“The single greatest cause for divorce and or depression is reality.”

Dear Dr. Brilliant Cliché;

Sam and I both had kids on the soccer team, so we got to be casual friends. I remember that he was always very focused on the idea of being successful and he talked a lot about a product idea he wanted to get on the market. I didn’t see Sam for quite a while and wondered what happened to him. I ran into his wife at the local coffee shop and discovered she had kicked him out. He’d “borrowed” some money from their joint checking account to finance some deal that fell through. He’d also slept with the wife of a local financier, hoping to get a loan slipped through. Last she’d heard he was scheming on Twitter to get some backers who hadn’t heard what a slime he was.

I finally saw Sam again by accident on the street. I asked him how things were going and he boomed, “couldn’t be better! The business idea is really taking off.” When I expressed regret about his marriage, he waved it off. “When I get this idea going, everything will fall into place.” I found out that his business is going nowhere, but he seems convinced that the only way he’s going to get his life together is by focusing on nothing but making the business work.

What do you think ?


Dear Mr. H,

There is nothing wrong with trying to achieve things or having goals. A person without goals is probably not happier than a person who has them. Trying to be successful can be a positive thing and can give meaning to life. But it sounds as if Sam’s problem is that he has a life without any real life in it. As you noticed he is obviously bad news. I would go so far as to call him self-deluded and toxic. His story reminds me of a man I met who created a startup company, got investors to fund it, then realized the day before the product was to launch that he’d never chosen a product. He was so focused on the process of start up and did it all so wonderfully he forgot to actually design something to sell. Some people are delusional- all talk no reality. Investing any time in them would be like giving a transfusion to a vampire.

Even if this man is successful one day, would he stay happy? Success is a tool, not a goal, and it can be empty as well as meaningful. Success in and of itself is just a gambler’s win, and usually unsustainable.

Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Granny says: Sam sounds like somewhat of a psychopath. Unfortunately, often people like this can seem normal at first. But if you believe what is coming out of their mouths, you get sucked into a vortex of hallucinatory crap. As to his theories about success being the brass ring that will make him happy? Years of research and studies conducted though Yale University and Harvard show that success comes to happy people far more readily than it does to those who anxiously, and selfishly, pursue success while betraying their friends and family.


About Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Dr. Brilliant Cliché and the Granny Dr. are a fictional web presence and advice blog. Together we offer a joint perspective that is deep but not academic, entertaining but not fluff, and educated yet street smart. By joining the internet community we hope to share thoughts and stimulate insightful conversation around pressing issues that affect us all. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. (This is not a site for therapy nor does it intend to replace medical or other professional care. ) You can leave comments here or email The Dr. at dr.brilliantcliche@yahoo.com and don’t forget to like us on facebook. Our facebook page is Dr. Brilliant Cliche
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3 Responses to “The single greatest cause for divorce and or depression is reality.”

  1. Addendum: “The single greatest cause for divorce and or depression is reality.”

    There is a difference between a goal and an expectation. I wish for health, happiness and success- for both myself and my whole family. It is a goal. I don’t expect the heavens to open up and provide it for me. I have to do the work. Too many self help books tell you that in order to attain success, all you need is to expect success; to be happy, just expect happiness. The universe, through the law of attraction, will rearrange itself to provide for you. Many religions say the same thing- they stress faith, not effort. This is purely delusional.
    The man in this essay expects to be successful but in reality he, like everyone else who expects success, is just a gambler. He throws all his resources into one venture one after another and ends up losing everything. Interestingly, he is doing what the “to be a success self help books” say to do.

    Why does this way of thinking not work in reality? To explain this you have to understand the difference between a correlation and causation. Whereas causation is based on strictly empirical data, humans actually learn by correlation; we even have a brain area devoted to that. Unfortunately, reality isn’t based on correlation but on causation. Here’s something that’s going around the net right now: “The numbers of pirates has been decreasing since the 1800’s. Global temperatures have been increasing since the 1800’s. That means to help stop global warming become a pirate.” Humans are built to think via association as a survival mechanism. If you eat a plant and feel sick afterwards, you won’t eat that plant again, or any that remind you of it, even if the reality was that it wasn’t that plant at all that got you sick.

    This is why self help books on success do not work. They are usually written by someone who is successful. They look back on their life and think about what method or plan they used to be successful and write a book telling others about it. Others follow this advice and fail. Why? Because it wasn’t those things at all that made that person successful. This is retrospective truth, a story that a person created via correlation logic: I did such and such, I was successful. I was successful because I did such and such.

    The field of behavioral economics has actually done studies on successful people and what they found was their success wasn’t from any method or plan. There were many other factors- it could have been an innate ability like being smart, or 10,000 hours of practicing something, or the support of others. It could have been pure luck combined with the opportunistic ability to take advantage of that luck.

    Most formulas or methods the successful person used turn out to be no better than random chance when another person tries to use them. You had to actually be that person in their life ,with their opportunities, to be successful like them.
    Correlation logic feeds expectation: I deserve success. I deserve happiness because I followed some plan, took some pill or just said I wanted it. In contrast, goal oriented thinkers make a viable plan. Studies show that to be a success you actually need to consider the problems that might happen if your goal fails- not be so optimistic that you believe none will occur. Most marriages are expectation driven. People expect love to last forever; but most marriages fail. If people expect the marriage to fail, and look at how it might fail, it most likely won’t fail.

    Dr. Brilliant Cliché

  2. Ken Bryant says:

    Sam, you need to communicate with others. Half of life is about who the other person is and what they want, whether they are your spouse, child, friend, or fellow business associate. Otherwise, you’re going to be required to love a whole new set of people because you created them; your enemies! This is a much harder group to work with because you are giving them your worst side: denial, trickery, and deceitfulness. Sam, take a day and go to a large city. Take a walk. Watch the people and make an audio recording of what you see. Go home and write down some impressions of their lives. After you do, think about your own life. At first, it will be a struggle when you see how more fulfilled many of their lives are from yours. Go once a week. After a time, you will start practicing some of the things you see others doing. Don’t give up. We’re all selfish and all lonely. Its how receptive we are to others that can make all the difference in our lives.

    • Dear ken,
      Lets suspend reality for a minuet (as Sam isn’t going to take advice) and get academic (addressing the ideal that he would.) Then If I were Sam I would join a therapeutic group. Asking someone to learn from others by mere observation of others includes a ton of assumptions. The main one being that Sam has the ability to be neutral and objective. Looking and seeing are not the same things.
      At this point Sam hasn’t the skills to see thus would benefit from a group where he will be told multiple points of view. If he was the slightest bit open to it a group can function as a temporary external super ego. But as I expressed Sam hasn’t the insight that he has a problem thus no advice, therapy or suggestion will make a lick of difference at this time.

      As always thanks for your input,

      Dr. Brilliant Cliché

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