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Everything I Know About Success I Learned from Napoleon Hill
Essential Lessons for Using the power of positive thinking
By Don Green
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Napoleon Hill Foundation
All rights reserved.
You can do as much as you think you can, But you'll never accomplish more; And you can win, though you face the worst, If you feel that you're going to do it.
—EDGAR A. GUEST
The greatest waste of all is the waste of our own potential mind power. The famous Harvard professor and psychologist William James estimated that the average person uses only 10 percent of his mental power. He has unlimited power—yet he uses only about one-tenth of it.
The power to be what you want to be, to get what you desire, and to accomplish whatever it is you are striving for abides within you. You are the one who is responsible for bringing it forth and putting it to work.
Within you is this power that, when properly grasped and directed, can lift you out of the rut of mediocrity and place you among the few who make large accomplishments in life. You must learn to use this power and realize that the mind can achieve all things.
One ship drives east and another drives west With the selfsame winds that blow. 'Tis the set of the sails, and not the gales, That tell us the way they go. Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate, As we voyage along through life: 'Tis the set of a soul that decides its goal, And not the calm or the strife.
—ELLA WHEELER WILCOX
Every sincere person wants to better her condition in life.
If you are to obtain wealth, you must have the desire for wealth. Once you have this desire to create wealth, then you must achieve a belief that you can do it. If you believe that you can do it—see it as an existing fact—anything you can rightly wish for is yours. Belief is "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." This is why the saying "I will believe it when I see it" is incorrect—you will see it if you first believe it. The belief should come first.
One may observe that many people who have accomplished a great deal seem to be no more capable or learned than those who struggle day after day, yet accomplish very little. What is the power that gives new life to those who succeed on the road to success?
Your own belief in yourself is a power within you that makes all things attainable. You can do anything that you think you can do. Belief in yourself allows you the expectation that you can solve every problem that faces humanity and obtain everything that is right.
Everything that can be desired is the result of thought.
William James said, "The more the mind does, the more it can do." Getting tired from doing is more a result of boredom than of fatigue from physical exertion.
If you are told repeatedly that you cannot do certain things, you may come to believe that you can't do them. Remember that success is a state of mind, but also remember that failure is a state of mind.
You must see yourself doing the thing you desire because you need to know that you can and will do it. The negative side of belief is that if you believe you cannot do a thing, you will not be able to do it.
It is necessary for you to believe in yourself if you are to make the most of your abilities. It is urgent that you believe in yourself in order to get others to cooperate with you in carrying out whatever tasks you are undertaking.
The only thing you have that will enable you to achieve success is your mind, and for your mind to perform at its best, you need to have a belief system with a spirit of optimism. You are not likely to perform well if you have a negative frame of mind. You cannot expect to create a positive outlook while you are holding on to negative thoughts. Fears, doubts, and other negative traits will diminish your dreams and aspirations in life. When Orison Swett Marden wrote that you must have castles in the air before you can have castles on the ground, he was saying that the thought of what you want to accomplish must be explicit in your mind before you can do it.
It is often easy to believe that the grass is greener on the other side, that you could be assured of success if only you could change your surroundings. The trouble with thinking that a change of environment would give you success is that true success comes from within.
The three words at the top of Chapter 1 of Think and Grow Rich! are "thoughts are things," and these words are very important if you desire success.
Even if your past choices have been wrong because your thoughts have been negative, you can begin again because "our lives begin new at every sunrise." Richness is within, and no one has failed as long as she can try again. Only when one stops trying is one defeated.
You need only think, concentrate your thoughts on what you desire, and take the proper steps to make it possible for you to achieve your goals. The belief that achievement is possible will cause you to make the effort that is needed and to do it confidently.
Your mind will produce the necessary plans once you have the belief and begin. But this is where a large number of failures originate, because people fail to begin.
The successful people in this world have always been those who believed in themselves. This may seem like an impossible task, but remember that success comes from within, and that when you acquire this inner belief, it will be reflected in your physical or outer world. Believing and knowing are the necessary components of success. You must decide what is the most important thing you desire in your future. Always remember that you can be bold with your desires because the only limits are those that you place upon your mind. You should see what you desire, learn to visualize it, believe in it, and develop plans to achieve it.
Recently I spent the night in Charlotte, North Carolina, in order to have a meeting at 8 a.m. the following day concerning a publication project that the Napoleon Hill Foundation was involved in with a bestselling author and one of the most sought-after speakers in the United States. The author's name is Jeffrey Gitomer, and if you are not familiar with him, it would be wise for you to become so by visiting his website at www.gitomer.com.
The evening before my meeting, I went to a local restaurant and was waited on by a very nice waitress named Brooke. I told her that she would go places because of her outstanding personality. I also told her that at the office of the Napoleon Hill Foundation at the University of Virginia-Wise, a part-time employee, also named Brooke, had a good personality, and I bet they both were going places.
I told Brooke, "I bet you won't always be waiting on tables," and she said, "How did you know that waiting on tables is just a pit stop?" I thought, what a wonderful answer. I told her I noticed that young people who were working in jobs just to make some money, but looking ahead to a future once they have graduated from college, usually had a good attitude. People who work at low-wage jobs can easily develop the attitude that they are in a dead-end job. But if this applies to you, do what Brooke did: consider the low-paying job as a "pit stop," a temporary delay while you are getting ready for your future.
Have you ever believed that you can never be a millionaire because people who become rich have talents or other characteristics that people like you who are "average" don't have? When you have finished reading this book, if you still believe that the answer to this question is yes, then I have failed to get the truth across to you.
Success is truly a mind game, as my good friend Joe Dudley, Jr., realized. The circumstances of his early life would have given him plenty of excuses to fail.
In his book Walking by Faith, Joe lets the reader know that not only was he born into poverty in a large family, but he had a speech impediment and was labeled retarded. Also, being black was not exactly an asset when he was a child.
Dudley told 500 students at the annual Napoleon Hill Day held at the University of Virginia-Wise that his mother had explained to him that he might be slow, but that when he got something, he got it.
Did Joe ever get it? Today he owns the largest minority beauty cosmetic company in the United States. He is very wealthy, and he has given millions to worthy causes such as scholarships.
Once you have a purpose in your mind and you have a passion for it—or, as Napoleon Hill said, you have a "burning desire" to accomplish it—you are well on your way.
Once you have read, studied, and learned to believe the principles of success, you will have at your disposal the tools you need to overcome problems and to achieve personal growth that will enable you to take the success journey.
It is a person's aim or purpose that makes her. Without aim, she is like tumbleweed in that it is the wind that determines where she goes. Let one obstacle get in her way, and if she has no aim or purpose, she will alter her path. She focuses on her weakness, misery, and failure—in other words: "My life is aimless."
A well-ascertained and generous purpose gives vigor, direction, and perseverance to all of a person's life.
The qualities associated with a strong purpose are a well-disciplined intellect, character, influence, tranquility, and cheerfulness within—and those are what lead to success. Whatever a person's talents and advantages may be, if he has no aim or a low one, he will be weak and despicable; if he has a high purpose, he cannot be other than respectable and influential. Without some definite object before us, some standard that we are earnestly striving to reach, we cannot expect to attain any great height, either mentally or morally. But setting high standards for ourselves and wishing to reach them without any further effort on our part is not enough to elevate us to any great degree.
It has been said, "Nature holds for each of us all that we need to make us useful and happy; but she requires us to labor and wait for all we get." We are given nothing of value that does not include the need for labor; and we can expect to overcome difficulties only by strong and noble work. In our striving for "something better than we have known," we should work for others' good rather than for our own pleasure. Those whose object in life is their own happiness find at last that their lives are sad failures.
We each need to do something each day that moves us worthily in the direction of our definite plan of action. More than just dreaming is necessary if we are to succeed in the objects and ambitions of our life. We achieve our best results in every department of life only when we thoughtfully plan and earnestly work in the proper directions.
Purposes without action are dead. Work is necessary, and it is vain to hope for good results without good plans. Random or halfhearted efforts are generally only a waste of time.
Whether the object is learning or wealth, the ways and means are always laid out according to the best plans and methods. A sea captain uses a chart; an architect, plans; and a sculptor, a model—and all of them use these tools as a way to success. Even great inspirations that may be defined as genius can do little unless they include action applied to a well-formed plan; when they do, every step is a move toward the accomplishment of the chief aim or purpose in one's life. No effort or time is lost, for nothing is done at random.
In the grand aim of life, some worthy purpose should be kept constantly in view, and every effort to accomplish it must be made every day. If you do that, you will, perhaps unconsciously, approach the goal of your ambition.
When a person has formed a great sovereign purpose in her mind, it governs her conduct just as the laws of nature, such as the law of gravity, govern the operation of physical things.
Everyone who is interested in success should have an aim in view, and should pursue it steadily. She should not be distracted from her route by other objects that come into her view, even though they may appear to be highly attractive. People do not live long enough to accomplish everything. Indeed, only a few can accomplish more than one thing well. Many people accomplish nothing worthwhile.
Yet there is not a person who is endowed with ordinary intellect who cannot accomplish at least one useful, important, worthy purpose. Some of those whom history rates as among the greatest of men were trained from youth to choose some definite object in life, to which they directed all their thoughts and all their energy. It became the sole purpose of their hearts and was the basis for their future accomplishments.
If you are to be successful, it is not enough just to dream of success. It is not enough just to believe that you can be successful. You must develop your own set of goals defining what becoming a success means to you. It could be that your idea of being successful is simply to make a certain amount of money. Only you can determine what your goals are to be, and it is reaching those goals that you determine that will make you a success.
However, once you have made that amount of money, you may find yourself asking, "Is that all there is to life?" That is why you need to include plans to help others who have been less fortunate. Someone once said that statues and other honors are never given for what someone does for himself, but for what he has done for others.
Just what are the factors that define what it takes to be a success? If you ask different people, you will receive many different answers. Some will suggest being highly educated; others will think it takes hard work. Others will remember President Calvin Coolidge's statement on persistence. Walter Chrysler, the automobile genius, reminded us that nothing worthwhile was ever accomplished without enthusiasm. All of these traits are of great help, but by themselves they are not what it takes to make someone successful.
For example, education enables people's accomplishments, but getting an education does not assure one's success. The world is full of educated people who do not realize that knowledge is important only when it is applied.
Hard work is a good trait, but untold numbers of people have worked hard, long hours for years but never seen success.
Note that I did not say a service or product that people need. Ray Kroc made millions by selling hamburgers; this was not necessarily a product that people needed, but it was something they wanted. The degree to which you do something better than others and receive just rewards for your service or product will determine your success.
Qualities such as persistence, working hard, and having integrity are all important if you are to succeed. Yet all of these will not assure your success.
The first step to success begins in our thought process. When Napoleon Hill put the three words "Thoughts are things" at the beginning of the all-time bestseller Think and Grow Rich! in 1937, he was stating an essential fact of the success process that he had discovered during his 20 years of research.
Thoughts truly are things, but it is important that the thought process concentrate on a purpose that will supply a human want and at the same time be something for which you have a deep passion. The reason passion is important is that even when you have a wonderful idea, if you do not have passion, you are likely to quit when the going gets tough. Passion will make you want to persist, seek other plans when they are needed, get help from others, or, in other words, stick with your goal until it is accomplished.
As mentioned before, the first step to success takes place in your thought process, and the way in which we use it is extremely important for our success.
If you study the thought process, you will realize that we think in pictures, and that the more vividly we think in pictures, the more these mental pictures aid us on the road to success. The brilliant ancient thinker Aristotle said, "It is impossible even to think without a mental picture." Think of mental pictures as a movie playing inside your mind.
Once you have a mental picture of what you wish to accomplish, you must commit yourself to acquiring whatever is lacking if you are to reach your destination. Determining what you wish to accomplish is absolutely a necessity to make your mental pictures a reality.
Once you have selected your goal or purpose and have committed to it, you must formulate plans. You must then put those plans into action. Many people have good mental pictures and may even have plans, but until you take action, nothing happens.
Even if your plans prove to be inadequate, you must begin because you can always alter your plans, or even get new plans. Very seldom will you have all the answers in the beginning. When it seems that after your first, second, or later attempt, you have not succeeded, remember Thomas Edison's attempts to find a filament that would not burn out so fast; he made more than 10,000 attempts before being successful.
What you wish to accomplish in the marketplace should focus on the necessary improvements—such as better service, improved quality, better price, or some other quality—for which would-be buyers will be willing to pay a price that will give you a satisfactory profit.
Several years ago, I was part of a group that had the idea of forming a cable television company. Cable television had become very popular, but building a new cablevision company would be a challenge. The process was an "overbuild." In other words, we were planning to build a new cable television network in towns where cable television was already well established. It was obvious that in order to get consumers to change to our new cable television network, we had to offer a better deal—to offer a price that would be much lower, yet still give us an adequate return on our investment.
Excerpted from Everything I Know About Success I Learned from Napoleon Hill by Don Green. Copyright © 2013 by Napoleon Hill Foundation. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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