When we got the news of comedienne Phyllis Diller’s passing a few days ago, I remembered her like most people did. But I also remembered another tidbit of information about her that most people aren’t aware of.
Diller credited a rather obscure, early self-help book from 1948 called The Magic Of Believing by Claude Bristol with her success in transforming herself from a beaten down housewife in the Bay area to an entertainer.
You can see her talking about it here:
Her friend Liberace also claimed the book influenced his life, and even paid for a special edition of the book to be printed to keep it in circulation.
When George Burns died at age 100, a copy of the book was on the nightstand of his Beverly Hills home.
You don’t hear much about The Magic Of Believing anymore. I’ve read it, and it is pretty dated and obscure. But it is one of a few books that spawned the multi-billion dollar self-help industry, and certainly seems to have made an impact on the people I’ve mentioned, none of whom was involved in selling or publicizing the book for profit.
The premise is pretty simple. Before you can do anything, you first have to believe you can. Visualize yourself doing the thing, and succeeding. This technique is now considered pretty mainstream by sports psychologists and used by trainers.
If you watched the diving events at the London Olympics recently, you might have noticed divers standing by the side of the pool with their eyes closed, twisting and moving through their dives. Visualizing the perfect dive.
I’m not sure what struck Phyllis Diller in Bristol’s book, but she obviously took it to heart and believed that life had more to offer her than what she’d seen so far.
In addition to her comedic talent, she’s a good example of how we can create ourselves.