carbs/protein/good fats).
But magic bullets, which are easy ways out of a difficult problem or easy tickets to success, really don’t exist. At the end of the day you still need to put in the hard work and time to achieve your desired results. Until you do, change can never happen.
I find that when someone is looking for a magic bullet, especially with much urgency, it’s because they are at their wits’ end. That happens because they’ve tried whatever they could to achieve a goal but failed anyway.
If so, it helps to understand 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? Doing so will usually reveal fundamentals that aren’t there and a misplaced need to achieve the goal. For example:
- A woman who feels that she needs to lose massive weight and look stick thin to attract love — the real issue could be lack of self-love and a negative body image.
- Someone who wants to start a blog and make big bucks — the real issue could be a hatred for his current job.
- Someone who wants to make lots of money right away — the real issue could be poor financial habits leading to heavy debt, and the attachment of material wealth with his self-worth.
In such cases, there’s even more reason to work on the fundamentals and address the root issues rather than to look for the easy way out. For example, to work on loving yourself and having a positive body image rather than trying to lose weight quickly through fasting or unhealthy slimming treatments. To identify your ideal career and build a transition plan to achieve it rather than hope to hit it big overnight with some internet marketing course. To address your negative money beliefs and build good budgeting habits rather than try to make big money with fluffy financial courses.
Personal growth isn’t meant to be easy. It’s also not meant to be quick. 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 achieve success.
And it’s okay. It’s okay to be slow. It’s okay to take your time with things. It’s okay to fall behind the curve sometimes. Rather than rush and rush, subject yourself to obscene standards, and pursue certain results at the expense of everything, 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 so that 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 your best 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, super fast? But trust me, what you are doing is in fact the fastest path to achieve your goals.
My articles will help. I’ve grouped my 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 notice that the internet today is rife with ads claiming to help you achieve riches, earn passive income, start an online business, and [insert some magical goal]. For the love of god, please practice discernment. Most of these courses are junk, nothing but overpriced, basic information that does little to help you succeed online. Some even have fake social proof to create hype and false credibility. Online success is significantly harder than it seems, and most trainers today get rich from claiming to teach others to be rich (or start an online business). I share more here: 5 Harsh Truths About Blogging (And 6 Tips to Start an Online Business)
The reason why errant sellers continue to do 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 their unhappiness. 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 when the issue remains? That’s a magic bullet claim for you — it talks big, it makes big claims, but 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 onto it.
Much love to you and I look forward to talking to you soon. 🙂
This is part of the Skills Development series:
- Skill Building 101:
- Add-on tips:
- Obstacles you’ll face:
- Are You Looking for a Magic Bullet to Your Goals? (Stop looking for shortcuts)
- 7 Tips to Overcome the Impostor Syndrome
- Why Do Some People Have Innate Talent? It’s Not Fair!
- Recognize Your Blind Spots: Blind Spots In Personal Growth