Focusing on the Real Enemy — You

Posted on August 24, 2017 by Robert Ringer


Among the thousands of letters and e-mails I’ve received over the years, many of them have asked about how to deal with hopelessness.  It’s tough to give concrete advice on this subject, for two reasons.  First, everyone’s situation is different and, second, it’s impossible for me to know more than a small number of facts involved any given case.

What’s the person’s age?  How’s his health?  Is he married … single … divorced?  Does he have children?  How old are they?  Are any of them handicapped?   Does he have any cash on hand, or is he dead broke?  Does he receive a regular paycheck?  (A paycheck can actually be a big disincentive for many people, because it tends to deprive them of a sense of urgency and repress their resourcefulness.)  In other words, the number of variables is infinite.

With that caveat, 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.

Does this mean that I’m asking you be a saint?  Not at all.  What I’m encouraging you to do is be selfish!  Rationally selfish, that is — meaning, you’re not out to hurt anyone, you just want to make sure that you actually receive what you’ve earned.  That said, it’s decidedly in your best interest to look in the mirror, because that is where the source of your problems resides.

If you choose to live in a self-created world of delusions and see yourself as a victim, you become mentally impotent.  After all, being a victim implies that you don’t have the power to change things in your own life — and nothing could be further from the truth.  The fact is that the person who was responsible for putting you in this hole is the only person who can make you whole.  And that person is you.

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 yourselfThat’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.

Of course, all this is easier said than done, but if your desire to lift yourself out of a self-defeating mental state is great enough, you’ll do it.  And once you’ve laid the proper foundation by identifying the real source of your problems and getting genuinely mad at that source, you’ll be in a position to take the kind of action that will transform your thoughts and aspirations into positive results.

Never forget that it all starts with the Magic Mirror Solution, and don’t let your ego get in the way.  Just do it.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

36 responses to “Focusing on the Real Enemy — You”

  1. Stefani Woodams says:

    Love it Robert! Taking personal responsibility is the only way forward. Ancient wisdom. Beautifully stated.

  2. Richard Lee Van Der says:

    You make me think of certain BAD CHOICES I made. Some, however, turned out to be "blessings in disguise". You might include that in your discussion/teaching. I call myself a Spiritist. I believe we receive "inner guidance" BUT we don't always understand what it is. Sometimes, often, yes, I screw up, but, so many times when I think about it, I can see how the painful negative at the time was in fact teaching me, or turning me in a different, and in the long run, BETTER direction. IN ANY CASE, life and living is NOT always easy.

    • Jim Hallett says:

      Spiritual man has been given dominion, but most of us try to achieve that dominion via Physical or Mental man, so fail often. The "Inner Guide" s flawless, but developing that trust when life throws us some difficult situation is the real challenge. Just knowing or hearing Truth does not achieve results, but putting it into practice is the key. We all deceive ourselves with who we are in the world (we have a much higher opinion of ourselves than what we often project in real life everyday), so like Robert said, the first thing is to take COMPLETE personal responsibility for what has shown up, and if we don't like it, then it is up to us to change that, by becoming what we want to be, have, or do. It is not always easy, especially if one is not used to doing this, but it gets better over time, since we start trusting the process more. Sometimes the only way we can move forward and achieve a higher level of consciousness is to shaken out of our comfort zone by a difficult situation/person.

    • Ivan says:

      Sometimes I also feel that a bad choice or what seems to be a bad choice or not getting what we want is because of divine guidance.

    • Enming says:

      Very often, only because of those wrong turns, wrong decisions and adversities life throes to us we can see and understand things we cannot see or understand without them. The divine guidance is always merciful and fair.

  3. Robert says:

    Thanks for the article. Interesting, thought provoking and smart. This article reminds me of a book I am pretty certain you recommended. I want to thank you for the recommendation of the Harry Browne book "How I found Freedom in an Unfree World." On your recommendation I read it and found clear thinking, smart ideas and the root of ideas behind an article like this one. Mainly "focus on yourself and what you can do directly to affect your happiness, and ignore trying to change others or even being frustrated with them. They are seeking their own happiness in their own way." Thanks for putting out these articles and being a voice for rational living.

  4. Bob says:

    I love your magic mirror solution.

  5. drbsci says:

    The "bad guys" in my life are in Washington, passing laws to ruin the economy and interfere with the labor market. With 20/20 hindsight, I can see that my best play 20 years ago was to move to a more expensive city, gambling (and it might not have worked) that the relative prosperity and sanity in hiring practices would outweigh the extra rent I had to pay and the cost of re-education. (In the event, I made the mistake of staying in the Balto/Wash area.) Now I'm making some progress, but seriously thinking of emigrating from America at some point. I understand the "magic mirror" in that I'm the only person I can work on with a good chance of results, but Washington is doing a pretty good job of cranking out reasons for pessimism.

    • Richard Lee Van Der says:

      I live in the Philippines quite well on SS and VA $. Many benefits living here, few drawbacks (such as no really good BEEF here. Minor. So I only use ground beef. No problem.) Lots of benefits. I am 81 years old and spend my time writing books and publishing them on Amazon. So, much depends on if you are still active making a living in the States.

    • Jim Hallett says:

      Washington, DC and its criminal creatures is unlikely to change, so you have to decide what things you are willing to do to avoid falling into the grip of that cesspool. It might mean just keeping a low profile, or it might mean moving out of the USA or some other remedy. Only criminals are attracted to a position that is based completely on theft and coercion (which is what govt. is), so you will do yourself no favor to keep locked into complaining about them, though I SURELY understand the temptation when their stupidity and immorality is so continuously on display!

  6. Marte says:

    I don't understand the charm in being a victim. It's like saying "I'm a helpless nobody." Not that I didn't spend a few of my younger years playing "poor me" over some really stupid things.

    The only thing I can think of as a valid cause for such hopeless feelings is the incurable illness of a loved one. It's the one thing you simply can't control.

    • Jim Hallett says:

      Victimhood attracts attention, and sometimes, affection from others, which is why so many revert to it. It's a very self-defeating way to lead one's life, but it gets lots of support and sympathy from others. An incurable illness is a sad ordeal to go through, but if you believe man is a spiritual being as opposed to just a physical being, it helps to put things in better perspective, and you know that life is eternal, so your loved one will be on to a new adventure, though you will surely miss them.

    • Jean says:

      Victimhood means never having to say you're sorry. Really – if you are always the victim, you can never be held responsible for anything. In addition, truly pathological and sociopathic "victims" are masters / mistresses of manipulation. They take complete advantage of people who have a conscience, blaming them for whatever misery and woe they are experiencing and then demanding some form of reparation from that other person. And all too often, the other person gives in because that makes them a "nice" person. For those of us who are thinking, thoughtful people with some sense of personal pride, there is no payoff to being a victim. But that doesn't describe all too many of our counterparts.

  7. TheLookOut says:

    Most profound sir. Only wished I had truly understood this – long before I did.

  8. Rick G says:

    After reading this article, I can't help but remember all of the dumb choices and decisions I have made in my life, all the time wasting projects I engaged in, and all the people whom I let do a number on my head. I was indeed really naive, gullible, and easily intimidated, even well into my adulthood, blaming all my bad breaks on others, when all I had to do was look into the mirror and see the real enemy responsible for most of it, if not all. And this part about looking in the mirror at oneself I clearly remember reading about in Robert Ringer's earlier books. Often I think that if I only had to do over with what I know now, I would have definitely done things much much differently. I remember when reading and re-reading Robert Ringer's books, especially Winning Through Intimidation and Looking Out For Number One, whereby in the latter one, he states that all actions have consequences and you need to know WHAT you are doing and WHY you are doing it. The WHAT was never a problem for me on the surface. I think I should have looked into more closely and deeply analyzed what that WHAT really was. The WHY was the bigger problem. This was where I would come up with the dumbest, most delusional rationale imaginable. And when I mean dumb, I mean DUMB! Like dumber than a box of rocks! Now, in a couple areas of mine such as money issues, I have a perfect credit history and I have a FICO score as of now 826. Actions have consequences! The same with a perfect driving record, no tickets, no accidents ever. The same too on the moral character side, no run-ins with law whatsoever. Actions have consequences! It was in the career choice area I ran into quite a few problems to say the least. All I can do now is continue on, practice rational selfishness to its utmost relentless extreme, which I like to call "selfness" because so many touchy people cringe at the word "selfishness", and keep my cerebral antennae fully open at all times. And LEARN from my past mistakes and failures and AVOID repeating them.

    This article is vintage Robert Ringer big time. It has inspired me to go back into my Ringer library, yes I have all his books including multiple copies, dust off my books, and read all his masterpieces again with a fresh new start and see what happens. When Robert Ringer talks, I LISTEN. I am sure great things will happen and I am already excited and reenergized in anticipation of doing this.

  9. NotPropagandized says:

    If only Robert Ringer could replace the seemingly thousands of Sociology Departments in USA and Europe that preach victimhood and their silly notions of social justice. People by the millions have been ruined and relegated to debilitating form of mental illness and conviction that others are the culprits for their lack of success and plight in life. These people become anchors, anvils in life that everyone else if forced to drag around for their lack of productivity and contribution to the worlds production.

  10. Robert, all this sounds very dandy indeed…but it is too easy. You seem to support Trump on many facets, yet you appear to forget that a major theme of his caqmpaign was: The system is rigged…" Was this to mean that only the elites face a rigged system….or maybe women..yes, make me laugh. I live in the real world, where feminists have decided to destroy me because I blindly trusted them for 10 years, and then finally saw their ill faith and dishonesty…and as Rush Limbaugh explains: "Women control everything…everything…hahaha…you can't escape it." And when women know you have seen their true self, they want you to disapear from the face of the earth…I have been harassed by femninsts in all aspects of my life for the past 25 years, still am, and to a degree of obscenity. Toronto feminist producers even made a film ment to mock me (and surely other men in my situation), at which they invited my then grlfriend to the premiere in Montreal some 20 years ago, but not me : "Sleeping with a dead man". In a politically correct country like canada…when femnists decide you are dead while you are still alive…you have no more rights, period! You are instantly ostracized forever. So your little menuets doesn't resonate very loudly down here but rather sounds as insignificant as a Strauss Valse directed by Andre Rieux.

  11. Jay says:

    I see the wisdom. I understand both the problem and the solution. The timing couldn't be more perfect. There is now hope where it was viewed as in doubt. I have learned so many good things from you, Robert! Thank you…

  12. Steve V. says:

    It's not always YOU. Some situations just have no good solution.

  13. Doug says:

    Well done Robert, well done.

  14. Angedur says:

    True, always going to run into goofy turds that pride themselves on being stupid on purpose. What can you do other than devise a number of non verbal responses of what they can do and where they can go AND what creepers they are. Ran into a punk recently that got the message and ran into another with a receding hairline, big goofy head and for some reason was wearing jeans that showed her wide hips that it usually wears a dress to downplay and disguise.

  15. Ivan says:

    Couldn't agree with you more. If something isn't working out in your life, you have to look at yourself and change what you are doing whether it is strategy, perspective or attitude. In other words, stop bellyaching and take on new actions.

  16. Phil says:

    This is truth.

  17. John John says:

    Great article by Robert and the same with the commentary. I was beginning to think I was unusual in having had a multitude of personal and professional disasters while trying to do what I truly believed to be was the right thing. I eventually discovered that if I stood by my standards, which come from my strict Catholic background, and then did what I believed was the honest thing to do, but with no real sociological understanding of my own species, then I deserved to get eaten alive for being so damned naive! I have learned to let others earn my trust and to immediately disengage with, and to totally eliminate, negative and arrogant people from my daily life. I am no longer naive to the games played in the professional business arena and have no desire to return to corporate life or take a proposal to the county commissioners without knowing who got paid off first (You can giggle here but ain't it the truth?). Further, I can instantly smell arrogance and deceit much like a shark can smell blood in water at a distance calculated in miles. With this developed sense of smell, I am now working on my hearing (some humor here with the analogy) I can now sit for hours listening to the environment around me with all but an occasional thought seeping through the cesspool of mass communications polluting my otherwise pristine mental environment. If you watched the eclipse of the sun, a comet in space, a close up video of our sun in action, or a photo from deep space captured by Voyager, it presents a rather ominous mystery that envelops all of creation. It is truly sad that the unaware, robotic and predictable, class of moronic and self deceiving individuals that comprise our so called leadership in the U.S. congress and other world governments, has coalesced into a human black hole of perversion that has no sense of place in the universe. This vortex has the potential to physically and spiritually annihilate all of us! Too bad we don't have a massive ethics torpedo packet with decency accelerators and wisdom generating nuclei that could penetrate that black hole and, through some kind of space magic, uncoil and massively repopulate the entire universe with a truly noble species worthy of participating in this grand scheme. Ya, my analogy isn't scientifically sensible, but don't you think it is the thought that counts? Good night to all of you good folks out there and yes, I know I have no talent for writing a one paragraph novel but I thought I would give it a try anyway.

  18. warrenzephaniah says:

    Genuine, continually going to keep running into silly pieces of poop that pride themselves on being doltish deliberately. What would you be able to do other than devise various non verbal reactions of what they can do and where they can go AND what creepers they are. In a politically adjust nation like canada…when femnists choose you are dead while you are still alive… UK Dissertation you have no more rights, period! You are in a split second shunned until the end of time. So your little menuets doesn't reverberate noisily down here yet rather sounds as unimportant as a Strauss Valse coordinated by Andre Rieux.

    • Angeder says:

      Usually the double standard of women thinking they can say and do whatever they please, and like a thug say I was only joking when caught. Crap, they are thugs and they know it and are nothing but dirty kunts and they know that too.

  19. karllembke says:

    One thing about professional victims is they're basically angry, and not happy.
    Anger is a useful tool, but it has to be properly directed.
    "Never again" is not a wish, or a hope, or a polite request. It is a demand, backed by anger, both at those who oppress, and (ideally) at those who let themselves be oppressed.

  20. B Wilds says:

    Tomorrow always brings new opportunities! The question is, will you still be standing or in a position to take advantage of them? Recently an auction at a piece of commercial property that I had a personal interest in went on the block and went for a price higher than was merited. I'm not a big fan of auctions because they present too many variables when it comes to pricing.

    Pricing a purchase on the spur of the moment without complete knowledge of what you are buying is seldom wise. The fact is competition at an auction tends to bring out the animal spirits in many people. The article below looks at how after time and effort it is still best to say "no' to a deal and take solace in the fact you still have your money.

  21. Lyndon Laird says:

    One of the most powerful blogs I've seen.

  22. David Alexander says:

    What if somebody *really wrongs* you and thinks they are not? What if they crucify your daughter, or cut your significant other into bloody bits? Are you really going to get mad at yourself? This is extreme, but the threshold of what people can take and still take the steps you recommend is relative. Your advice is pretty good, but it will not work for everyone.