The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Four Basics, again

Let's look again at the four major principles of "Think And Grow Rich":

1) A definite purpose backed by a burning desire for its fulfillment.

2) A definite plan expressed in continuous action

3) A mind closed tightly against all negative and discouraging influences, including negative input from friends, family, and acquaintances.

4)A friendly alliance with one or more persons who will encourage one to follow through with both plan and purpose.

And then look at the comments about them, I think that some useful conclusions can be reached.

1)Definite purpose backed by a burning desire for its fulfillment. I think this one is a no-brainer. If you aren't clear on what you want, most people will simply revert to the "I don't like what I've got" position. But that leaves billions of possibilities for action, far too much stuff for your unconscious mind to chart a path to happiness.

2)A definite plan expressed in continuous action. This means that you know what you must do EVERY DAY to move toward your goal. This can certainly be refined, to include constant modeling of those more successful than yourself, and the adoption of a flexible attitude, constantly twisting and turning, zigging and zagging as you refine your "reality map" and close in on your target.

3) A mind closed tightly against all negative and discouraging influences, including negative input from friends, family, and acquaintances. This sounds cold and cruel. In truth, most successful people WILL get accused of being heartless at times, because they won't sway from their path just because the people around them are frightened or unconvinced of the value of your goal--UNLESS THEY ARE MEMBERS OF YOUR MASTERMIND GROUP. This is a real concern, and there are several things I want to address in connection with it.

a) I've seen family and friends sabotage diets, businesses, relationships. If their input is not healthy, is not positive, you will allow them to drag you down...and it will ultimately poison your relationship with blame: "I gave up my dreams for you!" Ultimately, friends, you are going in the ground by yourself, and are responsible for your own soul.

b) If you grow as a person, and can move toward your goals while being loving of those around you, their fears will eventually subside...and you will find that you have created room for THEM to grow...and they often will.

c) The primary "Mastermind" in TAGR is a married couple. Hill loves the idea of a man and woman standing together against the world, and I do think this is the basic unit. I see no reason that this can't apply to a gay couple. Friendships and business partnerships just don't have that "Til Death Do Us Part" energy, that sense that we are going for it...together. If you chose a partner who cannot support you in your dreams, this says something tremendously important about your self image. What if you were unhealthy when you ENTERED the relationship, but have since improved? Then I would say to forcefully but lovingly, without judgement, move toward your goals. Your partner might freak out a bit because the ordinary barriers to stop your progress aren't working any more.

This is a little like Intermittent Fasting and exercising simultaneously. You have just hit the switch on your metabolism--all of your excuses about time and genetics will go right out the window, and you will be put face to face with the lies you've used to keep yourself from growing. People afraid to balance their checkbook will avoid financial planning sessions. And people afraid of facing their personal demons will avoid therapy or meditation.

If two alcoholics marry and one achieves sobriety, you had best believe her partner will test her, will push and criticise. Will encourage "just one drink", suggest that holidays are special times, will drink in front of her, or invite her to gatherings where alcohol is served. But under all of that, he is praying that she is strong enough to actually be a rock.

And what if he isn't? What if he actually wants to drag her down and destroy her? If your goals are good, and moral, and healthy...and your partner stands in the way? Frankly, it may be time to leave.

4)A friendly alliance with one or more persons who will encourage one to follow through with both plan and purpose. This is the Mastermind, and it is critical. A husband or wife, a business partner, a writing partner, two artists or businesspeople who meet weekly to discuss their plans...again and again, hundreds of times, Hill found this pattern. The Hero's Journey stresses the gathering of allies.

This pattern IS single-minded. It will, without a doubt, separate you from the pack, if that pack is not equally ambitious. But the trick is that you won't really have to walk alone. Not only is there a more successful "pack" waiting for you, but even the average person is dying to see if there isn't SOMEONE who can succeed without becoming an asshole or destroying themselves.

My solution, obviously, has been to place balance at the core of my life. That means that I can't have a goal that destroys my family or body or career. I set that up to begin with. And I suggest that for you as well. To set up goals which reinforce each other. And my primary Mastermind partner is Tananarive. We may bump heads at times but we have similar goals in all three arenas, and skills that both overlap and complement.

The truth in Think And Grow Rich can't quite be expressed in language--no real deep truth can. But other writers plowing the same philosophical field have said things similar to "We become what we think about" or "Where attention goes, energy flows, and results show" or "We are what we do".

These four principles speak to this. ANYONE who is having financial problems right now should look at them. I promise you: I've never met a single person who was struggling with money who had even three of these four in place in their lives. It doesn't take a lot of time, or energy, or seed money. But it does require your willingness to actually love yourself deeply enough to make of your life that which is ultimately valuable: the revelation of your true self, expressed in loving family, physical vibrancy, and abundant resources.

11 comments:

Marty S said...

The position that you might have to sacrifice your marriage for your "burning desire" assumes one has and can have only one such goal or desire in life. I don't know if the book actually states that, but it is not something, I accept. I had two burning desires. Number one was staying married to my wife for the rest of my life. Number two was retiring as early as possible. I am still married at age 64 and I retired at age 55, which is relatively early. So I would say I was reasonably successful in my goals. We are less secure financially in our retirement than we would like to be and if I had been single-minded enough, I might have retired earlier and have more money, but the trade-off of perhaps having lost my wife or having spent less time with my kids, would not have been worth it and I would be a less happy man.

Scott said...

"A mind closed tightly against all negative and discouraging influences, including negative input from friends, family, and acquaintances. This sounds cold and cruel."

Also stupid, narrow, blindered... negative input isn't necessarily wrong; as Scott Adams says, everyone is an idiot at least some of the time, could be me not them, right?

Feedback, as they say, is the breakfast of champions; advocating a closed mind is a Bad Idea.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

The position that you might have to sacrifice your marriage for your "burning desire" assumes one has and can have only one such goal or desire in life.

I think it depends on the nature of the "burning desire." If indeed the couple were both alcoholics when they married, and staying married is blocking the burning desire of one to finally get well and sober, that's an entirely different thing from the situation if one person is gainfully employed at a job he or she does well and at least somewhat likes, and the responsibility to support spouse and kids interferes with the desire to gamble on a riskier career. There might be some occasions when you do have to sacrifice a bad marriage, but not ones where you get to walk away from your responsibilities (especially those involving kids). When it comes to that kind of choice, you have to do a balancing act, and use careful judgment as to which risks are worth taking, and which would be asking too much of your family.

As for negative input from family in general, I think we've all had relatives whose negative input we had to learn to disregard, and hopefully most of us have others whose negative input is, maybe occasionally wrong, but often enough constructive to be worth listening to.

Mark Jones said...

Also stupid, narrow, blindered...

"You'll never succeed, why are you wasting your time at this?" is negative input. What value is there in listening to this?

"I think you're going about this all wrong, and here's why" is a criticism, but it's not negative. It might be valid, it might not. But you can listen and decide whether or not to accept it.

You can armor yourself against the former without ignoring the latter.

Scott said...

"You'll never succeed, why are you wasting your time at this?" is negative input. What value is there in listening to this?

Well, they could be right; if you are utterly dedicated to something futile (or bad for you, or unbalanced, or unsuited to your talents, or...) then negative feedback is good for you, right? As could be their list of reasons why you won't succeed and their list of reasons why it's a waste of time; even if they're exaggerating the flaws in your goal and/or approach they could still have useful points, right? Closing your mind to them is a bad idea and bad advice.

Steven Barnes said...

Marty--
Nowhere in the book does it say you can have "only one burning desire". Just that motivation must rise to the level of a "burning desire" to maximize chance for accomplishment. And clearly, there is no need for the goal of success to damage family--most of the people interviewed for the book were married. By far. But there IS a mythology promoting the idea that you have to sacrifice one for the other,and that needs to be uprooted.

Steven Barnes said...

Having a closed mind against "negative and discouraging" influences is vital, and every successful person I know has this quality...to greater or lesser degrees. Someone pointing out how you can do something better is not a negative influence. Someone saying you don't deserve it, who do you think you are, "if that was a good idea someone else would have thought of it", no one of your group/class/age has ever done it, etc.--is negativity. "Thick Face, Black Heart" is a Chinese expression dealing with this. You have to live far enough back inside yourself to prevent the criticisms of those who would intimidate you from hurting your heart. Again, every successful person I've ever known is brilliant at protecting themselves from this stuff--or they self-destruct. I think "stupid, narrow, blindered" just doesn't come close to describing these people--in fact I would say they tend to be the opposite: smart, clear-eyed, and perceptive

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

" I had two burning desires. Number one was staying married to my wife for the rest of my life. "

I prefaced my burning ambition spiel by stressing that, were the marriage healthy, your partner would work with you to realize your goal. A healthy relationship should foster the fullest possible maturation of the abilities of both partners. If the relationship retards such growth instead, perhaps it's best discarded. Instead of "my life's ambition or my marriage", the sentiment should be: "I and my partner ardently embracing our ambitions as inseparable components of those we love, and the both of us fighting zealously together to defeat all obstacles that dare stand in our way".

Marty S said...

Some conflicts between your relationship and your goals of have nothing to do with fostering abilities and growth, some have to do with conflicting need and require compromise. If my goal was to retire early, every dollar saved rather than spent furthers that goal. But suppose we were attending a wedding in the family. My wife wants a new dress to wear. She has a perfectly good dress, but she's worn it to multiple previous affairs and is unhappy at the thought of wearing it again. Do you really advocate fighting over this or leaving the relationship over this.

Ethiopian_Infidel said...

"My wife wants a new dress to wear..Do you really advocate fighting over this or leaving the relationship over this."

If your marriage were fragile enough to crumble over a DRESS, I'd say you were well rid of such a small-minded, trivia-fixated partner. This itself is a trivial example. I have difficulty believing occasional modest indulgences can would finances so acutely as to add major years onto a career.

Marty S said...

Yes it's a trivial example by itself, but unless you earn big bucks a lot of a family's discretionary income is spent on dozens of such trivial examples, so it comes down to what life style you are willing to live now to save for a certain life style later.