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The Magic of Thinking Big
David J. Schwartz, PhD
PRENTICE HALL PRESS Published by the Penguin Group
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THE MAGIC OF THINKING BIG
Copyright © 1959, 1965 by Prentice-Hall Inc. Copyright renewed 1987 by David Joseph Schwartz
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PUBLISHING HISTORY Prentice-Hall first edition / 1959
Touchstone trade paperback edition / November 2012 Prentice Hall Press e-book edition / December 2014
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For David III
Our six-year-old son, David, felt mighty big when he was graduated from kindergarten. I asked him what he plans to be when he finishes growing up. Davey looked at me intently for a moment and then answered, “Dad, I want to be a professor.”
“A professor? A professor of what?” I asked. “Well, Dad,” he replied, “I think I want to be a professor of happiness.” “A professor of happiness! That’s a pretty wonderful ambition, don’t you think?” To David, then, a fine boy with a grand goal, and to his mother, this book is dedicated.
Preface What This Book Will Do for You
1. Believe You Can Succeed and You Will 2. Cure Yourself of Excusitis, the Failure Disease 3. Build Confidence and Destroy Fear 4. How to Think Big 5. How to Think and Dream Creatively 6. You Are What You Think You Are 7. Manage Your Environment: Go First Class 8. Make Your Attitudes Your Allies 9. Think Right Toward People
10. Get the Action Habit 11. How to Turn Defeat into Victory 12. Use Goals to Help You Grow 13. How to Think like a Leader
Why this big book? Why a full-scale discussion of The Magic of Thinking Big? Thousands of books will be published this year. Why one more?
Permit me to give you just a little background. Several years ago I witnessed an exceptionally impressive sales meeting. The vice president in
charge of marketing for this company was tremendously excited. He wanted to drive home a point. He had with him on the platform the leading representative in the organization, a very ordinary-looking fellow, who earned in the year just ended just a little under $60,000. The earnings of other representatives averaged $12,000.
The executive challenged the group. Here is what he said: “I want you to take a good look at Harry. Look at him! Now, what’s Harry got that the rest of you haven’t? Harry earned five times the average, but is Harry five times smarter? No, not according to our personnel tests. I checked. They show he’s about average in that department.
“And did Harry work five times harder than you fellows? No—not according to the reports. In fact, he took more time off than most of you.
“Did Harry have a better territory? Again I’ve got to say no. The accounts averaged about the same. Did Harry have more education? Better health? Again, no. Harry is about as average as an average guy could be except for one thing.
“The difference between Harry and the rest of you,” said the vice president, “the difference is that Harry thought five times bigger.”
Then the executive proceeded to show that success is determined not so much by the size of one’s brain as it is by the size of one’s thinking.
This was an intriguing thought. And it stayed with me. The more I observed, the more people I talked with, the deeper I dug into what’s really behind success, the clearer was the answer. Case history after case history proved that the size of bank accounts, the size of happiness accounts, and the size of one’s general satisfaction account is dependent on the size of one’s thinking. There is magic in thinking big.
“If Thinking Big accomplishes so much, why doesn’t everyone think that way?” I’ve been asked that question many times. Here, I believe, is the answer. All of us, more than we recognize, are products of the thinking around us. And much of this thinking is little, not big. All around you is an environment that is trying to tug you, trying to pull you down Second Class Street. You are told almost daily that there are “too many chiefs and not enough Indians.” In other words, that opportunities to lead no longer exist, that there is a surplus of chiefs, so be content to be a little guy.
But this “too many chiefs” idea simply doesn’t square with the truth. Leading people in all occupations will tell you, as they’ve told me, that “the trouble is, there are too many Indians and not nearly enough chiefs.”
This pettily petty environment says other things too. It tells you, “Whatever will be will be,” that
your destiny is outside your control, that “fate” is in complete control. So forget those dreams, forget that finer home, forget that special college for the children, forget the better life. Be resigned. Lie down and wait to die.
And who hasn’t heard the statement that “Success isn’t worth the price,” as if you have to sell your soul, your family life, your conscience, your set of values to reach the top. But, in truth, success doesn’t demand a price. Every step forward pays a dividend.
This environment also tells us there’s too much competition for the top spots in life. But is there? A personnel selection executive told me that he receives 50 to 250 times as many applicants for jobs that pay $10,000 per year as for jobs that pay $50,000 a year. This is to say that there is at least 50 times as much competition for jobs on Second Class Street as for jobs on First Class Avenue. First Class Avenue, U.S.A., is a short, uncrowded street. There are countless vacancies waiting there for people like you who dare to think big.
The basic principles and concepts supporting The Magic of Thinking Big come from the highest- pedigree sources, the very finest and biggest-thinking minds yet to live on planet Earth. Minds like the prophet David, who wrote, “As one thinketh in his heart, so is he”; minds such as Emerson, who said, “Great men are those who see that thoughts rule the world”; minds like Milton, who in Paradise Lost wrote, “The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven.” Amazingly perceptive minds like Shakespeare, who observed, “There is nothing either good or bad except that thinking makes it so.”
But where does the proof come from? How do we know the master thinkers were right? Fair questions. The proof comes from the lives of the select people around us who, through winning success, achievement, and happiness, prove that thinking big does work magic.
The simple steps we have set down here are not untested theories. They are not one man’s guesses and opinions. They are proven approaches to life’s situations, and they are universally applicable steps that work and work like magic.
That you’re reading this page proves you are interested in larger success. You want to fulfill your desires. You want to enjoy a fine standard of living. You want this life to deliver to you all the good things you deserve. Being interested in success is a wonderful quality.
You have another admirable quality. The fact that you’re holding this book in your hands shows you have the intelligence to look for tools that will help take you where you want to go. In building anything—automobiles, bridges, missiles—we need tools. Many people, in their attempt to build a successful life, forget there are tools to help them. You have not forgotten. You have, then, the two basic qualities needed to realize real profit from this book: a desire for greater success and the intelligence to select a tool to help you realize that desire.
Think Big and you’ll live big. You’ll live big in happiness. You’ll live big in accomplishment. Big in income. Big in friends. Big in respect.
Enough for the promise. Start now, right now, to discover how to make your thinking make magic for you. Start out with
this thought of the great philosopher Disraeli: “Life is too short to be little.”
WHAT THIS BOOK WILL DO FOR YOU
In every chapter of this book you will find dozens of hardheaded, practical ideas, techniques, and principles that will enable you to harness the tremendous power of thinking big, so as to gain for yourself the success, happiness, and satisfaction you want so much. Every technique is dramatically illustrated by a real-life case history. You discover not only what to do, but, what is even more important, you see exactly how to apply each principle to actual situations and problems. Here, then, is what this book will do for you; it will show you how you can . . .
Launch Yourself to Success with the Power of Belief
Win Success by Believing You Can Succeed
Defeat Disbelief and the Negative Power It Creates
Get Big Results by Believing Big
Make Your Mind Produce Positive Thoughts
Develop the Power of Belief
Plan a Concrete Success-Building Program
Vaccinate Yourself Against Excusitis, the Failure Disease
Learn the Secret That Lies in Your Attitude Toward Health
Take Four Positive Steps to Lick Health Excusitis
Discover Why Your Thinking Power Is More Important Than Mere Intelligence
Use Your Mind for Thinking—Not Simply as a Warehouse for Facts
Master Three Easy Ways to Cure Intelligence Excusitis
Overcome the Problem of Age—Being “Too Young,” or “Too Old”
Conquer Luck Excusitis and Attract Good Luck to You
Use the Action Technique to Cure Fear and Build Confidence
Manage Your Memory so as to Increase Your Store of Confidence
Overcome Your Fear of Other People
Increase Self-confidence by Satisfying Your Own Conscience
Think Confidently by Acting Confidently
Learn the Five Positive Steps to Build Confidence and Destroy Fear
Discover That Success Is Measured by the Size of Your Thinking
Measure Your True Size and Find Out What Assets You Have
Think as Big as You Really Are
Develop the Big Thinker’s Vocabulary with These Four Specific Steps
Think Big by Visualizing What Can Be Done in the Future
Add Value to Things, to People, and to Yourself
Get the “Thinking Big” View of Your Job
Think Above Trivialities and Concentrate on What’s Important
Test Yourself—Find Out How Big Your Thinking Really Is
Use Creative Thinking to Find New and Better Ways to Get Things Done
Develop Creative Power by Believing It Can Be Done
Fight Mind-Freezing Traditional Thinking
Do More and Do It Better by Turning on Your Creative Power
Use the Three Keys to Strengthening Creativity by Opening Your Ears and Your Mind
Stretch Your Thinking and Stimulate Your Mind
Harness and Develop Your Ideas—the Fruit of Your Thinking
Look Important, Because It Helps You Think Important
Become Important by Thinking Your Work Is Important
Build Your Own “Sell-Yourself-to-Yourself” Commercial
Upgrade Your Thinking—Think Like Important People Think
Make Your Environment Work for You
Prevent Small People from Holding You Back
Manage Your Work Environment
Get Plenty of Psychological Sunshine During Leisure Hours
Throw Thought Poison Out of Your Environment
Go First Class in Everything You Do
Grow the Attitudes That Will Help You Win What You Want
Get Activated; Get Enthusiastic
Develop the Power of Real Enthusiasm
Grow the “You-Are-Important” Attitude
Make More Money by Getting the “Put-Service-First” Attitude
Win the Support of Other People by Thinking Right Toward Them
Become More Likable by Making Yourself “Lighter to Lift”
Take the Initiative in Building Friendships
Master the Technique of Thinking Only Good Thoughts About People
Win Friends by Practicing Conversation Generosity
Think Big, Even When You Lose or Receive a Setback
Get the Action Habit—You Don’t Need to Wait Until Conditions Are Perfect
Make Up Your Mind to Do Something About Your Ideas
Use Action to Cure Fear and Gain Confidence
Discover the Secret of Mind Action
Capitalize on the Magic of NOW
Strengthen Yourself by Getting the “Speak Up” Habit
Develop Initiative, a Special Kind of Action
Discover That Defeat Is Nothing More Than a State of Mind
Salvage Something from Every Setback
Use the Force of Constructive Self-criticism
Achieve Positive Results Through Persistence and Experimentation
Whip Discouragement by Finding the Good Side to Every Situation
Get a Clear Fix on Where You Want to Go in Life
Use This Plan to Build Your Ten-Year Goal
Avoid the Five Success-Murdering Weapons
Multiply Your Energy by Setting Definite Goals
Set Goals That Will Help You Get Things Done and Live Longer
Accomplish Your Goals with This 30-Day Improvement Guide
Invest in Yourself for Future Profit
Learn the Four Rules of Leadership
Develop Your Power to Trade Minds with the People You Want to Influence
Put the “Be-Human” Approach to Work for You
Think Progress, Believe in Progress, Push for Progress
Test Yourself to Learn Whether You Are a Progressive Thinker
Tap Your Supreme Thinking Power
Use the Magic of Thinking Big in Life’s Most Crucial Situations
BELIEVE YOU CAN SUCCEED AND YOU WILL
Success means many wonderful, positive things. Success means personal prosperity: a fine home, vacations, travel, new things, financial security, giving your children maximum advantages. Success means winning admiration, leadership, being looked up to by people in your business and social life. Success means freedom: freedom from worries, fears, frustrations, and failure. Success means self- respect, continually finding more real happiness and satisfaction from life, being able to do more for those who depend on you.
Success means winning. Success—achievement—is the goal of life! Every human being wants success. Everybody wants the best this life can deliver. Nobody enjoys
crawling, living in mediocrity. No one likes feeling second-class and feeling forced to go that way. Some of the most practical success-building wisdom is found in that biblical quotation stating that
faith can move mountains. Believe, really believe, you can move a mountain, and you can. Not many people believe that they
can move mountains. So, as a result, not many people do. On some occasion you’ve probably heard someone say something like “It’s nonsense to think you
can make a mountain move away just by saying ‘Mountain, move away.’ It’s simply impossible.” People who think this way have belief confused with wishful thinking. And true enough, you can’t
wish away a mountain. You can’t wish yourself into an executive suite. Nor can you wish yourself into a five-bedroom, three-bath house or the high-income brackets. You can’t wish yourself into a position of leadership.
But you can move a mountain with belief. You can win success by believing you can succeed. There is nothing magical or mystical about the power of belief. Belief works this way. Belief, the “I’m-positive-I-can” attitude, generates the power, skill, and
energy needed to do. When you believe I-can-do-it, the how-to-do-it develops. Every day all over the nation young people start working in new jobs. Each of them “wishes” that
someday he could enjoy the success that goes with reaching the top. But the majority of these young people simply don’t have the belief that it takes to reach the top rungs. And they don’t reach the top. Believing it’s impossible to climb high, they do not discover the steps that lead to great heights. Their behavior remains that of the “average” person.
But a small number of these young people really believe they will succeed. They approach their work with the “I’m-going-to-the-top” attitude. And with substantial belief they reach the top. Believing they will succeed—and that it’s not impossible—these folks study and observe the behavior of senior executives. They learn how successful people approach problems and make
decisions. They observe the attitudes of successful people. The how-to-do-it always comes to the person who believes he can do it. A young woman I’m acquainted with decided two years ago that she was going to establish a
sales agency to sell mobile homes. She was advised by many that she shouldn’t—and couldn’t—do it. She had less than $3,000 in savings and was advised that the minimum capital investment
required was many times that. “Look how competitive it is,” she was advised. “And besides, what practical experience have
you had in selling mobile homes, let alone managing a business?” her advisors asked. But this young lady had belief in herself and her ability to succeed. She quickly admitted that she
lacked capital, that the business was very competitive, and that she lacked experience. “But,” she said, “all the evidence I can gather shows that the mobile home industry is going to
expand. On top of that, I’ve studied my competition. I know I can do a better job of merchandising trailers than anybody else in this town. I expect to make some mistakes, but I’m going to be on top in a hurry.”
And she was. She had little trouble getting capital. Her absolutely unquestioned belief that she could succeed with this business won her the confidence of two investors. And armed with complete belief, she did the “impossible”—she got a trailer manufacturer to advance her a limited inventory with no money down.
Last year she sold over $1,000,000 worth of trailers. “Next year,” she says, “I expect to gross over $2,000,000.” Belief, strong belief, triggers the mind to figure ways and means and how-to. And believing you
can succeed makes others place confidence in you. Most people do not put much stock in belief. But some, the residents of Successfulville, U.S.A.,
do! Just a few weeks ago a friend who is an official with a state highway department in a mid- western state related a “mountain-moving” experience to me.
“Last month,” my friend began, “our department sent notices to a number of engineering companies that we were authorized to retain some firm to design eight bridges as part of our highway- building program. The bridges were to be built at a cost of $5,000,000. The engineering firm selected would get a 4 percent commission, or $200,000, for its design work.
“I talked with twenty-one engineering firms about this. The four largest decided right away to submit proposals. The other seventeen companies were small, having only three to seven engineers each. The size of the project scared off sixteen of these seventeen. They went over the project, shook their heads, and said, in effect, ‘It’s too big for us. I wish I thought we could handle it, but it’s no use even trying.’
“But one of these small firms, a company with only three engineers, studied the plans and said, ‘We can do it. We’ll submit a proposal.’ They did, and they got the job.”
Those who believe they can move mountains, do. Those who believe they can’t, cannot. Belief triggers the power to do.
Actually, in these modern times belief is doing much bigger things than moving mountains. The most essential element—in fact, the essential element—in our space explorations today is belief that space can be mastered. Without firm, unwavering belief that man can travel in space, our scientists would not have the courage, interest, and enthusiasm to proceed. Belief that cancer can be cured will ultimately produce cures for cancer. Currently, there is some talk of building a tunnel under the English Channel to connect England with the Continent. Whether this tunnel is ever built depends on whether responsible people believe it can be built.
Belief in great results is the driving force, the power behind all great books, plays, scientific discoveries. Belief in success is behind every successful business, church, and political organization. Belief in success is the one basic, absolutely essential ingredient of successful people.
Believe, really believe, you can succeed, and you will. Over the years I’ve talked with many people who have failed in business ventures and in various
careers. I’ve heard a lot of reasons and excuses for failure. Something especially significant unfolds as conversations with failures develop. In a casual sort of way the failure drops a remark like “To tell the truth, I didn’t think it would work” or “I had my misgivings before I even started out” or “Actually, I wasn’t too surprised that it didn’t work out.”
The “Okay-I’ll-give-it-a-try-but-I-don’t-think-it-will-work” attitude produces failures. Disbelief is negative power. When the mind disbelieves or doubts, the mind attracts “reasons” to
support the disbelief. Doubt, disbelief, the subconscious will to fail, the not really wanting to succeed, is responsible for most failures.
Think doubt and fail. Think victory and succeed. A young fiction writer talked with me recently about her writing ambitions. The name of one of
the top writers in her field came up. “Oh,” she said, “Mr. X is a wonderful writer, but of course, I can’t be nearly as successful as he
is.” Her attitude disappointed me very much because I know the writer mentioned. He is not
superintelligent nor superperceptive, nor super–anything else except superconfident. He believes he is among the best, and so he acts and performs the best.
It is well to respect the leader. Learn from him. Observe him. Study him. But don’t worship him. Believe you can surpass. Believe you can go beyond. Those who harbor the second-best attitude are invariably second-best doers.
Look at it this way. Belief is the thermostat that regulates what we accomplish in life. Study the fellow who is shuffling down there in mediocrity. He believes he is worth little, so he receives little. He believes he can’t do big things, and he doesn’t. He believes he is unimportant, so everything he does has an unimportant mark. As times goes by, lack of belief in himself shows through in the way the fellow talks, walks, acts. Unless he readjusts his thermostat forward, he shrinks, grows smaller and smaller, in his own estimation. And, since others see in us what we see in ourselves, he grows smaller in the estimation of the people around him.
Now look across the way at the person who is advancing forward. He believes he is worth much, and he receives much. He believes he can handle big, difficult assignments—and he does. Everything he does, the way he handles himself with people, his character, his thoughts, his viewpoints, all say, “Here is a professional. He is an important person.”
A person is a product of his own thoughts. Believe Big. Adjust your thermostat forward. Launch your success offensive with honest, sincere belief that you can succeed. Believe big and grow big.
Several years ago after addressing a group of businessmen in Detroit, I talked with one of the gentlemen who approached me, introduced himself, and said, “I really enjoyed your talk. Can you spare a few minutes? I’d like very much to discuss a personal experience with you.”
In a few minutes we were comfortably seated in a coffee shop, waiting for some refreshments. “I have a personal experience,” he began, “that ties in perfectly with what you said this evening
about making your mind work for you instead of letting it work against you. I’ve never explained to anyone how I lifted myself out of the world of mediocrity, but I’d like to tell you about it.”
“And I’d like to hear it,” I said. “Well, just five years ago I was plodding along, just another guy working in the tool-and-die
trade. I made a decent living by average standards. But it was far from ideal. Our home was much too small, and there was no money for those many things we wanted. My wife, bless her, didn’t complain much, but it was written all over her that she was more resigned to her fate than she was happy. Inside I grew more and more dissatisfied. When I let myself see how I was failing my good wife and two children, I really hurt inside.
“But today things are really different,” my friend continued. “Today we have a beautiful new home on a two-acre lot and a year-round cabin a couple hundred miles north of here. There’s no more worry about whether we can send the kids to a good college, and my wife no longer has to feel guilty every time she spends money for some new clothes. Next summer the whole family is flying to Europe to spend a month’s holiday. We’re really living.”
“How did this all happen?” I asked. “It all happened,” he continued, “when, to use the phrase you used tonight, ‘I harnessed the power
of belief.’ Five years ago I learned about a job with a tool-and-die company here in Detroit. We were living in Cleveland at the time. I decided to look into it, hoping I could make a little more money. I got here early on Sunday evening, but the interview was not until Monday.
“After dinner I sat down in my hotel room, and for some reason, I got really disgusted with myself. ‘Why,’ I asked myself, ‘am I just a middle-class failure? Why am I trying to get a job that represents such a small step forward?’
“I don’t know to this day what prompted me to do it, but I took a sheet of hotel stationery and wrote down the names of five people I’ve known well for several years who had far surpassed me in earning power and job responsibility. Two were former neighbors who had moved away to fine subdivisions. Two others were fellows I had worked for, and the third was a brother-in-law.
“Next—again I don’t know what made me do this—I asked myself, what do my five friends have that I don’t have, besides better jobs? I compared myself with them on intelligence, but I honestly couldn’t see that they excelled in the brains department. Nor could I truthfully say they had me beat on education, integrity, or personal habits.
“Finally, I got down to another success quality one hears a lot about: initiative. Here I hated to admit it, but I had to. On this point my record showed I was far below that of my successful friends.
“It was now about 3 A.M., but my mind was astonishingly clear. I was seeing my weak point for the first time. I discovered that I had held back. I had always carried a little stick. I dug into myself deeper and deeper and found the reason I lacked initiative was because I didn’t believe inside that I was worth very much.
“I sat there the rest of the night just reviewing how lack of faith in myself had dominated me ever since I could remember, how I had used my mind to work against myself. I found I had been preaching to myself why I couldn’t get ahead instead of why I could. I had been selling myself short. I found this streak of self-depreciation showed through in everything I did. Then it dawned on me that no one else was going to believe in me until I believed in myself.
“Right then I decided, ‘I’m through feeling second-class. From here on in I’m not going to sell myself short.’
“Next morning I still had that confidence. During the job interview I gave my newfound confidence its first test. Before coming for the interview I’d hoped I would have courage to ask for $750 or maybe even $1,000 more than my present job was paying. But now, after realizing I was a valuable man, I upped it to $3,500. And I got it. I sold myself because after that one long night of self-
analysis I found things in myself that made me a lot more salable. “Within two years after I took that job I had established a reputation as the fellow who can get
business. Then we went into a recession. This made me still more valuable because I was one of the best business-getters in the industry. The company was reorganized and I was given a substantial amount of stock plus a lot more pay.”
Believe in yourself, and good things do start happening.
Your mind is a “thought factory.” It’s a busy factory, producing countless thoughts in one day. Production in your thought factory is under the charge of two foremen, one of whom we will call
Mr. Triumph and the other Mr. Defeat. Mr. Triumph is in charge of manufacturing positive thoughts. He specializes in producing reasons why you can, why you’re qualified, why you will.
The other foreman, Mr. Defeat, produces negative, deprecating thoughts. He is your expert in developing reasons why you can’t, why you’re weak, why you’re inadequate. His specialty is the “why-you-will-fail” chain of thoughts.
Both Mr. Triumph and Mr. Defeat are intensely obedient. They snap to attention immediately. All you need do to signal either foreman is to give the slightest mental beck and call. If the signal is positive, Mr. Triumph will step forward and go to work. Likewise, a negative signal brings Mr. Defeat forward.
To see how these two foremen work for you, try this example. Tell yourself, “Today is a lousy day.” This signals Mr. Defeat into action, and he manufactures some facts to prove you are right. He suggests to you that it’s too hot or it’s too cold, business will be bad today, sales will drop, other people will be on edge, you may get sick, your wife will be in a fussy mood. Mr. Defeat is tremendously efficient. In just a few moments he’s got you sold. It is a bad day. Before you know it, it is a heck of a bad day.
But tell yourself, “Today is a fine day,” and Mr. Triumph is signaled forward to act. He tells you, “This is a wonderful day. The weather is refreshing. It’s good to be alive. Today you can catch up on some of your work.” And then it is a good day.
In like fashion Mr. Defeat can show you why you can’t sell Mr. Smith; Mr. Triumph will show you that you can. Mr. Defeat will convince you that you will fail, while Mr. Triumph will demonstrate why you will succeed. Mr. Defeat will prepare a brilliant case against Tom, while Mr. Triumph will show you more reasons why you like Tom.
Now, the more work you give either of these two foremen, the stronger he becomes. If Mr. Defeat is given more work to do, he adds personnel and takes up more space in your mind. Eventually, he will take over the entire thought-manufacturing division, and virtually all thought will be of a negative nature.
The only wise thing to do is fire Mr. Defeat. You don’t need him. You don’t want him around telling you that you can’t, you’re not up to it, you’ll fail, and so on. Mr. Defeat won’t help you get where you want to go, so boot him out.
Use Mr. Triumph 100 percent of the time. When any thought enters your mind, ask Mr. Triumph to go to work for you. He’ll show you how you can succeed.
Between now and tomorrow at this time another 11,500 new consumers will have made their grand entry into the U.S.A.
Population is growing at a record rate. In the next ten years the increase is conservatively
estimated at 35 million. That’s equal to the present combined metropolitan population of our five biggest cities: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Philadelphia. Imagine!
New industries, new scientific breakthroughs, expanding markets—all spell opportunity. This is good news. This is a most wonderful time to be alive!
All signs point to a record demand for top-level people in every field—people who have superior ability to influence others, to direct their work, to serve them in a leadership capacity. And the people who will fill these leadership positions are all adults or near adults right now. One of them is you.
The guarantee of a boom is not, of course, a guarantee of personal success. Over the long pull, the United States has always been booming. But just a fast glance shows that millions and millions of people—in fact, a majority of them—struggle but don’t really succeed. The majority of folks still plug along in mediocrity despite the record opportunity of the last two decades. And in the boom period ahead, most people will continue to worry, to be afraid, to crawl through life feeling unimportant, unappreciated, not able to do what they want to do. As a result, their performance will earn them petty rewards, petty happiness.
Those who convert opportunity into reward (and let me say, I sincerely believe you are one of those, else you’d rely on luck and not bother with this book) will be those wise people who learn how to think themselves to success.
Walk in. The door to success is open wider than ever before. Put yourself on record now that you are going to join that select group that is getting what it wants from life.
Here is the first step toward success. It’s a basic step. It can’t be avoided. Step One: Believe in yourself, believe you can succeed.
HOW TO DEVELOP THE POWER OF BELIEF Here are the three guides to acquiring and strengthening the power of belief:
1. Think success, don’t think failure. At work, in your home, substitute success thinking for failure thinking. When you face a difficult situation, think, “I’ll win,” not “I’ll probably lose.” When you compete with someone else, think, “I’m equal to the best,” not “I’m outclassed.” When opportunity appears, think “I can do it,” never “I can’t.” Let the master thought “I will succeed” dominate your thinking process. Thinking success conditions your mind to create plans that produce success. Thinking failure does the exact opposite. Failure thinking conditions the mind to think other thoughts that produce failure.
2. Remind yourself regularly that you are better than you think you are. Successful people are not supermen. Success does not require a superintellect. Nor is there anything mystical about success. And success isn’t based on luck. Successful people are just ordinary folks who have developed belief in themselves and what they do. Never—yes, never—sell yourself short.
3. Believe Big. The size of your success is determined by the size of your belief. Think little goals and expect little achievements. Think big goals and win big success. Remember this, too! Big ideas and big plans are often easier—certainly no more difficult—than small ideas and small plans.
Mr. Ralph J. Cordiner, chairman of the board of the General Electric Company, said this to a
leadership conference: “We need from every man who aspires to leadership—for himself and his company—a determination to undertake a personal program of self-development. Nobody is going to order a man to develop. . . . Whether a man lags behind or moves ahead in his specialty is a matter of his own personal application. This is something which takes time, work, and sacrifice. Nobody can do it for you.”
Mr. Cordiner’s advice is sound and practical. Live it. Persons who reach the top rungs in business management, selling, engineering, religious work, writing, acting, and in every other pursuit get there by following conscientiously and continuously a plan for self-development and growth.
Any training program—and that’s exactly what this book is—must do three things. It must provide content, the what-to-do. Second, it must supply a method, the how-to-do-it. And third, it must meet the acid test; that is, get results.
The what of your personal training program for success is built on the attitudes and techniques of successful people. How do they manage themselves? How do they overcome obstacles? How do they earn the respect of others? What sets them apart from the ordinary? How do they think?
The how of your plan for development and growth is a series of concrete guides for action. These are found in each chapter. These guides work. Apply them and see for yourself.
What about the most important part of training: results? Wrapped up briefly, conscientious application of the program presented here will bring you success and on a scale that may now look impossible. Broken down into its components, your personal training program for success will bring you a series of rewards: the reward of deeper respect from your family, the reward of admiration from your friends and associates, the reward of feeling useful, of being someone, of having status, the reward of increased income and a higher standard of living.
Your training is self-administered. There will be no one standing over your shoulder telling you what to do and how to do it. This book will be your guide, but only you can understand yourself. Only you can command yourself to apply this training. Only you can evaluate your progress. Only you can bring about corrective action should you slip a little. In short, you are going to train yourself to achieve bigger and bigger success.
You already have a fully equipped laboratory in which you can work and study. Your laboratory is all around you. Your laboratory consists of human beings. This laboratory supplies you with every possible example of human action. And there is no limit to what you can learn once you see yourself as a scientist in your own lab. What’s more, there is nothing to buy. There is no rent to pay. There are no fees of any kind. You can use this laboratory as much as you like for free.
As director of your own laboratory, you will want to do what every scientist does: observe and experiment.
Isn’t it surprising to you that most people understand so little about why people act as they do even though they are surrounded by people all their lives? Most people are not trained observers. One important purpose of this book is to help you train yourself to observe, to develop deep insight into human action. You’ll want to ask yourself questions like “Why is John so successful and Tom just getting by?” “Why do some people have many friends and other people have only few friends?” “Why will people gladly accept what one person tells them but ignore another person who tells them the same thing?”
Once trained, you will learn valuable lessons just through the very simple process of observing. Here are two special suggestions to help you make yourself a trained observer. Select for special
study the most successful and the most unsuccessful person you know. Then, as the book unfolds, observe how closely your successful friend adheres to the success principles. Notice also how
studying the two extremes will help you see the unmistakable wisdom of following the truths outlined in this book.
Each contact you make with another person gives you a chance to see success development principles at work. Your objective is to make successful action habitual. The more we practice, the sooner it becomes second nature to act in the desired way.
Most of us have friends who grow things for a hobby. And we’ve all heard them say something like “It’s exciting to watch those plants grow. Just look how they respond to plant food and water. See how much bigger they are today than they were last week.”
To be sure, it is thrilling to watch what can happen when men cooperate carefully with nature. But it is not one-tenth as fascinating as watching yourself respond to your own carefully administered thought management program. It’s fun to feel yourself growing more confident, more effective, more successful day by day, month by month. Nothing—absolutely nothing—in this life gives you more satisfaction than knowing you’re on the road to success and achievement. And nothing stands as a bigger challenge than making the most of yourself.
CURE YOURSELF OF EXCUSITIS, THE FAILURE DISEASE
People—as you think yourself to success, that’s what you will study, people. You will study people very carefully to discover, then apply, success-rewarding principles to your life. And you want to begin right away.
Go deep into your study of people, and you’ll discover unsuccessful people suffer a mind- deadening thought disease. We call this disease excusitis. Every failure has this disease in its advanced form. And most “average” persons have at least a mild case of it.
You will discover that excusitis explains the difference between the person who is going places and the fellow who is barely holding his own. You will find that the more successful the individual, the less inclined he is to make excuses.
But the fellow who has gone nowhere and has no plans for getting anywhere always has a bookful of reasons to explain why. Persons with mediocre accomplishments are quick to explain why they haven’t, why they don’t, why they can’t, and why they aren’t.
Study the lives of successful people and you’ll discover this: all the excuses made by the mediocre fellow could be but aren’t made by the successful person.
I have never met nor heard of a highly successful business executive, military officer, salesman, professional person, or leader in any field who could not have found one or more major excuses to hide behind. Roosevelt could have hidden behind his lifeless legs; Truman could have used “no college education”; Kennedy could have said, “I’m too young to be president”; Johnson and Eisenhower could have ducked behind heart attacks.
Like any disease, excusitis gets worse if it isn’t treated properly. A victim of this thought disease goes through this mental process: “I’m not doing as well as I should. What can I use as an alibi that will help me save face? Let’s see: poor health? lack of education? too old? too young? bad luck? personal misfortune? wife? the way my family brought me up?”
Once the victim of this failure disease has selected a “good” excuse, he sticks with it. Then he relies on the excuse to explain to himself and others why he is not going forward.
And each time the victim makes the excuse, the excuse becomes imbedded deeper within his subconsciousness. Thoughts, positive or negative, grow stronger when fertilized with constant repetition. At first the victim of excusitis knows his alibi is more or less a lie. But the more frequently he repeats it, the more convinced he becomes that it is completely true, that the alibi is the real reason for his not being the success he should be.
Procedure One, then, in your individual program of thinking yourself to success, must be to vaccinate yourself against excusitis, the disease of the failures.
THE FOUR MOST COMMON FORMS OF EXCUSITIS Excusitis appears in a wide variety of forms, but the worst types of this disease are health excusitis, intelligence excusitis, age excusitis, and luck excusitis. Now let’s see just how we can protect ourselves from these four common ailments.
1. “But My Health Isn’t Good.” Health excusitis ranges all the way from the chronic “I don’t feel good” to the more specific “I’ve got such-and-such wrong with me.”
“Bad” health, in a thousand different forms, is used as an excuse for failing to do what a person wants to do, failing to accept greater responsibilities, failing to make more money, failing to achieve success.
Millions and millions of people suffer from health excusitis. But is it, in most cases, a legitimate excuse? Think for a moment of all the highly successful people you know who could—but who don’t —use health as an excuse.
My physician and surgeon friends tell me the perfect specimen of adult life is nonexistent. There is something physically wrong with everybody. Many surrender in whole or in part to health excusitis, but success-thinking people do not.
Two experiences happened to me in one afternoon that illustrate the correct and incorrect attitudes toward health. I had just finished a talk in Cleveland. Afterwards, one fellow, about thirty, asked to speak to me privately for a few minutes. He complimented me on the meeting but then said, “I’m afraid your ideas can’t do me much good.”
“You see,” he continued, “I’ve got a bad heart, and I’ve got to hold myself in check.” He went on to explain that he’d seen four doctors but they couldn’t find his trouble. He asked me what I would suggest he do.
“Well,” I said, “I know nothing about the heart, but as one layman to another, here are three things I’d do. First, I’d visit the finest heart specialist I could find and accept his diagnosis as final. You’ve already checked with four doctors, and none of them has found anything peculiar with your heart. Let the fifth doctor be your final check. It may very well be you’ve got a perfectly sound heart. But if you keep on worrying about it, eventually you may have a very serious heart ailment. Looking and looking and looking for an illness often actually produces illness.
“The second thing I’d recommend is that you read Dr. Schindler’s great book, How to Live 365 Days a Year. Dr. Schindler shows in this book that three out of every four hospital beds are occupied by people who have EII—Emotionally Induced Illness. Imagine, three out of four people who are sick right now would be well if they had learned how to handle their emotions. Read Dr. Schindler’s book and develop your program for ‘emotions management.’
“Third, I’d resolve to live until I die.” I went on to explain to this troubled fellow some sound advice I received many years ago from a lawyer friend who had an arrested case of tuberculosis. This friend knew he would have to live a regulated life but this hasn’t stopped him from practicing law, rearing a fine family, and really enjoying life. My friend, who now is seventy-eight years old, expresses his philosophy in these words: “I’m going to live until I die and I’m not going to get life and death confused. While I’m on this earth I’m going to live. Why be only half alive? Every minute a person spends worrying about dying is just one minute that fellow might as well have been dead.”
I had to leave at that point, because I had to be on a certain plane for Detroit. On the plane the second but much more pleasant experience occurred. After the noise of the takeoff, I heard a ticking
sound. Rather startled, I glanced at the fellow sitting beside me, for the sound seemed to be coming from him.
He smiled a big smile and said, “Oh, it’s not a bomb. It’s just my heart.” I was obviously surprised, so he proceeded to tell me what had happened. Just twenty-one days before, he had undergone an operation that involved putting a plastic valve
into his heart. The ticking sound, he explained, would continue for several months, until new tissue had grown over the artificial valve. I asked him what he was going to do.
“Oh,” he said, “I’ve got big plans. I’m going to study law when I get back to Minnesota. Someday I hope to be in government work. The doctors tell me I must take it easy for a few months, but after that I’ll be like new.”
There you have two ways of meeting health problems. The first fellow, not even sure he had anything organically wrong with him, was worried, depressed, on the road to defeat, wanting somebody to second his motion that he couldn’t go forward. The second individual, after undergoing one of the most difficult of operations, was optimistic, eager to do something. The difference lay in how they thought toward health!
I’ve had some very direct experience with health excusitis. I’m a diabetic. Right after I discovered I had this ailment (about 5,000 hypodermics ago), I was warned, “Diabetes is a physical condition; but the biggest damage results from having a negative attitude toward it. Worry about it, and you may have real trouble.”
Naturally, since the discovery of my own diabetes, I’ve gotten to know a great many other diabetics. Let me tell you about two extremes. One fellow who has a very mild case belongs to that fraternity of the living dead. Obsessed with a fear of the weather, he is usually ridiculously bundled up. He’s afraid of infection, so he shuns anybody who has the slightest sniffle. He’s afraid of overexertion, so he does almost nothing. He spends most of his mental energy worrying about what might happen. He bores other people telling them “how awful” his problem really is. His real ailment is not diabetes. Rather, he’s a victim of health excusitis. He has pitied himself into being an invalid.
The other extreme is a division manager for a large publishing company. He has a severe case; he takes about thirty times as much insulin as the fellow mentioned above. But he is not living to be sick. He is living to enjoy his work and have fun. One day he said to me, “Sure it is an inconvenience, but so is shaving. But I’m not going to think myself to bed. When I take those shots, I just praise the guys who discovered insulin.”
A good friend of mine, a widely known college educator, came home from Europe in 1945 minus one arm. Despite his handicap, John is always smiling, always helping others. He’s about as optimistic as anyone I know. One day he and I had a long talk about his handicap.
“It’s just an arm,” he said, “Sure, two are better than one. But they just cut off my arm. My spirit is one hundred percent intact. I’m really grateful for that.”
Another amputee friend is an excellent golfer. One day I asked him how he had been able to develop such a near-perfect style with just one arm. I mentioned that most golfers with two arms can’t do nearly as well. His reply says a lot. “Well, it’s my experience,” he said, “that the right attitude and one arm will beat the wrong attitude and two arms every time.” The right attitude and one arm will beat the wrong attitude and two arms every time. Think about that for a while. It holds true not only on the golf course but in every facet of life.
Four Things You Can Do to Lick Health Excusitis
The best vaccine against health excusitis consists of these four doses:
1. Refuse to talk about your health. The more you talk about an ailment, even the common cold, the worse it seems to get. Talking about bad health is like putting fertilizer on weeds. Besides, talking about your health is a bad habit. It bores people. It makes one appear self-centered and old- maidish. Success-minded people defeat the natural tendency to talk about their “bad” health. One may (and let me emphasize the word may) get a little sympathy, but one doesn’t get respect and loyalty by being a chronic complainer.
2. Refuse to worry about your health. Dr. Walter Alvarez, emeritus consultant to the world-famous Mayo Clinic, wrote recently, “I always beg worriers to exercise some self-control. For instance, when I saw this man (a fellow who was convinced he had a diseased gallbladder although eight separate X-ray examinations showed that the organ was perfectly normal), I begged him to quit getting his gallbladder X-rayed. I have begged hundreds of heart-conscious men to quit getting electrocardiograms made.”
3. Be genuinely grateful that your health is as good as it is. There’s an old saying worth repeating often: “I felt sorry for myself because I had ragged shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” Instead of complaining about “not feeling good,” it’s far better to be glad you are as healthy as you are. Just being grateful for the health you have is powerful vaccination against developing new aches and pains and real illness.
4. Remind yourself often, “It’s better to wear out than rust out.” Life is yours to enjoy. Don’t waste it. Don’t pass up living by thinking yourself into a hospital bed.
2. “But You’ve Got to Have Brains to Succeed.” Intelligence excusitis, or “I lack brains,” is common. In fact, it’s so common that perhaps as many as 95 percent of the people around us have it in varying degrees. Unlike most other types of excusitis, people suffering from this particular type of the malady suffer in silence. Not many people will admit openly that they think they lack adequate intelligence. Rather, they feel it deep down inside.
Most of us make two basic errors with respect to intelligence:
1. We underestimate our own brainpower.
2. We overestimate the other fellow’s brainpower.
Because of these errors many people sell themselves short. They fail to tackle challenging situations because it “takes a brain.” But along comes the fellow who isn’t concerned about intelligence, and he gets the job.
What really matters is not how much intelligence you have but how you use what you do have. The thinking that guides your intelligence is much more important than the quantity of your brainpower. Let me repeat, for this is vitally important: the thinking that guides your intelligence is much more important than how much intelligence you may have.
In answering the question, “Should your child be a scientist?” Dr. Edward Teller, one of the nation’s foremost physicists, said, “A child does not need a lightning-fast mind to be a scientist, nor does he need a miraculous memory, nor is it necessary that he get very high grades in school. The only
point that counts is that the child have a high degree of interest in science.” Interest, enthusiasm, is the critical factor even in science! With a positive, optimistic, and cooperative attitude a person with an IQ of 100 will earn more
money, win more respect, and achieve more success than a negative, pessimistic, uncooperative individual with an IQ of 120.
Just enough sense to stick with something—a chore, task, project—until it’s completed pays off much better than idle intelligence, even if idle intelligence be of genius caliber.
For stickability is 95 percent of ability. At a homecoming celebration last year I met a college friend whom I had not seen for ten years.
Chuck was a very bright student and was graduated with honors. His goal when I last saw him was to own his own business in western Nebraska.
I asked Chuck what kind of business he finally established. “Well,” he confessed, “I didn’t go into business for myself. I wouldn’t have said this to anyone
five years ago or even one year ago, but now I’m ready to talk about it. “As I look back at my college education now, I see that I became an expert in why a business idea
won’t work out. I learned every conceivable pitfall, every reason why a small business will fail: ‘You’ve got to have ample capital;’ ‘Be sure the business cycle is right;’ ‘Is there a big demand for what you will offer?’ ‘Is local industry stabilized?’—a thousand and one things to check out.
“The thing that hurts most is that several of my old high school friends who never seemed to have much on the ball and didn’t even go to college now are very well established in their own businesses. But me, I’m just plodding along, auditing freight shipments. Had I been drilled a little more in why a small business can succeed, I’d be better off in every way today.”
The thinking that guided Chuck’s intelligence was a lot more important than the amount of Chuck’s intelligence.
Why some brilliant people are failures. I’ve been close for many years to a person who qualifies as a genius, has high abstract intelligence, and is Phi Beta Kappa. Despite this very high native intelligence, he is one of the most unsuccessful people I know. He has a very mediocre job (he’s afraid of responsibility). He has never married (lots of marriages end in divorce). He has few friends (people bore him). He’s never invested in property of any kind (he might lose his money). This man uses his great brainpower to prove why things won’t work rather than directing his mental power to searching for ways to succeed.
Because of the negative thinking that guides his great reservoir of brains, this fellow contributes little and creates nothing. With a changed attitude, he could do great things indeed. He has the brains to be a tremendous success, but not the thought power.
Another person I know well was inducted into the Army shortly after earning the Ph.D. degree from a leading New York university. How did he spend his three years in the Army? Not as an officer. Not as a staff specialist. Instead, for three years he drove a truck. Why? Because he was filled with negative attitudes toward fellow soldiers (“I’m superior to them”), toward army methods and procedures (“They are stupid”), toward discipline (“It’s for others, not me”), toward everything, including himself (“I’m a fool for not figuring out a way to escape this rap”).
This fellow earned no respect from anyone. All his vast store of knowledge lay buried. His negative attitudes turned him into a flunky.
Remember, the thinking that guides your intelligence is much more important than how much intelligence you have. Not even a Ph.D. degree can override this basic success principle!
Several years ago I became a close friend of Phil F., one of the senior officers of a major
advertising agency. Phil was director of marketing research for the agency, and he was doing a bang- up job.
Was Phil a “brain”? Far from it. Phil knew next to nothing about research technique. He knew next to nothing about statistics. He was not a college graduate (though all the people working for him were). And Phil did not pretend to know the technical side of research. What, then, enabled Phil to command $30,000 a year while not one of his subordinates earned $10,000?
This: Phil was a “human” engineer. Phil was 100 percent positive. Phil could inspire others when they felt low. Phil was enthusiastic. He generated enthusiasm; Phil understood people, and, because he could really see what made them tick, he liked them.
Not Phil’s brains, but how he managed those brains, made him three times more valuable to his company than men who rated higher on the IQ scale.
Out of every 100 persons who enroll in college, fewer than 50 will graduate. I was curious about this so I asked a director of admissions at a large university for his explanation.
“It’s not insufficient intelligence,” he said. “We don’t admit them if they don’t have sufficient ability. And it’s not money. Anyone who wants to support himself in college today can do so. The real reason is attitudes. You would be surprised,” he said, “how many young people leave because they don’t like their professors, the subjects they must take, and their fellow students.”
The same reason, negative thinking, explains why the door to top-flight executive positions is closed to many young junior executives. Sour, negative, pessimistic, depreciating attitudes rather than insufficient intelligence hold back thousands of young executives. As one executive told me, “It’s a rare case when we pass up a young fellow because he lacks brains. Nearly always it’s attitude.”
Once I was retained by an insurance company to learn why the top 25 percent of the agents were selling over 75 percent of the insurance while the bottom 25 percent of the agents sold only 5 percent of total volume.
Thousands of personnel files were carefully checked. The search proved beyond any question that no significant difference existed in native intelligence. What’s more, differences in education did not explain the difference in selling success. The difference in the very successful and the very unsuccessful finally reduced to differences in attitudes, or difference in thought management. The top group worried less, was more enthusiastic, had a sincere liking for people.
We can’t do much to change the amount of native ability, but we can certainly change the way we use what we have.
Knowledge is power—when you use it constructively. Closely allied to intelligence excusitis is some incorrect thinking about knowledge. We often hear that knowledge is power. But this statement is only a half-truth. Knowledge is only potential power. Knowledge is power only when put to use— and then only when the use made of it is constructive.
The story is told that the great scientist Einstein was once asked how many feet are in a mile. Einstein’s reply was “I don’t know. Why should I fill my brain with facts I can find in two minutes in any standard reference book?”
Einstein taught us a big lesson. He felt it was more important to use your mind to think than to use it as a warehouse for facts.
One time Henry Ford was involved in a libel suit with the Chicago Tribune. The Tribune had called Ford an ignoramus, and Ford said, in effect, “Prove it.”
The Tribune asked him scores of simple questions such as “Who was Benedict Arnold?” “When was the Revolutionary War fought?” and others, most of which Ford, who had little formal education,
could not answer. Finally he became quite exasperated and said, “I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I
could find a man in five minutes who does.” Henry Ford was never interested in miscellaneous information. He knew what every major
executive knows: that the ability to know how to get information is more important than using the mind as a garage for facts.
How much is a fact man worth? I spent a very interesting evening recently with a friend who is the president of a young but rapidly growing manufacturing concern. The TV set happened to be turned to one of the most popular quiz programs. The fellow being quizzed had been on the show for several weeks. He could answer questions on all sorts of subjects, many of which seemed nonsensical.
After the fellow answered a particularly odd question, something about a mountain in Argentina, my host looked at me and said, “How much do you think I’d pay that guy to work for me?”
“How much?” I asked. “Not a cent over $300—not per week, not per month, but for life. I’ve sized him up. That ‘expert’
can’t think. He can only memorize. He’s just a human encyclopedia, and I figure for $300 I can buy a pretty good set of encyclopedias. In fact, maybe that’s too much. Ninety percent of what that guy knows I can find in a $2 almanac.
“What I want around me,” he continued, “are people who can solve problems, who can think up ideas. People who can dream and then develop the dream into a practical application; an idea man can make money with me; a fact man can’t.”
Three Ways to Cure Intelligence Excusitis
Three easy ways to cure intelligence excusitis are:
1. Never underestimate your own intelligence, and never overestimate the intelligence of others. Don’t sell yourself short. Concentrate on your assets. Discover your superior talents. Remember, it’s not how many brains you’ve got that matters. Rather, it’s how you use your brains that counts. Manage your brains instead of worrying about how much IQ you’ve got.
2. Remind yourself several times daily, “My attitudes are more important than my intelligence.” At work and at home practice positive attitudes. See the reasons why you can do it, not the reasons why you can’t. Develop an “I’m winning” attitude. Put your intelligence to creative positive use. Use it to find ways to win, not to prove you will lose.
3. Remember that the ability to think is of much greater value than the ability to memorize facts. Use your mind to create and develop ideas, to find new and better ways to do things. Ask yourself, “Am I using my mental ability to make history, or am I using it merely to record history made by others?”
3. “It’s No Use. I’m Too Old (or Too Young).” Age excusitis, the failure disease of never being the right age, comes in two easily identifiable forms: the “I’m too old” variety and the “I’m too young” brand.
You’ve heard hundreds of people of all ages explain their mediocre performance in life something like this: “I’m too old (or too young) to break in now. I can’t do what I want to do or am capable of
doing because of my age handicap.” Really, it’s surprising how few people feel they are “just right” age-wise. And it’s unfortunate.
This excuse has closed the door of real opportunity to thousands of individuals. They think their age is wrong, so they don’t even bother to try.
The “I’m too old” variety is the most common form of age excusitis. This disease is spread in subtle ways. TV fiction is produced about the big executive who lost his job because of a merger and can’t find another because he’s too old. Mr. Executive looks for months to find another job, but he can’t, and in the end, after contemplating suicide for a while, he decides to rationalize that it’s nice to be on the shelf.
Plays and magazine articles on the topic “Why You Are Washed Up at 40” are popular, not because they represent true facts, but because they appeal to many worried minds looking for an excuse.
How to Handle Age Excusitis
Age excusitis can be cured. A few years ago, while I was conducting a sales training program, I discovered a good serum that both cures this disease and vaccinates you so you won’t get it in the first place.
In that training program there was a trainee named Cecil. Cecil, who was forty, wanted to shift over to set himself up as a manufacturer’s representative, but he thought he was too old. “After all,” he explained, “I’d have to start from scratch. And I’m too old for that now. I’m forty.”
I talked with Cecil several times about his “old age” problem. I used the old medicine, “You’re only as old as you feel,” but I found I was getting nowhere. (Too often people retort with “But I do feel old!”)
Finally, I discovered a method that worked. One day after a training session, I tried it on Cecil. I said, “Cecil, when does a man’s productive life begin?”
He thought a couple of seconds and answered, “Oh, when he’s about twenty, I guess.” “Okay,” I said, “now, when does a man’s productive life end?” Cecil answered, “Well, if he stays in good shape and likes his work, I guess a man is still pretty
useful when he’s seventy or so.” “All right,” I said, “a lot of folks are highly productive after they reach seventy, but let’s agree
with what you’ve just said, a man’s productive years stretch from twenty to seventy. That’s fifty years in between, or half a century. Cecil,” I said, “you’re forty. How many years of productive life have you spent?”
“Twenty,” he answered. “And how many have you left?” “Thirty,” he replied. “In other words, Cecil, you haven’t even reached the halfway point; you’ve used up only forty
percent of your productive years.” I looked at Cecil and realized he’d gotten the point. He was cured of age excusitis. Cecil saw he
still had many opportunity-filled years left. He switched from thinking “I’m already old” to “I’m still young.” Cecil now realized that how old we are is not important. It’s one’s attitude toward age that makes it a blessing or a barricade.
Curing yourself of age excusitis often opens doors to opportunities that you thought were locked tight. A relative of mine spent years doing many different things—selling, operating his own business, working in a bank—but he never quite found what he really wanted to do most. Finally, he concluded
that the one thing he wanted more than anything else was to be a minister. But when he thought about it, he found he was too old. After all, he was forty-five, had three young children and little money.
But fortunately he mustered all of his strength and told himself, “Forty-five or not, I’m going to be a minister.”
With tons of faith but little else, he enrolled in a five-year ministerial training program in Wisconsin. Five years later he was ordained as a minister and settled down with a fine congregation in Illinois.
Old? Of course not. He still has twenty years of productive life ahead of him. I talked with this man not long ago, and he said to me, “You know, if I had not made that great decision when I was forty-five, I would have spent the rest of my life growing old and bitter. Now I feel every bit as young as I did twenty-five years ago.”
And he almost looked it, too. When you lick age excusitis, the natural result is to gain the optimism of youth and feel of youth. When you beat down your fears of age limitations, you add years to your life as well as success.
A former university colleague of mine provides an interesting angle on how age excusitis was defeated. Bill was graduated from Harvard in the 1920s. After twenty-four years in the stockbrokerage business, during which time he made a modest fortune, Bill decided he wanted to become a college professor. Bill’s friends warned him that he would overtax himself in the rugged learning program ahead. But Bill was determined to reach his goal and enrolled in the University of Illinois—at the age of fifty-one. At fifty-five he had earned his degree. Today Bill is chairman of the Department of Economics at a fine liberal arts college. He’s happy, too. He smiles when he says, “I’ve got almost a third of my good years left.”
Old age is a failure disease. Defeat it by refusing to let it hold you back.
When is a person too young? The “I’m too young” variety of age excusitis does much damage, too. About a year ago, a twenty-three-year-old fellow named Jerry came to me with a problem. Jerry was a fine young man. He had been a paratrooper in the service and then had gone to college. While going to college, Jerry supported his wife and son by selling for a large transfer-and-storage company. He had done a terrific job, both in college and for his company.
But today Jerry was worried. “Dr. Schwartz,” he said, “I’ve got a problem. My company has offered me the job of sales manager. This would make me supervisor over eight salesmen.”
“Congratulations, that’s wonderful news!” I said. “But you seem worried.” “Well,” he continued, “all eight men I’m to supervise are from seven to twenty-one years older
than I. What do you think I should do? Can I handle it?” “Jerry,” I said, “the general manager of your company obviously thinks you’re old enough or he
wouldn’t have offered you this job. Just remember these three points and everything will work out just fine: first, don’t be age conscious. Back on the farm a boy became a man when he proved he could do the work of a man. His number of birthdays had nothing to do with it. And this applies to you. When you prove you are able to handle the job of sales manager, you’re automatically old enough.
“Second, don’t take advantage of your new ‘gold bars.’ Show respect for the salesmen. Ask them for their suggestions. Make them feel they are working for a team captain, not a dictator. Do this and the men will work with you, not against you.
“Third, get used to having older persons working for you. Leaders in all fields soon find they are younger than many of the people they supervise. So get used to having older men work for you. It will
help you a lot in the coming years, when even bigger opportunities develop. “And remember, Jerry, your age won’t be a handicap unless you make it one.” Today Jerry’s doing fine. He loves the transportation business, and now he’s planning to organize
his own company in a few years. Youth is a liability only when the youth thinks it is. You often hear that certain jobs require
“considerable” physical maturity, jobs like selling securities and insurance. That you’ve got to have either gray hair or no hair at all in order to gain an investor’s confidence is plain nonsense. What really matters is how well you know your job. If you know your job and understand people, you’re sufficiently mature to handle it. Age has no real relation to ability, unless you convince yourself that years alone will give you the stuff you need to make your mark.
Many young people feel that they are being held back because of their youth. Now, it is true that another person in an organization who is insecure and job-scared may try to block your way forward, using age or some other reason.
But the people who really count in the company will not. They will give you as much responsibility as they feel you can handle well. Demonstrate that you have ability and positive attitudes and your youthfulness will be considered an advantage.
In quick recap, the cure for age excusitis is: 1. Look at your present age positively. Think, “I’m still young,” not “I’m already old.” Practice
looking forward to new horizons and gain the enthusiasm and the feel of youth. 2. Compute how much productive time you have left. Remember, a person age thirty still has 80
percent of his productive life ahead of him. And the fifty-year-old still has a big 40 percent—the best 40 percent—of his opportunity years left. Life is actually longer than most people think!
3. Invest future time in doing what you really want to do. It’s too late only when you let your mind go negative and think it’s too late. Stop thinking “I should have started years ago.” That’s failure thinking. Instead think, “I’m going to start now, my best years are ahead of me.” That’s the way successful people think.
4. “But My Case Is Different; I Attract Bad Luck.” Recently, I heard a traffic engineer discuss highway safety. He pointed out that upward of 40,000 persons are killed each year in so-called traffic accidents. The main point of his talk was that there is no such thing as a true accident. What we call an accident is the result of human or mechanical failure, or a combination of both.
What this traffic expert was saying substantiates what wise men throughout the ages have said: there is a cause for everything. Nothing happens without a cause. There is nothing accidental about the weather outside today. It is the result of specific causes. And there is no reason to believe that human affairs are an exception.
Yet hardly a day passes that you do not hear someone blame his problems on “bad” luck. And it’s a rare day that you do not hear someone attribute another person’s success to “good” luck.
Let me illustrate how people succumb to luck excusitis. I lunched recently with three young junior executives. The topic of conversation that day was George C., who just yesterday had been picked from among their group for a major promotion.
Why did George get the position? These three fellows dug up all sorts of reasons: luck, pull, bootlicking, George’s wife and how she flattered the boss, everything but the truth. The facts were that George was simply better qualified. He had been doing a better job. He was working harder. He
had a more effective personality. I also knew that the senior officers in the company had spent much time considering which one of
the four would be promoted. My three disillusioned friends should have realized that top executives don’t select major executives by drawing names from a hat.
I was talking about the seriousness of luck excusitis not long ago with a sales executive of a machine tool–manufacturing company. He became excited about the problem and began to talk about his own experience with it.
“I’ve never heard it called that before,” he said, “but it is one of the most difficult problems every sales executive has to wrestle with. Just yesterday a perfect example of what you’re talking about happened in my company.
“One of the salesmen walked in about four o’clock with a $112,000 order for machine tools. Another salesman, whose volume is so low he’s a problem, was in the office at the time. Hearing John tell the good news, he rather enviously congratulated him and then said, ‘Well, John, you’re lucky again!’
“Now, what the weak salesman won’t accept is that luck had nothing to do with John’s big order. John had been working on that customer for months. He had talked repeatedly to a half-dozen people out there. John had stayed up nights figuring out exactly what was best for them. Then he got our engineers to make preliminary designs of the equipment. John wasn’t lucky, unless you can call carefully planned work and patiently executed plans luck.”
Suppose luck were used to reorganize General Motors. If luck determined who does what and who goes where, every business in the nation would fall apart. Assume for a moment that General Motors were to be completely reorganized on the basis of luck. To carry out the reorganization, the names of all employees would be placed in a barrel. The first name drawn would be president; the second name, the executive vice president, and so on down the line.
Sounds stupid, doesn’t it? Well, that’s how luck would work. People who rise to the top in any occupation—business management, selling, law, engineering,
acting, or what have you—get there because they have superior attitudes and use their good sense in applied hard work.
Conquer Luck Excusitis in Two Ways
1. Accept the law of cause and effect. Take a second look at what appears to be someone’s “good luck.” You’ll find that not luck but preparation, planning, and success-producing thinking preceded his good fortune. Take a second look at what appears to be someone’s “bad luck.” Look, and you’ll discover certain specific reasons. Mr. Success receives a setback; he learns and profits. But when Mr. Mediocre loses, he fails to learn.
2. Don’t be a wishful thinker. Don’t waste your mental muscles dreaming of an effortless way to win success. We don’t become successful simply through luck. Success comes from doing those things and mastering those principles that produce success. Don’t count on luck for promotions, victories, the good things in life. Luck simply isn’t designed to deliver these good things. Instead, just concentrate on developing those qualities in yourself that will make you a winner.
BUILD CONFIDENCE AND DESTROY FEAR
Friends mean well when they say, “It’s only your imagination. Don’t worry. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
But you and I know this kind of fear medicine never really works. Such soothing remarks may give us fear relief for a few minutes or maybe even a few hours. But the “it’s-only-in-your- imagination” treatment doesn’t really build confidence and cure fear.
Yes, fear is real. And we must recognize it exists before we can conquer it. Most fear today is psychological. Worry, tension, embarrassment, panic all stem from
mismanaged, negative imagination. But simply knowing the breeding ground of fear doesn’t cure fear. If a physician discovers you have an infection in some part of your body, he doesn’t stop there. He proceeds with treatment to cure the infection.
The old “it’s-only-in-your-mind” treatment presumes fear doesn’t really exist. But it does. Fear is real. Fear is success enemy number one. Fear stops people from capitalizing on opportunity; fear wears down physical vitality; fear actually makes people sick, causes organic difficulties, shortens life; fear closes your mouth when you want to speak.
Fear—uncertainty, lack of confidence—explains why we still have economic recessions. Fear explains why millions of people accomplish little and enjoy little.
Truly, fear is a powerful force. In one way or another fear prevents people from getting what they want from life.
Fear of all kinds and sizes is a form of psychological infection. We can cure a mental infection the same way we cure a body infection—with specific, proved treatments.
First, though, as part of your pretreatment preparation, condition yourself with this fact: all confidence is acquired, developed. No one is born with confidence. Those people you know who radiate confidence, who have conquered worry, who are at ease everywhere and all the time, acquired their confidence, every bit of it.
You can, too. This chapter shows how.
During World War II the Navy made sure that all of its new recruits either knew how to swim or learned how—the idea being, of course, that the ability to swim might someday save the sailor’s life at sea.
Nonswimming recruits were put into swimming classes. I watched a number of these training experiences. In a superficial sort of way, it was amusing to see young, healthy men terrified by a few
feet of water. One of the exercises I recall required the new sailor to jump—not dive—from a board six feet in the air into eight or more feet of water while a half-dozen expert swimmers stood by.
In a deeper sense, it was a sad sight. The fear those young men displayed was real. Yet all that stood between them and the defeat of that fear was one drop into the water below. On more than one occasion I saw young men “accidentally” pushed off the board. The result: fear defeated.
This incident, familiar to thousands of former Navy men, illustrates just one point: action cures fear. Indecision, postponement, on the other hand, fertilize fear.
Jot that down in your success rule book right now. Action cures fear. Action does cure fear. Several months ago a very troubled executive in his early forties came to
see me. He had a responsible job as a buyer for a large retailing organization. Worriedly, he explained, “I’m afraid of losing my job. I’ve got that feeling that my days are
numbered.” “Why?” I asked. “Well, the pattern is against me. Sales figures in my department are off seven percent from a year
ago. This is pretty bad, especially since the store’s total sales are up six percent. I’ve made a couple of unwise decisions recently, and I’ve been singled out several times by the merchandise manager for not keeping pace with the company’s progress.
“I’ve never felt quite like this before,” he continued. “I’ve lost my grip, and it shows. My assistant buyer senses it. The salespeople see it, too. Other executives, of course, are aware that I’m slipping. One buyer even suggested at a meeting of all head buyers the other day that part of my line should be put in his department, where, he said, ‘It could make money for the store.’ It’s like drowning and having a crowd of spectators just standing there waiting for me to sink away.”
The executive talked on, elaborating further on his predicament. Finally I cut in and asked, “What are you doing about it? What are you trying to do to correct the situation?”
“Well,” he answered, “there isn’t much I can do, I guess, but hope for the best.” To this comment I asked, “Honestly, now, is hope enough?” Pausing, but not giving him a chance
to answer, I put another question to him: “Why not take action to support your hope?” “Go on,” he said. “Well, there are two kinds of action that seem to fit your case. First, start this afternoon to move
those sales figures upward. We’ve got to face it. There’s a reason your sales are slipping. Find it. Maybe you need a special sale to clear out your slow-moving merchandise, so you’ll be in a position to buy some fresh stock. Perhaps you can rearrange your display counters. Maybe your salespeople need more enthusiasm. I can’t pinpoint what will turn your sales volume upward, but something will. And it would probably be wise to talk privately with your merchandise manager. He may be on the verge of putting you out, but when you talk it over with him and ask his advice, he’ll certainly give you more time to work things out. It’s too expensive for the store to replace you as long as top management feels there’s a chance you’ll find a solution.”
I went on, “Then get your assistant buyers on the ball. Quit acting like a drowning man. Let people around you know that you’re still alive.”
Courage was again in his eyes. Then he asked, “You said there are two kinds of action I should take. What’s the second?”
“The second type of action, which you might say is an insurance policy, is to let two or three of your closest business friends in the trade know you might consider an offer from another store, assuming, of course, it is substantially better than your present job.
“I don’t believe your job will be insecure after you take some affirmative action to get those sales
figures on the rise. But just in case, it’s good to have an offer or two. Remember, it’s ten times easier for a man with a job to get another job than it is for someone unemployed to connect.”
Two days ago this once-troubled executive called me. “After our talk I buckled down. I made a number of changes, but the most basic one was with my
salespeople. I used to hold sales meetings once a week, but now I’m holding one every morning. I’ve got those people really enthusiastic. I guess once they saw some life in me they were ready to push harder too. They were just waiting for me to start things moving again.
“Things sure are working out okay. Last week my sales were well ahead of a year ago and much better than the store’s average.
“Oh, by the way,” he continued, “I want to tell you some other good news. I got two job offers since we talked. Naturally I’m glad, but I’ve turned them both down since everything is looking good here again.”
When we face tough problems, we stay mired in the mud until we take action. Hope is a start. But hope needs action to win victories.
Put the action principle to work. Next time you experience big fear or little fear, steady yourself. Then search for an answer to this question: What kind of action can I take to conquer my fear?
Isolate your fear. Then take appropriate action. Below are some examples of fear and some possible action cures.
TYPE OF FEAR ACTION
1. Embarrassment because of personal appearance.
Improve it. Go to a barbershop or beauty salon. Shine your shoes. Get your clothes cleaned and pressed. In general, practice better grooming. It doesn’t always take new clothes.
2. Fear of losing an important customer. Work doubly hard to give better service. Correct anything that may have caused customers to lose confidence in you.
3. Fear of failing an examination. Convert worry time into study time.
4. Fear of things totally beyond your control. Turn your attention to helping to relieve the fear of others. Pray.
5. Fear of being physically hurt by something you can’t control, such as a tornado or an airplane out of control.
Switch your attention to something totally different. Go out into your yard and pull up weeds. Play with your children. Go to a movie.
6. Fear of what other people may think and say. Make sure that what you plan to do is right. Then do it. No one ever does anything worthwhile for which he is not criticized.
7. Fear of making an investment or purchasing a home.
Analyze all factors. Then be decisive. Make a decision and stick with it. Trust your own judgment.
8. Fear of people. Put them in proper perspective. Remember, the other person is just another human being pretty
much like yourself.
Use this two-step procedure to cure fear and win confidence:
1. Isolate your fear. Pin it down. Determine exactly what you are afraid of.
2. Then take action. There is some kind of action for any kind of fear.
And remember, hesitation only enlarges, magnifies the fear. Take action promptly. Be decisive.
Much lack of self-confidence can be traced directly to a mismanaged memory. Your brain is very much like a bank. Every day you make thought deposits in your “mind bank.”
These thought deposits grow and become your memory. When you settle down to think or when you face a problem, in effect you say to your memory bank, “What do I already know about this?”
Your memory bank automatically answers and supplies you with bits of information relating to this situation that you deposited on previous occasions. Your memory, then, is the basic supplier of raw material for your new thought.
The teller in your memory bank is tremendously reliable. He never crosses you up. If you approach him and say, “Mr. Teller, let me withdraw some thoughts I deposited in the past proving I’m inferior to just about everybody else,” he’ll say, “Certainly, sir. Recall how you failed two times previously when you tried this? Recall what your sixth-grade teacher told you about your inability to accomplish things . . . Recall what you overheard some fellow workers saying about you . . . Recall . . .”
And on and on Mr. Teller goes, digging out of your brain thought after thought that proves you are inadequate.
But suppose you visit your memory teller with this request: “Mr. Teller, I face a difficult decision. Can you supply me with any thoughts which will give me reassurance?”
And again Mr. Teller says, “Certainly, sir,” but this time he delivers thoughts you deposited earlier that say you can succeed. “Recall the excellent job you did in a similar situation before. . . . Recall how much confidence Mr. Smith placed in you. . . . Recall what your good friends said about you. . . . Recall . . .”
Mr. Teller, perfectly responsive, lets you withdraw the thought deposits you want to withdraw. After all, it is your bank.
Here are two specific things to do to build confidence through efficient management of your memory bank.
1. Deposit only positive thoughts in your memory bank. Let’s face it squarely: everyone encounters plenty of unpleasant, embarrassing, and discouraging situations. But unsuccessful and successful people deal with these situations in directly opposite ways. Unsuccessful people take them to heart, so to speak. They dwell on the unpleasant situations, thereby giving them a good start in their memory. They don’t take their minds away from them. At night the unpleasant situation is the last thing they think about.
Confident, successful people, on the other hand, “don’t give it another thought.” Successful people
specialize in putting positive thoughts into their memory bank. What kind of performance would your car deliver if every morning before you left for work you
scooped up a double handful of dirt and put it into your crankcase? That fine engine would soon be a mess, unable to do what you want it to do. Negative, unpleasant thoughts deposited in your mind affect your mind the same way. Negative thoughts produce needless wear and tear on your mental motor. They create worry, frustration, and feelings of inferiority. They put you beside the road while others drive ahead.
Do this: in these moments when you’re alone with your thoughts—when you’re driving your car or eating alone—recall pleasant, positive experiences. Put good thoughts in your memory bank. This boosts confidence. It gives you that “I-sure-feel-good” feeling. It helps keep your body functioning right, too.
Here is an excellent plan. Just before you go to sleep, deposit good thoughts in your memory bank. Count your blessings. Recall the many good things you have to be thankful for: your wife or husband, your children, your friends, your health. Recall the good things you saw people do today. Recall your little victories and accomplishments. Go over the reasons why you are glad to be alive.
2. Withdraw only positive thoughts from your memory bank. I was closely associated several years ago in Chicago with a firm of psychological consultants. They handled many types of cases, but mostly marriage problems and psychological adjustment situations, all dealing with mind matters.
One afternoon as I was talking with the head of the firm about his profession and his techniques for helping the seriously maladjusted person, he made this remark: “You know, there would be no need for my services if people would do just one thing.”
“What’s that?” I asked eagerly. “Simply this: destroy their negative thoughts before those thoughts become mental monsters.” “Most individuals I try to help,” he continued, “are operating their own private museum of mental
horror. Many marriage difficulties, for example, involve the ‘honeymoon monster.’ The honeymoon wasn’t as satisfactory as one or both of the marriage partners had hoped, but instead of burying the memory, they reflected on it hundreds of times until it was a giant obstacle to successful marital relationships. They come to me as much as five or ten years later.
“Usually, of course, my clients don’t see where their trouble lies. It’s my job to uncover and explain the source of their difficulty to them and help them to see what a triviality it really is.
“A person can make a mental monster out of almost any unpleasant happening,” my psychologist friend went on. “A job failure, a jilted romance, a bad investment, disappointment in the behavior of a teenage child—these are common monsters I have to help troubled people destroy.”
It is clear that any negative thought, if fertilized with repeated recall, can develop into a real mind monster, breaking down confidence and paving the way to serious psychological difficulties.
In an article in Cosmopolitan magazine, “The Drive Toward Self-Destruction,” Alice Mulcahey pointed out that upward of 30,000 Americans commit suicide each year and another 100,000 attempt to take their own lives. She went on to say, “There is shocking evidence that millions of other people are killing themselves by slower, less obvious methods. Still others are committing spiritual rather than physical suicide, constantly seeking out ways to humiliate, punish, and generally diminish themselves.”
The psychologist friend mentioned before told me how he helped one of his patients to stop committing “mental and spiritual suicide.” “This patient,” he explained, “was in her late thirties and had two children. In lay terminology she suffered from severe depression. She looked back on every
incident of her life as being an unhappy experience. Her school days, her marriage, the bearing of her children, the places she had lived all were thought of negatively. She volunteered that she couldn’t remember ever having been truly happy. And since what one remembers from the past colors what one sees in the present, she saw nothing but pessimism and darkness.
“When I asked her what she saw in a picture which I showed her, she said, ‘It looks like there will be a terrible thunderstorm tonight.’ That was the gloomiest interpretation of the picture I’ve yet heard.” (The picture was a large oil painting of the sun low in the sky and a jagged, rocky coastline. The painting was very cleverly done and could be construed to be either a sunrise or a sunset. The psychologist commented to me that what a person sees in the picture is a clue to his personality. Most people say it is a sunrise. But the depressed, mentally disturbed person nearly always says it’s a sunset.)
“As a psychologist, I can’t change what already is in a person’s memory. But I can, with the patient’s cooperation, help the individual to see his past in a different light. That’s the general treatment I used on this woman. I worked with her to help her to see joy and pleasure in her past instead of total disappointment. After six months she began to show improvement. At that point, I gave her a special assignment. Each day I asked her to think of and write down three specific reasons she has to be happy. Then at her next appointment with me on Thursdays I’d go over her list with her. I continued this sort of treatment for three months. Her improvement was very satisfactory. Today that woman is very well adjusted to her situation. She’s positive and certainly as happy as most people.”
When this woman quit drawing negatives from her memory bank, she was headed toward recovery.
Whether the psychological problem is big or little, the cure comes when one learns to quit drawing negatives from one’s memory bank and withdraws positives instead.
Don’t build mental monsters. Refuse to withdraw the unpleasant thoughts from your memory bank. When you remember situations of any kind, concentrate on the good part of the experience; forget the bad. Bury it. If you find yourself thinking about the negative side, turn your mind off completely.