Phyllis Diller And Belief

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.


6 thoughts on “Phyllis Diller And Belief

  1. I used to believe. Really believe. And it works, to an extent. Until things go really bad and no matter how much you believe, nothing gets better. People keep reading books like these, look at the success of The Secret, which is nothing more than yet another rehash on the laws of attraction. No matter how hard I believe I can sell my house, make enough money to live on, have a successful business, etc., circumstances have to be considered and compromises have to be made. For many people, hanging on to what they have is all they can do, and even that’s not guaranteed. For the rest of the world not so fortunate to live in the US or Canada or whatever, no amount of belief is going to save them.

    • Belief is not enough….Diller learned to believe in herself, but she also put out the effort of doing a bunch of gigs all over San Francisco, honing her act. Books like The Secret
      are pure hokum, because they lead people to think we can wish ourselves to a better tomorrow.
      I’ve sometimes not been the most self-confident person in the world, and then wondered why I find myself in situations that are below what I believe my capabilities to be. We tend to hit what we aim at.

  2. Thanks Harry… I loved watching these interviews! Phyllis is right of course. We need to be ourselves. We can do anything we put our minds to. The simple process of believing can and does work miracles… as long as we believe it will. Giving up too soon [as soon as things get rough] is probably the reason this might seem to fail to work… but like anything… tenacity and integrity [being yourself] and giving it all you’ve got [which she did in spades] will ultimately win out regardless of the circumstance. I agree with her… believing is everything [along with forgiving]

    • I can’t really right all the wrongs in the world, Deb. All I really meant to do was to give credit to someone who lifted themselves into a better life. Diller found something that worked for her….we should all be so lucky.

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