1-Hour Guide To Successful Thinking
I wrote and recorded The 1-Hour Guide to Successful Thinking in 2004. To listen, click the play button for the individual tracks below or, if you prefer, a transcript is also provided.
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Introduction - Thinking Correctly
Welcome, this is the 1 hour guide to successful thinking.
Everything you’re about to hear in this program revolves around a simple concept: We choose what we think about, what we think about determines our actions, and our actions determine our results. If we’re unhappy with our results, we need to change the thoughts and actions that are creating them. This is the premise of successful thinking and it’s been proven accurate, time and time again.
Before we start, I’ve got just a few suggestions:
Don’t worry about answering the questions in your workbook until the second or third time you listen to the program. That will give you a little bit more time to think about everything.
If you hear specific things that you find really useful, those are the things you should focus on. Don’t bother with any of the stuff that you don’t like or don’t agree with. The only information that matters is the information that you can use.
Understand that I’ve seen firsthand the results of applying these concepts, and, it’s only because of that firsthand experience that I know they work.
Now, let’s begin, starting with how important it is for us to THINK correctly:
The importance of thinking correctly should be common sense. And by thinking correctly, what I mean is: thinking in a way that is productive instead of counter-productive. But for many, the topic just gets blown off as another “let’s-all-think-positive” speech.
Now, I can only guess the doubters of positive thinking must have (at least in their own mind) a good reason why they think it’s not useful. Who knows, maybe they convinced themselves they were going to win the lottery; they “thought positive” about it for three months, and then when they didn’t win, they decided that whole “positive thinking” thing just doesn’t work.
Well, that’s a perfect example of an imperfect conclusion. That’s like me deciding lifting weights doesn’t “work” because even after a solid year of working out I never got any smarter. Guess what…lifting weights isn’t supposed to make me any smarter; it’s supposed to make me stronger! And likewise, improving the quality of your thoughts isn’t supposed to increase your ability to control things that nobody on the planet has the ability to control.
Instead, the huge effect of improving your mind is going to be seen in the results you get from those things you do have control or influence over. And those things, believe it or not, make up the majority of your life.
We all know, or should know anyway, that if we want a different result it often requires a different approach. And let’s be clear, when we say we want a “different” result, what we really mean is we want a better result. So, in turn, it’s likely what we need is a better approach. An approach that either improves on what we’re already doing, or replaces it all together.
The first and most important place we can begin the process of improving our approach starts with improving our minds. Our minds contain all the software that runs the machine. The better shape our minds are in, the more we can accomplish with less and less effort. To expand on this a little, consider the following analogy:
Assume you have two computers. The first computer we’ll call average. It isn’t the fastest, it isn’t the slowest, but overall you can rely on it to do 95% of what any computer should do.
The second computer is “State of the art.” It has the most powerful processor available, it has the fastest memory on the market…it has all the bells and whistles; it’s as good as it gets.
Now before either one of them can do anything, they’re going to need an operating system, because without an operating system, all you have is a bunch of parts that can’t communicate with one another…so, we’ll start there.
On the average computer we’re going to install an operating system that’s built on solid, accurate, and reliable code. No corrupt files, no viruses, nothing that’s going to needlessly drain its ability to function efficiently.
On the cutting edge computer, we’re going to install an operating system that is built on weak, inaccurate and unreliable code. And, just for fun, we’re also going to install a bunch of viruses and unnecessary programs that are just going to increase the likelihood that it constantly locks up and crashes.
Given a choice, which computer do you want to work on? …Pretty simple question to answer…but, if you’re forced to use the computer that’s essentially running corrupt software, how long do you think it’ll be before you figure out a way to erase the whole thing and reinstall whatever it takes to make it run correctly? I’m guessing not very long because you’d literally be pulling your hair out trying to get anything done on that machine.
Our minds, although far more powerful and certainly less limited, work in a similar way. If, along the line, we’ve picked up “bad code,” we begin to find it difficult to function, let alone make significant progress. But the good news is, unlike the computer in our example, we have the ability to test the productivity of our own thoughts, our ideas, our beliefs (our software), and we can make upgrades as needed.
The information we’ll be covering in this course isn’t new. It’s been around for as long as successful people have had the ability to write it down. And if you think about it, that’s good news. You don’t have to worry about whether or not it’s accurate when you can actually go and check its track record. And you’ll find its track record is very good.
So far, we’ve touched on a very important part of successful thinking, which is; how you think and what you choose to think about is extremely important. Now, we’ll move on to some other concepts that build well on that foundation, starting with: the first step in every successful life.
Chapter 1: Attitude and Gratitude
Over the course of about 60 minutes, we’re going to lay the foundation for successful thinking. The only thing I want you to try to keep in mind is this: Using any one of these ideas on a regular basis will dramatically increase your ability to choose your life. Starting with very little, these concepts enabled me to create the exact life I wanted from the ground up, and the best part is the more often I used these ideas, the more effective they became.
So, where do we start? How do we begin the process of pulling the weeds from our mind; begin shifting our focus from counterproductive thoughts and actions to productive thoughts and actions? Well, many years ago a brilliant man drew millions of people’s attention to what he called the “magic word.” That man was Earl Nightingale, and that magic word was: ATTITUDE.
As simple as it may sound, it really does begin with our attitude. People who start with a healthy attitude have an enormous advantage in their life. But why is that? Well, there are a lot of reasons, but the one that I think is most important is this: It’s just easier to take use value from any situation, (whether it’s good or bad,) when you’ve got a good attitude. Having a good attitude means you’re not easily frustrated by circumstances…it’s getting yourself to a point where you can accept that everything, whether you like it or not, is just part of the process. It’s your job to figure out how to use the current situation to your advantage in some way.
When you get to that point, when you’ve developed that kind of healthy attitude, you can pull some kind of profit out of almost anything, even if it’s just a hard lesson. It took me a long time and plenty of mistakes before I realized that hard lessons actually had value…if I’d just take the time to see it that way. I wish I’d looked at it that way earlier, because if I would’ve, it would’ve saved me the aggravation of “re-learning” a lot of hard lessons!
But what about having a good attitude? What’s the real problem with that being an important part of successful thinking? The simple fact that most people don’t know how to have a good attitude. The fact that most don’t understand that they (not the world around them) are the ones who’ve got to make it happen.
Our attitude is our responsibility. Think of it as clothing…something that you must choose to put on. If you’re just waiting to see what the world has to offer before choosing your attitude, you’re letting others dress you. What do you think the chances are that you’re going to like what you end up wearing for the day?
All you have to do is turn on one of the cable news channels in the morning. There, you’ll start the day with the perfect ingredients for a terrible outfit (a bad attitude in other words). And sadly, that’s the aim of their programming. It’s designed to be divisive and upsetting. They generate more ratings that way, and whether it’s good for us or not is completely irrelevant. We’ve got to keep in mind if our attitude is a blank slate going into that, things aren’t going to turn out very well for us.
And that’s just a small part of it. We’ve got our work, our debts, our goals, relationships, family responsibilities; there’s a lot for us to deal with. And if we’re not careful, it’s very easy to fall into a self-defeating cycle or a bad habit of perpetual bad attitude.
So, with all this going on, how do we set and keep a genuinely good attitude? Not just for our own good, but for the good of everyone else we come in contact with?
As important as the word “attitude” is, there’s another word that’s even a little bit more important. One word, that if we learn it, and we learn to make it a part of our lives, nothing will be able to throw us off course for very long. That one word is: GRATITUDE.
Until we learn (and we do have to learn how to do this in our culture), until we learn to recognize and be grateful for the things we already have, our attitudes barely have a chance. If we develop a habit of becoming wrapped up in what we don’t have, we simultaneously develop a habit of ignoring everything that we do…everything that we can use in some way to get us where we’re trying to go.
There are many down sides to being ungrateful, but the easiest one to see is this: The less grateful a person is, the less happy they will be. If I said to you next Thursday, you’ve got two options:
Option 1 is: You can spend the entire day happy and grateful to be alive…Or,
Option 2 is: You can spend the entire day frustrated and ungrateful.
Would you have a hard time choosing an option? Who would rather be frustrated and ungrateful all day long? Well, apparently most of us, because, rather than choosing to recognize what we do have going for us, all of our attention tends to go towards what we don’t have going for us. And that’s a very expensive habit for us to get into.
First, it costs us a good amount of happiness that we could otherwise be experiencing. Second, it replaces that happiness with stress and frustration that we don’t need. Third, by not seeing the value in what we have, we weaken our ability to use those resources. And last but not least, the effect on our attitude is devastating. By the end of this cycle, rather than increase our ability to change the circumstances we’re unhappy with, we’ve only increased our ability to perpetuate them.
Now, this is where some get confused. They think I’m suggesting that gratitude means never wanting anything more from life; humbly accepting what you have as enough, and politely speaking the words “thank you” as often as possible. That’s not at all what I’m suggesting. As a matter of fact, I would consider that suggestion completely wrong. To paraphrase an old saying: Natures’ gift to us was more talent and opportunity than we could ever exhaust in our lifetime. Our gift back to nature is to do the most we can with that talent and opportunity.
Everything that’s living seeks to become more and we’re no different, but unlike everything else, we have an extraordinary ability to do so. To make full use of our lives…now that’s gratitude. ...To waste our chance, to waste our opportunity to continue becoming more? That is not.
So we’ve covered two of the primary ingredients of successful thinking. Number one is attitude. We have the ability to choose our attitude and because so, we have the ability to increase the value of every day. A good attitude will open more doors for us, increases our happiness, and reduce our stress, all the while making progress towards what it is that we want easier to come by.
And number two is gratitude. By learning a higher degree of gratitude, we increase our wealth immediately. Everything we’ve taken for granted suddenly shows its value. We can again see how fortunate we truly are. For the small things like the radio you’re listening to this disc on, to the big ones; like our life itself.
Moving forward with a better attitude and greater awareness of what we can use to our advantage, our next step becomes much easier. In chapter 2 we cover the process of building exactly what we want.
Chapter 2: Goals and Success
Everybody dreams of something that they want in life, but unfortunately, not everybody is willing to do the work necessary to turn those dreams into reality.
Turning dreams into reality begins with turning your dreams into a goal. Dreams are what you wish would happen, but goals are what you’ve decided you’re going to make happen. And if you interviewed a thousand successful people, that’s the one thing that would separate them from all the rest. At some point they decided exactly what they wanted and they went out after it. They created their outcome in their mind and then each day gathered whatever they could to complete that outcome.
If you think about it, this is really the only logical approach. If you want to arrive somewhere in life, you first have to decide where that “somewhere” is. Creating clear goals for ourselves and focusing on them on a regular basis is the most important work we can do if we want to steadily increase the level of success we experience in our life. And it’s important to note, when it comes to setting these goals, if we really plan on making them real the least we’ll do is take the time to write them down.
Let’s face it, our minds are a confusing blob of electrical energy. We’ve got intangible ideas, and beliefs, emotions, thoughts, hopes, and fears bouncing around in there. But we live in a physical world, so we’ve got to convert those intangible things into real things before we can really get our hands on them. And one way to translate all that into a physical form is to put words to paper.
Once we pull those things out of our mind it’s much easier to put them in perspective. It’s easier for us to structure the ideas, for us to prioritize them, or, just take apart the bad and improve upon the good. And it also frees up a lot of mental energy that we had been using trying to keep track of everything in our head. Keep in mind, we’re not writing a novel here. Nobody has to see what we’ve written and nothing is cast in stone. Just get it out, and start working with it.
Of all the things people avoid, this seems to be the favorite.
And I’ve got to admit, when I first started trying to improve my life, I didn’t want to do this either. But in my case, it was just a matter of being afraid to do it.
I was afraid I’d take the time to think about every detail, get really excited, write it all down, and then not be able to make it happen. I was afraid I’d look at exactly what I wanted in life and then feel like I might have to settle for less. Fortunately, at some point, I started thinking about how stupid it was for me to think that way.
Seriously, if it was painful for me to think about not having what I truly wanted in life, why would I choose the one course of action that guaranteed I’d never have it? How could I ever move closer to what I truly wanted if I wouldn’t even take the time to figure out what that was, write it down, and commit to getting there?
Well, I did some more thinking and I realized something: there was really only three things that could happen once I’d set my mind to a particular goal. I was either going to:
A) Make progress towards the goal
B) Achieve the goal, or
C) Give up on it
Whether I wanted to lose 10 pounds or save the world; that was pretty much all that could happen. And I’ve got to figure the same rule applies for everyone else. Look, here are the facts:
5 years from now our lives are going to be different whether we want them to be or not. We’ll either have moved closer to what we want in life (by learning and doing what’s necessary to get us there) or we’ll have moved further away from it (by doing nothing and letting time that we could’ve used pass us by).
Whether you’re 8 or 80, starting today, you either begin the process of moving closer to what you want, or you begin the process of moving away from what you want. Each day is a choice for one or the other.
Making the right choice (making plans for our future) is something we’ve got to decide to do, and often the only thing that stands in our way – the only thing stopping us from making that extremely important decision – is doubt.
Think about it. What if 5 years ago you realized you could literally achieve anything you wanted, no ifs ands or buts about it? What would you have gone after? And now, 5 years later, how different would your life be?
In 5 years, I went from renting an efficiency apartment, to owning free and clear a $300,000 home. And I’ll tell you something, I know that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t made it one of my goals. The truth is, there’s no person on this planet that can’t improve their life in some way, regardless of how developed or undeveloped their life may be.
Accepting that what we have is “all that can be had” is a lie. Anyone can become more in so many different ways there’s no end to our potential for growth. There’s never a day that we can’t strengthen our ability in one area or another. When it comes right down to it, the only person that can keep us from becoming more – the only person that can truly stand in our way – is us.
It’s common knowledge that all animals avoid what they fear. And we of course are no different. There could be any number of things that are keeping us from setting goals and going after them, but if I had to guess, more often than not, I’d say it’s a fear of failure that stops us from trying…And as we already know, if we don’t try, we’re guaranteed to fail, so what we need to do here is: we need to get rid of the possibility of failure completely. Obviously, if we cannot fail, then we must succeed. And the logical question is going to be: How can you eliminate the possibility of failure? It’s really pretty simple. We redefine what success is.
Most people define success as “the completion or attainment of a goal.” And the main problem with using that definition is, it immediately presents your mind an image of how it could fail. We’ve got to stop thinking of success as a finish line that we’re going to cross some day. Success isn’t a finish line. Success is an ongoing process; success is a byproduct of our progress. And each day that we make progress towards what we’re trying to achieve in life is a day that we gather success. We can assemble that success in different shapes, or draw finish lines with it if we like, but true success comes as a result of us continuing to grow in some way.
By working towards improving our lives, we succeed in the mere act of doing so. And all of the defined goals we reach are just mile markers. They’re all just a part of the total success that we eventually come to experience in our life.
Once you realize that – once that becomes your definition of success – there is no failure, there are only opportunities each day to continue adding to who you are; to increase yourself in some way. Whether it’s financially, creatively, spiritually, intellectually, you name it, there’s a limitless supply of increase available to you and, because of that fact, there will always be a limitless supply of success.
Wrapping up this chapter there’s just three things that I want to remind you of. They’re all very important.
1. If we want to choose the direction of our lives, we’ve got to be willing to invest some effort. Setting clear goals, writing them down, and looking at them on a regular basis is the best place to begin investing that effort.
2. Writing things down is an extremely effective way to get elusive images and ideas out of your mind and into the real world. Once you’ve done that, it becomes much easier for you to control, shape and use them.
3. Success is a process, not a destination. Until the game’s officially over (and you get that big promotion to the other side of existence), there’s no limit to the amount of increase available to you and, because so, there’s no limit to the ways in which you can succeed.
Now, in the next chapter we’re going to talk about one of the most effective ways to access the tremendous power of both your conscious and your subconscious mind. From entrepreneurs to professional athletes, movie stars to world leaders, nearly all would agree that visualization plays a huge role in achievement.
Chapter 3: Visualization
The creation of what we want, or what we don’t want for that matter, begins with how we direct our minds. Everything that we hope to eventually create with our hands, we first have to create with our thoughts.
There’s a book called The Science of Getting Rich and it was one of the first books I ever came across that went fairly deep into the truth of that concept. The author actually called it one of the fundamental laws of the universe. He called it the “Law of perpetual transmutation.”
Now I’d already seen this law in action, so he didn’t have to convince me that it was real or that it actually worked. I didn’t have a name for it, I just considered it the power of intense belief or visualization. But, if you’re unfamiliar with the concept, the law of perpetual transmutation goes something like this:
Just as the law of gravity pulls things toward the earth, the law of transmutation pulls what we create in our minds out of our minds and into existence. The more clearly we draw the vision, and the more intensely we focus on it, the heavier that vision becomes; the harder it is for it to escape the gravity of transmutation.
Now this sounds a little crazy to some, but if you look through history there’s a lot of evidence to support the existence of this force. How many things that we now take for granted would have seemed completely insane before somebody proved they were possible?
Try to imagine if 200 years ago I said: You’re going to go stand in New York, and I’m going to stand in Ohio, and using no more volume than a whisper we’re going to be able to talk to each other in a private conversation just as if we were standing two feet apart. If I said it with a straight face, you’d probably have thought I needed medication. And the more I explained to you how I was going to magically project my voice through the air into your ear, the more crazy you would have thought I was.
Or maybe I’d tell you about how I was going to look through a special device and whatever I saw, I could project that image from Ohio to China so the Chinese could watch along with me. …next thing you know, I’d be talking about a flying machine, right?
All through history, even the most ambitious creations of the human mind, once considered completely absurd, have been pulled from the mind of their creator into physical form. As long as the vision has remained clear in the mind of at least one person, then progress towards the realization of that vision has remained inevitable. This doesn’t mean something can’t be stopped from happening once it takes mental form, it simply means that before it can be stopped, the clarity of the vision and the certainty associated with it has to be forgotten.
Now, as I said earlier, I’d already witnessed the effect of this law in my own life. I didn’t come up with something as cool as the telephone or the television, but, regardless, the impact on my life was huge.
Consider the following just a small example of how far a clear vision and a commitment to that vision can take a person. Rest assured whatever the distance is between where you are now and where you’d eventually like to be, chances are you’re already far ahead of where I was when I first started visualizing a better life for myself.
I began my life from what many would consider a disadvantaged position. My father left before I was born, my mother had a drinking problem, I had a lot of bad influences, etc. Now, I don’t want to harp on it too much, but just to give you a little background, I grew up probably a little faster than I should’ve and part of my “growing-up-too-fast” mistakes involved drugs which I began using at the age of 10. And by the time I was 14, I’d become the poster child for everything “bad” a person could choose to do with their life.
I was emotionally and spiritually weak. I was unhealthy physically, I was unhealthy intellectually, I certainly was unhealthy morally. I’d learned that lying or stealing to get what you wanted was just fine. I’d pick fights with people just for fun – no one I actually thought could beat me, of course. If I thought they could beat me I’d back down in a second…cowardly, to say the least.
When it comes right down to it, I had no self-respect and I hadn’t earned any, and as a result of all that I started to realize that I hated who I was. But I just kept trying to run from it. I kept trying to make what clearly wasn’t working, work. But the beauty of life is it just won’t let you get away with that. Sure, you can keep doing the exact same thing over and over again, but don’t hold your breath for a different result.
Finally one night, a night I remember very clearly, I gave up. Somehow I stumbled across the realization that it wasn’t failure for me to admit that I’d taken the wrong approach to my life, instead it was failure for me not to admit that. And with that small flash of honesty came another realization: I had literally been throwing away my life. So right then and there, I started constructing a vision in my mind of what my life would be like if I just went as far in the right direction as I’d chosen to go in the wrong direction. For probably a couple hours, I built in my mind the antithesis of who I was and I studied how different everything would be if I simply chose to become that person. It started with just facing all the lies…getting rid of all the weakness that separated who I was from who I wanted to become.
Using that clear intense vision as a guide, I was able over the years to systematically eliminate one by one all the beliefs and behaviors that stood in my way, while adding replacements that increased my ability to make what I’d seen a reality.
Now if you want to talk about a leap of faith, try to imagine that when I started this process I had no personal references that I could get any of it done. I was a real mess and I’d never so much as heard of another person who’d done what I wanted to do. As far as what I had to draw on, it pretty much amounted to years of irrefutable evidence that I was an idiot. I’d spent a great deal of time getting mixed up in things that weren’t easy to get out of, and if I was ever faced with a tough challenge, I’d proven over and over again that I was going to look for the easy way out. I mean, that was clear.
But again, the one thing I did have, apparently the only thing I needed, was that unforgettable image that had been burned into my mind. Once I’d created that image, any attempts to act in a way that undermined it hurt me. It became clear that avoiding my responsibility to make that image real would not only cause me pain, but it would cause me more pain than facing whatever challenge stood in my way. Keeping that vision clear in my mind helped me transform my entire life. It helped me do things that people told me were impossible to do.
Again, it wasn’t the same as those who said the concept of a telephone or a television was impossible, but it was “impossible” nonetheless.
Go back 20 years and tell somebody you’re just going to stop drinking and doing drugs. They’re going to laugh at you. They’re going to tell you you’re in denial if you think that can be done. And then they’re going to tell you that you suffer from a disease and your only choice is to accept that you’re powerless and join a support group; and plan on spending the rest of your days in recovery. Now, fortunately, that belief is no longer as widely accepted as it once was, but that’s only because there’s lots of people who’ve proven otherwise. But at the time, that was it. I mean that was the theory. That was pretty much your only option.
So anyway, hopefully this example draws a fairly clear picture of how useful this law of transmutation can be. I know I didn’t have to learn its value more than once. I’ve used it over and over for things both big and small. And, to say the least, I’m extremely happy with the results.
Assuming most of you didn’t start out using drugs at the age of 9 and never got into the other destructive things that I did, I’m going to share one more example that maybe you’ll be able to take a little bit more from. Maybe it’ll be a little bit easier for you to relate to.
The most recent “big vision” I created for myself began about 6 years ago.
I decided once and for all that it was time for me to get serious about my writing career. I’d known for as long as I could remember that I had to be a writer. It was just something that was in me. No matter what was going on in my life, writing had always been a mandatory part of my life. So no more talking about it, I’d put it off long enough, it was time to get started.
So in my mind, I began to visualize what I truly wanted. First, I wanted to be able to write and think without any distractions whatsoever. This covered everything from the day-to-day distraction of having to go out and perform a normal 9-5 job, to having bills, to the distraction of trying to write whatever a publisher might consider worth publishing. And it didn’t take me too long to realize that I actually had a two-part goal. The first thing I had to do (if I really wanted to have as much freedom as possible), was create wealth.
The idea was simple. If I was wealthy, I could eliminate my bills, set a more flexible schedule, keep my mind focused on the things I needed to keep it focused on, but most importantly I could write whatever I wanted because if nobody else would publish it, that was fine. I could just publish it myself.
So, it looked like I had it all figured out. The goal I wrote down was this: I was going to start a business, earn my first million dollars, and just for fun (to help keep me focused), I wasn’t going to let myself get a haircut until that first million dollars in sales had been reached. Sounds reasonable…maybe. Let’s take a look at where I was when I first wrote that down and began to visualize achieving it.
I’m a 28-year-old high school dropout and I’m living in an old motel that has been converted into efficiency apartments. Now this is no ordinary 250 square foot palace mind you, it comes complete with mice. I have no credit because I’ve recently filed bankruptcy, and I don’t have any money or I wouldn’t have filed bankruptcy in the first place….don’t have a clue what kind of business I want to start and I really don’t have anything to my name. All I’ve got is a motorcycle and a job running a bar. And I’m convinced the job running the bar is going to eventually drive me completely insane so, I don’t put much value on that.
Now, I could go on and on about how many times I thought my head was going to explode on my way towards making that first million dollars, but trust me that wouldn’t be much fun, so... Suffice to say, within 3 years I had gotten a much needed haircut and within 5 years I’d structured my business in such a way that I no longer had to spend more than 8 hours a month tending to it.
As far as financial distractions go, there weren’t any. I was debt free (including the beautiful home I once had only dreamed of), and with regard to income, I was now making more money working an hour from my home than I used to earn working a full week running the bar.
A theory on why it works:
There are many theories about how (and why) the process of visualization works. Some call it divine intervention, others call it destiny, some even call it magic and maybe it’s all of those, but as far as I’m concerned there’s something a little bit more basic at work here and it’s called cause and effect.
By creating the image of what you want in your mind, you set into motion a cause. The effect is: your mind immediately begins the process of figuring out how to make that image real.
The more clearly you’ve drawn the image and the more often you focus on it with intensity, the more your subconscious mind works on solving the question of how. To simplify this: All change in our lives begins with action, and the first action, the most important action, begins in our mind. The desired result has got to begin there.
We can all think of examples where this happens. We start thinking about a movie we want to see and before you know it we’re watching that movie. We see a style of shoes that we like and eventually, we end up walking around in those shoes. A new TV, a new car, a new career; these ideas get into our minds and as long as we visit them on a regular basis, it’s just a matter of time before we get them out of our head and into our hands.
So if we know the process works on the small things, that it keeps us moving towards them, why not use it on the bigger things too? Why not get honest and clear about what we really want in life? Draw the vision as vividly as we can. Spend time living it, as if it were real, right this minute! By doing so, we give our mind the reference it needs to help us recreate exactly what we’re looking at. And step-by-step, piece-by-piece, that’s exactly what our mind will help us do.
Chapter 4: Focus
Ok, we’re going to move on now to what is quite literally the most important part of this program. I wouldn’t recommend forgetting everything else that we talked about, but if you wanted to choose just one concept to remember, this would be it. The concept is: Focus.
Where you put your focus determines everything that’s important in your life. It determines how you feel, it determines what you think, it determines what your beliefs are, and the reasons why you have those beliefs, and those things influence the actions you decide to take.
Look, when it comes right down to it, you can have a head full of good ideas, clear visions and empowering beliefs, but they just can’t do you any good if you don’t use them. And the only way for you to use, or access those mental assets is for you to focus on them. The same is true for mental liabilities. When you focus on something, you put your power into that thing. So, if we want to continue increasing the quality of our life, we’ve got to stay focused on the things that can help us do that…and of course, spend less time focusing on things that get in our way.
This is all simple enough to understand. But it’s not easy to do. We’re constantly being distracted. And by distracted I mean: things that have no productive value whatsoever are constantly interrupting our minds, disturbing our focus and sending us off in directions that are just plain wasteful; at least wasteful for anyone who has a specific destination in mind. If you just want to bounce around on the waves of life and see where you end up, that’s fine. But if you actually have goals, or dreams and aspirations, you’ve got to stay focused. It’s just that simple.
And not to harp on setting goals, but here again we’ve got a great reason for writing things down. It just makes everything that much easier. Let’s put it this way: It makes us take the goal more seriously when we write it down, it creates a clearer vision in our mind, and it certainly elicits more of a commitment from us, but most importantly (this is where it makes it easier), it gives us the exact thing to return our focus to when we get distracted.
Now clearly there are tons of things that can shift our focus away from a productive use of our mind. We’d be here forever if I tried to cover even half of them. So instead, I’m just going to touch on a few that most people probably don’t even notice.
First on the list is Television. More often than not, television is a needless distraction. Yes, on rare occasion it can be a resource for useful information, but for the most part its primary role in our lives is mindless entertainment. I take that back. Its primary role is to sell you something that you may or may not need and it does that by entertaining you in between commercials.
I know we need to “entertain” ourselves a little every now and then, but the problem is; if we’re spending twice as much time focusing on entertaining ourselves than we are on expanding our minds or looking for ways around the challenges we face, we’re far less likely to gain what we need to overcome those challenges.
Think about this: During their lifetime, the average American will spend over 90,000 hours watching a television. If you turned those hours into normal workweeks, it would equal 45 years of full time employment. 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, for 45 years.
What if we set just a little bit of that time aside for something else? Imagine how much you could accomplish just focusing 10 hours a week for one year on a worthy goal. What could you get done in 5 years?
Instant gratification is not all bad, but neither is investing a little bit more time into things that actually build in value as time passes instead of just those things that lose value as soon as they’re consumed. And keep in mind, you can always tape your favorite TV shows. That gives you a chance to do something productive while the show is taping, and it also gives you the ability to fast forward through the commercials. Over the course of a month, that could easily add up to 20 hours worth of commercials that you didn’t have to watch.
OK, so TV is a pretty common distraction that we have at home. How about a common workplace distraction? Something that takes place, eats up your time, but doesn’t really achieve anything worthwhile. I’m sure there’s plenty of things that come to mind, but the first one I think of is Gossip.
What a horrible waste of time this is. Of all the things we could focus on that would actually help us improve who we are, or improve what’s “right” about us, we instead choose the easier task of pointing out what’s wrong with somebody else.
Well let’s do the math:
Joe number 1 spends two hours a day talking bad about other people, which probably means he’s spending about four hours a day thinking angry and defensive thoughts about them.
Joe number 2 makes a conscious effort not to waste any time doing this. He realizes that focusing on everybody else is far less productive than focusing on what he needs to get done.
Right off the bat you can see that Joe number 2 has a huge advantage. He’s got an extra four hours a day and he isn’t carrying around all the defensive, angry, paranoid nonsense that goes along with being a person who constantly gossips. And if it’s a huge advantage over the course of just one day, what does that add up to over the years? More than we can probably imagine.
Ok, one more that definitely affects most of us at some point in our lives: aggravation. We’ve all been in situations where something that takes about 10 seconds to happen ends up distracting us for hours or even days on end. You get cut off on the way to work, or you spill some coffee on your shirt. …Maybe you’re out in the yard having a good time and you step in something that you wish you hadn’t. The list of potentially aggravating distractions is limitless.
The point is, the aggravation itself somehow “glues” our mind to the event. So instead of just being something that’s over and done with, it goes on, and on, and on in our brains; the same scene playing over and over again in our mind. We focus on it, we get aggravated. We focus on it again, we get aggravated again and this goes on indefinitely which just makes everything else we need to get done that much more aggravating. So, really, what’s the big prize for not letting these things go? We waste hours of perfectly good focus and energy on a fleeting event that has little if anything to offer us.
So, just a word of advice on this one: If you find yourself focused on something aggravating (especially something that you can’t really learn anything from or use to your advantage), just ask yourself this question: How does focusing on this benefit me?
If the answer is: “It doesn’t,” then do whatever you can to move on. Put a pillow over your head and scream at the top of your lungs, write a hostile letter and burn it, go work out, take 10 deep breaths…Look, do whatever you’ve got to do. Sometimes we’re going to get mad and that’s fine. But what really matters here is, we know that there are more valuable things that we should be focused on and there is much more to gain by not giving that situation so much power over us.
To sum this all up, it’s extremely important for us to keep an eye on how we’re using our minds. To really look at how much of our time is being spent focusing on things that aren’t useful to us. When we take an honest look at this, it’s not uncommon to find huge amounts of time, energy and focus that could be better spent; spent on things that could actually increase us in some way: Mentally, physically, spiritually, creatively, financially.
Like anything that’s worth having, acquiring good “focus skills” isn’t easy, but there’s so much to gain; so much to gain from learning to recognize what’s truly useful and what isn’t that it’s well worth the effort. And before long, it becomes hard for us not to notice when we’re wasting our resources.
This isn’t about us becoming “too serious” and losing our sense of humor…becoming so focused on what we’re focused on that we forget how to relax and have some fun. It’s really the exact opposite. It’s about discovering the fun in making easier and easier strides towards what you really want in life; trading things of minimal or zero value (that used to hold you back), for things of enormous value…things that are not only more rewarding, but are actually capable of keeping you moving in the right direction.
If you remember anything from this program, remember this: Your focus determines where your power goes.
Your mind will nourish anything that you focus on whether it’s good or bad. If you feed something with your focus, it lives and grows. And if you just so happen to be feeding a weed, that weed is going to deplete the resources available for other things; those other ideas, and beliefs, and visions and ultimately actions, that are truly healthy and can bring you something worth having. Once we learn to pay attention to what we’re focused on, we move forward with less and less effort because more of our power is going into things that are actually productive. Before long, you instinctively know better than to starve something that’s good and growing, just so you can feed something else that can only deplete you.
Moving on now to the final chapter in this program on successful thinking, it’s time for us to talk about money.
Chapter 5: Money
What about Money?
Is there anything else in the world that so many people love and hate (and misunderstand), all at the same time? …Probably not.
There are a lot of misconceptions about what money is, how to get it, and how much we should be allowed to have. So hopefully this chapter is going to clear up some of those misconceptions and provide a fresh new outlook on this very important part of our lives.
Whatever problems there may be with things being “hard for us to reach” because of their cost in dollars, without money those same things would be even harder for us to get our hands on. For instance, if you chose working at a gas station for your profession (which is something I myself once did), you can find an employer who needs your services. Through that employment you can exchange what they pay you for other things. For instance you can make a car payment, you can pay your rent, you can buy food or whatever. But without that medium of money, it would be very hard to gain the same benefits from that job. I doubt anyone would have given me a place to stay, a car to drive, and food each day just for working an 8-hour shift selling gas, gum and cigarettes.
The point is, without money as a medium, it would be much harder for the people in a society to benefit from one another. That old cliché that money is the root of all evil just is not fair. Greed and deceit and lust for power over others, now that’s another story. Money is what we get in exchange for what we contribute. When people try to bypass that through force or theft, the fault lies with them, not the thing they’re trying to steal.
Now I mentioned contribution because it’s an extremely important word with regard to what we end up earning. It leads me to the next point, which really is one of the great truths of working in a free society: We decide what it is that we want to do and then the world decides what that’s worth.
As long as we have the power to shape what we contribute, then we have the power to shape what we receive in return. If we’re not happy with what the world is willing to pay us for what we’re contributing, then it’s our responsibility to either increase the value of that contribution in some way or develop the ability to do something else completely…Take some time and research other lines of work that maybe we’re interested in doing or find something that traditionally is worth more than the going rate of what we’re doing now.
But we should always remember that picking something just because it pays more is not the best idea. There are plenty of financial rewards in every profession, the key is to get good at what you’re doing, and as we already know, it’s much easier to get good at things that we truly enjoy doing.
But going back to how we earn money for just a minute. Understanding that we’re actually being rewarded for our contribution clears up the mystery of how to increase what we earn. It’s simple: increase the value of what we offer, either by further developing our talent and abilities where we are right now, or by choosing to make a different contribution all together. Sometimes it’s just a matter of “contributing” the exact same thing we’re dong right now, only to different people. People who can make more use of it and because so are willing to pay more for what we offer.
The world wants us to meet its needs, and there are so many needs to be met, there’s no reason why every person couldn’t find at least 10 or more perfect positions that they could fill; positions that interest them and provide a steady opportunity for them to grow…a place where they can easily work their way into that top 10 or even 5 percent for that chosen field. And when you get into that top percentage, you’re going to be one of those lucky people who not only enjoy their job, but also get paid very well for doing it.
And what does it mean to be “paid well?” Is there a level that you should just settle for? Is there a point where you’re just becoming greedy if you continue to want more? In a word: NO. As long as you realize you’re going to have to increase the value of what you contribute in some way, there’s nothing greedy at all about striving to increase your income. (Whether that’s emotional income or financial income or intellectual income, you name it.) As a matter of fact, the world benefits tremendously from people who want more and are willing to contribute more in order to get it.
Greed is wanting more than you’ve earned; lying, stealing cheating, or misleading other people in order to get what you want. If you’re willing to go out and earn what you want by contributing more, that isn’t greedy at all and, as a matter of fact (as I’ve already stated), the whole world benefits as a direct result of that ambition.
Still, some are going to argue that there should be limits on how much a person should be able to earn. All I have to say about that is; I guess if there’s a limit on how much you’re allowed to contribute then by all means there should be a limit on how much you earn. But if there isn’t, if you’re allowed to keep meeting the needs of the world in some way, the natural order of things, the balance of that contribution is earnings. To say there should be one without the other is ridiculous, it’s like saying there should be night without day, or there should be an up without a down. Remember, we decide what we want to do and then the people who want what we’ve got to offer decide what it’s worth.
Let’s take the professional athlete for instance. When I used to run a bar, uhh, if I had a dollar for every time I heard somebody complaining about how much money a professional athlete made, my tip jar would of, uh, overflowed onto the floor. You know, you’d hear them; “5 million a year for playing baseball, that’s insane!”
Well, they say that because they don’t have a good understanding of how earning money actually works. They think to themselves; “you know, I bust my butt 60 hours a week and that job he’s doing is easy, there’s no way he should make a 100 times more than me.”
Well, do yourself a favor and get it out of your head that the only way for you to make more money is to work harder or longer. Nothing could be further from the truth. It all boils down to what your contribution is worth to the person or persons who are paying you for it.
Don’t let yourself get caught in that trap of thinking if you want to double what you’re making, then you’re going to have to work twice as many hours to do it. Instead, try thinking about how you could earn what you earn now in half as much time. That’s when you really open the door to huge increases in what you earn. Or, if you’d rather, that’s when you open the door to huge increases in your leisure time.
But back to our $5 million dollar baseball player, the only reason he’s being paid that is because the person who’s paying him that, the owner, believes that the player is going to help deliver him a winning season.
Now, knowing that a winning season is literally worth hundreds of millions of dollars, don’t you think it’s worth it to the guy signing the check (the owner), to get that player on board? Of course it is. That player is bringing something to the table that the owner is eager to purchase. And the same rule applies when you provide a product or service to a large group of people (instead of just getting one big check from a single source.) The people buying that particular product in mass are doing so because they want it. They’d rather have the product than the dollars it cost them to buy it.
If you write a book and 1000 people buy it for $20 a copy, you’re going to generate $20,000. If you write a book that 10 million people buy, you generate $200 Million dollars. Obviously there’s a huge difference in how much the person who wrote the book earned, but there’s no difference to the consumer. It has no effect on what the next guy is going to get for his $20. In the end, the total receipts add up to what the world (1 person at a time) was willing to pay for that particular contribution. The concept of people paying what it’s worth to them remains. …As we become more, we contribute more. As that happens, we position ourselves to earn more. It’s a natural cycle of growth, and it begins with us.
Many have been led to believe that earning money is a purely selfish exercise. But hopefully, it’s easy enough to see that this is not the case. As a matter of fact, an argument could be made that the opposite is true. Those who lawfully acquire money do so by contribution, they do so by meeting the needs of other people. While those who earn nothing, contribute nothing and only tend to drain the resources of those around them.
In this light, we can shift our focus to where it belongs. You’ve heard the word over 20 times already, but just in case you missed it, the word is: contribution. If we focus on increasing the value of our contribution (by constantly improving ourselves and what we have to offer), then the rewards will take care of themselves.
Yes, of course there are people who get rich by exploiting others. Yes, there are questionable corporations and governments that might not be acting in the best interests of people. But that’s not who you are, and that’s not what you’re looking to do.
When you improve the quality of your life, it’s going to happen because you committed yourself to continually improving the quality of your contribution. And in the end, because of that choice, both you and the world will become richer. Both you and the world will benefit because you made the decision to do that.
The tools we’ve discussed in this program have literally helped millions of people achieve the exact life that they wanted. And the good news is, they’ll do the same thing for you if you simply choose to pick them up and put them to use. By choosing to do that, you immediately become one of the few people in this world who can fully expect to get more of what they want out of life and less of what they don’t.
So let’s take a minute now and go over these tools of successful thinking one more time:
Number 1: Choose a healthy, productive attitude; an attitude that’s going to open doors for you, make your life more worth living and make it easier for you to pull some kind of profit out of almost anything that you encounter.
Number 2: Learn to be grateful. Learn to recognize the value of what you already have and use the value of those assets to help you create more.
Number 3: Set goals, write them down, and look at them often. Remember, they’re not cast in stone, but until you reach the goal, or decide to change it, it’s important to keep that goal fresh in your mind.
Number 4: Stop thinking of success as a “finish line.” Learn to see it for what it really is: an ongoing process. Success is something that you can gather more of each and every day of your life in every direction imaginable.
Number 5: Use visualization to reinforce your goals. Create the exact image of what you want clearly in your mind. See it, hear it, feel it, as if it were real right now. Give your mind the most vivid reference you can so it can help you recreate that image one piece at a time.
Number 6: Probably the most important: Learn to stay focused. Do Not allow yourself to get thrown of course by common, useless distractions. Make a habit of paying attention to what you’re thinking about. Make a habit of putting more of your mind into things that are productive, and less of your mind into things that aren’t.
And number 7: Never stop looking for ways to improve who you are and what you have to contribute. The better you can meet the needs of this world, the more the world will be willing to meet your needs.
These are the primary elements of successful thinking; the very tools that successful people have been using and have proven effective over and over again.
So if you didn’t know, now you know. And if you knew, but forgot, consider yourself reminded. We all need reminding sometimes but once that’s done, it’s back to the business at hand: creating the rest of your life…and that process begins right now.
Footnote 1: Originally, I thought that I first got high in 4th grade before my 10th birthday. That was stated in the original version of this document. After thinking more deeply about it, I can't be 100% sure that I was still 9, but I can be sure that I was no older than 10, so I'm going to use that number from here forward.. --> Return