Willie Nelson? Dale Carnegie? Norman Vincent Peale? James K. Van Fleet? John C. Maxwell?
Dear Quote Investigator: Did country music star Willie Nelson say something about replacing negative thoughts with positive ones to achieve positive results?
Quote Investigator: In 2006 Willie Nelson with Turk Pipkin published “The Tao of Willie: A Guide to the Happiness in Your Heart”. Two epigraphs appeared at the beginning of the book: 1
When something positive occurs, it contains within it the seeds of negative and positive.
—The Tao Te Ching
Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.
This general notion has a long history in self-help literature. For example, in 1948 the popular volume “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” by Dale Carnegie mentioned replacing negative thoughts: 2
Even if we don’t succeed, the mere attempt to turn our minus into a plus will cause us to look forward instead of backward; it will replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts; it will release creative energy and spur us to get so busy that we won’t have either the time or the inclination to mourn over what is past and forever gone
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
The influential self-improvement book “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale contained the following thematically related remarks: 3
Think positively, for example, and you set in motion positive forces which bring positive results to pass. Positive thoughts create around yourself an atmosphere propitious to the development of positive outcomes. On the contrary, think negative thoughts and you create around yourself an atmosphere propitious to the development of negative results.
In 1987 “Hidden Power: How to Unleash the Power of Your Subconscious Mind” by James K. Van Fleet referred to positive thoughts: 4
. . . your negative personality can be changed completely. All you need do is reprogram your subconscious mind with positive thoughts of tolerance and patience, love and kindness, and your entire life can be turned around, literally overnight.
In 2003 “Thinking for a Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Work” by John C. Maxwell referred to positive thinking: 5
“I tell people: If you don’t want to get into positive thinking, that’s OK. Just eliminate all the negative thoughts from your mind, and whatever’s left will be fine.”
In 2007 Nelson’s adage caught the eye of a commentator in a Huron, Michigan newspaper: 6
Country music star Willie Nelson said: “Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.”
In conclusion, Willie Nelson should be credited with the saying he included in his 2006 work “The Tao of Willie”. Thematically similar statements have appeared in self-help books for decades.
Image Notes: Small low-resolution image of the book cover of “The Tao of Willie” by Willie Nelson with Turk Pipkin. Illustration of Pakua with Frame; original author: Benoît Stella alias BenduKiwi; modified by 百楽兎; licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic. Publicity photo of Willie Nelson at the Grand Ole Opry circa 1965.
(Great thanks to Ryan Rice whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration.)
- 2006, The Tao of Willie: A Guide to the Happiness in Your Heart by Willie Nelson with Turk Pipkin, (Epigraph of book), Quote Page vii, Gotham Books, New York: A Division of Penguin Group. (Verified on paper) ↩
- 1948, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie, Quote Page 134, Simon and Schuster, New York. (Verified on paper) ↩
- 1963, (1956 Copyright; 1952 First Publication), The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale, Chapter 13: Inflow of New Thoughts Can Remake You, Quote Page 169 and 170, Fawcett Crest, New York. (Verified with scans) ↩
- 1987, Hidden Power: How to Unleash the Power of Your Subconscious Mind by James K. Van Fleet, Quote Page 149, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. (Verified with scans) ↩
- 2003, Thinking for a Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Work by John C. Maxwell, Part II: Eleven Thinking Skills Every Successful Person Needs, Skill 6: Feel the Energy of Possibility Thinking, Quote Page 164, Warner Books, New York. (Verified with scans) ↩
- 2007 August 18, The Times Herald, Point of View: Positive mindset about our city needed to make progress by Tim McCulloch, Quote Page 5A, Column 2, Port Huron, Michigan. (Newspapers_com) ↩