„Singleness of purpose is essential for success, no matter what may be one's idea of the definition of success.” Napoleon Hill
Lesson number one of 'Law of Success' by Napoleon Hill was focused on group creativity, lesson number two, regards your life's purpose.
It's all about finding your chief aim and sticking to it.
It shows how a well defined goal in life, can deliver you to success, how focus can burn through all the obstacles, the way focused rays of the sun burn through paper and why it is so important to do what you most enjoy.
Let's see first why you really need a definite chief aim…
A Definite Chief Aim – Importance of Having One
„One of the outstanding tragedies of this age of struggle and money-madness is the fact that so few people are engaged in the effort which they like best. One of the objects of this course is to help each student find his or her particular niche in the world's work, where both material prosperity and happiness in abundance may be found. (…) Most people finish school, take up employment or enter a trade or profession without the slightest conception of anything that even remotely resembles a definite purpose or a definite plan.” Napoleon Hill
If we look around we'll find people forever postponing their dreams, choosing jobs based on what's safe and what has the biggest chance of bringing them some solid returns…
If you listen to your parents you'll chose some moderately safe career. You'll become a banker, lawyer, dentist… Maybe a public servant.
As for lawyers… One of the great hidden truths of American law schools is that quite few people stick to law, after finishing that degree. They put all that learning, all that amazing effort, just to discover that it's just not for them.
Lawyer, public servant banker… These choices are not so bad, but what you choose for your job will define your entire life. 40 hours a week (at least!) for decades & decades. If you dislike, not to mention hate, your job there's no chance you'll raise to the top of your profession. And you have to remember that a good mechanic, good judo trainer, good English teacher – they all can earn more than a meager lawyer, with a student loan to pay. And even if the money is not equal… This is the one life you have. Do you really want to spend it doing something you hate?
You can put your dreams on a shelf, it's your decision, but don't lie to yourself about getting back to it later in life. According to Po Bronson's research people that decide to earn money first and later get into the profession they love most seldom do it. It's too easy to get used to a certain lifestyle and quitting once you're established on route is too scary for most.
But, some people don't even know they have a dream…
„During the past fourteen years I have analyzed more than 16,000 men and women (…) It was discovered that ninety-five per cent of all who were analyzed were failures, and but five per cent were successes. (By the term "failure" is meant that they had failed to find happiness and the ordinary necessities of life without struggle that was almost unbearable.) (…) One of the most startling facts brought to light by those 16,000 analyses was the discovery that the ninety-five per cent who were classed as failures were in that class because they had no definite chief aim in life, while the five per cent constituting the successful ones not only had purposes that were definite, but they had, also, definite plans for the attainment of their purposes. Another important fact disclosed by these analyses was that the ninety-five per cent constituting the failures were engaged in work which they did not like, while the five per cent constituting the successful ones were doing that which they liked best. It is doubtful whether a person could be a failure while engaged in work which he liked best.” Napoleon Hill
There's nothing to add here. Offices all over the world are filled with frustrated people, coming to work to do what they're told to do. If you dislike your job what's the chance you'll be proactive, creative, that you'll be a leader? If you cannot force yourself to do anything else than what is urgent, forever post-poning the important, until your manager shames you into action… then what is a chance of you having a successful career?
I think most people over-estimates their inner drive, their appetite for money. Yes, you can go to work, do something you hate for a year, because it brings you good money. If you're a mad monkey, you can do it for two, three years with high level of motivation. Maybe. But… what about 30-40 years? This is how long you'll work in this life. It's no wonder we have so many burn outs, so many depressed people everywhere.
Whatever you choose to do with your life, it'll give colour to all of your days.
A Definite Chief Aim – Law of Attraction
If you're still not convinced that you should develop a definite chief aim (the 'how to' comes later in this article, bear with me!), let's look at something that today would be called a low of attraction. Or… if you're allergic to new ageism, Reticular Activating System.
„The subconscious mind may be likened to a magnet, and when it has been vitalized and thoroughly saturated with any definite purpose it has a decided tendency to attract all that is necessary for the fulfillment of that purpose. Like attracts like, and you may see evidence of this law in every blade of grass and every growing tree. (…) You choose (…) a definite purpose as your lifework and make up your mind that you will carry out that purpose. From the very moment that you make this choice, this purpose becomes the dominating thought in your consciousness, and you are constantly on the alert for facts, information and knowledge with which to achieve that purpose. From the time that you plant a definite purpose in your mind, your mind begins, both consciously and unconsciously, to gather and store away the material with which you are to accomplish that purpose. ” Napoleon Hill
What's more, we have a tendency to act in accordance to our beliefs. Brian Tracy calls this the law of congruence. If you believe that you're a good person, you'll do your very best to become one (and to be perceived as one). If you see yourself as somebody rich, you'll work much harder on earning enough money to justify that image, than you would, if you'd see yourself as somebody who's 'just getting by'.
Thoughts shape our destiny.
„It is a well established principle of psychology that a person's acts are always in harmony with the dominating thoughts of his or her mind. Any definite chief aim that is deliberately fixed in the mind and held there, with the determination to realize it, finally saturates the entire subconscious mind until it automatically influences the physical action of the body toward the attainment of that purpose.
Your definite chief aim in life should be selected with deliberate care, and after it has been selected it should be written out and placed where you will see it at least once a day, the psychological effect of which is to impress this purpose upon your subconscious mind so strongly that it accepts that purpose as a pattern or blueprint that will eventually dominate your activities in life and lead you, step by step, toward the attainment of the object back of that purpose. (…) Through the principle of Autosuggestion any deeply rooted desire saturates the entire body and mind with the nature of the desire and literally transforms the mind into a powerful magnet that will attract the object of the desire.”
What's also amazingly important is the fact that you'll attract similar thinking people into your life. It sounds magical, but it's quite simple and intuitive: out of all the people you meet (and even if you're quite a secluded hermit, you meet many), the ones you'll feel good with, the ones who like you, will be the ones who stay in your life.
And we tend to enjoy the company of people who think life we think, believe what we believe and are either happy or unhappy, positive or negative, ambitious or not.
You will attract to you people who harmonize with your own philosophy of life, whether you wish it or not. This being true, can you not see the importance of vitalizing your mind with a definite chief aim that will attract to you people who will be of help to you and not a hindrance? Suppose your definite chief aim is far above your present station in life. What of it? It is your privilege – nay, your DUTY, to aim high in life. You owe it to yourself and to the community in which you live to set a high standard for yourself.
What's more, you'll become just like your friends.
If you look around closely, you'll discover that your five nearest friends are quite similar to you. If they're not, be certain, you'll be similar to them, before one year will pass.
A Definite Chief Aim – Power of Focus
If success depends upon power, and if power is organized effort, and if the first step in the direction of organization is a definite purpose, then one may easily see why such a purpose is essential. Until a man selects a definite purpose in life he dissipates his energies and spreads his thoughts over so many subjects and in so many different directions that they lead not to power, but to indecision and weakness. Napoleon Hill
Focus is the king. Organized effort, over long periods of time is what creates miracles. It astonishes me time and time again, how certain people, who seem to lack intelligence or talent, but make up in having a clear goal, backed up by persistence, achieve great things.
Sometimes I feel like it's almost unfair for the really brilliant people – the ones who could potentially be great at almost anything. Everythings comes so easy to them, so they can't decide what they really want… And they end up wandering through life, jumping from a project to a project, achieving quick wins and total fiascos in the end. The famous tale about the turtle & rabbit race was created to pass this great knowledge to the coming generations. One who's focused on the finish line will get it faster than even the most amazing runner, who has thousand ideas on what to do with his/her time.
It's much better to choose just one thing.
„Andrew Carnegie's advice was this: "Place all your eggs in one basket and then watch the basket to see that no one kicks it over." By that advice he meant, of course, that we should not dissipate any of our energies by engaging in side lines.” Napoleon Hill
It also seems that you have to be quite exact in describing what your finish line is. And… how you intend to get there…
„In your struggle for success you should keep constantly in mind the necessity of knowing what it is that you want-of knowing precisely what is your definite purpose – and the value of the principle of organized effort in the attainment of that which constitutes your definite purpose. In a vague sort of way nearly everyone has a definite purpose – namely, the desire for money! But this is not a definite purpose within the meaning of the term as it is used in this lesson. Before your purpose could be considered definite, even though that purpose were the accumulation of money, you would have to reach a decision as to the precise method through which you intend to accumulate that money. (…) If your aim in life is vague your achievements will also be vague, and it might well be added, very meager. Know what you want, when you want it, why you want it and HOW you intend to get it. This is known to teachers and students of psychology as the WWWH formula – "what, when, why and how." Napoleon Hill
After all this crying about the importance of having Definite Chief Aim… let's choose one.
A Definite Chief Aim – Choose Your Purpose
„There is some one thing that you can do better than anyone else in the world could do it. Search until you find out what this particular line of endeavor is, make it the object of your definite chief aim and then organize all of your forces and attack it with the belief that you are going to win. In your search for the work for which you are best fitted, it will be well if you bear in mind the fact that you will most likely attain the greatest success by finding out what work you like best, for it is a well known fact that a man generally best succeeds in the particular line of endeavor into which he can throw his whole heart and soul.” Napoleon Hill
Tip number one is: use your heart, not your wallet, nor your parent's advice. Deep within your heart you know what you really want to do. It's all about deciding what really works for you.
To my surprise, Napoleon Hill, doesn't write that much about how to find a Definite Chief Aim in this chapter. He focuses on underlining the necessity of choosing it and selling his reader on the idea. He also, mentions how important it is to be specific (more on it in the next paragraph).
I'd probably recommend going through the steps suggested by Brian Tracy, Stephen Covey or Wayne Dyer – here's my version of it – answer these questions:
1. What would you do if you'd win $ 1 000 000?
2. If you'd have just one more year of life to live, what would you start doing?
3. What do you like doing most in the world?
4. How would you like to achieve fame?
5. What would you do, if you knew you couldn't fail?
Whatever your answers are, your Definite Chief Aim is hidden within them.
As Napoleon Hill said:
„Start now to analyze your desires and find out what it is that you wish, then make up your mind to get it. (…) Make that aim clear and back it up with persistence which does not recognize the word "impossible." When you come to select your definite chief aim just keep in mind the fact that you cannot aim too high.”
And please focus on the core of these questions. Don't start analysing if the million bucks is free of tax or if you'd be in good health for the last year of your life (in both cases answer: yes!).
Once you have the general idea, try to make it more clear. It's important to be as exact as possible. 'I want to be an entrepreneur' is not a Definite Aim. It's a good start, but you need to know what your mission will be, what kind of value you want to bring to society. Napoleon Hill gives a great list of examples from the beginning of the twentieth century (I chose the ones that still bear meaning, 100 years later).
Woolworth chose, as his definite chief aim, the belting of America with a chain of Five and Ten Cent Stores, and concentrated his mind upon this one task until he "made it and it made him."
Wrigley concentrated his mind on the production and sale of a five-cent package of chewing gum and turned this one idea into millions of dollars.
Edison concentrated upon the work of harmonizing natural laws and made his efforts uncover more useful inventions than any other man who ever lived.
Ingersoll concentrated on a dollar watch and girdled the earth with "tickers" and made this one idea yield him a fortune.
Statler concentrated on "homelike hotel-service" and made himself wealthy as well as useful to millions of people who use his service.
Lincoln concentrated his mind on freeing the slaves and became our greatest American President while doing it.
Rockefeller concentrated on oil and became the richest man of his generation.
Ford concentrated on "flivvers" and made himself the richest and most powerful man who ever lived.
Carnegie concentrated on steel and made his efforts build a great fortune and plastered his name on public libraries throughout America.
Gillette concentrated on a safety razor, gave the entire world a "close shave" and made himself a multimillionaire.
George Eastman concentrated on the kodak and made the idea yield him a fortune while bringing much pleasure to millions of people.
Russell Conwell concentrated on one simple lecture, "Acres of Diamonds," and made the idea yield more than $6,000,000.
Hearst concentrated on sensational newspapers and made the idea worth millions of dollars.
Helen Keller concentrated on learning to speak, and, despite the fact that she was deaf, dumb and blind, realized her definite chief aim.
Millions of people are concentrating, daily, on POVERTY and FAILURE and getting both in overabundance.
Wright Brothers concentrated on the airplane and mastered the air.
Pullman concentrated on the sleeping car and the idea made him rich and millions of people comfortable in travel.
George S. Parker makes one of the best fountain pens in the world (…) More than twenty years ago, Mr. Parker's definite purpose was established in his mind, and that purpose was to produce the best fountain pen that money could buy. He backed that purpose with a burning desire for its realization and if you carry a fountain pen the chances are that you have evidence in your own possession that it has brought him abundant success.
We could easily add some more modern ones:
Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, wanted to put a personal computer in every home.
Anita Roddick, founder of Body Shop, wanted to deliver natural and environmentally minded cosmetics for everyone.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, wanted to deliver cheap books to all the eager readers.
Sergey Brin and Lary Page, decided to create a perfect way to navigate the messy ocean of the internet.
The list goes on.
A Definite Chief Aim – Burning Desire
„Desire is the factor which determines what your definite purpose in life shall be. No one can select your dominating desire for you, but once you select it yourself it becomes your definite chief aim and occupies the spotlight of your mind until it is satisfied by transformation into reality, unless you permit it to be pushed aside by conflicting desires.”
As we mentioned before, the desire must be your guide. If you want to achieve something with all your body & soul, if you love doing something with all your heart, the chances of you getting it grow thousand-fold.
According to Napoleon Hill, if you want it strongly enough, you'll almost certainly get it.
„To emphasize the principle that I am here trying to make clear, I believe it not unreasonable to suggest that to be sure of successful achievement, one's definite chief aim in life should be backed up with a burning desire for its achievement. I have noticed that boys and girls who enter college and pay their way through by working seem to get more out of their schooling than do those whose expenses are paid for them. The secret of this may be found in the fact that those who are willing to work their way through are blessed with a burning desire for education, and such a desire, if the object of the desire is within reason, is practically sure of realization.” Napoleon Hill
What's interesting, according to Napoleon Hill, desire comes before, the establishment of the definite aim. You must first want something strongly, before you know exactly what it is that you hope to accomplish. I find this as much more realistic and honest approach. Most of today's self-help 'gurus' will tell you that you may make yourself want what you consciously decide. Author of the 'Law of Success' tells you that you should look within yourself, consult your inner guidance and then create a plan around it:
„These are the steps leading from desire to fulfillment: First the burning desire, then the crystallization of that desire into a definite purpose, then sufficient appropriate action to achieve that purpose. Remember that these three steps are always necessary to insure success.” Napoleon Hill
A Definite Chief Aim – Master Mind
Once you know what you want, you should form an alliance, you should search for support. Napoleon Hill believes that one person cannot achieve significant success acting on his/her own. It takes others to support you, develop ideas with you and provide inspiration. You need them to gain from the Law of Master Mind, described in the previous lesson.
There are clear rules for who to choose for your Master Mind group and how to unite them for an achievement of a common purpose:
„Those who join with you in the formation of a friendly alliance for the purpose of aiding you in the creation of a "Master Mind" should sign, with you, your statement of the object of your definite chief aim. Every member of your alliance must be fully acquainted with the nature of your object in forming the alliance. Moreover, every member must be in hearty accord with this object, and in full sympathy with you. Each member of your alliance must be supplied with a written copy of your statement of your definite chief aim. With this exception, however, you are explicitly instructed to keep the object of your chief aim to yourself. The world is full of "Doubting Thomases" and it will do your cause no good to have these rattle-brained people scoffing at you and your ambitions. Remember, what you need is friendly encouragement and help, not derision and doubt.” Napoleon Hill
Also I like how much attention Hill puts on choosing the right people. We read time and time again that business is people – your most valuable asset are your employees – but we keep forgetting. With a group of people that supports you, believes in you and works with you on achievement of your purpose, you can reach almost any goal. However impossible it may seem.
„If any member of your friendly alliance loses faith in the law known as the "Master Mind," immediately remove that member and replace him or her with some other person.
You cannot succeed when surrounded by disloyal and unfriendly associates, no matter what may be the object of your definite chief aim. Success is built upon loyalty, faith, sincerity, co-operation and the other positive forces with which one must surcharge his environment. (…) If you fail, either temporarily or permanently, in the application of this law it will be for the reason that some member of your alliance did not enter into the spirit of the alliance with faith, loyalty and sincerity of purpose.” Napoleon Hill
While with the bad seeds you must fail. Remove them from your team.
I had a bad luck of keeping a person like that with me in high school for a bit too long, and he managed to turn me from a happy optimist to somebody almost miserable. I hoped I'll inspire him, change his outlook to a more positive one – and actually maybe I did, but at the same time the friendship was ver detrimental to me (you can say that we met half-way!).
Just remember this sentence: people will lift you or drag you down, support your ideas or find fault in everything and kill your confidence – make sure you pick the right ones.
„All great leaders base their leadership upon a definite chief aim. Followers are willing followers when they know that their leader is a person with a definite chief aim who has the courage to back up that purpose with action.” Napoleon Hill
You have to learn to become a leader of your little group (you can be a follower, why not, but make sure the leader knows where he's taking you and that he intends to share the rewards). Leader is always the one with the clearest vision of the goal, of the intended result.
Let me conclude this paragraph with a great summary created by Napoleon Hill:
„Comes, now, one of the most essential rules which you must follow. Arrange with one or all of the members of your friendly alliance to state to you, in the most positive and definite terms at their command, that THEY KNOW YOU CAN AND WILL REALIZE THE OBJECT OF YOUR DEFINITE CHIEF AIM. This affirmation or statement should be made to you at least once a day; more often if possible.
These steps must be followed persistently, with full faith that they will lead you where you wish to go! It will not suffice to carry out these plans for a few days or a few weeks and then discontinue them. YOU MUST FOLLOW THE DESCRIBED PROCEDURE. UNTIL YOU ATTAIN THE OBJECT OF YOUR DEFINITE CHIEF AIM, REGARDLESS OF THE TIME REQUIRED.
From time to time it may become necessary to change the plans you have adopted for the achievement of the object of your definite chief aim. Make these changes without hesitation. No human being has sufficient foresight to build plans which need no alteration or change.” Napoleon Hill
A Definite Chief Aim – Persistence & Belief
Whatever you choose to be your Definite Chief Aim, you should allow it to become your obsession. You must learn to believe that you're able to accomplish your goal, change your dream into reality. Your Master Mind group will be of immense help, auto-suggestion might be another useful tool, but sometimes pure persistence and determined action-taking will carry you home.
„The object of your definite chief aim should become your "hobby." You should ride this "hobby" continuously; you should sleep with it, eat with it, play with it, work with it, live with it and THINK with it.
Whatever you want you may get if you want it with sufficient intensity, and keep on wanting it, providing the object wanted is one within reason, and you ACTUALLY BELIEVE YOU WILL GET IT. There is a difference, however, between merely "wishing" for something and ACTUALLY BELIEVING you will get it. Lack of understanding of this difference has meant failure to millions of people. The "doers" are the "believers" in all walks of life. Those who BELIEVE they can achieve the object of their definite chief aim do not recognize the word impossible. Neither do they acknowledge temporary defeat. They KNOW they are going to succeed, and if one plan fails they quickly replace it with another plan.
Every noteworthy achievement met with some sort of temporary setback before success came. Edison made more than ten thousand experiments before he succeeded in making the first talking machine record the words, "Mary had a little lamb." If there is one word which should stand out in your mind in connection with this lesson, it is the word PERSISTENCE!” Napoleon Hill
Whatever you want to accomplish, it will probably take you more time than you ever expected. I thought I'll be a famous writer the same year I published my first novel – three and a half years later, having my third book appear in print, I'm still not one. But hey, the road is fascinating and I stick to it. Why shouldn't you too?
What's more astonishing, if you keep at it, in the long, long run you'll probably still achieve more than you ever dreamt of. As Anthony Robbins say: people tend to over-estimate what they're able to achieve in one year, but greatly underestimate where they can get in ten years. Stick to it and you'll get there. And probably much further than 'there'. Enjoy the road!
Nature cannot be tricked or cheated. She will give up to you the object of your struggles only after you have paid her price, which is CONTINUOUS, UNYIELDING, PERSISTENT EFFORT!
A Definite Chief Aim – Take Home Summary
To make sure, we're all on the same page, I'll quote the master, presenting the process of this lesson in couple brief sentences:
„Your first step is to decide what your major aim in life shall be. Your next step is to write out a clear, concise statement of this aim. This should be followed by a statement, in writing, of the plan or plans through which you intend to attain the object of your aim.
Your next and final step will be the forming of an alliance with some person or persons who will cooperate with you in carrying out these plans and transforming your definite chief aim into reality.The purpose of this friendly alliance is to employ the law of the "Master Mind" in support of your plans.” Napoleon Hill
And make sure you listen to the author's advice:
„Read this lesson four times, at intervals of one week apart. You will see much in the lesson the fourth time you read it that you did not see the first time.” Napoleon Hill
A Definite Chief Aim – Post Scriptum
Lastly I'd like to share with you Napoleon Hill's thoughts on shaping your personality, according to your Definite Chief Aim, by the use of auto-suggestion.
In the book, 'Law of Success', he presents an interesting (and peculiar!) exercise for developing desired character and personality traits.
I'll confess here that I have used something very similar as a little child, for quite some time actually, until I decided it's silly and have stopped. I must say, I think it had a very strong effect on me.
Napoleon Hill describes his friend using it:
„Each night, just before going to sleep, he would shut his eyes and see, in his imagination, a long council table at which he placed (in his imagination) certain well known men whose characteristics he wished to absorb into his own personality. At the end of the table he placed Lincoln, and on either side of the table he placed Napoleon, Washington, Emerson and Elbert Hubbard.
He then proceeded to talk to these imaginary figures that he had seated at his imaginary council table, something after this manner:
Mr. Lincoln: I desire to build in my own character those qualities of patience and fairness toward all mankind and the keen sense of humor which were your outstanding characteristics. I need these qualities and I shall not be contented until I have developed them.
Mr. Washington: I desire to build in my own character those qualities of patriotism and self- sacrifice and leadership which were your outstanding characteristics.
Mr. Emerson: I desire to build in my own character those qualities of vision and the ability to interpret the laws of Nature as written in the rocks of prison walls and growing trees and flowing brooks and growing flowers and the faces of little children, which were your outstanding characteristics.
Napoleon: I desire to build in my own character those qualities of self-reliance and the strategic ability to master obstacles and profit by mistakes and develop strength out of defeat, which were your outstanding characteristics.
Mr. Hubbard: I desire to develop the ability to equal and even to excel the ability that you possessed with which to express yourself in clear, concise and forceful language.
Night after night, for many months, this man saw these men seated around that imaginary council table until finally he had imprinted their outstanding characteristics upon his own subconscious mind so clearly that he began to develop a personality which was a composite of their personalities.”
Choose your own super-team, try it and continue or not, depending on how you feel about it. If anything it sounds like a great practice for one's imagination.
Make sure to check out the next lesson – self-confidence.
PS Picture taken by one of my friends during the summer of 2008 at one of the Polish lakes. For me a yacht or any boat for that matter, symbolises a definite chief aim. You need to know where you're going to get anywhere.