Big Promises: Why Some Don’t Live Up to the Hype

Here’s Why You May Not Be Experiencing a Promised “Breakthrough”

Have you ever had a friend recommend something
that they thought was “awesome” or even report that they experienced a breakthrough?

It was something you were eager to try out… yet when
you did, you were underwhelmed?

Then, just about the time you are ready to assign “yah, right…” to then next “this was ah-mazing” claim, you are shocked because, well, it actually was.

Here’s the question: Why is it that, sometimes “great” promised claims turn out to be a bust, and other times they are, to use the word of the old Tony the Tiger commercial… GREAT!

And perhaps more importantly, how do you avoid two equally fatal mistakes:

  1. Falling for every grandiose claim, OR
  2. Turning into a cynical, skeptical critic (who misses out on some great things because you doubt everything).

Big Promise: “This Is Going to be Life-Changing!”

I attend a really good church, but sometimes they promise stuff using absolute terms.

“This is going to be a transformational series…”

“You will be profoundly marked by this guest speaker…”

“This is going to be a life changing experience…”

  We are going to see breakthroughs from this…”

I for one am tired of frequent hyperbole. I can do without the sensationalized “you DO NOT WANT TO MISS next week…” It sounds like the boy who kept crying wolf. Even if it is true, you automatically mutter to yourself a skeptical “uh-huh”.

But, that can be a problem. You see, sometimes the promised event is a powerful event indeed.

So, what to do? You need to consider 4 truths to help you stay open to the promise of something great (even a breakthrough) but understand and accept when it isn’t everything it said it would be.

4 Truths to Remember When You Hear Big Promises.

1. Empty Claim. There will be times when what I’ll call an “Impact Claim” is just an empty claim. Out of 100 recipients, NO ONE saw the results that were promised.

Let’s face it, as long as there are people who desperately want the result being promised, there will be people out there ready to promise you what you want to hear.

“If you take this course and learn how to channel your inner desires, you will become a millionaire!”

“This amazing, revolutionary diet will just melt the pounds away, give you rock hard abs… all while you sleep!”

What’s the wisdom of the ages on this one? If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

You need to remain open to the possibility (don’t summarily dismiss it without hearing it out)… but remember that some claims are just plain hollow and empty.

2. Selective Claim. This is when some people are getting the results (you long for), but you aren’t. In other words, the claim is true for some, but not others.

Personally, I find this dynamic to be particularly frustrating.

For example, you are told that a certain marriage course/weekend will “transform your marriage.” At the end of the course, some of the couples report experiencing just such a transformation.

Meanwhile, you and your spouse continue to struggle.

This dynamic can happen with a regimen that holds promise for weight loss, or improved health, or financial freedom, or many other areas of life.

In situations like this, you need to do two things:

A. Honestly evaluate if you followed the teaching you received. It is not unusual to selectively apply things you learn and then be shocked to find that your results are lacking.

Here’s reality: if you want the results others are seeing, you need to do the things others are doing.

If you in good conscience believe you have followed the instructions carefully, then perhaps…

B. The breakthrough doesn’t apply to you. There are times where the application of certain truths doesn’t impact you because that isn’t an area (right now) that has the potential for a breakthrough.

Here’s an example of how this happens. Imagine two auto assembly plants. Both are struggling to make the expected number of cars each day. They bring in a consultant to help them produce more cars.

At the first plant, the consultant notices a bottleneck on the assembly line at the point where the windshield is installed. They decide to revamp that whole station so that things flow through in greater volume. The result? 40% more cars are produced.

Auto executives are ecstatic! They broadcast to their other plants about this amazing breakthrough in results. Other plant managers are excited about seeing a 40% increase in production.

The problem is that at the second plant, the windshield installation station is not where there is a bottleneck. They can dutifully revamp the station like the first plant, but they won’t see “breakthrough” results.

Bottom line: The promised impact may not apply to you right now because that is not where you will find a breakthrough.

3. Evaluate The Claimer. When you hear a claim or a promise, don’t start with the claim itself… start with who’s making the claim.

Ask yourself…

  • Is this person or organization frequently using hyped language? Is everything “amazing” or a “breakthrough” or “revolutionary” in their eyes? If so, you can be a little skeptical about what they are saying.
  • Is there proof being given? Saying something doesn’t make it true. Even here you need to be cautious. It isn’t that hard to cherry pick results so that it comes across like everyone has had an extraordinary result. Are the results widespread enough to give some validity to the claim?
  • Is the claimer offering a guarantee? If you have to spend money to get certain promised results, and the results don’t occur, do you have recourse? Can you get your money back?

This is called risk reversal, where the claimer is confident enough in your satisfaction that they take on the risk that the claim won’t deliver. This is a good sign… but you need to determine the details of the guarantee.

For example, I once tried out an exercise machine “risk-free” and found it to be over-hyped… so I returned it to get my money back. The company did give me a refund, but… they wouldn’t pay for the shipping to return it (which was very expensive because of the weight of the equipment). My fault for not learning this BEFORE I ordered it. If I had, I would not have “risked” trying out the machine in the first place.

4. Know Thyself. Claims are habitually received in different ways by different people. You must factor this in.

Be honest with yourself. Are you frequently falling for promises? Or are you by nature skeptical or even cynical when you hear something?

If the goal is to be open to claims (so you don’t miss out on good things) but wise (so you don’t unnecessarily fall for a claim), then you will need to adjust what you are hearing to how you typically receive claims.

If you are naturally skeptical, you must override this to some degree by being more open to what you are hearing.

On the other hand, if your first instinct is to believe what you are hearing, force yourself to slow down and carefully evaluate what is being claimed. Doing so shifts your brain from auto-pilot to using the ‘deliberate’ system of processing information. This system is by nature less gullible as it tries to add things up and make sure everything makes sense.

Living In Openness Without Being A Fool

Perhaps the best way to approach this needed balance of openness yet being wise is to employ the approach used by President Ronald Reagan.

When the Americans and the Russians desired to mutually reduce their nuclear arsenals, the question was whether or how to proceed. Do you move forward with complete trust in the other side’s reassurances (and risk getting screwed)? Or do you refuse to deal with the other side (because you are skeptical about being able to trust them).

Reagan said his approach would be “Trust but verify.” He was willing to be open to the stated intentions of the Russians (trust), but at the same time verify what they said and did.

The next time you hear about something that holds the promise of delivering what you really want, be open to the possibility it could turn out just like it promises… but verify all along the way. The alternative are not pretty or wise: act like a cynic or a fool.

Your Turn!

What claim did you believe that turned out to be a bust? What did you learn? Leave a comment below.

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