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July 31, 2017 Biz Books

Understanding the laws of success

“The Law of Success” by Napoleon Hill (deluxe edition, Penguin, $28).

Originally published as a self-instruction course in 1928, Hill's insights stand the test of time. Here's a look at the stage-setting introduction and three of the course's 15 lessons:

Introduction: Embracing change as a lifelong learning experience ensures you're not looking at your future as an extension of your past. Start shaping your future by examining past decisions and their effects on today's circumstance. Your goal: learning from “woulda, coulda, shoulda.”

1. “A Definite Chief Aim.” While “singleness of purpose” drives success, singleness relies on an ever-inquisitive mind and the ability to work with others to understand various perspectives. Whether you're leading a small business, a project team, a department, a division or a firm, incorporating the knowledge of others allows you to develop and properly assess alternatives.

The relationship with others must build bridges, not walls, because success requires allies to make things happen. Think of the people with whom you interact as “master mind” groups. Your “definite chief aim” involves doing what you can to ensure everyone contributes to the success of whatever the group works on. It's all about “organized effort.” When everyone contributes, everyone learns. As they learn, they think bigger — they always think “What if?” and “How can I help?”

2. “Self-confidence.” When doing different things or doing things differently, there always some doubt about the outcome. Don't let doubt become fear, which whispers “I can't do it — I'm afraid of what others might say — I'm afraid I'll fail.” When the whispers become loud voices, inaction follows. When fear takes over, you succumb to what I call the poverty of desire. You see every struggle as an obstacle, rather than an opportunity to find a solution. To overcome fear, you must realize that doing nothing comes with a price. It won't change the current situation, and in many cases, will make it worse.

Think of yourself as a salesperson who hears “No” more than “Yes.” The first person you must convince is you. Hill relates a story about a salesman who called on a customer every day for a month — and heard “No” from the merchant every day. The merchant finally asked the salesman: “Why have you wasted your time?” The salesman replied, “I have been going to school and you have been my teacher. Now I know all the arguments a merchant can bring up for not buying, and I have developed counters.” The merchant responded, “I, too, have been going to school, and you have been my teacher. You have taught me a lesson in persistence.” The salesman got the order.

8. “Habit of doing more than you're paid for.” When you really care about what you do, you're always willing to go that extra mile. Those extra miles are essential to achievement.

Doing what you want to do isn't always easy. Life can get in your way. Hill stands as an example. Rather than pursuing a career as a “law of success” author and teacher, his family believed that he should take a real job because he had a family. Taking a cue from lesson two (above), he persisted.

Lacking familial support, Hill relied on a master mind group (lesson one above) for support. A newspaper publisher, who had attended one of his presentations, became a member of his group, and Hill was offered an opportunity to write a weekly business column on “Law of Success.” The column caught the attention of local business executives and Hill's course began selling. His group grew and was responsible for introducing him to the movers and shakers whose interviews translated “Law of Success” into “Think and Grow Rich.”

Jim Pawlak is a nationally syndicated book reviewer.

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