Make every thought, every fact, that comes into your mind pay you a profit. Make it work and produce for you. Think of things not as they are but as they might be. Don’t merely dream – but create!
– Maxwell Maltz
You are a potential genius.Your amazing brain has more than 18 billion cells, each one of which is connected to and interlinked with as many as 20,000 others. This means that the number of possible thoughts you can think is greater than all the molecules in the known universe.
You have the capacity to learn at incredible rates and to retain more information than you can even imagine. It is said that ”when an educated person dies, it is as if a library burned down.” This potential library is contained between your ears.
- THE ORIGINS OF WEALTH
Throughout human history, value has been contained in land, labor, capital, furniture, fixtures, machinery, and other hard assets. Wars and revolutions have been fought over their control. The primary creators of value were those people who could combine these various resources together to produce products and services for the marketplace.
In the twentieth century, however, we have seen change take place at a speed that is virtually unimaginable. In 1900, 50 percent of the American population lived on farms raising food for the other 50 percent who lived in towns and cities.Today, less than 3 percent of the population lives on farms, and they produce not only enough food for all Americans, but huge surpluses as well that are exported or even given away to the entire world.
We have moved from the agricultural age to the industrial age to the service age to the information age, and we are now entering the communications age. The primary source of value today is not land, labor, and other hard assets, but knowledge, information, and ideas.
The greatest wealth you could possibly possess is between your ears.You can create an unlimited future for yourself by tapping into your brainpower and channeling it, like a powerful current, to energize your life and get you anything you really want.
- TRUE WEALTH TODAY
The richest American today, and perhaps the richest person in the world, is Bill Gates. The net worth of his company, Microsoft, is greater than the net worth of IBM, which has been in business many years longer. Microsoft is based entirely on brainpower. It creates wealth by making it easier to process information digitally within computers, and from computer to computer by telephone lines, wireless systems, and satellites.
If you own a company, your chief assets walk out the door every night at quitting time.Your building could burn to the ground, but as long as your people got out safely, you could walk across the street and start your business again. The chief assets of any organization, and of any individual, are contained in the ability to think and to apply that thinking to getting results that other people will pay for. The ability to create wealth is determined by mental strength rather than physical strength.
- STARTING CAPITAL
In generations past, it may have taken many years for a person to accumulate enough capital to start and build a successful business in manufacturing or services. Today, such a large investment in physical assets can actually be a liability. A change in technology on the other side of the world can render a $100 million manufacturing plant obsolete in a few months.
But what you have between your ears can be invaluable. It is capable of countless applications and uses. It is completely portable. It is versatile. It is flexible, and can be increased almost without limits, if you learn how.
An immigrant could arrive at a U.S. airport with the ability to create a billion-dollar industry in his head. He could walk up to customs; open his hands and say, ”Nothing to declare;” and walk on through. His assets are all in his knowledge and skill. Many of the most successful and respected entrepreneurs and businesspeople in America arrived this way.
- KNOWLEDGE IS THE GREAT RESOURCE
The primary source of value today is knowledge. Since there is no limit to the amount of knowledge you can acquire, there is no limit to the amount of value that you can create.You can start from wherever you are, no matter what your background, and begin to increase your mental assets. You can start work today on improving your ability to perform and get results for which others will pay.
The wonderful thing about knowledge is that it can be reproduced hundreds of thousands, even millions of times without losing its value. It is the one commodity that can actually be infinite in its application. If you or someone else comes up with a new idea to do something faster or better, that idea can be spread around the world in no time at all, and be in the hands of millions of other people who can also use it to improve their lives and work. And you have lost nothing. The idea still has its original value to you. This is absolutely incredible.
- HARD ASSETS VERSUS BRAINPOWER
Today, our banking and financial industries are struggling to make the shift to knowledge as an asset. Banks, for example, will lend money today only against hard assets, things that can be seized as collateral and sold to repay the loan. However, the real assets of a company are not the tangible items at all. They are the thinking ability of the people who work there. They are contained in the combined brainpower of teams of experts working together to solve problems, create innovations, and produce goods and services for the competitive marketplace.
Your ability to utilize your brainpower and unlock your creative abilities is absolutely essential to your success. Today, we know more about how you can become smarter than we ever have before.
- SMALL DIFFERENCES LEAD TO BIG RESULTS
Often small improvements in the way you think and perform can lead to significant improvements in your performance. It is not necessary for you to attend university and get years of education to bring your knowledge up to the level where it can pay off for you. Sometimes very small changes in what you are doing right now, right where you are, can bring about amazing results.
Here’s an example. If a horse runs in a horse race and wins by a nose, it earns 10 times the prize money of a horse that comes in second. Does this mean that the horse that comes in first is 10 times faster? Is it twice as fast? Ten percent faster? No, the horse that wins is only a nose faster.
By the same token, your possession of one small piece of information at the right time and in the right place can enable you to make an extraordinary difference in a particular situation. Often a single idea or insight can change your whole life or career.
- AVOID THE INTELLIGENCE TRAP
The most successful people today are those who are continually investing in learning and expanding their intellectual asset base.They are wide open to new ideas and new approaches. A major mistake made by many people, especially those who have graduated from a university, is that they conclude that everything they know at the moment is all that there is to know about a particular subject.Sometimes they think that what they know is all they need to know about a subject as well.
This is called the ”intelligence trap” of the poor performer, the unconscious incompetent. This is a person who does not know, and does not know that he does not know. This person cannot be helped, because he is closed to new information.This is why the beginning of all wisdom is often the awareness of how ignorant you really are, of how little you really know.
- DON’T BE IMPRESSED
I have traveled in many countries and met countless highly intelligent and successful people. I have spoken with many millionaires, multimillionaires, and even billionaires. I have worked at the highest level of government with some of the smartest men and women who have ever lived. And the one thing that these people seem to have in common is that they never become impressed by their own intelligence. In fact, the smarter they get, the humbler they become and the less they look upon themselves as experts in any way.
Over 700 years ago, Roger Bacon of England was considered to be the last universal man. He was thought to be current with all the knowledge and science of the day. He, in his day, knew almost everything there was to know about everything that was taught academically.
Of course, at that time, the amount of available knowledge was limited. There were very few books. There were fewer scientists, philosophers, and researchers writing and teaching.
- KNOWLEDGE GROWS EXPONENTIALLY
Today, however, it is impossible for one person to know everything about even one small subject. Just look at modern medicine. There are great minds who spend their entire lives studying the workings of the inner ear or the trachea or one of the other organs of the body. And even though these highly intelligent and dedicated professionals spend their whole careers specializing in a particular part of the body, they never learn everything there is to know about even that one organ.
Sometimes I ask audiences, ”Is there anyone here who is a know-it-all?” Of course, no one raises his or her hand. Then I go on to explain what I mean by a know-it-all.
A know-it-all is a person who feels that he knows everything that he needs to know about a subject. How can you tell if you have become a know-it-all? It is easy. You have stopped learning and growing in your area of specialization.You have stopped reading, listening to audio programs, and taking additional courses.
The very fact that you fail to regularly seek out new knowledge in your field means that you have unconsciously, accidentally, slipped into the intelligence trap of the low performer.You have unwittingly become a know-it-all by the very act of not continuing to learn and grow.
- THE ANSWERS ARE CHANGING
After giving an advanced test to a graduate class of physics students at Princeton University, Albert Einstein was on the way back to his office when one of his graduate assistants asked the famous professor, ”Dr. Einstein, wasn’t that the same exam that you gave to this physics class last year?”
Dr. Einstein nodded and said, ”Yes, it was the same exam as last year.”
The graduate assistant summoned up his courage to ask the great Nobel prizewinning physicist, ”But, Dr. Einstein, how could you give the same test two years in a row?”
”Because,” Einstein replied, ”in the last year, the answers have changed.”
In the same way, your answers are changing today at a more rapid rate than ever before. The answers in your field are changing as you sit there. What was true a year ago may not be true today, and what is true today may not be true a year from now. The only way that you can be assured of staying on top of your field is by continually taking in new ideas and knowledge to compare it with what you know today.
- THE SOURCES OF INNOVATION
Peter Drucker, in his book Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Harper- Business, 1985), writes that the greatest business breakthroughs take place as the result of ”either the unexpected success or the unexpected failure.”
He explains that when something unusual or unexpected happens in any field, the average person dismisses it as a random event or as an accident. The superior person, however, studies each unexpected result as if it were a sign of an underlying trend or an indication of a fundamental change in the nature of things.
When an experiment in growing bacteria failed because a mold had blown across the laboratory and landed on the petri dish, killing the bacteria, the lab assistants were about to throw it out. However, a bacteriologist, Alexander Fleming, became curious about a mold that was so powerful that it could kill such strong bacteria. His research led to the discovery and development of penicillin, which saved millions of lives in World War II and won him both a knighthood and the Nobel prize.
- KEEP YOUR MIND OPEN
In 1975, IBM commissioned consultants to study the market potential of the personal computer. They came back with the conclusion that the market for personal computers was only a few hundred in the entire world, at best. Based on this information, IBM decided to concentrate its efforts on mainframes, where it was already the world leader, and ignore the personal computer market, leaving it to a little upstart company in Cupertino, California, called Apple Computer.
When the Apple computers hit the market and began to sell by the hundreds, and then thousands, IBM got smart fast. IBM did an about-face and decided to plunge into the small computer business. And the company did. IBM came out with a PC that within four years captured more than 50 percent of the world market for smaller computers.
- WATCH FOR THE TRENDS
But IBM failed to notice that a major trend to smaller computers had taken place. Ignoring its initial success in PCs, IBM continued to concentrate on the development and sale of mainframes. While IBM’s attention was focused on mainframes, more and more competitors rushed into the personal computer field, and eventually IBM was displaced as the world leader.
IBM failed to see that its success in capturing 50 percent of the personal computer market was indicative of a sweeping trend in computers that would change the entire world. Today IBM is scrambling to catch up, competing with companies like Dell Computer, Hewlett-Packard/Compaq, Toshiba, and others. Because IBM missed the trend, it is unlikely that it will ever recover its position
- THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE
Keep your eyes open. There are more changes taking place all around you today than ever before. Any one of these changes may be indicative of a trend that could lead on to fortune and success for you.You must be open, awake, and alert to these changes. Nothing remains the same for very long. All your best opportunities will come from applying your knowledge and brainpower to new products and new services in the future.
All you need to start a fortune is an idea that is 10 percent new. All you need is a product or service innovation that is a little better, faster, or cheaper than something else, and you can quickly move to the front of the line.
Many of the great fortunes being made today in the United States and throughout the world are being created by people who started with nothing. One day, they came up with a breakthrough idea that revolutionized or transformed their industry.What could it be for you?
- TWO FACTORS THAT HOLD YOU BACK
There are two major factors that stand in the way of you using more of your natural intelligence. They are psychosclerosis and homeostasis. Psychosclerosis is another name for ”hardening of the attitudes.” This is experienced by a particular type of person who is rigid, inflexible, and unchanging. This is the kind of person who develops fixed attitudes on a certain person or subject and then resists any attempt to change his mind. This is often called the mechanical way of thinking.You probably know people who suffer from it.
The opposite way of thinking is more open and flexible. This is called the adaptive worldview. Adaptive people keep their minds open to new information. They are curious and interested in new ideas and developments. They are more concerned with what’s right than with who’s right. They are willing to abandon an old idea if someone can come along and show them that a new idea has more merit. They are more concerned that the new idea works to solve a problem or achieve a goal than they are with being right themselves.
- THREE QUALITIES OF GENIUS
Geniuses have been studied extensively over the years. One of the most remarkable conclusions the experts have arrived at is that geniuses are not necessarily people with extraordinary high IQs.They are often ordinary people who use their intelligence in a superior way compared to average, or even smarter, people.What this means is that you can function at genius levels if you learn to think the way that geniuses do.
Geniuses seem to have three characteristics in common, each of which you can develop and make into a regular part of your thinking.
First, geniuses seem to have open minds. They are curious, questioning, flexible, and willing to consider a wide range of possibilities in dealing with a question or problem.This adaptive mind-set is like an open door that allows ideas to blow through from any direction, or source.This is the mind-set of the genius. And you can learn it by practicing it.
Second, geniuses seem to approach problems and decisions systematically. They don’t throw themselves at a problem like a dog chasing a passing car. Instead, they approach every difficult situation by asking structured questions in a logical order, like solving a problem in math.
Third, geniuses approach problems with a series of questions. Geniuses first ask, ”What exactly is the problem?” and ”Why is this a problem in the first place?” They then ask, ”What would be an ideal solution to this problem?” and ”What holds us back from achieving such a solution?”
They ask: Why does this situation exist? How did it happen? What caused it? Where and when did it first occur? Who is involved in it? What are the different ways that we could solve this problem? Of all the different ways, which solution seems to be the most acceptable, all things considered?
The very act of questioning opens your mind and expands your options. It increases your creativity and stimulates your imagination. Questioning enables you to think more effectively about the problem, and ultimately reach a better decision.
- JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS
People with mechanical mind-sets tend to jump to conclusions.They see a problem and they immediately decide on a solution.When two events happen close together, they assume that one event is the reason for the second event. They confuse correlation with causation. Once they have made a decision, they look for evidence to confirm what they have already decided. Their egos quickly become involved, and they then become reluctant to change their minds.
There seems to be a direct relationship between the quantity of ideas and approaches you develop to solve a problem and your likelihood of coming up with the best idea that will solve the problem in the very best way. For this reason, you must discipline yourself to resist the temptation to jump to conclusions, or to rush to judgment. You must proceed more slowly, like a genius, and keep asking questions.You must keep your mind open.
- CREATIVITY IS YOUR BIRTHRIGHT
If the truth were known, you are an idea-generating organism. Creativity is your birthright.You are a highly intelligent individual with a continuous flow of good ideas that you can use to accomplish goals and improve your life. In fact, even if you have not used your creativity for a long time, and most people have not, you can stir it up, like sugar that has sunk to the bottom of a cup of coffee, by stimulating your mind with methods that we will talk about in the next chapter.
There is a Law of Probabilities that applies to creative thinking and tapping into the powers of your mind. This law says that the more ideas that you are exposed to, the more likely it is that you will be exposed to the right idea, exactly when you need it.
The most successful people today are those who are constantly exposing themselves to new ideas from a variety of sources. Unsuccessful people, in contrast, are those who continue to recirculate the same tired old ideas with little imagination or creativity.
- LOOK FOR IDEAS EVERYWHERE
When you attend a seminar or a lecture given by an expert who is sharing some of the most current ideas in his or her field, you will often receive a bombardment of new insights that you can use to improve parts of your life. Many people’s lives have been completely changed as the result of attending a single lecture given by a single intelligent person who gave them a single insight that was the key to their future.
Imagine what would happen if you attended courses, seminars, and lectures on a regular basis.You would be continually bombarding your mind with new ideas that would keep your mind alert and aware, and keep your creative juices flowing.
Creative people are constantly reading, not only in their own fields but in other fields as well. They read primarily nonfiction. They subscribe to a variety of magazines and newspapers. They are continually scanning through the tables of contents and through the critical articles.
Always read with a pen or highlighter in your hand. Even better, learn how to speed-read so that you can scan material at a thousand words a minute, or faster. Speed-reading is a skill, like riding a bicycle, that anyone can learn with a few hours of application. Forever after, you will be able to process more information than perhaps you ever imagined possible.
- GET AROUND THE RIGHT PEOPLE
Effective people make a habit of associating with other positive, creative people. They are constantly sharing ideas and experiences, learning from each other. They cut clippings out of magazines and newsletters, and pass them on to their friends. They recommend books they have read and audio programs they have listened to. Their friends do the same for them. Sometimes one good idea that you get from someone else can change the direction of your life.
- A FOOLISH CONSISTENCY
The second major factor that holds people back is homeostasis. This is defined as a ”striving for constancy.” It is a deep desire to remain consistent with what you have done and said in the past. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his essay ”Self-Reliance,” ”A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
He was referring to the natural tendency of individuals to try to remain consistent with previous opinions and behaviors. This form of rigidity blocks off almost all possibilities for growth in the future. To resist the tendency toward homeostasis, you should be willing to abandon your old ideas when someone can prove that there are newer, better ideas available.
One way to escape the mental trap of homeostasis is for you to be willing to admit that you are wrong. The mark of the superior person, in a time of rapid change, is to always remain open to the possibility that one’s most cherished ideas are incorrect. This takes tremendous courage and maturity. But it stimulates more ideas and insights.
- WRONG DECISIONS
According to the American Management Association, at least 70 percent of your decisions will turn out to be wrong in the fullness of time. This 70 percent figure is an average. Some people will be wrong even more often. But you can assume, as a rule of thumb, that 7 out of 10 decisions that you make regarding your life and work will turn out to be wrong in the long run.
Here is a question for you. If 70 percent of the decisions that managers and executives make turn out to be wrong, how can the world continue to function? The answer is simple. Superior people – those who rise to the top of any organization – are those who are willing to cut their losses. They are willing to admit quickly that they have made a mistake and rectify the situation rather than persisting until it gets worse.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of people fall in love with their past decisions, and once having made them, they are reluctant to give them up, even if all the evidence is against them. Don’t let this happen to you. Instead, resolve to be the very first to recognize that a decision that you have made or conclusion that you have come to has been invalidated or disproven by new information. Be prepared to drop the old decision and embrace a new solution or new way of doing things.
- FLEXIBILITY GIVES YOU STRENGTH
According to the Menninger Institute, the most important quality that you will need to be successful in the twenty-first century is the quality of flexibility, especially in the way you think. Flexibility refers to your willingness to change and try new things. It especially means that you have the ability to continually abandon old, outmoded ideas in favor of new, more effective ideas.
Many people spend much of their time arguing, rationalizing, and justifying their behaviors. They are determined to continue doing things the same old way even when it is perfectly clear that the old way no longer works.The way to avoid this tendency is to remain flexible, especially when you are most convinced that you are right.
- THE MIRACLE OF PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT
One of the great turning points in my life came when, as a young man in my early twenties, I discovered the miracle of personal development. My life has never been the same. I learned that through personal development you can indeed pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. I learned that, by learning what you need to learn to achieve the goals you have set for yourself, there are virtually no limits on what you can do, have, or be.
The truth is that the future belongs to the competent.You could lose all of your money tomorrow, but as long as you still had your ability to think and reason, you could make it all back and more besides. The future belongs to those who are better informed. The future belongs not to those who have more versus those who have less, but to those who know more versus those who know less.
- RAPID OBSOLESCENCE
Knowledge and information in your field are doubling every two or three years. Whatever information base you have is rapidly becoming obsolete. You must be in the process of continually taking in new information and ideas just to stay even.
Fortunately, there is a simple, three-part program that you can use to keep yourself ahead of the pack. I have used it and taught it to many thousands of people, and I have files full of letters from people whose entire lives have been changed as a result. The three keys to continuous personal and professional development are continuous reading, continuous listening to audio learning programs, and continuous training.
- READ EVERY DAY
In order to stay on top of your job, you should read in your field at least one hour per day, underlining and taking good notes. Anything less than one hour per day will put you in danger of being passed by your competitors. My friend Jim Rohn advises, ”Work at least as hard on yourself as you do on your job.”
At the very least, you should get up every morning and read 30 to 60 minutes in something educational.Take careful notes. Review your notes on a regular basis. Reflect on what you have learned, and think about how you could apply the new ideas in your daily life.
Use your powers of visualization to imagine yourself using the new information in some way. This will dramatically increase the speed at which you learn and retain the new ideas, and increase the likelihood that you will use them at the first opportunity.
If you read just one hour per day, that will amount to about one book per week. One book per week will amount to about 50 books per year. Fifty books per year will total about 500 books over the next 10 years. At the very least, you will need a bigger house just to hold your books, and you will probably be able to afford it as well.
- GIVE YOURSELF THE EDGE
According to the American Booksellers Association, fully 70 percent of American adults have not visited a bookstore in the last five years. The average American reads less than one book per year; 58 percent of adult Americans never read another book from cover to cover after they leave high school.
Meanwhile, in the information age, if you are not reading continuously you are in serious danger of being made obsolete by the passage of time. However, if you read one hour per day, one book per week, you will be getting the equivalent of a Ph.D. in your field every year.You will become one of the smartest, best-informed, and most productive people in your business.
- BEATING THE DRUM
Some years ago, I had a good friend who read very little. He was not convinced that reading would make any difference to his life or income. He had gotten out of the habit of reading after he left school. He argued with me that reading wasn’t that important. Meanwhile, he struggled to make a living. He was continually frustrated. He was continually losing business to his betterinformed competitors.
For almost three years, I kept at him, encouraging him to begin daily reading. Finally, he gave in and began to read each morning, just for a few minutes. He was amazed at how helpful the reading was, and how much more knowledgeable he was when he spoke to his clients.
He soon began reading, as I had recommended, an hour per day, one book per week. Within a year, his income had doubled. After two years, his income doubled again. Today he is one of the highest-paid people in his field. And he is proud to tell me every time I see him that he very seldom meets a client who is as well in formed as he is about their business. And the more he reads, the more competent and confident he becomes.
- TO EARN MORE, YOU MUST LEARN MORE
The rule is that to earn more, you must learn more.You cannot move ahead in your field further or faster than you are doing today except to the degree to which you learn and practice something new.
The second part of your personal and professional development program consists of audio learning programs. If you travel in your work, you spend between five hundred and one thousand hours per year in your car. If you turn this driving time into learning time, you will get the equivalent of three to six months of 40-hour weeks of additional education, just driving from place to place. I have met countless people who have doubled, tripled, and quadrupled their incomes by the simple act of listening to audio learning programs as they drive around.
- TAKE ALL THE TRAINING YOU CAN GET
The third key to continuous learning, and to unlocking your mental potential, is for you to take all the training you can get. If a training program is offered in the public arena, it has already been proven to be highly effective. The person presenting the program has probably acquired many years of experience, and may have spent hundreds of hours assembling the program that you can take in a half or a full day.You can sometimes save yourself weeks, months, and even years of hard work by attending a seminar given by an expert who explains to you state-of-the-art ways to get your job done faster and easier.
When you combine these three: regular reading, regular listening to audio learning programs, and regular and continuous training, you have a dynamite combination that can propel you forward at a greater speed than you ever could without them.
- KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
As mentioned earlier, Francis Bacon said that knowledge is power. This is only partially true. In fact, only knowledge that can be applied to practical purposes for someone else is actually power. The libraries are full of knowledge that does no one any good.
To change your thinking in a positive and constructive way, you must continually feed your mind with new ideas.You must stay current with your field.You must regularly associate with other leading people in your area of specialization.You must be continually looking for ways to do your work better, faster, cheaper, and easier.You must be continually seeking ways to serve your clients and customers better.You must stay on the cutting edge of your field so that you are, and you continue to be, one of the most valuable people in your business.
- NO-LIMIT THINKING
In the information age, knowledge is everything. And the amount of knowledge that you can gather and apply to your life is limited only by your own personal ambition. There are really no limits on what you can accomplish except for the limits you set for yourself.
The more you learn, the more you earn. The more knowledgeable you become about your field, the more courage and confidence you will have to implement your skills in your work. The more courage and confidence you develop, the higher will be your self-esteem and your sense of personal power.You will become virtually unstoppable in everything you do.
- Begin today to create your own personal library of books in your field. Read 30 to 60 minutes each day, underline, and take careful notes.
- Examine your recent unexpected successes and failures in your business. Could they be indicative of a trend that you can take advantage of?
- Approach each problem in your life systematically. Imagine that the solution is exactly the opposite of what you are currently doing.
- Continually expose your mind to new ideas and viewpoints. Ask lots of questions. Consider the possibility that you could be wrong.
- Listen to educational audio programs in your car.Turn your car into a mobile classroom, a ”university on wheels.”
- Select an area where expertise can help you to move ahead in your career. Develop a plan to study and learn everything you possibly can in that area. Be the best at what you do.
- Associate only with positive, optimistic, creative, happy people who are going somewhere with their lives. Get around winners if you want to be one.