The lost art of Believability


After lunch today, my friends and I received our fortune cookies and each opened them up to see our fortunes (and, you know, eat the cookie).

With the mass-produced nature of the fortune cookie being so well known (Santa and the Tooth Fairy are, of course, still believable), it’s tough to get my hopes up for a real fortune. And don’t get me started on the lotto numbers on the back.

This specific batch of fortunes was, in my opinion, especially disappointing. Bear with me while I share them with you.

You will obtain your goal if you maintain your course. Naturally vague, and I understand that, but I’m not even sure it’s a fortune so much as a mantra. Let’s try it and see…”I shall obtain my goal if I maintain my course…I shall obtain my goal if I maintain my course…I shall obtain my goal if I maintain my course” Do you feel it? It could work, I suppose.

Now is a good time to call a loved one at a distance from you. Aren’t we at a point in human history where the translations can be much closer to 100% English? I mean, I live about 12 miles from the geographic center of the U.S. No matter where you come from, you have to travel through a maximum amount of English-speakingness to get to Kansas. Plus, “Now is a good time to call a distant loved one” would use less ink. Bonus fun fact: not so much a fortune as a guilt trip.

Time makes one wise. Ask advice from someone older than you. Seriously? Do 14 year-olds even read their fortune cookie fortunes? Maybe this one is a bit of a fortune, if you consider it in my future that I will one day need advice. Unfortunately, it’s about as profound as “Breathe, for the air is across the Earth”.

You will always be surrounded by true friends. At least this one had the air of fortune-ism about it. And it allowed for me to deliver a humorous, “Hey look, your fortune has already come true” (you had to be there). Of course, will it always be true? hmmm.

It’s sad how unimportant quality has become in the fortune cookie industry. If the quality continues to deteriorate, I may have to give up on opening those cookies up at all.

In fact, I don’t accept what passes for a fortune these days. It makes me wonder if anyone in the fortune cookie industry even cares about my future anymore? In our always-on, instant-access, have-everything-now culture, maybe they’re filling a niche I never knew was there. Maybe we don’t want to hear our futures, but just something positive about our present lives.

How long until those retailers and marketing heros come up with a way to transition those lame fortunes into even more lame $$$ worth of advertising?

I’m actually surprised that McDonald’s hasn’t capitalized on this by offering fortune cookies as a desert option with a fortune inside that says You will save 25 cents on your next value meal, if you surround yourself with more friends.  

And why limit it to food? Verizon could have your BlackBerry spit out a fortune that says You will earn 5 free text messages if you call a loved one who in the next 20 minutes is distant.

Google may be missing a huge goldmine here: Click here for your fortune – Google makes one wise. Search for advice from one older than Bing.

Of course, a Franklin Covey fortune cookie might cost $24.95, but your fortune could include a valuable tip for reaching your potential using one of the 7 Habits, You will obtain success if you maintain your True North™ course.

You heard it here first. The question is, which retailing giant will be the first one to implement my idea? With the current trend and the fortune I tell for the fortune cookie industry, can we truly be surprised at anything we read? Is anything we read believable anymore?


  1. “You will obtain your goal if you maintain your course.” Thanks for this reminder. I was just reading a book called “Make it Stick: Why Some Ideas Die and Others Survive.” Very good read and relates to this post.

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