Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Power and Organization

I read an article some time ago by Seth Godin about Power and Organization. In that blog, Mr. Godin claims that most power occurs because one side is better organized than the other. Labor is usually less well organized than management, criminals are usually less well organized than the police and customers are always less well organized than producers.

I have to agree with the assessment, and actually say that in order for any organization or company to be successful, they need to be better organized than their competition. In a real world case, look and the meteoric rise of Barack Obama from State Senator, to U.S. Senator, to President elect. Obama was better organized than Hillary Clinton, and better organized than John McCain. In essence, his "community service" background allow him to tap the Internet, word-of-mouth, multi-level-marketing, and good old fashioned canvassing to develop a grassroots movement that turned into a ground swell and eventually a movement that essentially changed the face of politics forever.

So if you are marketing a product or service make sure you are first well organized (i.e. have a concrete message that shows the benefits) and then use all the networking tools in concert to your advantage in order to create awareness for your product. Your competition will not know how to handle you.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Invent the Future that Has Already Happened

Peter Drucker once noted that companies that seem to have the most success “invent the future that has already happened.” Nice quote, but what does that mean exactly?

How can you invent an unknown future that has already happened? I think what he is trying to say is to look for successes in other industries or processes and copy them in yours. Some call this 'translation' of an idea or concept. Case in point, Dell took made-to-order and catalog sales (what Sears used to do with their Craftsman houses in the early 1900s), and applied it their computer manufacturing. Or how Keller Williams combined the success of ERA with Mary Kay’s multi-level-marketing (MLM) approach to become one of the largest realtors in the nation.

Essentially, how you invent the future is to take something that worked well in one industry, and see if it can be translated (moved) into what you are trying to do in another. Great companies are able to “steal” ideas, methodologies, and processes that worked well in a totally different and sometime alien industry and successfully apply them in their own.

In addition, and from my experience, creating a future that has already happened means that you do NOT want to do anything that has to change human nature or be too complicated. You do not want to re-invent the wheel. You do want to invent better uses for it though. That is not to say you cannot make anything new, you just have to make it similar to what people are used to using already. Remember the mantra: “Cheaper, Faster, Better....and Familiar!”

As an example: DVD players. Even though DVDs have superior quality and features compared to VHS tapes, it was not until manufacturers incorporated the same 'look and feel' found on tape players (including the flashing 12:00) that their acceptance in the mainstream became assured.

Humans are funny, we do not to really work hard at learning anything new, but we can learn something new if we feel that the gain will far outweigh the pain (of the learning curve). It amazes me how many people start off their business plans with the phrase, “This will revolutionize the world of….” News flash: Very few things revolutionized the world: the printing press, electricity, flight and maybe x-rays. Everything else took decades and generations before the “revolution” or more precisely the “evolution” took place. (ARPANET was formed in 1968 btw, so do not say the internet was revolutionary in its acceptance).

Still, if you really want to profit from your efforts, look how to use what is already successful in other industries. You may not be able to predict the future, but you sure can create it.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Moldy Middle

While taking statistics during my quest to get an MBA and while earning my engineering degree, the professors always emphasized the importance of finding the statistical mean of any population by using the Central Mean Theorem (a.k.a the highest point of the Bell Curve).

As an engineer, this was essential in order to maximize throughput, minimize cost and waste, and ultimately make a better, faster, cheaper widget. A funny thing happened on the way to the dark side of marketing. I discovered that the only thing in the middle of the road was quite literally dead road kill.

I do not know if you remember stores like Bradlees, Ames and Service Merchandise (just to name a few), but they all folded because the environment changed and they were caught trying to service the mythological “average customer.”

Part of that change came when Wal-Mart began its juggernaut with the discount department store. Wal-Mart did two things right: 1) Focused on “mobile” consumers, and 2) Focused on offering goods to cost (not value) conscious customers. In order to get cost down to bare minimums, Wal-Mart made sure for most of its products, it achieved the lowest price possible for its goods. Wal-Mart is not known for high quality, but it is known for low (and often the lowest) prices.

Still, you cannot buy everything at Wal-Mart (like rechargeable batteries, and Pepperidge Farms). So, there is a window of opportunity for competition (Target), that will be in another blog called Differentiate or Die.

In order to be recognized in the business world you have to stand out. Essentially, if you try to service the average customer, you will essentially look like everyone else. You must Differentiate or Die. Everything else is white noise.

Unfortunately, when most companies try to position themselves to service the average customer (the largest area under the bell curve), find that they actually get the fewest customers and the fiercest competition. Actually, when you position your product or service, you first have to carve out a niche in one of a very few extremes.

These extremes include:
Price (high versus low)
Quality (high versus good or average)
Service (personal versus automated or outsourced)
Features (high versus few; or simple versus complex)
Status / Value (High versus mundane)

Notice volume and profit are NOT on this list, since they are dependent on what extremes you choose.

I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but look at some of the successes:

Starbucks: They offer a high value / high status; high price coffee (and ultimately reached high volume & profit). Had they been another “average” coffee shop they would have not reached the status they had.

Dell: The offered a low(er) cost computer, with lower customer services (automation) but with a high feature set (custom made).

Proctor & Gamble: They segment their product offerings to cover a variety of extremes within a specific segment (toothpaste, shampoos) etc. To date, they are the most successful consumer goods company in the world.

Toyota: They offer extremely good quality, with a rich feature set (high gas mileage, extras, warranty), for a high value customer at a reasonable price.

Of course there are many others. What these companies need to be weary of is the temptation to try to get more market share at the expense of abandoning what made them desirable to begin with. The law of scarcity sometimes is a good thing.

So, if you are starting a new company, or releasing a new product, or looking at how to improve the perception of you existing product, look at what you are tying to do, and see if you are targeting the moldy middle. If you are, make some real effort to move away from that segment as quickly as possible.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

10 Rules for a Good Life

We all want a “good life” but that good life is different for everybody. Some believe it is success at work, or acknowledgement of achievement, or having wealth, or a multitude of friends and being able to travel. Whatever your definition of a good life, there are a few rules that will allow you to enjoy it when your get there. Each one of these can be a book in itself, but only the highlights are given below.

1. Be Nice
Being nice triumphs all. Although no one can be nice all the time, and sometimes you have to push back, but if you have the option, be nice, people appreciate it. The ability to be nice means you give pleasure or joy, have an attractive or good quality, and are kind, polite and friendly. Sounds pretty uplifting, does it not? So, when was the last time you heard someone complain about a little courtesy. Of course, sometimes being too nice has it downfalls, but practicing also has a multitude of feel-good benefits for you. When we help others and do kind acts, it causes our brain to release endorphins, the chemicals that give us feelings of fervor and high spirits -- similar to a 'runner's high. Doing something nice for someone also gives the brain a serotonin boost, the chemical that gives us that feeling of satisfaction and well-being. Plus, studies show that being "nice" means feeling more joyful and better about ourselves in the long run.

2. Be Authentic
Be yourself. As Herman Melville warns, “It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” We are all individuals and want to be recognized as such, that is what attracts others to us, our uniqueness. Sadly, we tend to value ourselves and our abilities not from our power of strength, but from someone else’s perspective. Do not try to imitate someone else, focus on your strengths and heighten them. Of course you need to be OK with whom you are, but you also have to realize that you can always improve. You can always better your best, you can always learn to love more, to give better, to expand yourself and your world. Accept your limitations, but do not let those limitations limit your achievements or self worth. “Master yourself, your thoughts and feelings, and you master the whole universe.”

3. Do Great Art
You cannot please everybody. It's a phony concept that flames out. The famed comedian Bill Cosby once said, “I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is to try to please everyone." Be thankful you've got your group, your friends, your family, and your fans. There are those who would appreciate you whom you have never met, focus on meeting them, not those who do not care. Make create art who can appreciate your art. Art is created to have an impact, to change someone else, and to make them feel. The art you create is a gift. Of course, you can sell the souvenir, the painting, the book, the recording, but the idea itself is free and the creative property of art is divine. Most art has nothing to do with oil paint or marble. Art is what you are doing when you do our best work. Or as Seth Godin once put it, “Art is not in the eye of the beholder. It's in the soul of the artist.”

4. Be In School Every Day
Education is not Everything, Learning is, and it does not have to happen in school. Still, we can understand why reading, writing and arithmetic are so important. Yes, in the internet era, reading and writing are everything (typing too!). And as for math, you cannot do a deal or really function in the modern world without knowing the numbers. And everybody wants to do a deal. If you really want to have a good life, make learning a lifelong ordeal. In doing so, you will keep gaining insight until you die. Life is a puzzle, one in which you are constantly delivered new pieces, and without new information and know-how, you will not be able to figure some stuff and that will just leave you frustrated. Coupled with experience, age and learning are potent force and is why age equals wisdom and the young may have their youth, but the old have all the happiness.

5. Be Not Possessed by Possessions
Yes, it is nice to own beautiful and priceless things, and most of us collect “objects” because if gives us a feeling or safety, security of superiority. But be careful that you do not let your possessions actually possess you. Sometimes we put more importance on what we own that what we are. Plus when you have stuff, you start to putting a lot of time in protecting things rather that developing your better self. Once you have something valuable you usually have to insure it, provide upkeep for it, and otherwise make sure your investment is honored. There is a line that you cross when the possessions are taking more of your time and energy than the joy of possessing them is providing. Yes, it is a slippery slope, and it can be hard to know sometimes when we cross that line. Sometimes we lose sight of what really gives us joy. As I like to say, “He is richest who wants least,” and luckily for us possessions mean less as you age. With new technology, we have more ways to evolve into a no possessions era; one in which you can rent a ride and you do not even have to own a car, or a house, or really anything. Let loose of the possesses but hold onto the experiences, as experiences are everything.

6. Learn to Love Yourself First
Well, essentially having self-love means you have the capacity to love others and be more aware of how your effect other people and the world. Essentially, "you cannot give to others what you do not give to yourself first." If you are not honest with yourself, you cannot be honest with others; if you are fearful, you will make others fearful; if you are courageous, others will gain courage through you; and so it is with love. If you do not love yourself, you can never love another. And we do NOT intrinsically know how to love. It is a learned art, something too few of us have ever mastered. Still, it is the single best coping skill you will ever possess, and most successful people have taken great pains, either deliberately or through trial and error, to develop a deep self-love. Of course there are no perfect partners, but if you develop you own self love, you will at least be able to withstand the slings and arrows of life and love.

7. Have a High Sense of Integrity
Do the right thing. Not only will it make a difference, you will feel better about yourself. Self awareness is the first step to true success, but incredibly, being self aware is incredibly rare. Developing a sense of integrity begins by being brutally honest with ourselves and that takes an unique talent. Our attempts to maintain positive self-views undermine our ability, or willingness, to accept negative feedback from others or even ourselves. We tend to insulate ourselves from having to do any work to truly improve ourselves from within, and instead tend to blame everyone and everything else for our setbacks and failures. From school kids who blame their poor grades on their teachers to employees who blame their poor performance on their bosses, there is no shortage of real-life examples highlighting the default human tendency to distort reality in their favor if it helps them feel good about themselves. This is just delusional. Although the truth often hurts, it is the key to self-improvement and self love, so commit to truly evaluating yourself and seeking constructive, although possibly negative, feedback from people you respect. Ask them and yourself, “What could I do better?” “What am I missing compared to the people I consider the best?” and “What are the worst things about myself?” and take the answers seriously and commit to taking steps to change them. If you want to be a truly loving person, you first have to be honest with yourself.

8. Seek Not Revenge
As Andy Rooney said, “When you plan to get even with someone, you are only letting that person continue to hurt you.” Do not worry what anybody else is doing and only focus on what you can change and control and that is you. Yes, Karma exists; and it is a bitch. You may not see it in the instant you wish like in the John Lennon song, but it does happen. If will come to the person who a done that vile act and will come without any notice. I will not be easily seen, and may not be visible to anybody but you, the one who was hurt, but it's real. If you are seeking revenge, you will not let the Universe do what it does best: meet out justice in the end.

9. Value Time
“Until you value yourself, you won't value your time. Until you value your time, you won't do anything with it," as well put by M. Scott Peck. The one thing I have come to realize in life is how well or poorly you spend your time, reflects how happy you are. It is also amazing to me how little people value the one thing they cannot control, or create, or get more of: TIME. Time starts accelerating sometime in your late thirties or forties. If you are not paying attention to how you use your time, chances are you are not going get where you want to go and definitely not be as happy as you want to be.

10. Go to the Unknown
I have a quotation that I use with the many entrepreneurs I a fortunate to meet and mentor, “Go to where you do not know what you do not know. That is where you will find all your opportunities.” The hardest thing you will ever do is to take that step into the unknown, but in order to really make any type of impact, that is exactly where you have to go. I cannot imagine what would have happened (or failed to happened), if the founders of this country (Adams, Washington, Madison, Franklin, Jefferson, Payne, Lafayette, etc.), had NOT taken that first fateful step. They ventured into the space of “what they did not know what they did not know.” Inspiration comes from displacement. Get out of your comfort zone, the rewards are legion.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Forever Cursed

Fill your head with anger and hatred;
Fill your heart bitterness and rage;
Your soul is consumed with vile feelings.
The love you wanted was in your arms
but escaped because you could not come half-way.
And now, it is gone forever
Never to return into your life.
You are lazy and selfish and stupid.
You deserve neither affection nor comfort
For your actions are neither noble nor honorable.
You are destined to live a life of worry and doubt;
Unfulfilled and wanting; desperate and lacking;
Because you cannot ever love or be loved
You bring this curse upon yourself for you
Stay huddled in the valley of a dreamless day to day existence
whose only purpose is the preservation of an illusionary sense of security and safety.
You fear the adventure of finding true, deep, passionate Love.
You fear going into the unknown and the unexplored.
You have given up the dream of what may lie ahead on the heights of tomorrow
For a perpetual nightmare of endless days and nights 
Fearing the loss of a tenuous and unattainable feeling of refuge
Because you have chosen not to grow, nor learn how to truly love,
You are forever cursed.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The 7 Cardinal Rules of Life

While I did not formulate these 7 cardinal rule of life, I have to agree with the essence of their wisdom. This is a good first step to self-love and finding true happiness, and I hope offers some guidance to those looking for a better life. My only hope is that you find them helpful in your quest to a better, more fulfilling, and accomplished life.

1. Make peace with your past, so it doesn’t spoil your present. Your past does not define your future – your actions and beliefs do.
2. What others think of you is none of your business. It’s how much you value yourself and how important you think you are.
3. Time heals almost everything, give time, time. Pain will be less hurting. Scars make us who we are; they explain our life and why we are the way we are. They challenge us and force us to be stronger.
4. No one is the reason for your own happiness, except you yourself. Waste no time and effort searching for peace and contentment and joy in the world outside.
5. Don’t compare your life with others’, you have no idea what their journey is all about. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we would grab ours back as fast as we could.
6. Stop thinking too much, it’s alright not to know all the answers. Sometime there is no answer, not going to be any answer, never has been an answer. That’s the answer! Just accept it, move on, NEXT!
7. Smile, you don’t own all the problems in the world. A smile can brighten the darkest day and make life more beautiful. It is a potential curve to turn a life around and set everything straight.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Marketing An Elephant

There is an excellent tale, by American poet John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887),  that is based on a fable told in India many years ago. It is a good warning about how our sensory perceptions can lead to some serious misinterpretations; especially when we focus on one part in relationship to the whole.  It also deals with how people perceive things from where THEY stand not from were YOU stand. The tale in entirety follows this post.

While this is an excellent tale about perception, it is also a cautionary tale for anyone trying to market a product to a general population.  While you are trying to "sell" an elephant, certain features of the elephant will be more important and more pronounced than others.  So, what you as a good marketer have to do is figure out what are the most profitable market segments to sell to and then highlight those features prominently, that includes determining if someone wants the "whole" elephant.  In some instances, and if possible, you will have to unbundle your products (sell just the rope and snake), to hit your target market, and when you cannot unbundle, you have to show the value of the chief features of your product, and "just throw" in the other features for free.

In any case, never assume your market is monolithic, but also make sure you just do not focus on one segment at the exclusion of all others.  You DO NOT want to sell an elephant for the price of a rope or a fan!
_________________________________________________




It was six men of Indostan
To learning much inclined, 

Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind), 

That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind
 

The First approached the Elephant,
And happening to fall 

Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl: 

"God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!"



The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, "Ho! what have we here 

So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me 'tis mighty clear 

This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!"



The Third approached the animal,
And happening to take 

The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake: 

"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a snake!"



The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee. 

"What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain," quoth he; 

" 'Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!"



The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said: "E'en the blindest man 

Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can 

This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!"



The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope, 

Than, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope, 

"I see," quoth he, "the Elephant
Is very like a rope!"



And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long, 

Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong, 

Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!
 

Moral:
So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween, 

Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean, 

And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

20 Quips On Life

Here is a list 20 things that on the surface have quite a bit of wisdom, but are just plain funny as well. Some are priceless, and all are pretty humorous. As we all need a little humor every day, I hope these quips turn up the corners of your mouth. All the best and Excelsior everyone!

1. I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness. 


2. Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.
 

3. I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.
 

4. Sex is not the answer. Sex is the question. "Yes" is the answer.
 

5. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.
 

6. We live in a society where pizza gets to your house before the police.
 

7. Women might be able to fake orgasms. But men can fake a whole relationship.
 

8. Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
 

9. If I agreed with you we'd both be wrong.
 

10. Men have two emotions: Hungry and Horny. If you see him without an erection, make him a sandwich. 

11. Going to church (temple, mosque) doesn't make you a Christian (or Jew, Muslim, etc.) any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
 

12. We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public (ok, maybe some of us).
 

13. War does not determine who is right - only who is left.
 

14. Having sex is like playing bridge. If you don't have a good partner, you'd better have a good hand.
 

15.Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
 

16.Politicians and diapers have one thing in common. They should both be changed regularly, and for the same reason.
 

17. Children: You spend the first 2 years of their life teaching them to walk and talk. Then you spend the next 16 years telling them to sit down and shut-up.
 

18. My mother never saw the irony in calling me a son-of-a-bitch.
 

19. The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
 

20. The Evening news is where they begin with 'Good evening', and then proceed to tell you why it isn't.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Your Magic Bank Account

Many people dream or manifest or wish to become rich with an unimaginable amount of money.  Incredibly that might be easier than it looks if you just realize your magic bank account. Imagine there is a bank account that credits your account each morning with $86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day. Each and every evening the bank deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day. What would you do? Draw out and spend every cent, would you not? Incredibly, each of us has such a bank. Its name is TIME. Every morning, you are credited with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off as a lost what was not used, whatever of this you have failed to invest to a good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no over draft. Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the remains of the day. If you fail to use the day's deposits, the loss is yours. There is no drawing against “tomorrow.” It cannot be traded, or escrowed, or bartered for more. You must live in the present on today's deposits. Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness and success! The clock is running!! Make the most of today.  To help you realize the value of time, here is a list that quantifies it.

To realize the value of ONE YEAR,
ask a student who failed a grade.
To realize the value of ONE MONTH, ask
a mother who has given birth to a premature baby.
To realize the value of ONE WEEK,
ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.
To realize the value of ONE HOUR
ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To realize the value of ONE MINUTE, ask 
a person who just missed a train or a plane.
To realize the value of ONE SECOND,
ask someone who just avoided an accident.
To realize the value of ONE MILLISECOND, ask
the person who won a silver medal at the Olympics.

Treasure every moment that you have! And treasure it more because you shared it with someone special, special enough to spend your time with. And remember time waits for no one. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift, that is why it is called the present.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Strangest Secrect

Yes, yes, yes we all want to be successful and have tried multiple ways and means to get there, but in actuality, success comes from three things: a goal, a commitment to action, and service to others.  

In 1908, Napoleon Hill, (the famous motivational author whose book “Think and Grow Rich” became all-time best-seller in the field) conducted a series of interviews with 500 successful men and women and discovered and publish the formula for success. The book “Think and Grow Rich”  was the result of 25 years of study by Napoleon Hill, under the guidance of Andrew Carnegie. Later in 1956, Earl Nightingale, the Dean of Personal Development, recorded a concise version of the book “Think and Grow Rich” into a record known as “The Strangest Secret”. This record sold over million copies and continues to motivate thousands of people to move towards success.

The Strangest Secret is a ‘secret’, because there are only few who understand it and use it to become successful. And it is ‘strange’ because, the secret is actually known to everyone. It is written in all the religious books, told by the great leaders and even proven scientifically. The Secret is within the six words – “We Become What We Think About.” Translate this to – “As you sow, so shall you reap,” “You are the sculpture of your own life,” “Your future is in your hands” and many other quotes and phrases.

Listen to this Audio and let Earl Nightingale, with his extremely deep voice, unwrap the secret to you. If you follow each and every word in this recording, you cannot help but become successful.

Some years ago, the late Nobel prize-winning Dr. Albert Schweitzer was asked by a reporter, “Doctor, what’s wrong with men today?” The great doctor was silent a moment, and then he said, “Men simply don’t think!”

It’s about this that I want to talk with you. We live today in a golden age. This is an era that humanity has looked forward to, dreamed of, and worked toward for thousands of years. We live in the richest era that ever existed on the face of the earth … a land of abundant opportunity for everyone.

However, if you take 100 individuals who start even at the age of 25, do you have any idea what will happen to those men and women by the time they’re 65? These 100 people believe they’re going to be successful. They are eager toward life, there is a certain sparkle in their eye, an erectness to their carriage, and life seems like a pretty interesting adventure to them.

But by the time they’re 65, only one will be rich, four will be financially independent, five will still be working, and 54 will be broke — depending on others for life’s necessities.

Only five out of 100 make the grade! Why do so many fail? What has happened to the sparkle that was there when they were 25? What has become of the dreams, the hopes, the plans … and why is there such a large disparity between what these people intended to do and what they actually accomplished?

THE DEFINITION OF SUCCESS
First, we have to define success and here is the best definition I’ve ever been able to find: “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.”

A success is the school teacher who is teaching because that’s what he or she wants to do. A success is the entrepreneur who start his own company because that was his dream — that’s what he wanted to do. A success is the salesperson who wants to become the best salesperson in his or her company and sets forth on the pursuit of that goal.

A success is anyone who is realizing a worthy predetermined ideal, because that’s what he or she decided to do … deliberately. But only one out of 20 does that! The rest are “failures.”
Rollo May, the distinguished psychiatrist, wrote a wonderful book called Man’s Search for Himself, and in this book he says: “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice … it is conformity.” And there you have the reason for so many failures. Conformity — people acting like everyone else, without knowing why or where they are going.

We learn to read by the time we’re seven. We learn to make a living by the time we’re 30. Often by that time we’re not only making a living, we’re supporting a family. And yet by the time we’re 65, we haven’t learned how to become financially independent in the richest land that has ever been known. Why? We conform! Most of us are acting like the wrong percentage group — the 95 who don’t succeed.

GOALS
Have you ever wondered why so many people work so hard and honestly without ever achieving anything in particular, and why others don’t seem to work hard, yet seem to get everything? They seem to have the “magic touch.” You’ve heard people say, “Everything he touches turns to gold.” Have you ever noticed that a person who becomes successful tends to continue to become more successful? And, on the other hand, have you noticed how someone who’s a failure tends to continue to fail?

The difference is goals. People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going. It’s that simple. Failures, on the other hand, believe that their lives are shaped by circumstances … by things that happen to them … by exterior forces.

Think of a ship with the complete voyage mapped out and planned. The captain and crew know exactly where the ship is going and how long it will take — it has a definite goal. And 9,999 times out of 10,000, it will get there.

Now let’s take another ship — just like the first — only let’s not put a crew on it, or a captain at the helm. Let’s give it no aiming point, no goal, and no destination. We just start the engines and let it go. I think you’ll agree that if it gets out of the harbor at all, it will either sink or wind up on some deserted beach — a derelict. It can’t go anyplace because it has no destination and no guidance.

It’s the same with a human being. However, the human race is fixed, not to prevent the strong from winning, but to prevent the weak from losing. Society today can be likened to a convoy in time of war. The entire society is slowed down to protect its weakest link, just as the naval convoy has to go at the speed that will permit its slowest vessel to remain in formation.

That’s why it’s so easy to make a living today. It takes no particular brains or talent to make a living and support a family today. We have a plateau of so-called “security.” So, to succeed, all we must do is decide how high above this plateau we want to aim.

Throughout history, the great wise men and teachers, philosophers, and prophets have disagreed with one another on many different things. It is only on this one point that they are in complete and unanimous agreement — the key to success and the key to failure is this:

WE BECOME WHAT WE THINK ABOUT
This is The Strangest Secret! Now, why do I say it’s strange, and why do I call it a secret? Actually, it isn’t a secret at all. It was first promulgated by some of the earliest wise men, and it appears again and again throughout the Bible. But very few people have learned it or understand it. That’s why it’s strange, and why for some equally strange reason it virtually remains a secret.

Marcus Aurelius, the great Roman Emperor, said: “A man’s life is what his thoughts make of it.”
Disraeli said this: “Everything comes if a man will only wait … a human being with a settled purpose must accomplish it, and nothing can resist a will that will stake even existence for its fulfillment.”

William James said: “We need only in cold blood act as if the thing in question were real, and it will become infallibly real by growing into such a connection with our life that it will become real. It will become so knit with habit and emotion that our interests in it will be those which characterize belief.” He continues, ” … only you must, then, really wish these things, and wish them exclusively, and not wish at the same time a hundred other incompatible things just as strongly.”

My old friend Dr. Norman Vincent Peale put it this way: “If you think in negative terms, you will get negative results. If you think in positive terms, you will achieve positive results.” George Bernard Shaw said: “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”

Well, it’s pretty apparent, isn’t it? We become what we think about. A person who is thinking about a concrete and worthwhile goal is going to reach it, because that’s what he’s thinking about. Conversely, the person who has no goal, who doesn’t know where he’s going, and whose thoughts must therefore be thoughts of confusion, anxiety, fear, and worry will thereby create a life of frustration, fear, anxiety and worry. And if he thinks about nothing … he becomes nothing.

AS YE SOW — SO SHALL YE REAP
The human mind is much like a farmer’s land. The land gives the farmer a choice. He may plant in that land whatever he chooses. The land doesn’t care what is planted. It’s up to the farmer to make the decision. The mind, like the land, will return what you plant, but it doesn’t care what you plant. If the farmer plants too seeds — one a seed of corn, the other nightshade, a deadly poison, waters and takes care of the land, what will happen?

Remember, the land doesn’t care. It will return poison in just as wonderful abundance as it will corn. So up come the two plants — one corn, one poison as it’s written in the Bible, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.”
The human mind is far more fertile, far more incredible and mysterious than the land, but it works the same way. It doesn’t care what we plant … success … or failure. A concrete, worthwhile goal … or confusion, misunderstanding, fear, anxiety, and so on. But what we plant it must return to us.

The problem is that our mind comes as standard equipment at birth. It’s free. And things that are given to us for nothing, we place little value on. Things that we pay money for, we value.

The paradox is that exactly the reverse is true. Everything that’s really worthwhile in life came to us free — our minds, our souls, our bodies, our hopes, our dreams, our ambitions, our intelligence, our love of family and children and friends and country. All these priceless possessions are free.

But the things that cost us money are actually very cheap and can be replaced at any time. A good man can be completely wiped out and make another fortune. He can do that several times. Even if our home burns down, we can rebuild it. But the things we got for nothing, we can never replace.

Our mind can do any kind of job we assign to it, but generally speaking, we use it for little jobs instead of big ones. So decide now. What is it you want? Plant your goal in your mind. It’s the most important decision you’ll ever make in your entire life.

Do you want to excel at your particular job? Do you want to go places in your company … in your community? Do you want to get rich? All you have got to do is plant that seed in your mind, care for it, work steadily toward your goal, and it will become a reality.

It not only will, there’s no way that it cannot. You see, that’s a law — like the laws of Sir Isaac Newton, the laws of gravity. If you get on top of a building and jump off, you’ll always go down — you’ll never go up.

And it’s the same with all the other laws of nature. They always work. They’re inflexible. Think about your goal in a relaxed, positive way. Picture yourself in your mind’s eye as having already achieved this goal. See yourself doing the things you will be doing when you have reached your goal.

Every one of us is the sum total of our own thoughts. We are where we are because that’s exactly where we really want or feel we deserve to be — whether we’ll admit that or not. Each of us must live off the fruit of our thoughts in the future, because what you think today and tomorrow — next month and next year — will mold your life and determine your future. You’re guided by your mind.

I remember one time I was driving through eastern Arizona and I saw one of those giant earthmoving machines roaring along the road with what looked like 30 tons of dirt in it — a tremendous, incredible machine — and there was a little man perched way up on top with the wheel in his hands, guiding it. As I drove along I was struck by the similarity of that machine to the human mind. Just suppose you’re sitting at the controls of such a vast source of energy. Are you going to sit back and fold your arms and let it run itself into a ditch? Or are you going to keep both hands firmly on the wheel and control and direct this power to a specific, worthwhile purpose? It’s up to you. You’re in the driver’s seat. You see, the very law that gives us success is a doubleedged sword. We must control our thinking. The same rule that can lead people to lives of success, wealth, happiness, and all the things they ever dreamed of — that very same law can lead them into the gutter. It’s all in how they use it … for good or for bad. That is The Strangest Secret!

Do what the experts since the dawn of recorded history have told us to do: pay the price, by becoming the person you want to become. It’s not nearly as difficult as living unsuccessfully.

The moment you decide on a goal to work toward, you’re immediately a successful person — you are then in that rare group of people who know where they’re going. Out of every hundred people, you belong to the top five. Don’t concern yourself too much with how you are going to achieve your goal — leave that completely to a power greater than yourself. All you have to do is know where you’re going. The answers will come to you of their own accord, and at the right time.

Start today. You have nothing to lose — but you have your whole life to win.

30-DAY ACTION IDEAS FOR PUTTING THE STRANGEST SECRET TO WORK FOR YOU
For the next 30-days follow each of these steps every day until you have achieved your goal.
1. Write on a card what it is you want more that anything else. It may be more money. Perhaps you’d like to double your income or make a specific amount of money. It may be a beautiful home. It may be success at your job. It may be a particular position in life. It could be a more harmonious family.
Write down on your card specifically what it is you want. Make sure it’s a single goal and clearly defined. You needn’t show it to anyone, but carry it with you so that you can look at it several times a day. Think about it in a cheerful, relaxed, positive way each morning when you get up, and immediately you have something to work for — something to get out of bed for, something to live for.

Look at it every chance you get during the day and just before going to bed at night. As you look at it, remember that you must become what you think about, and since you’re thinking about your goal, you realize that soon it will be yours. In fact, it’s really yours the moment you write it down and begin to think about it.

2. Stop thinking about what it is you fear. Each time a fearful or negative thought comes into your mind, replace it with a mental picture of your positive and worthwhile goal. And there will come a time when you’ll feel like giving up. It’s easier for a human being to think negatively than positively. That’s why only five percent are successful! You must begin now to place yourself in that group.

“Act as though it were impossible to fail,” as Dorothea Brande said. No matter what your goal — if you’ve kept your goal before you every day — you’ll wonder and marvel at this new life you’ve found.

3. Your success will always be measured by the quality and quantity of service you render. Most people will tell you that they want to make money, without understanding this law. The only people who make money work in a mint. The rest of us must earn money. This is what causes those who keep looking for something for nothing, or a free ride, to fail in life. Success is not the result of making money; earning money is the result of success — and success is in direct proportion to our service.

Most people have this law backwards. It’s like the man who stands in front of the stove and says to it: “Give me heat and then I’ll add the wood.” How many men and women do you know, or do you suppose there are today, who take the same attitude toward life? There are millions.

We’ve got to put the fuel in before we can expect heat. Likewise, we’ve got to be of service first before we can expect money. Don’t concern yourself with the money. Be of service … build … work … dream … create! Do this and you’ll find there is no limit to the prosperity and abundance that will come to you.

Don’t start your test until you’ve made up your mind to stick with it. If you should fail during your first 30 days — by that I mean suddenly find yourself overwhelmed by negative thoughts — simply start over again from that point and go 30 more days. Gradually, your new habit will form, until you find yourself one of that wonderful minority to whom virtually nothing is impossible.

Above all … don’t worry! Worry brings fear, and fear is crippling. The only thing that can cause you to worry during your test is trying to do it all yourself. Know that all you have to do is hold your goal before you; everything else will take care of itself.

Take this 30-day test, then repeat it … then repeat it again. Each time it will become more a part of you until you’ll wonder how you could have ever have lived any other way. Live this new way and the floodgates of abundance will open and pour over you more riches than you may have dreamed existed. Money? Yes, lots of it. But what’s more important, you’ll have peace … you’ll be in that wonderful minority who lead calm, cheerful, successful lives.
- Earl Nightingale