“You can do it if you believe you can.”
– Napoleon Hill
Recently I have begun reading a book titled The Law of Success by Napoleon Hill. It is an excellent read, as it is known as a classic book in the fields of business, economics and psychology. Napoleon Hill wrote this book based upon his interviews with over one hundred American millionaires across nearly twenty years. When this book was first published in 1925, it was released as a limited edition of one hundred twenty copies, and was given to America’s most successful individuals. For awhile, this book wasn’t available in print because many influential people were threatened by the secrets revealed in this book.
I want to write a series of posts on my blog based on this book. After all, we learn best if we write about and explain to others what we have learned. So for those of you who are interested, I invite you to join me on my journey of learning more about the principles of the Law of Success and see how these principles can be applied to achieve success in your life and in mine.
Law of Success: Principle #1: A Definite Chief Aim.
Many people drift aimlessly through their lives with no particular purpose. They repeat the same actions every day of their lives. They accept their fate for what it is. They let things happen by chance. They give up the moment they encounter obstacles. They see temporary defeats as failures. In sum, they blame their inability to achieve success on others, or on their challenges, adversities or perceived lack of opportunities…
Let me share with you an example of not having a Definite Chief Aim. While studying in university, I knew of a man that I’ll call John. John changed his career goals every few months. His career possibilities ranged from clinical psychologist, pianist, statistician, book keeper, holistic nutritionist, linguist, to name a few. John was very smart. His marks in almost all of the courses he took ranged in the 80th or 90th percentile. He was very articulate. So much so that whatever new career path he decided to pursue, he could convince others, myself included, that it was the best career choice for him. Conversely, a few months after, he could also convince you that a particular career choice wasn’t the right one for him for many reasons.
In explaining his inability to follow through with his various career goals, John attributed it to his mental health issues, his physical aches and pains, his poverty and his emotionally unavailable mother. Yet he received psychological support in the form of ongoing counselling free of charge throughout his study in university and after his degree completion. His mother, even though she might not be the most emotionally affectionate and available person, nevertheless has helped John in many ways. Every time John moved to a different place, which happened quite often, his mother was there to help him move all of his heavy furniture. When John wanted to take an online course, her mother loaned him the money. The last time I talked to him, John had to move back to live with his mother. Yet, he absolutely resented his mother for various reasons.
Eventually I realized that our approaches and attitudes in life were just too different. By blaming his lack of success on external factors, John failed to take any personal responsibility. I believe that many of us struggle today because of our past traumas and current challenges. Yet equally important, I believe that we can rise above those adversities to be what we want to be, do what we want to do. And at best, we can give back to our society and contribute to others’ lives.
“If you can run a losing race without blaming your loss on someone else, you have bright prospect of success further down the road on your life.
– Napoleon Hill
According to Napoleon Hill, there are some important steps in being able to achieve your Definite Chief Aim. These steps are:
- Have a burning desire to fulfill a particular dream/vision.
- Crystallize that burning desire into some clear plan to work towards your dream.
- Take actions to work towards your dream.
“Success travels in the company of very hard work. There is no trick, no easy way.”
– John Wooden
- A burning desire: Ask yourself, what am I really really passionate about? Or what do I really want to get in life? Or, what do I want to become? In other words, what is your Definite Chief Aim without infringing on the rights of others?
Many of us think we want something based on social pressures, parental expectation and so forth. Let your burning desire be truly yours and not anyone else’s.
I remember growing up, my family had different ideas about what I should become as a person who is blind — a pianist, a nun, an information specialist… At some point, I thought I would pursue my education in the field of business as many other Asians did.
Eventually I realized I have a burning desire to help others emotionally, to make a difference in their lives. I wanted to be able to do something very useful with my education. Unfortunately many individuals who are blind in particular and who have disabilities in general are unemployed, even though they might be educated. So I vowed to myself that my education will have a positive impact on my life and the lives of others.
As a parent, avoid telling your children what they should do and who they should become, even if you think it’s good for them. Let your children discover their passions or their burning desires by themselves. Achievements that are heavily influenced by others such as parents’ expectations, suggestions, recommendations and so forth cannot go too far or last too long. Even if such goals can be achieved, they still cannot reach their highest potential. And at worst, it can result in depression, dissatisfaction, emptiness and more.
2. Crystallizing your burning desire into plans. Make a plan for your dream. You might not be able to make a detailed plan initially. But at least write down an outline of your plan. It’s important to have a clear plan to help you achieve what you want. It’s also equally important to be flexible so that you can respond to inevitable changes and setbacks while working towards your dream.
In order to make a difference in others’ lives, I decided to become a therapist. I realized that although I might not be as good helping others with their physical needs, I would be good at helping others with their emotional needs. I also loved the idea of being able to find out what’s in another person’s mind in order to help him/her.
While making plans, pay attention to your negative self-talks, self-doubts and self-limiting beliefs. You might catch yourself thinking, “I can’t do that!”, or, “That’s impossible!”. We can be very good at talking ourselves out of something. I used to tell myself, “But my English is not good,” or, “But I can’t see other people’s body language,” and so on. However I reminded myself that my English would improve over time, and that I would find other ways to learn about people’s emotional struggles without looking at them.
At first, your goal may seem very overwhelming to you. It’s like you standing at the bottom of a mountain, looking up and seeing how impossible it is to walk to the top. Hence in formulating your plan, you may be overwhelmed by the number of steps required to achieve your goal.
For example, to become a therapist, I knew I had to improve my English, complete a B.A. degree in psychology, get accepted into a graduate school, which can be extremely competitive, complete a Master’s degree in counselling and then finally convince my future employer to hire me as a therapist who is blind. All of this seemed very overwhelming to me initially. However, I reminded myself to take one step at a time. I knew that as I take each step, I will learn the skills and gain the resources to proceed to the next step. I had faith that I would get there somehow one day, although there were times I didn’t know exactly how I would get there.
Remember, as you take each step towards your dream, you will gain sufficient skills and resources that will help you to take your future steps. As a baby, we didn’t start out with the ability to run. We had to learn to crawl on the floor. Next, we managed to stand up trailing along furniture. Then we learned to walk with our hands being held by our parents. After awhile, we then were able to walk freely without support. Finally, we gained the ability to run.
AUTOSUGGESTION: One of the key principles of success. According to Napoleon Hill, AUTOSUGGESTIONS are suggestions that you repeatedly make to yourself. The ability to impress your Definite Chief Aim upon your subconscious mind, so much so that it starts to guide your actions and choices and it attracts you to people who can directly or indirectly help you work towards your dream.
AUTOSUGGESTION can work for you or work against you. You either believe you can, or believe you can’t. And either way, you are right. For example, I used to believe that people thought I was a helpless and dependent blind person. My belief must have been quite strong in that it affected how I acted around others — speaking softly and without confidence, engaging in a closed body posture, bending my head downward, and so forth. I found myself feeling more and more disempowered in most social settings.
As I’ve become more confident and comfortable with who I am and begun to believe in my own capabilities, I now find myself much more effective and happy in different social settings. I express myself freely. I smile easily. I talk to people with ease and listen to them. Now, I rarely feel disempowered in social settings. I feel respected and liked by others, even by people I barely know.
Once you have a Definite Chief Aim, tell yourself daily, over and over again, that you can do it. Write it down on a card and stick it onto your fridge. For example, “I will bring out the best in my spouse every day.”
3. Taking actions: The difference between successfully achieving a dream versus merely wishing is ACTION. Take appropriate steps towards your Definite Chief Aim. The key is continuous, unyielding and persistent efforts. Don’t give up, despite how discouraging things can be at times. Look at obstacles, setbacks and challenges as temporary defeats, not as failures. If you haven’t been successful with the conventional ways or methods that you have used to achieve your dream, be open to unconventional ways. Remember there are different paths to one destiny. Try new paths. Try new methods. Approach your dream from a different perspective or a different angle. Whatever you do, don’t give up, even when yourself and others tell you to do so.
While pursuing my goal of becoming a therapist, I’ve encountered many setbacks and challenges. First, my English wasn’t good enough to go to university right after high school. So I resigned to study at college first to improve my English. Then when I first applied to university, I got rejected because my grade point average was not high enough. So I waited one semester while working on improving my marks. The second time I applied, I got accepted into McMaster University.
While studying my B.A., I had to take courses in biology, neuropsychology, statistics and calculus, all of which were very visual. A disability advisor suggested that perhaps I should change my goal to being a social worker rather than a therapist. Initially I entertained the idea. But then I realized it didn’t ring true for me. So I disregarded his suggestion and continued with my plan.
There were other discouraging factors when I was in university. Textbooks were frequently made available to me one month after each semester started, which made it very difficult for me to catch up. I had to take the bus to school when it was as cold as minus 20 degree Celsius outside. Sometimes while waiting for the bus in the snow, my guide dog would get snowed on and would look like a snowman. I had to write tests and exams differently from my sighted peers. I had to write in a special room using a computer. Sometimes I needed extra time to complete my exams. Some professors thought that was unfair to my other classmates. More often than not, professors didn’t have a clue how to teach blind students effectively. So rather than taking four years to finish a B.A., it took me six years.
But what was most discouraging were comments made by other people. Some of my relatives thought what was the point of studying so long when I would just end up being unemployed, as many people with disabilities are. Some of them even joked saying that I seemed to be in school forever! A few people shared with me about someone they knew who pursued psychology for years and still had a hard time being gainfully employed. Others thought that psychology was not a practical degree.
Whenever I heard these comments, I told myself I was pursuing this degree out of my true passion. I was doing this just for myself and not to please anyone or make sense for anyone else. What really helped was the support that I got from my immediate family and close friends and their belief in me.
Surround yourself with people who believe in you. Avoid those who are critical, skeptical or just plain rude. If you can’t avoid them, at least don’t take what they say to heart.
One of the biggest blows for me happened when I was doing my Master’s degree. I had to role-play being a counsellor to my classmates while being videotaped. For various reasons, I was terrible playing the role of a counsellor. One untactful professor told me after watching one of my videos, “If I were your client, I wouldn’t come back to see you.”
I remember feeling as if my dream was collapsing on me. I cried, something which I don’t often do. And for the first time, I started to truly doubt my ability to realise my dream of becoming a therapist. I thought that this was just a dream and not a reality. I felt sick thinking that my hard work during the last eight years or so might result in nothing. I hated the idea of being a failure — a failure to others, but more importantly, a failure to myself.
However another kind professor comforted me and gave me encouragement when I needed it most. She said that she believed I will become an excellent therapist one day. She reminded me that those who encounter challenges at first tend to come out the strongest in the end, if they don’t give up.
As Winston Churchill stated, “A kite rises highest against the wind, not with it.” If I didn’t encounter those challenges or setbacks, I wouldn’t have realized how strong my burning desire to become a therapist was. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to ask myself again and again, “Why do I really want to become a therapist?” and, “What can I do to be the best therapist possible despite my lack of sight?”
Ask yourself today, What do I want to achieve in life? Then do something about it, even if you have to take one small step a day. Go and live your dream, don’t just dream it!
“Do not tell the world what you can do. Show it.”
– Napoleon Hill
I will be showing more in the next post by writing about another Napoleon Hill’s principle of the Law of Success – Self-Confidence.