It is the inherent nature of success to be both puzzling and elusive, and to withhold its rewards from all but a handful of those who pursue it.
It is by an intricate design of nature that success is a condition that must be attracted and not pursued.
We achieve rewards and we make progress not by our intense pursuits, but by what we become, for it is what we are that finally determines the results we attract.
“To have more we must first become more” is the very essence of the philosophy of personal development, success and happiness addressed by Jim Rohn.
It is our personal philosophy that establishes our individual attitude. It is our attitude that determines both the quantity and the quality of our level of activity.
That activity produces a final and proportionate result.
The results and the lifestyle are the effects – the conditions we inherit -- but it is our personal philosophy, attitude and activity which are the ultimate cause of the effect.
“You can have more than you’ve got because you can become more than you are.”
Let the words touch you. Let the message of Jim Rohn inspire you. Allow Jim’s philosophy to affect your life.
What your eyes are now scanning are merely words on a printed page. The words and the thoughts they convey have a unique power. Our objective - yours and mine - will be to transform these printed words into ideas and emotions that will become the tools with which to fashion a new life, with new goals, and with a new resolve for attaining whatever you want to have and becoming whatever you wish to be.
Most books are written to entertain or inform. This book is written so that it might inspire.
Whatever has driven you to the current moment -- a moment when you have paused to examine the ideas contained in this book— it would appear that you are in search of answers. You are one of those fortunate human beings who is ready for some change, and that is what this book is all about: transforming the individual human life from where and what it is into where and what you desire it to be.
How The Process Of Change Begins
First, we may be driven to change out of desperation.
It is this overwhelming sense of desperation that finally drives us to look for the solutions. Desperation is the final and inevitable result of months or years of accumulated neglect that brings us to that point in time where we find ourselves driven by urgent necessity to find immediate answers to life’s accumulated challenges.
The second source that drives us to make changes in our lives is inspiration. Hopefully, that is where you find yourself right now.
about to become sufficiently inspired to make major and dramatic changes in your life as a result of the message I am about to share with you.
Inspiration can come to us at any time and from many sources. A song can inspire us, a book can inspire us, as can an effective and moving speech.
Inspiration, from whatever the source, arouses feelings within us that rekindle hope, ambition and determination.
It is a momentary whisper of encouragement and reassurance that causes us to become aware of our potential.
We sense a spark of desire, and our minds flash from one possibility to another, each thought laden with the promise of future success and happiness.
In this fleeting moment when inspiration stirs our soul we are either driven into action or we do nothing – being content to enjoy the warm feeling that is within us until, at last, the warmth moves on, taking with it the promise and the possibilities.
I have used the utmost care to assemble some insights and ideas that are truly life-changing. The inspiration that I trust you will receive from this book has the capacity to alter any human circumstance. But in order for these ideas to work their inevitable magic in your life, you must take time in the weeks ahead to seriously contemplate the direction of your life, and to ponder the message and carefully apply the principles in the pages that follow.
The Key To Success And Happiness
It is these few among the many that will account for the biggest share of the results you will achieve.
You will never be able to master every aspect of life. To try to become the master over every detail of your life will only lead to frustration. Instead, why not go after the few among the many; the few that will make the most difference; the fundamental subjects that will have the greatest impact in determining the quality of your existence?
As you look around your world for answers to the good life, always be in search of those few things that make the most difference. If you master these basics, I can promise that you will not be disappointed with the results.
It is the basics - the fundamentals in life - that we all need to master. These are the same keys for success and happiness that have existed for the last six thousand years of recorded history.
In any attempt to improve your current circumstances, never allow yourself to drift from those time-proven principles that have flowed from generation to generation in a steady stream to serve as the fundamentals for finding, developing and living the good life.
The Five Pieces To The Life Puzzle
If everyone reading this book were to sit down and develop their own list of the five major principles that make the most difference, we would probably have a hundred different answers to share with one another.
It is important to understand that the list I will be sharing with you in this book does not mean that my five are the only five to the exclusion of all others. I am neither so wise nor so presumptuous as to suggest that I have all of the answers and that my answers are the only answers.
Through all my years of study and experience, through all my encounters with both success and failure, through all the conversations and associations I have had the privilege to share, it is these five principles that have remained unchallenged in their capacity to produce life-changing results.
Endurance is often the best indicator of validity and value. That is why I have invited you to take a closer look at these five enduring principles - the “basics” that seem to always be there, guiding the lives of those who have done well with life’s challenges and opportunities.
CHAPTER ONE: PHILOSOPHY
Philosophy is the chief cornerstone in the foundation of The Five Major Pieces To The Life Puzzle. A major factor in determining how our lives turn out is the way we choose to think. Everything that goes on inside the human mind in the form of thoughts, ideas and information forms our personal philosophy. Our philosophy then influences our habits and behavior, and this is really where it all begins.
How Our Personal Philosophy Is Formed
Our personal philosophy comes from what we know and from the process of how we came to know all that we currently know. Throughout our lives we receive input from a multitude of sources. What we know comes from school, friends, associates, media influences, home, the streets; it comes from books and the process of reading; and it comes from listening and observing. The sources of knowledge and information that have contributed to the formation of our current philosophy are virtually unlimited. As adults all of the new information that comes our way is examined through the filter of our personal philosophy. Those concepts that seem to agree with the conclusions we have already reached are added to our storehouse of knowledge and serve to reinforce our current thinking. ‘Those ideas that seem to contradict our beliefs are usually quickly rejected.
We are constantly in the process of checking our preexisting beliefs for accuracy or confirmation in the light of new information. As we blend the new with the old, the result is either the strengthening of our past beliefs or the broadening of our current philosophy in light of new and valuable information about life and people.
The same beliefs that form our personal philosophy also determine our value systems. Our beliefs led us to make certain decisions about what is valuable to us as human beings. As the day goes by, we choose to do whatever we think is valuable. If someone decides to start his day at five o’clock each morning in order to take advantage of opportunities that will enable him to provide his family with more of the good things in life, then what is that person really doing? He is doing what his philosophy has taught him is valuable. Conversely, someone who chooses to sleep until noon is also doing what he considers to be valuable. But the result from the two different philosophies - from the judgments people make about what is valuable - will be drastically different. We all have our own ideas about the things that affect our lives based on the information we have gathered over the years. Each of us has a personal view about government, education, the economy, our employer and a host of other issues. What we think about these issues adds to our emerging philosophy and causes us to reach certain conclusions about life and how it operates. These conclusions then lead us to make specific value judgments, which determine how we will act on any given day and in any given circumstance. We have all made and will continue to make decisions based upon what we think is valuable. Whether the decisions we are making will lead us toward inevitable success or unavoidable failure depends on the information we have gathered over the years to form our personal philosophy.
Personal Philosophy Is Like The Set Of The Sail
In the process of living, the winds of circumstance blow on us all in an unending flow that touches each of our lives.
We have all experienced the blowing winds of disappointment, despair and heartbreak. Why then, would each of us, in our own individual ship of life, all beginning at the same point, with the same intended destination in mind, arrive at such different places at the end of the journey? Have we not all sailed u on the same sea? Have we not all been blown by the same winds of circumstance and buffeted by the same turbulent storms of discontent?
What guides us to different destinations in life is determined by the way we have chosen to set our sail. The way that each of us thinks makes the major difference in where each of us arrives. The major difference is not circumstance, the major difference is the set of the sail.
The same circumstances happen to us all. We all have those moments when, in spite of our best plans and efforts, things just seem to fall apart. Challenging circumstances are not events reserved for the poor, the uneducated or the destitute. The rich and the poor have children who get into trouble. The rich and the poor have marital problems. The rich and the poor have the same challenges that can lead to financial ruin and personal despair. In the final analysis, it is not what happens that determines the quality of our lives, it is what we choose to do when we have struggled to set the sail and then discover, after all of our efforts, that the wind has changed direction.
When the winds change, we must change. We must struggle to our feet once more and reset the sail in the manner that will steer us toward the destination of our own of our own deliberate choosing. The set of the sail, how we think and how we respond, has a far greater capacity to destroy our lives than any challenges we face. How quickly and responsibly we react to adversity is far more important than the adversity itself. Once we discipline ourselves to understand this, we will finally and willingly conclude that the great challenge of life is to control the process of our own thinking.
Learning to reset the sail with the changing winds rather than permitting ourselves to be blown in a direction we did not purposely choose requires the development of a whole new discipline. It involves going to work on establishing a powerful, personal philosophy that will help to influence in a positive way all that we do and all that we think and decide. If we can succeed in this worthy endeavor, the result will be a change in the course of our income, bank account, lifestyle and relationships, and in how we feel about the things of value as well as the times of challenge. If we can alter the way we perceive, judge and decide upon the main issues of life, then we can dramatically change our lives.
How To Develop A Powerful Personal Philosophy
The greatest influence on what we decide to do with tomorrow’s opportunity is not going to be circumstance, but rather what and how we think. What we think, and the conclusions we reach regarding life’s challenges, is going to be the sum total of what we have learned until now.
The learning process plays a major role in determining our personal philosophy. Over the years we have all managed to gather up considerable knowledge. We cannot live without the information that surrounds us making an impact on how we think. The human mind is continually taking pictures and recording the sights and sounds around us. Every experience is etched into the neurons of the brain. Every word, every song, every television program, every conversation, and every book has made an electrical or chemical imprint on our mental computers. Each emotion, each thought, each activity in which we have been engaged has created a new circuit in the brain, which is linked to all of the others circuits that already existed. All that has touched our lives has been indelibly recorded, and all that we now are is the result of an accumulation of input which is intricately connected by a delicate combination of chemical and electrical impulses stored in the three-pound brain. All that has ever happened in and around us is now this uniqueness we call self— the individual human being.
How we use all of this information and the way in which we assemble the knowledge we have gathered forms our personal philosophy. The problem is that much of the information we have gathered has resulted in erroneous conclusions about life that can actually block the achievement of our goals. The only way to eliminate these mental barriers is to review, reline and revise our personal philosophy.
The best way to establish a new and powerful personal philosophy is to begin with an objective review of the conclusions we have drawn about life. Any conclusion that is not working for us may actually be working against us. Suppose, for example, a man has decided that his current employer is not paying him enough. His value system – based on years of accumulated information and experiences - then says, “That’s not fair!” This value judgment causes him to take specific steps in retaliation. As a result, he reduces his efforts and does only those things he feels his current paycheck justifies. There is nothing wrong with this decision…provided his goal is to remain where he is, doing what he is currently doing and getting paid what he is currently getting paid for the rest of his life.
All of our counter-productive beliefs and choices are the result of years of accumulating misinformation. We have simply been around the wrong sources and gathered up the wrong data. The decisions we are making are not wrong based on the information we have; it is the information we have that is causing us to make wrong decisions. Unfortunately, these wrong decisions are leading us further away from rather than closer toward the achievement of our goals.
The Importance Of New Information
Since it is virtually impossible to identify and erase all of the misleading information in our mental computers, the only way to change our thinking habits is to input new information. Unless we change what we know, we will continue to believe, decide and act in a manner that is contrary to our best interests.
Getting the information that success and happiness require - and getting it accurately – is essential. Otherwise, we will inevitably drift into ignorance, becoming deluded by our power, our prestige and our possessions.
The question is, where can we get new, accurate, and better ideas and information that will enable us to become more than we are? Fortunately, there is a wealth of positive information all around us, just waiting to be used.
Learn From Personal Experiences
One of the best ways to expand the dimensions of our knowledge is by conducting a serious review of our own past experiences. We all have a university of experience within us. The books lining the shelves of our minds were written and placed there by all that we have experienced since birth. These experiences have suggested to us that there is a right way and a wrong way to everything we do, and to every decision that confronts us, as well as to every obstacle that challenges us.
One way to learn to do something right is to do something wrong. We learn from failure as well as success. Failure must teach us, or surely success will not reward us. Past failures and errors must prompt us to amend current conduct, or the present and the future will be little more than a duplicate of the past.
We all have recorded memories of past deeds and of the subsequent rewards or consequences of those deeds. The key is to make the memories of past events our servants lest the repetition of those events makes us their slave.
We must labor to make certain that our memories of past experiences, whether good or bad, are accurate if they are to serve us and to make the future better than our past. We must reflect on our past, reliving the moments, pondering the lessons, and refining our current conduct based on the lessons of our personal history. If we have manipulated the truth of the past, if we have tended to blame others, rather than ourselves, then we are seeking an escape from reality, and we will be destined to repeat past errors and relive present difficulties.
Learn From An Outside Voice
We could all use a little coaching. In a sense, that is the purpose of this book. It brings to those in search of insights and ideas a new and objective voice. We are all capable of correcting our own errors but there is often great value in an outside voice - someone who can provide an objective appraisal of how we are and what we are doing, and the potential impact of our thoughts and actions on our better future.
An objective appraisal from someone whose opinion we respect (someone other than ourselves) will enable us to see things that we do not see. In our personal world we tend to see only the trees, while the objective and capable friend will more likely see the forest. Objectivity, brought to us in the form of wise counsel from one we trust and respect, can lead us to early and accurate information about ourselves and our decision-making process. It can prevent us from reaching faulty conclusions based on familiarity with our environment.
We are wise, indeed, if we discipline ourselves to take counsel and suggestion from someone who cares, lest life and circumstances force us to take it from one who does not care.
In the world of business, successful executives often turn to consultants who bring the freshness of the outside voice. Company employees can become so familiar with the problem at hand that they have lost their ability to see the solution that sits on their shoulders.
We must all make certain that we have access to our own select person or group of associates to whom we can turn for counsel when the winds have changed so often that we are no longer certain if we are still on course. Others can help us to examine our actions objectively to ensure that we have not drifted too far away from the fundamentals – the basics.
Learn From Other People’s Experience With Failure
Other people and their personal experiences offer untold opportunities for learning. Through the experiences of others there are two valuable sources of information available; two attitudes of mind; two categories of those with similar experiences but with remarkably different results. We are exposed on a daily basis to representatives of both groups. Each group seeks its own audience, and each has an effect on those who choose to listen. But both sources are important. One serves as an example to be followed, the other as an example to be avoided – as a warning to be studied, but not emulated.
We should all be students of failure. It is part of the world experience - part of the life experience. Why do we want to study the failures? So that we can learn what not to do.
All experiences can serve as our teachers provided we learn from the information and invest its value in our own lives. There are those who teach that associations with people who have not done well with their lives and their opportunities should be avoided at all cost for fear that we will learn their poor habits, and as a consequence, repeat their unfortunate mistakes. However, as someone wisely said, “Those who do not learn from the mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat them.” If we ignore the lessons of the past, from whatever the source, then we may become victims of the process of trial and error. By ignoring the lessons of history, our own trials will inevitably try us and our own errors will ultimately destroy us.
It is unfortunate, perhaps, that those who fail do not teach their experiences for all to hear. If we had more opportunity to learn from the negative experiences of others, we might well save our own lives from certain disaster.
Learn From Other People’s Success
It is worth whatever time we must take and whatever we must invest to make a study of people who do well. Gather the ideas and the information from all of the available sources. Read the books. Attend the seminars. Spend time gathering the knowledge that success requires. Study the habits, the language, the manner of dress, and the disciplines of those who have succeeded.
One of the great sources of wisdom from those who have done well can be found in the many quote books that are available in bookstores. Just by reading the words of what the greatest among us (past and present) have had to say, we can come to a better understanding of the thoughts that guided the lives of those who were great enough, persuasive enough, influential enough, and successful enough to be quoted.
Capitalize On The Power Of Positive Influence
Each of us should be in constant search of people we can admire and respect, people after whom e can pattern part of our own behavior. Much of who and what we are at this very moment is a composite of the many people who have influenced us over the years. When we were younger, our idols were often storybook characters, movie stars and famous musicians. For a while we walked, dressed and even tried to talk like our heroes. As we grew older and our own unique personalities began to develop, our emulation of others became less apparent, but the influence was there nonetheless.
Regardless of our age or circumstances, we are never beyond the reach of influence. The key is to find unique human beings whose personalities and achievements stimulate, fascinate and inspire us, and then strive to assimilate their best qualities. Great projects are always built from a pattern or blueprint. In this lifetime there is no greater project than the deliberate development of our own lives. Therefore, we each need a “blueprint” -- something or someone to look at and pattern ourselves after— if we want to make change and progress.
We are all being influenced by someone. Since this influence will determine to some extent the direction of our lives, it is far better to deliberately choose the people we will permit to influence us than to allow the power of the wrong influence to weave its effect on us without our knowledge or conscious choice.
Become A Good Observer
We must never allow a day to pass without finding the answers to a list of important questions such as: What is going on in our industry? What new challenges are currently facing our government? Our community? Our neighborhood? What are the new breakthroughs, the new opportunities, the new tools and techniques that have recently come to light? Who are the new personalities that are influencing world and local opinion?
We must become good observers and astute evaluators of all that is going on around us. All events affect us, and what affects us leaves an imprint on what we will one day be and how we will one day live.
One of the major reasons why people are not doing well is because they keep trying to get through the day. A more worthy challenge is to try to get from the day. We must become sensitive enough to observe and ponder what is happening around us. Be alert. Be awake. Let life and all of its subtle messages touch us. Often, the most extraordinary opportunities are hidden among the seemingly insignificant events of life. If we do not pay attention to these events, we can easily miss the opportunities.
Become A Good Listener
It is challenging today to be a good listener. There are so many voices that want our attention, each with its own special message and each with its own special appeal. One of the best ways to deal with this important challenge is to develop the skill of selective listening.
Selective listening is like tuning a radio to find the station that most appeals to us. As we turn the dial, we listen for a second or two and then either keep searching or stop dialing, depending on what we have just heard. Whenever a voice calls out for our attention, we must pause for a while to ponder the message. If the message is shallow or ignorant, we must discipline ourselves to move on. We must touch the “scan” switch, and move on to the next voice so that the ignorant and shallow message does not affect us.
Everything we hear is being recorded in our mental computers and forming a new connection in the brain. We might listen to some voices for a time out of curiosity, but if the voice is not leading toward the achievement of our goals, then we must exercise great caution in how long we listen. Only when we have found a source of valuable information should we allow the message to touch us so that it might add value to who and what we already are.
One of the greatest attributes of leadership is effective communication, and learning what to say comes only when we have learned how to listen. The art of listening is an opportunity to add to our knowledge and to increase our value. The process of speaking, on the other hand, is the act of putting on display all -- or the little -- that we have learned. We must first master the art of listening before our spoken words will have any great value to others.
The best way to learn what to say to our children is to listen to them. We should read the books they are reading and become familiar with the messages they are receiving from a variety of sources. Listening to the information that is reaching our children will not only increase our awareness of their decision-making process, but it will also help us to talk more effectively with our children about what is valuable.
Read All The Books
All of the books that we will ever need to make us as rich, as healthy, as happy, as powerful, as sophisticated and as successful as we want to be have already been written.
People from all walks of life, people with some of the most incredible life experiences, people that have gone from pennies to fortune and from failure to success have taken the time to write down their experiences so that we might share in their wealth of knowledge. They have offered their wisdom and experience so that we can be inspired by it and instructed by it, and so that we can amend our philosophy by it. Their contributions enable us to re-set our sail based upon their experiences. They have handed us the gift of their insights so that we can change our plans, if need be, in order to avoid their errors. We can rearrange our lives based on their wise advice.
All of the insights that we might ever need have already been captured by others in books. The important question is this: In the last ninety days, with this treasure of information that could change our lives, our fortunes, our relationships, our health, our children and our careers for the better, how many books have we read?
Why do we neglect to read the books that can change our lives? Why do we complain but remain the same? Why do so many of us curse the effect but nourish the cause? How do we explain the fact that only three percent of our entire national population possess a library card -- a card that would give us access to all of the answers to success and happiness we could ever want? Those who wish for the better life cannot permit themselves to miss the books that could have a major impact on how their lives turn out. The book they miss will not help!
And the issue is not that books are too expensive! If a person concludes that the price of buying the book is too great, wait until he must pay the price for not buying it. Wait until he receives the bill for continued and prolonged ignorance.
There is very little difference between someone who cannot read and someone who will not read. The result of either is ignorance. Those who are serious seekers of personal development must remove the self-imposed limitations they have placed on their reading skills and their reading habits. There are a multitude of classes being taught on how to be a good reader and there are thousands of books on the shelves of the public libraries just waiting to be read. Reading is essential for those who seek to rise above the ordinary. We must not permit anything to stand between us and the book that could change our lives.
A little reading each day will result in a wealth of valuable information in a very short period of time. But if we fail to set aside the time, if we fail to pick up the book, if we fail to exercise the discipline, then ignorance will quickly move in to fill the void.
Those who seek a better life must first become a better person. They must continually seek after self-mastery for the purpose of developing a balanced philosophy of life, and then live in accordance with the dictates of that philosophy. The habit of reading is a major stepping stone in the development of a sound philosophical foundation. It is one of the fundamentals required for the attainment of success and happiness.
Keep A Personal Journal
In our continuing search for knowledge and understanding, there is another major discipline that will help us to capture the information around us so that our future will be better than the past: keeping a personal journal. A journal is a gathering place for all of our observations and discoveries about life. It is our own handwritten transcript, narrated in our own words which captures the experiences, ideas, desires and conclusions about the people and events that have touched our lives.
A journal provides us with two remarkable benefits. First, it allows us to capture all aspects of the present moment for future review. The events that take place in our lives -- experiences that we live and learn from -- should not just “happen;” they should be captured so that their lessons can be invested in the future. The past, when properly documented, is one of the best guides for making good decisions today that will lead to a better tomorrow.
While it is true that every event is recorded in the brain, we cannot always access the specifics surrounding those events at will. Often, the details can become blurred or distorted over time. We may remember the outcome but we may have forgotten the exact sequence of events or the decisions that were made. Without accurate information to enhance our recall of the past, we run the risk of repeating many of the same errors over and over again.
Without a journal those special moments -- those milestones of emotion and experience -- will be blown by the winds of our own forgetfulness into a deep corner of the mind where their value will become lost forever. The emotion of that special moment, unless captured in a journal, will soon fade. We may recall the event but we will have lost the emotion.
The second benefit of keeping a journal is that the very act of writing about our lives helps us to think more objectively about our actions. Writing tends to slow down the flow of information. As we pause to gather our thoughts about an event we are trying to capture on paper, we have time to ponder and to analyze the experience. We begin to see more clearly the sources of our information, the facts on which we based our decisions, and the action we are taking in response to our beliefs. In other words, it is not just the event but also our personal philosophy that comes under intense scrutiny in the process of capturing our lives on paper. And it is this intense scrutiny that enables us to make refinements to our philosophy that are truly life-changing.
The discipline of keeping a journal also develops our ability to communicate more effectively. The more we practice capturing events and emotions with words, the more clearly we are able to communicate not only our ideas, but also the inherent value that exists within us.
Most men and women of accomplishment maintain and frequently review their personal journals. It is second nature to them. They seem to possess an inherent instinct that tells them that a life worth living is a life worth documenting. In fact, the process of making a deliberate and consistent habit of writing in journals may well be a major reason for their rise to above-average levels of achievement.
It is the small disciplines that lead to great accomplishments. When average people give care and attention to important matters, their own growth into greatness merely awaits the passage of time. Both small disciplines and minor mistakes in judgment tend to accumulate the former to our benefit and the latter to our detriment.
Neither success nor failure occurs in a single cataclysmic event. Both are the result of the accumulation of seemingly small and insignificant decisions whose collective weight over the period of a lifetime presents the individual with his or her proportionate reward. The use or the neglect of journals is not indispensable to the achievement of success, but the use of a journal is an important piece of the life puzzle called philosophy. By neglecting the journal, the puzzle can never be truly complete.
Surely our lives are worth more than a birth certificate, a gravestone and a half-million dollars in consumed goods and services compressed between those major milestones in our lives. Journals are the tools that enable us to document the details of the failure as well as the progress of our existence, and in the process, allows us to become more than we otherwise might have been.
We are rapidly becoming a nation of passive intellects. The continued neglect of our reading and our writing skills is leading to increasingly undisciplined thinking habits. If we doubt this, we need only to look at how many of our loved ones are turning to drugs, how many of our citizens are involved in violent or white- collar crimes, and how many of our children are dropping out of school. Poor thinking habits. Poor values. Poor decisions. And if this trend remains unchecked, we could soon decline to the level of a third-rate power.
We cannot become a stronger nation until our attention to the essentials of life begins to change. The ability to establish more competent leadership in our government, our schools, our churches, our businesses and our communities lies in the emerging value of the individual. That is why each of us must make a commitment to develop our full human potential, one discipline at a time, one book at a time, and one small entry in our journal at a time. Only by our personal philosophy and change not only our own lives, but also the lives of those around us.
The Decision-Making Process
Whenever a new idea comes our way we subconsciously place this idea on our mental scales and weigh it to determine what level of action we need to take on the idea. Those ideas that measure high on our scale receive immediate attention; those that measure low on our scale receive only minimal or infrequent notice.
Whatever level of action we determine to be correct will ultimately be decided by our philosophy. If we have failed to gather adequate knowledge, or if we have failed to refine or add to the knowledge we possess, then a significant number of our decisions may move us away from success rather than toward it. If we are inclined to spend major time on minor things, or even major money on minor things, then it is essential for us to take a closer look at our decision-making process.
The world is filled with those whose decisions are destined to destroy their chances for success. Those who do not operate from a sound philosophy often do that which they should have left undone and leave undone that which they should have done. They fail to set goals and establish priorities. They vacillate between one decision and another. They sense that they should be doing something, but lack the discipline to convert this awareness into action.
Every day is filled with dozens of personal crossroads -- moments when we are called upon to make a decision regarding minor as well as major questions. It is important to remember that each and every one of the choices we make during these moments of decision charts a path leading to some future destination. Just as the sum total of our past decisions has led us to our current circumstances, the decisions we make today will lead us to the rewards or the regrets of the future.
Choices. Decisions. Selections. Each provides us with an opportunity to determine the quality of our future. And each demands that we prepare in advance for the decision that is to be made. In those moments of choice, it is the knowledge we have acquired and the philosophy we have developed from this knowledge that will either serve us or destroy us.
That is why we must be found constantly preparing for the unanticipated confrontation with important choices. Only through careful mental preparation can we consistently make wise choices. What we think determines what we believe; what we believe influences what we choose; what we choose defines what we are; and what we are attracts what we have. If we are not happy with where our past decisions have led us, then the place to start is with our current thinking process. As we add new knowledge, we will begin to refine our philosophy. As our beliefs change, so too will our choices. And from better choices come better results.
The development of a sound philosophy prepares us for making sound decisions. Like the architect, we must learn to see in our minds the result we wish to achieve, and then go to work on building a solid foundation to support this vision. Once the vision is clearly defined and the foundation has been firmly established, then the choices required to complete the structure are easily and wisely made.
The Formula For Failure
Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. We do not fail overnight. Failure is the inevitable result of an accumulation of poor thinking and poor choices. To put it more simply, failure is nothing more than a few errors in judgment repeated every day.
Now why would someone make an error in judgment and then be so foolish as to repeat it every day?
The answer is because he or she does not think that it matters.
On their own, our daily acts do not seem that important. A minor oversight, a poor decision, or a wasted hour generally don’t result in an instant and measurable impact. More often than not, we escape from any immediate consequences of our deeds.
If we have not bothered to read a single book in the past ninety days, this lack of discipline does not seem to have any immediate impact on our lives. And since nothing drastic happened to us after the first ninety days, we repeat this error in judgment for another ninety days, and on and on it goes. Why? Because it doesn’t seem to matter. And herein lies the great danger. Far worse than not reading the books is not even realizing that it matters!
Those who eat too many of the wrong foods are contributing to a future health problem, but the joy of the moment overshadows the consequence of the future. It does not seem to matter. Those who smoke too much or drink too much go on making these poor choices year after year after year…because it doesn’t seem to matter. But the pain and regret of these errors in judgment have only been delayed for a future time. Consequences are seldom instant; instead, they accumulate until the inevitable day of reckoning finally arrives and the price must be paid for our poor choices— choices that didn’t seem to matter.
Failure’s most dangerous attribute is its subtlety. In the short term those little errors don’t seem to make any difference. We do not seem to be failing. In fact, sometimes these accumulated errors in judgment occur throughout a period of great joy and prosperity in our lives. Since nothing terrible happens to us, since there are no instant consequences to capture our attention, we simply drift from one day to the next, repeating the errors, thinking the wrong thoughts, listening to the wrong voices and making the wrong choices. The sky did not fall in on us yesterday, therefore the act was probably harmless. Since it seemed to have no measurable consequence, it is probably safe to repeat.
But we must become better educated than that!
If at the end of the day when we made our first error in judgment the sky had fallen in on us, we undoubtedly would have taken immediate steps to ensure that the act would never be repeated again. Like the child who places his hand on a hot burner despite his parents’ warnings, we would have had an instantaneous experience accompanying our error in judgment.
Unfortunately, failure does not shout out its warnings as our parents once did. This is why it is imperative to refine our philosophy in order to be able to make better choices. With a powerful, personal philosophy guiding our every step, we become more aware of our errors in judgment and more aware that each error really does matter.
The Formula For Success, A few simple disciplines practiced every day.
Now here is an interesting question worth pondering: How can we change the errors in the formula for failure into the disciplines required in the formula for success? The answer is by making the future an important part of our current philosophy.
Both success and failure involve future consequences, namely the inevitable rewards or unavoidable regrets resulting from past activities. If this is true, why don’t more people take time to ponder the future? The answer is simple: They are so caught up in the current moment that it doesn’t seem to matter. The problems and the rewards of today are so absorbing to some human beings that they never pause long enough to think about tomorrow.
But what if we did develop a new discipline to take just a few minutes every day to look a little further down the road? We would then be able to foresee the impending consequences of our current conduct. Armed with that valuable information, we would be able to take the necessary action to change our errors into new success- oriented disciplines. In other words, by disciplining ourselves to see the future in advance, we would be able to change our thinking, amend our errors and develop new habits to replace the old.
A Few Simple Disciplines Practiced Every Day
One of the exciting things about the formula for success is that the results are almost immediate. As we voluntarily change daily errors into daily disciplines, we experience positive results in a very short period of time. When we change our diet, our health improves noticeably in just a few weeks. When we start exercising we feel a new vitality almost immediately. When we begin reading, we experience a growing awareness and a new level of self- confidence. Whatever new discipline we begin to practice daily will produce exciting results that will drive us to become even better at developing new disciplines.
The real magic of new disciplines is that they will cause us to amend our thinking. If we were to start today to read the books, keep a journal, attend the classes, listen more and observe more, then today would be the first day of a new life leading to a better future. If we were to start today to try harder, and in every way make a conscious and consistent effort to change subtle and deadly errors into constructive and rewarding disciplines, we would never again settle for a life of existence -- not once we have tasted the fruits of a life of substance!
There are those who would lead us to believe that we do not need the disciplines in order to change our lives – that all a person needs is a little motivation. But “motivation” is not how people change their lives. To change a life we must first change our thinking habits. If a person is a fool and becomes motivated, he merely becomes a motivated fool.
To change ourselves from how we are to how we want to be, we must begin with those few basics that affect the way we think. We can greatly change the course of our lives by spending more time and making a greater conscious effort to refine our personal philosophy.
The exciting thing is that we will not have to change all that much for the results to very quickly change for us.
Disciplines Tend To Multiply
All disciplines affect each other. Every new discipline affects not only the discipline that we have already begun to practice, but also the disciplines we will soon adopt.
Everything affects everything else. Some things affect us more than others, but everything we do has an effect on everything else we do. Not to think so is naive. This is where those little subtle errors can come from -- from not knowing the effect that our errors are having on our lives over an extended period of time.
There is a tendency for each of us to give ourselves license to continue an undisciplined act. We tell ourselves “This is the only area in which I allow myself to be weak.” But this type of thinking is the beginning of delusion, for each undisciplined act tends to open the floodgates leading to other breakdowns in the chain of self- discipline. The license we give to ourselves to wander even momentarily outside the boundaries of self-control establishes a subtle tendency, and the passing of time will eventually cause other self-imposed disciplines to erode.
Since every discipline affects every other discipline, we must be careful with all of them. We cannot allow ourselves the luxury of indulging any error day in and day out. Remember, every liberty we give ourselves to continue with an error has an effect on all of our other good habits, which in time has an effect on our future performance.
But here is the positive side. Every new discipline affects all of our other disciplines. Every new discipline that we impose on ourselves will affect the rest of our personal performance in a positive way.
The key is to keep looking for every small discipline we can find that will cause us to refine our thinking, amend our errors and improve our results. We must continue looking for even the most insignificant of those errors in judgment that could be converted into a new discipline. Once the discipline cycle is started, our errors will begin to feel the effect, leaving tangible rewards in their wake as they make a hasty retreat.
Success And Happiness Are Easy To Achieve
Taken one step at a time all of the things that success and happiness require are actually quite easy to do. Changing from errors to disciplines is easy, as is going from failure to success. The reason why it is so easy is because we can do it, and anything we have the ability to do is always easy. Now, we may have to work hard at the daily discipline part of the equation, but reaching out with our talents to embrace success and its rewards is very easy to do.
But if it is so easy, why don’t more of us do it?
Because while it is easy to do the things that success and happiness require, it is also easy not to do them.
The Danger Of Neglect
The things that are easy to do are also easy not to do. The primary reason most people are not doing as well as they could and should can be summed up in a single word: neglect.
It is not the lack of money -- banks are full of money. It is not the lack of opportunity -- America continues to offer the most unprecedented and abundant opportunities of any nation in the last six thousand years of recorded history. It is not the lack of books -- libraries are full of books…and they are free! It is not the schools -- the classrooms are full of good teachers. We have plenty of ministers, leaders, counselors and advisors.
Everything we would ever need to become rich and powerful and sophisticated is within our reach. The major reason that so few take advantage of all that we have is, simply, neglect.
Many of us have heard the expression “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” We may debate the validity of this familiar quotation, but what if it were true? If by performing that one simple act -- that -- one simple discipline -- we could be more healthy and alert and active throughout our lives, then would it not make sense and would it not be easy to eat that apple every day?
Assuming the quotation is true, why don’t more of us eat an apple a day -- every day -- to maintain our health? If it is that easy, and there is such a tremendous reward attached to this discipline, why do we not do it? Because the things that are easy to do are also easy not to do. That is how subtle failure is. Failure is largely a function of neglect. We fail to do the small things that we should do, and this seemingly insignificant license carries over to those things that are important to do. Small neglects have a way of becoming major oversights with the passage of enough time.
Neglect is like an infection. Left unchecked it will spread throughout our entire system of disciplines and eventually lead to a complete breakdown of a potentially joy-filled and prosperous human life.
Not doing the things we know we should do causes us to feel guilty and guilt leads to an erosion of self-confidence. As our self- confidence diminishes, so does the level of our activity. And as our activity diminishes, our results inevitably decline. And as our results suffer our attitude begins to weaken. And as our attitude begins the slow shift from positive to negative, our self-confidence diminishes even more… and on and on it goes. Failure to do the things that we could and should do results in the creation of a negative spiral, which once started, is difficult to stop.
Learn To Listen To The Right Voice
Why are we so frequently inclined to do the things that are least important but so reluctant to do the essential things that success and happiness demand? What is that voice that whispers to us, “Just let it all slide. Why worry about all that discipline nonsense?” It is the voice of negativity, a voice that has grown increasingly stronger over the years as a result of being around the wrong influences, thinking the wrong thoughts, developing the wrong philosophy and making the wrong decisions.
Part of the solution to quieting the voice of negativity is learning to listen to the still, small voice of success, which resides inside each of us. The voice of success is constantly struggling to be heard above the loud promptings of the voice of failure. Our own free agency allows us to follow whichever voice we choose. Everytime we allow ourselves to succumb to the voice of the dark side of life, and are persuaded to repeat errors instead of mastering new disciplines, the voice of negativity grows stronger. Conversely, each time we listen to the urgings of the voice of success, and are persuaded to turn off the television and pick up a book, to open our journals and record our thoughts, or to spend a quiet moment pondering where our current actions may be leading us, the voice of success responds to these new disciplines and grows in strength and volume as each day passes. For each new discipline, another step forward.
We can never totally eradicate the voice of failure from within us. It will always be there, urging us to think and feel and act in a way that is contrary to our own best interests. But we can effectively silence this destructive influence by developing a sound philosophy and a positive attitude about life and our future.
Creating a new philosophy is easy to do. Making new and better decisions is easy to do. Developing a new attitude is easy to do. All of the worthwhile and rewarding things we have covered in this chapter are easy to do, but the major challenge -- the one that could leave us with pennies instead of fortune and trinkets instead of treasures -- is that it is also easy not to do.
We must keep a watchful eye on the subtle differences between success and failure, and be ever mindful of the inner urgings that would have us repeating costly errors rather than developing new disciplines.
We must each make our own conscious decision to reach out for the good life through the refinement of our thoughts and the careful examination of the potential consequences of our accumulated errors. We must not allow ourselves to think that the errors do not matter. They do. We must not allow ourselves to assume that a lack of discipline in one small area of our lives will not make a difference. It will. And we must not allow ourselves to believe that we can have all that we want to have and become all
that we wish to be without making any changes in the way we think about life. We must.
The journey toward the good life begins with a serious commitment to changing any aspect of our current philosophy that has the capacity to come between us and our dreams. The remaining pieces of the puzzle of life can be of little value if we have not first made the firm resolve to do something with this piece of the puzzle.
Everything is within our reach if we will read the books, use the journals, practice the disciplines, and wage a new and vigorous battle against neglect. These are some of the fundamental activities that lead not only to the development of a new philosophy but to a new life filled with joy and accomplishment. Each new and positive activity weakens the grip of failure and steers us ever closer to the destination of our choice. Each new, disciplined step taken toward success strengthens our philosophical posture and increases our chances of achieving a well-balanced life. But the first step in realizing this worthy achievement lies in becoming the master of our ship and the captain of our soul by developing a sound personal philosophy.