“Is there a formula for success that can be copied?”
This is the question to which a young reporter, Napoleon Hill, was asked to find an answer by the rich and influential Andrew Carnegie back in the 1930’s.
After interviewing 500 of the most successful people of the age, Hill came up with a list of things that most of them had in common and turned it into the best selling book “Think and Grow Rich”.
While the title implies that this book deals only with how to achieve monetary wealth, the author explains that the philosophy taught in the book can be used to help individuals succeed in all lines of work and to do or be almost anything they want. The book was first published in 1937 during the Great Depression. At the time of Hill's death in 1970, Think and Grow Rich had sold 20 million copies and continues to be a best seller. Unlike many other self -help books that followed it, this is not a superficial essay on 'positive thinking' but a deep and often uncomfortable explanation of why learning to think and behave in a disciplined way is the real key to success.
The book and my experience of working with successful people in MasterMind Groups inspired the following questions about the 12 Steps to Success:
1. Desire is the starting point of all achievement. What is it that you have a burning desire to be, do or have?
Many people are driven by what they want to 'have' i.e. material possessions but the starting point for most successful people is when they learn how to be and how to do the things that lead to success. The material things follow on from these.
2. What do you believe about your chances of success?
Self belief is a huge factor in success. Any self doubt prevents us from taking action so it must be dealt with and eliminated as soon as possible. Most self doubt is caused by us believing things that other people say about us and often has no basis in fact so can usually be challenged and overcome with rational thought.
3. Who do you need in your team in order to succeed?
Almost all successful people surround themselves with people who can do things they can't do and who know things they don't know. Henry Ford was very poorly educated and has been described as ignorant but built a team of brilliant people to turn his ideas into reality.
4. How do you use your creativity and imagination?
Hill says "All great achievers are practical dreamers" but it is a sad fact that traditional schooling robs most of us of our natural creativity our dreams are left behind as we grow older. Recreation (re-creation) or play is a great way to enhance creativity and many of our best ideas come to us while we are enjoying ourselves doing something other than work. Learning new things and stretching our brains is particularly important.
5. How often do you make a plan, work it and revise it?
It is probably true that most of us spend more time planning our holidays than planning our lives. Turning desires into achievements requires planning and continuous action with many revisions to account for unforseen circumstances.
6. What tactics do you use to avoid procrastination and make decisions?
Time management is one of the biggest issues for most people juggling all the different roles they have to play in life yet one of the biggest time wasters is procrastination. The ability to make decisions swiftly and then take action on them is a huge contributor to successful achievements. Very few decisions are irreversible and it is often better to make a wrong one than to put off making one at all.
7. What do you do when things go wrong?
Persistence is a quality shared by many successful people. Undeterred by obstacles they find different ways to achieve their desires.
8. Where do you have complete control and power? How do you use power?
Power and success seem to go hand but before we exercise power over other people we need to have complete power over ourselves. Leadership is best when it is conferred rather than commanded and the ability to lead people in a spirit of harmony to achieve common goals is a sign of great success.
9. Sex is the most powerful drive in most people. How do you harness and direct it?
Some people are surprised about the relationship between sex and success but there are lots of studies that explain the connection. A fulfilling sex life brings benefits to both mental and physical health but sexual desires can also cause errors of judgement that lead previously successful people to lose families as well as fortunes and the respect of their peers.
10. What strategies do you employ to control and influence your subconscious mind?
Our conscious, rational mind is like the tip of an iceberg when compared to the sub-conscious. Everything we have ever experienced is stored in our sub-conscious and can lead us to think and act in certain ways ways. Learning to think in ways that put it to work for us rather than against us is crucial.
11. Do you trust and act on ‘gut’ feelings or use logic to argue against them?
Most successful people admit that intuition plays a big part in their achievements and they trust their feelings.
12. What are your major fears? How effective are you at controlling them?
Most fears are about imagined situations that never actually happen. When truly dreadful things do happen to people they often not only survive but go on to live successful lives so being held back by fear is an unnecessary tragedy.
Hill describes the real path to success as the ability to master our minds. Most of the successful people that Hill interviewed were also members of MasterMind Groups - exclusive small groups of people who share ideas, create solutions to problems and support each other. My experience of running MasterMind groups bears out the unfashionable view that while there are short cuts to material wealth there are no short cuts to success. Discipline in thinking and action are the enduring principles today just as they were in the 1930’s.