The Power of Positive Livingby Norman V. Peale
Filled with letters, anecdotes, and examples drawn from the author's extensive counseling experience with men and women of all ages and walks of life, this powerful guide offers a profound yet easily applied message to every individual: You can conquer personal fears, triumph over adversity, and transform and enhance your daily life. Inside, you'll find the concrete steps necessary for developing confidence and self-esteem, Dr. Peale's personal recipe for happiness, and a simple but powerful formula for molding your own destiny and finding fulfillment in life.
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The Power of Positive Living
By Norman Vincent Peale
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1980 Norman Vincent Peale
All rights reserved.
POSITIVE THINKING STILL WORKS!
One unforgettable day I made a monumental discovery. It was a discovery that can help anyone, which is why I am telling about it here. The day started out just like any other. At 9 A.M. I had a class in what was called Economics II, with Professor Ben Arneson. I shuffled into the classroom as usual and found a seat in the back row, fervently hoping I would not be noticed.
You see, I was extremely shy. If you ever were as shy and shrinking as I was, you'll understand my misery and unhappiness. With a low self-image and an equally low self-esteem, I had little self-confidence. "I can't" was my characteristic way of reacting to any challenge. I went crawling through life figuratively on my hands and knees until this day when I discovered something so momentous that it revolutionized my life.
To my deep distress, the professor called on me to explain a point in the day's lesson. I was always a hard worker, had studied diligently, and happened to be up on the subject matter. But I was also terrified of speaking in public. With shaking knees I stood to speak, shifting nervously from one foot to the other, finally slumping down, aware that I had not only handled the subject matter awkwardly but had made a spectacle of myself.
As the class came to a close, the professor made a few announcements, concluding with, "Peale, please remain after class. I want to talk with you." Shaking in my shoes I waited until all the students had left, then quavered, "You wanted to see me, Professor?"
"Yes. Come up front and sit across from my desk," said Dr. Arneson. He sat bouncing a round eraser up and down, looking at me with what I felt was a piercing gaze. The silence deepened.
"What in the world is the matter with you, Peale?" he asked. Then he continued, "You are doing good work in this class. You'll probably get an A. But when I ask you to speak, you appear horribly embarrassed, mumble sort of incoherently, and then slump red-faced into your seat. What is the matter with you, son?"
"I don't know, Professor," I mumbled miserably; "guess I've got an inferiority complex."
"Do you want to get over it and act like a man?"
I nodded. "I'd give anything to get over being the way I am. But I don't know how."
The professor's face softened. "You can get over it, Norman, by doing what I did to get over my inferiority feelings."
"You?" I exclaimed. "You were the same way I am?"
"That's why I noticed the same symptoms in you," the professor said.
"But how did you get over being that way?" I asked.
His answer was quietly given, but I caught the positive undertones. "I just asked God to help me; I believed that He would; and ... He did."
The room was silent for a moment as the professor regarded me. "Get going, Peale," he said, "and, never forget, be a believer in God and yourself." So saying he waved me off and began gathering up his papers.
I walked along the hall and continued down the broad flight of steps on the outside of the college building. On the fourth step from the bottom I stopped. That same step is still there, as far as I know. On it I said a prayer. Even some seventy years later I remember it distinctly: "Lord, You can take a drunk and make him sober; You can change a thief into an honest person. Can't You also take a poor mixed-up guy like me and make me normal? Please help me! Amen."
As I stood on that step I experienced a strange feeling of peace. I expected a miracle to happen then and there, and a miracle did take place. But, as so often happens with a major change, it came about over a period of time.
A few days later another professor, one who supervised my major, called me into his office and handed me a book, The Sayings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. "Read Emerson," he said, "and you will learn the great things that can come about by right thinking." Later, another professor gave me the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, who did indeed teach that life becomes what we think. I'll always thank those kindly college teachers for trying to make something of a young man who was headed for less than his best.
Oh, I was always a hard worker, and such a person achieves something due to his work habits. But I was a failure in my thoughts. And one's thoughts determine one's life, so that even diligent work cannot compensate for failure in the thinking process.
But through the help of such professors I was fortunate to take advantage of a system of ideas that in time helped me to master my feelings of inferiority and inadequacy. The sense of release which these ideas produced was so joyful and so wonderful that I had to tell others similarly afflicted that they, too, could be set free from their misery. The basic principle of these ideas was the almost incredible power of positive thinking.
I found by the application of these principles that even I, an ordinary and average person, could do much better in life than I had been doing. The release of personal potential was so amazing that I wanted all the other so-called ordinary people to know that they could become extra-ordinary.
But beyond positive thinking I have found there is a vital principle without which the former is of little avail. It is positive believing. Thinking is the body of the rocket. Believing is the propellant which carries it to the stars. Thinking is the birth of the deed. Believing makes it happen.
For example, I read a recent Harvard Business Review report in which a district manager of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company noted that insurance agents performed better in the challenging environment of outstanding agencies as opposed to lesser agencies. To prove his point, he set up his six top agents to work with his best assistant manager. He reported the following results:
"Shortly after this selection had been made, the people in the agency began referring to this select group as a 'superstaff' because of their high esprit de corps in operating so well as a unit. Their production efforts over the first twelve weeks far surpassed our most optimistic expectations ..."
Why? It's easy to see. Salespeople knowing they are regarded as "superstaff" believe they are tops and fight to live up to that image. In a way, it's somewhat similar to the "self-fulfilling prophecy" theory, in which people — all people, children and grown-ups — tend to become what's expected of them.
And look what happened to a group of agents in the same office considered "average." Normally, they might have continued on producing an average number of sales. But a remarkable, dynamic assistant manager over this group believed that she and her agents were just as capable as the superstaff manager and his salespeople. In fact, she convinced her agents they could outsell the superstaff. Rising to the challenge, these "average" agents, believing they could do it, increased their sales by a greater percentage than the superstaff did. She made them fulfill her prophecy — by believing in them.
That's what believing does.
Choose what you believe. Remember, those supposedly average agents would never have increased their sales if they continued believing they were average.
Examples like this make me realize how human thinking is such a strange and complicated mixture. Some people are steady and reliable from childhood to old age. Rarely are they in conflict with themselves.
They get good grades in school, later perform well in their work, and do well, some very well indeed. Others are less organized, dissipate their abilities to where we sadly speak of them: "Too bad, he once had a lot on the ball."
Others, seeming highly organized mentally and emotionally, become disorganized and blow one opportunity after another, despite their native ability. Others, extraordinarily favored with admirable personality traits, do not seem to have a strong purpose or the capacity to make sound decisions. Ultimately they suffer a personality breakdown. You have heard of Wall Street figures going to jail, of dignitaries being denied top-level appointments due to their lack of ethical standards. The years are strewn with such wrecks, many of whom with proper self-control could have become leaders or top executives.
Why does one person succeed and another fail? Why does one individual favorably surprise and another disappoint? I think I have an answer.
As an example, let me tell you about a man I knew some years ago. I was reminded of him one night recently when I was in Columbus, Ohio, for a speaking engagement. My room on the hotel's twenty-eighth floor offered a fairly complete panorama of the city. I noticed a group of ancient stone buildings which, as a former resident of Columbus, I recognized as the old Ohio State Penitentiary.
I think often of the boys and girls of my youth in the Ohio cities and towns where I lived — Cincinnati, Columbus, Bellefontaine, Delaware — and am happy to say that practically all of them turned out well, a few superlatively well. But as I looked down at the Ohio Penitentiary, I remembered one who didn't. Gifted with a charming personality and a brain good enough to graduate from his college cum laude, he was the last person we expected to end up in jail. He had grown up in a pleasant small village, became a top officer of the local bank and a highly respected citizen. He was so engaging that people talked of him for Congress. Word had it that he would be a "shoo-in."
Then he married a beautiful, wealthy girl from Chicago. The attractive couple became leaders of the local social set. He idolized his wife and gave her everything she wanted. Apparently she thought her husband had greater financial resources than he actually possessed. And as they began to indulge in expensive trips and cruises, his generous salary was strained.
One night when he was working alone in the bank, a thought crossed his mind: He could "borrow" some cash. The bank examiner wasn't due for another month. It was a "bull" stock market just then, with buys that were bound to go up. He could make a killing, pressed the thought. Then he could restore the "borrowed" cash and have more money to use. But, being an honorable man, he rejected the thought.
In the words of Thomas Carlyle, the famed English writer, "The thought is ancestor to the deed." What a powerful truth! On another night, alone in the bank, the same thought returned. This time the mental resistance was weaker and the hand crept forward and did the deed that the thought had suggested.
The market turned sour and the bank examiner came early for his examination. The "borrowing" was discovered and the great iron gates of the Ohio State Penitentiary clanged shut on a good man who thought wrong.
Years later the banker's daughter made an appointment to see me in my New York office. "I've always suffered because of my father," she said. "I admired and loved him. So what I want to know is, was my father a weak man? A bad man? You knew him. Tell me, please."
"No, he wasn't a bad man," I replied. "Nor do I think his problem was weakness. He was an intelligent man. But he had a problem with his thinking."
I was able to console the daughter and am happy to say that after paying his debt to society, the man and his family were reunited.
What I meant by a "problem with his thinking" was he was thinking negatively. He automatically thought of his wife as a soft, perfumed, beautiful fool. If he had thought positively about her, he would have seen her for what she actually was, an intelligent, strong woman. Her actions after his incarceration proved this. Thus he would have leveled with her about the true condition of their finances, and I'm sure the two of them would have worked it out. For they really loved each other. And nothing is impossible when two people are in love.
But that is the trouble with anyone who takes the wrong way. It may seem the easiest, most expedient way. But as Jesus Christ taught us: "... the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction ..." (Matthew 7:13). Wrongdoers are often clever and sometimes they get away with their crookedness for a time. But basically they are stupid, for in the end they are caught up, as witness those recent Wall Street figures who were once considered among the shrewdest men on "the Street."
Carlyle was so right: "The thought is ancestor to the deed." That initial thought, if given residence in the mind, is the spark that ignites the action. And success or failure depends on whether that thought is positive or negative.
What follows that thought is just as important. And that is the "deliberating process," how we handle the problem or opportunity.
On my office desk is a replica of Rodin's great statue The Thinker. Whenever a problem comes up, I try to remind myself, "Now be a thinker. Think this through in a cool intellectual process. And Norman," I tell myself, "for heaven's sake, don't decide this matter emotionally."
Yes, that little statue has saved me from many a stupid action. Oh, sure, I have my unfortunate moments. Anyone who doesn't admit this is headed for trouble. For even the smartest person can do astonishingly stupid things. The safeguard is to think, always think. And most important is to pray, which I believe is thinking in its highest form. For then your thoughts are in tune with God, Who sees a lot further down the road than you do.
Let me tell you of a time when this kind of thinking made all the difference in a man's career.
His name is Lee Buck.
Probably one of the most critical days in his life began one April afternoon in 1974 when he was at his desk in the Manhattan home office of the New York Life Insurance Company.
"Mr. Buck," said his secretary, "the chairman of the board wants to see you."
Lee was excited. He had been waiting for this call a long time, for he was sure he was going to be offered the job he'd been striving for: senior vice president in charge of marketing.
It had been his goal ever since he joined the company as a sales agent twenty years previously. And he had worked hard, advancing to his present capacity as zone vice president in charge of sales in the eastern United States. In the new post he expected he would be in charge of all the firm's ten thousand insurance salesmen throughout the United States, the most important phase of New York Life's operations. He felt sure the chairman knew he was the best candidate.
The chairman's office was on the next floor up and to save time he took the stairs. On the landing he stopped and did the most important thing anyone can do. He took a moment to think and to pray. He prayed that he would be given the wisdom and peace to accept whatever happened and to make the best of it.
In a few minutes he stepped into the chairman's large, carpeted office, where heavy drapes muted the sound of Madison Avenue traffic. The gray-haired chairman shook hands, asked Lee to sit down, and then proceeded to give him shocking news.
"Lee," he said, "George is going to be senior vice president in charge of marketing. And we'll make you senior vice president over group marketing. Will you do it?"
The chairman was a bit nervous; he knew Lee Buck's reputation for being feisty.
Lee stared at him in shock. To him the group department was a real comedown, considered by many to be a stepchild in the company. This division sold group policies to companies and organizations and did only a small percentage of the business that marketing accounted for.
Lee felt a surge of disappointment and anger. But only for a moment. For, thanks, I'm certain, to that prayer on the landing, he was able to lean back in his chair and say, "Okay."
The chairman was surprised; then he and Lee talked about what could be done with the group department. Many men or women would have considered it a comedown, but Lee decided to make it an opportunity.
He remembered the advice he had been given by a veteran insurance agent when he was new in the business: "Jump at every opportunity, son," said the veteran.
"How do I recognize the opportunities?" asked Lee.
"You can't," was the answer; "you have to keep jumping."
And so Lee jumped. In studying the group division's market potential, he found new prospects that had never been contacted. He inspired his sales force, and went out making hundreds of calls himself. By the first year he doubled the previous year's volume. Within a few years his division was responsible for the largest single new premium ever written by New York Life.
Four years after he had taken over the "stepchild" division and made it one of the most important divisions of the company, he was promoted to senior vice president in charge of marketing.
What would have happened to Lee Buck if he hadn't taken that moment on the staircase to think and pray? If he had obeyed his first impulse, that instantaneous anger we all suffer when we feel we've been treated unfairly, he could have easily estranged himself from top management. But he took that moment to pray and to think, and his resultant career in the insurance business should serve as a beacon for all young men and women striving to make careers today.
Excerpted from The Power of Positive Living by Norman Vincent Peale. Copyright © 1980 Norman Vincent Peale. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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This book is a must have for anyone's library, not only for you, but for everyone else in your family too. Dr. Peale shares and offers not only true motivational stories, but inspirational passages that are then blended with common sense offered up to the reader in a unique timely fashion. The information within this book is not only valuable now, but will be even more so into the distant future, for whoever will be so fortunate to buy a copy of it and then read it.