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Nutrition Informatics Blog

Persuasive Messages

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Perhaps the single most powerful part of informatics is that—regardless of the specialty area—it still boils down to collection and use of data.  I so often wonder (like the rest of the public) what the magic combination of data, messages, stories or information which will create “success”—be it in health care goals or life in general.  Many times we know what we have to accomplish—yet we need reminders, encouragement and/or a reality check along the way.   Years ago, I read a short story about Norman Vincent Peale, as told by his wife and partner in business, Ruth.  Understanding who he was is a critical backdrop to the story. 

Norman Vincent Peale, the popular author of over 40 different books, has been called the “Champion of Positive Thinking.”  In addition to being a minister, founder of the inspirational Guideposts Magazine, and author of the popular book, The Power of Positive Thinking, he was an “ordinary man” who grew up working multiple jobs to help support his family.  Until I researched his life for this post, I had no clue that his famous book was very controversial and caused significant angst in both the psychological and religious literature—but today it’s not relevant for this discussion. 

The one story that bubbles to the surface each time I hear his name is a short revelation by his wife of an incident that occurred years ago when Dr. Peale was trying to get his famous book published.  When yet another denial letter from a publisher came, he tossed his book in the trash in frustration.  His wife pulled the manuscript from the trash, brushed it off and put it aside until the period of angst passed.  He went on to indeed get it published and sold over 20 million copies in 41 languages.  Persuasion? Persistence? Trusted Support? Rebound from failure?  Yes, all of the above—and the insight to realize that we are in a fabulous point in time where we have the potential to use information, data and knowledge to create powerfully persuasive messages.  


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