Thursday, August 30, 2012

Just Some Facts

Just some facts from the "Who Are These Guys? Department"

Some article somewhere caught my eye tonight where it referred to Sarah Palin as the half-term Governor of Alaska. I just thought I'd check the facts and learn more about the actual candidates. I freely admit that I put only a modest effort into gathering similar facts about them. I satisfied my curiosity and collected the facts here. Draw your own conclusions. I offer none, just some facts.

Before becoming President, Barack Obama served three two-year terms as a member of the Illinois Senate and 56% of one six-year term as U.S. Senator from Illinois. Before holding elective office, he was a civil rights attorney and law professor.

Joe Biden was a city council member before becoming a U.S. Senator from Delaware. He served six terms, 36 years, in the Senate.

Mitt Romney served as President and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics, from 1999 to 2002, before election as Governor of Massachusetts. He served one four-year term. and chose not to seek reelection.

Paul Ryan was a marketing consultant for a family business for one year before becoming a U.S. Representative from Wisconsin. He is in his sixth two-year term in the House.

Footnote (because everybody has an opinion about Sarah):

Sarah Palin served four years as a city council member of Wasila, Alaska, six years as mayor, and 42% of a one four-year term as Governor of Alaska, resigning about 8 months after failing to be elected Vice President.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Self-Confidence, A Napoleon Hill Remix

#2 in a series on Think and Grow Rich (1937) by Napoleon Hill

The great strength of Hill's book is a methodical approach to marshaling our inner resources to achieve our goals and lead lives of significance. One of the building blocks in that approach  is his "Self-Confidence Formula" (p. 45 in the Tribeca Books Edition). Throughout the work, these building blocks depend on the (debatable) premise that  new attitudes inevitably lead to new behavior.

Here I offer a new version of the Self-Confidence Formula, condensed for better verbal economy and adapted to reflect my values and worldview. I have preserved the essential concepts of Hill's five steps, especially the two-part construct of awareness, followed by action (I understand... I will...).  If I depart significantly from the original, it is in step five, where I move from Hill's secular ethics toward a remix based on Christian orthodoxy, following the writing of Paul the Apostle.

Hill's self-confidence formula remixed:

  1. I know that I have the ability to achieve my goals.I will apply that ability with persistent, continuous action.
  2. I realize that my actions will follow my attitudes.
    I will invest time, daily, refining a clear mental picture of the person I am becoming.
  3. I recognize the power of confidence and positive thinking.
    I will invest time, daily, reflecting on my successes, past, present, and future.
  4. I see the importance of specific, detailed goals.
    I will put my goals in writing so that I can plan with confidence.
  5. I understand that my goals are unimportant if they are not pleasing in God’s eyes.  I will do all things excellently with compassion, kindness, gentleness, humility, patience, and most of all love, giving thanks at all times and in all circumstances.

An even shorter remix

  1. I am able.
    I will apply myself.
  2. I will develop a clear mental picture of the future.
    I will act accordingly.
  3. Action follows attitude.
    I will cultivate a positive outlook.
  4. Success requires planning.
    I will plan to succeed.
  5. In all things, I will consider the ultimate questions, the ultimate Person and the needs of others.

Start, Continue and End With Step Five

If you try to adopt any self-talk, self-help, or personal development program, you will probably fail in the long run unless you start by examining your core values and aligning your resolutions with them.  For this reason, I say start with Step Five, continue with Step Five, and end with Step Five.

Hill's Original Step Five 

I fully realize that no wealth or position can long endure, unless built upon truth and justice, therefore, I will engage in no transaction which does not benefit all whom it affects. I will succeed by attracting to myself the forces I wish to use, and the cooperation of other people. I will induce others to serve me, because of my willingness to serve others. I will eliminate hatred, envy, jealousy, selfishness, and cynicism, by developing love for all humanity, because I know that a negative attitude toward others can never bring me success. I will cause others to believe in my, because I will believe in them, and in myself.
That's pretty good stuff but too wordy for my taste. It could easily be three separate steps, one related to justice, one related to the "law of attraction", and another having to do with self-efficacy.  

Hill's Step Five is good but not quite in laser sharp alignment with my core values and worldview. Reworking this for my own purposes inevitably leads me to the scriptures. There is not a lot that is seriously wrong with Hill's version, it just doesn't go to the specific, deep foundations that I require. My thoughts on this point are informed by Paul's Letter to the Colossians 3:12-14 & 17 (NIV).
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility,gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 
17 And whatever you do,whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
I will therefore start, continue and end, in all things considering the ultimate questions, the ultimate Person and the needs of others. I will fail from time to time. When I do, I will forgive myself, because He has already forgiven me. I will pick myself up, dust myself off, and carry on.


Hill, N. (1937) Think and grow rich. Tribeca Books / Soho Books
(NIV) THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Book Review: Think And Grow Rich (Napoleon Hill)

First in a series on Think and Grow Rich (1937) by Napoleon Hill

Over the last several months, a few friends have suggested that I read Think and Grow Rich (1937) by Napoleon Hill.  I resisted it until recently. I didn't like the title. I didn't like the emphasis on money, money, money. Most recently however, I asked Kevin Knebl how to approach certain personal goals. His answer, "Read, no STUDY Think and Grow Rich". So I did. If you ask a specific question of somebody you respect, you ought to give their answer a fair try.

Hill's book is an early classic of personal success and self-help. It probably belongs on your must-read list even if you're not using it to further your personal goals but just to understand the evolution of the genre.

In spite of the enduring popularity of Think and Grow Rich, I had a hard time navigating some passages. I was troubled by some of the things that Hill treats as axiomatic. The money, money, money mantra borders on idolatrous materialism. Hill has some ideas about spirituality and cosmology that are at times heretical and at other times just plain goofy. Written in 1937, it contains a number of dated references and some ideas that seem naive in the light of the further unfolding of history. However, to dismiss this book because of these weaknesses (or conflicts with my personal opinions, if you prefer) would be to foolishly discard a lot of good. Most valuable are numerous mental models which, along with some excellent pep talks, have the potential to help the reader reach a new level of commitment to any worthy goal and the self-confidence required to achieve it.

I'm glad that I finally invested the time to read Think and Grow Rich. Over the next few weeks, I will continue to study and write about certain passages. Overall, I imagine a tree-lined boulevard in Chicago with the trees leafing out and flowers in bloom under a bright spring sky. The big picture is impressive. The view ahead is bright and beautiful, but it was a rough winter and there are many potholes where your can blow a tire or break an ankle. Take from it whatever good you will, and find your own way to navigate the rough spots. I do not recommend that you look here for your deepest guiding philosophy and worldview. But, if you are working on your commitment and confidence, do not neglect this classic.