What can we do with this information? Gutman offers suggestions. Smile. Smile at strangers. Smile at yourself. Smile the first thing on waking. Smile when you’re skydiving. Smile while you’re giving natural childbirth. Offers one smiley devotee, “I smiled through my natural, drug-free labor and fully believe it transformed the whole experience. I recommend smiling to all women going through childbirth.” I would love to have seen this woman recommend that to my wife as she was being wheeled down the hall for a c-section after 40 hours of labor and 4 hours of pushing. In fact, to test the astonishing power of this recommendation, I just now read it aloud to my wife. Her reaction makes me long to see this woman offer her this advice even now. She wouldn’t be smiling when she finished.
I don’t mean to be cruel. I’m actually fairly smiley myself. But this book, which as a TED book is supposed to be about “a powerful idea,” is a fatty concoction of neuropop, adventure travel, self-help, California woo, and Palo Alto entrepreneurial gush. It pushes positive thinking across some mathematical warp zone that renders it negative. I suspect it would make even the father of positive thinking, Norman Vincent Peale, just fwow wight up.