Which is more important in life: intelligence, attitude or will?
“There are no stereotypes for success.” ― Jim Rohn
The philosopher’s stone is a legendary alchemical substance said to be capable of turning base metals such as lead into gold, and to be an elixir of life, useful for rejuvenation and achievement of immortality. For centuries, it was the most sought after goal in alchemy, symbolizing perfection, enlightenment, and heavenly bliss.
And I found it.
Well, not literally. It’s not the piece of rock I carry around in my pocket.
It’s my personal philosophy. The “trickle down” mindset. You have yours, too, and it may become your personal philosopher’s stone. You can turn the ordinary into gold. You can live longer. The effects of your magic factor may last well after your death.
You will achieve the best results if you mingle philosophy with personal development. However, you can see just by looking around, that personal development doesn’t seem to be the answer for most folks. Every year there are millions of new personal development books sold and podcasts downloaded. Hundreds and thousands of people attend personal development seminars, and the circulation of Success magazine is half a million. But the success stories that we hear of are numbered in the hundreds or thousands at most.
There is a missing element in this puzzle. The method that has brought fame and fortune to some seems to be completely useless or of limited functionality to others. I grasped this dissonance almost as soon as I returned to personal development study following a sixteen-year hiatus.
My personal observations have been that about five percent of personal development students achieve any real success. Jeff Olson, author of The Slight Edge, comes to the same conclusion. By “success,” I don’t mean millions in your bank account, but rather, realizing your personal goals, whatever they are. Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta wasn’t a millionaire. In fact, she lived in conditions regarded as pitiful by the majority of Americans. But I think most of us would agree she was a smashing success.
I carefully studied income disclosures of several multi-level marketing (MLM) companies and the numbers confirm my observations. Those numbers are relevant because the MLM industry relies heavily on personal development. The idea is that with proper training, every “average Joe” can became a millionaire.
So there is a dissonance. Crowds are unsuccessfully trying to tame the elusive art of personal development.
But is this different in other spheres? Do people studying medicine, finance, or entrepreneurship have better results, more success? No. Olson’s numbers apply to society in general.
The success stories highlighted as a result of personal development are impressive. However, many people say personal development is a scam. That gurus are preying on the naïveté of crowds. It’s the modern equivalent of the “opium of the masses,” that positive thinking and affirmations are simply a substitute for hard work.
These are arguments from people that have never tried to practice personal development or who belong to the 95 percent group, people that never saw significant effects as a result of personal development.
And sadly, in most cases, these arguments are valid. If the overall efficiency is the same as in, let’s say, the retail industry, the personal development claims sound hollow. All those “magic ingredients” and “secrets to success” supposedly “available to anyone” work against the personal development industry.
The best remedy, then, is to show massive and measurable results, which will quiet the critics. But in order to achieve them, something needs to change in the way students approach personal development. As the reality shows, the past approach has not been optimal. It lacked the stress on student’s efforts necessary to make the whole thing work.
To make it work you need a solid personal philosophy.
That philosophy is not restricted to the realm of personal development. Your attitude is important in everything you do, be it in your job, business, education, or relationships. You may disregard personal development as one big scam, but you can still make your life better by fixing your attitude. And by linking your philosophy with a personal development program, you will boost your results.
Look around you and examine the people you meet every day. How many of them are enjoying good health? How many have lasting, strong relationships? How many have unwavering belief and trust in their Creator? How many have financial security? How many are living purposeful lives and are eager to start every day with its various challenges? And most important, how many of them have these simultaneously?
Five percent, more or less. No matter if they consciously practice personal development or not. No matter if they are housewives, CEOs, nurses, programmers, retired soldiers, plumbers, grandfathers, or teachers. And it’s because they have a good personal philosophy. It’s not something special reserved for special people. Everyone has some worldview and life attitude. You do too.
It’s not relevant where are you in your life right now, whether you have a lot of money, are fit or obese, young or old. You have your internal compass that guides you through your existence. In addition, you are equipped with a free will and a conscious mind. You can form and mold your personal philosophy. You can change. It’s in your power.
I will go back to this mantra time and again in this book: you define success for yourself, nobody else does. Don’t be intimidated by the examples I will share in this book. Most of them are what you could call “stereotypes of success.”
You don’t need to have a Rolls Royce, a fat bank account, fame, or a lot of friends to consider yourself successful. You define your purpose and you are fulfilled by achieving that purpose. The right personal philosophy allows you to reach it no matter what you will come up with as your life’s core.
You will fail miserably without the proper attitude. A successful life is possible only for those who are backed up by a successful personal philosophy. Every single man and woman who has ever been satisfied with his or her life accomplishments had a set of beliefs and convictions, and a guiding internal mechanism that allowed them to do what they’ve done. Just a handful out of thousands examples:
“I do not think there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.” — John D. Rockefeller
“The major difference isn’t circumstance; it’s the set of the sail, or the way we think.” — Jim Rohn
“To love until it hurts.” — Mother Teresa of Calcutta
“I shall conquer untruth by truth. And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.” — Mahatma Gandhi
“The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you.” — Tony Robbins
“No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.” — Helen Keller
If you don’t believe me, then pick a successful person you know. Approach him or her and ask the question: “Where does your success come from?” I bet they won’t reply, “Oh, I don’t know, it just happened. It’s luck, I suppose.” Even if they think their success comes from luck, another question will reveal what they consider luck: “Where did your luck come from?” They will tell you about God, internal drive, courage to take chances, or people who supported them.
If you look closely at the examples I mentioned above or if you do a few of these interviews and compare the answers, you will realize there is an irregularity to their answers. Personal philosophies of different people may include a lot of common elements, but they all are unique. Thus, you can borrow the pieces of someone else’s philosophies, but only you can shape your successful personal philosophy for yourself.
That’s the first characteristic of personal philosophy: it’s unique.
The second one is that it’s intangible. It’s not something you can weigh or measure. It’s hidden in your mind and heart. It is shaped by your experiences and interpretation of those experiences.
And that’s the problem.
Unfortunately, we as a society went a bit too far in the direction of materialism. We don’t trust the intangible. We are afraid that it will elude us, that we will look stupid giving our attention and appreciation to something that cannot be measured, seen, or pinpointed, that we will waste time and effort on something that doesn’t really exist.
It’s an idiotic attitude, but our society is crammed with it.
Take your mind for an instance. Is it something you can measure? By what? The weight of your brain? Its volume? The number of neural connections? The electrical activity in your brain? All of these metrics are just an approximation of your mind and they are not even close to the description of your ego, your essence.
Read the confused comments on the TED Talk by Angela Lee Duckworth about grit. She and her team researched a vast number of individuals from many different industries and discovered the only common successful trait of all these successful people was grit: an ability to focus on the long-term approach and do the job it takes. And a lot of people have a problem with this because it’s intangible and cannot be measured.
In a way, personal philosophy resembles a philosopher’s stone — a medium to turn everything into gold (success) and, as a byproduct, giving eternal life.
Like the effect of a mystical philosopher’s stone, the way it works is invisible and hard to explain. However, the effects it provides are so spectacular that it’s not possible to ignore them. But unlike the philosopher’s stone, personal philosophy is within your reach. You don’t need to seek magical alchemical formulas to own it. All you need is already inside you.