One day my mentor, Mr. Earl Shoaff, said to me, “Jim, if you want to be wealthy and happy, learn this lesson well: Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” I must admit that this was the most challenging assignment of all. This business of personal development lasts a lifetime.
You see, what you become is far more important than what you get. The important question to ask on the job is not, “What am I getting?” Instead, you should ask, “What am I becoming?” What you become directly influences what you get. Think of it this way: Most of what you have today, you have attracted by becoming the person you are today.
I’ve also found that income rarely exceeds personal development. Sometimes income takes a lucky jump, but unless you learn to handle the responsibilities that come with it, it will usually shrink back to the amount you can handle.
It is hard to keep that which has not been obtained through personal development. So here’s the great axiom of life: To have more than you’ve got, become more than you are.
Skills for Success in the Marketplace
The marketplace is a demanding place. There is plenty of opportunity, but you’ve got to get ready for it and prepare for it. We’ve got to spend a portion of this year getting ready for next year, and we’ve got to spend a portion of this decade getting ready for the next decade. Hopefully the reason why we’re here, looking well, doing fairly well, is because we spent a portion of the last decade getting ready for this decade.
A big share of life is spent getting ready, getting prepared, and part of it is the development of skills that make for success in the marketplace. It starts with personal development, self-improvement and making measurable progress.
Personal Development Is a Challenge
Personal development is a push. It’s a struggle. It’s a challenge. There wouldn’t be any winning without a challenge. That’s what life is all about. It’s the struggle and the challenge to develop ourselves and our skills to see what we can create in the way of value in the marketplace. It’s taking those skills and value to the marketplace and seeing what it will return for us.
New habits don’t come easy, but they can be developed. Sometimes when you develop a lot of momentum in one direction, it’s not that easy to change, but it is possible. It isn’t easy, but it’s possible. Somebody once said, “Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.” You’ve just got to read the books, learn the skills, put yourself through the paces, do the mental pushups and get yourself ready.
Inspiration is fine, but inspiration must lead to discipline. It’s one thing to be motivated, but it’s another thing to be motivated sufficiently to take the classes, do the reading, do the repetition, go through it over and over, until it becomes part of you. And those are challenges. They’re not easy, but they’re challenges that if you win and develop and grow, that’s what determines your place, your return, your equity, the worth you get from the marketplace.
3 Parts of Personal Development
I’ve divided personal development into three parts.
Some people believe we’re just an extension and an advanced form of the animal species, but I believe humans are unique. I believe our spiritual qualities make us different from all other creations. Now I consider myself an amateur in this area, but regardless of your background, I think you should evaluate what growth and change you want to make in this vital area. Spiritual and ethical values will help build a strong foundation underneath your quest for wealth and happiness.
I would recommend you be a student of the spiritual side of your nature. Make sure you study, practice and teach. Don’t be careless about this because it’s what makes us who we are, different from dogs, cats, birds and mice. Whatever you have to read and assimilate to develop in this area, I would strongly suggest you do.
The body and mind work together. And for your mind to have the stamina to strive, your body should be in as good shape as possible.
You’ve heard the phrase, “Treat your body like a temple.” A temple—not a bad word. Something you would take extremely good care of. Treat your body like a temple, not a woodshed, right? A temple. Take good care of it.
The only house we have to live in is the physical body, and that’s part of success in the marketplace. That’s physical well-being. It’s feeling good about yourself physically so that you stride into the marketplace with a sense of self-worth and self-confidence, and it covers several parts.
Do you have a regular exercise program? If not, find one you can follow and get started. In addition, make sure you pay attention to the food you eat. Read all the books about nutrition to make up your own mind and decide for yourself a good health plan for you.
Then there’s physical appearance. Be skillful enough to take care of your appearance in the marketplace. It has a lot to do with your acceptance. A big share of it is how you appear to other people—on the job, in the community. There’s a saying that goes, “God looks on the inside, and people look on the outside.” That’s not a bad suggestion, meaning: Take care of the inside for God, and take care of the outside for people. Maybe you think people shouldn’t judge you by your appearance. Well, let me tell you, they do! Don’t base your life on should and shouldn’t. Only base your life on realities. Sure, when people get to know you, they’ll judge you by more than what they see, but at first, they’re going to take a look.
Now, I’ve got another good phrase for you. It says, “Be conscious of self, but not self-conscious.” There’s a certain point that we need to be conscious of ourselves, take care of it, then let it go. Some people worry about their appearance all day, and it detracts rather than adds. So take care of it and then let it go. Do the best you can and let that get the job done. Be conscious of ourselves, but not to the point of being self-conscious.
The third part to personal development is the mind—stretching your mind, developing good thinking habits, good study habits, pursuing ideas, and trying to find ways to apply them to human behavior and the marketplace. All of that takes exercising the mind, which is what I call mind-stretch.
Your willingness to tackle subjects that are difficult and that most people have decided to let slide gives you an extraordinary edge in the marketplace. How can you master the high skills, the extraordinary skills that make you an unusual performer in the marketplace? It takes mind-stretch. Some people skip poetry and literature, the Bible, history and a lot of things that seem a little difficult to attack. But if you always back away from something that seems a little difficult at first, you leave yourself weak. You leave yourself unprepared in the marketplace. So don’t be afraid to tackle the heavyweight stuff. It may be a lot easier than you think once you get into it and learn skill after skill.
Another part of mind-stretch is to learn the other side of the argument. Whether you’re debating in the spiritual, political, physical or behavioral arena, don’t be afraid of the other side of the argument. If you’re strong mentally, you can handle it, and you’ve got to give people credit for their side of the argument. Even though you might not agree with them, you must agree that they came up with a good point.
Can you imagine what you can become if you commit to expanding your mind? Can you imagine what skills you’ll develop, what insights you’ll have?
Your Personal Development Library
Part of all of this is developing what I call a personal development library. Mr. Shoaff got me started back when I was 25 years old. Since I’d missed most of my college education, he said to me, “I pass it along to you to be self-educated.”
Education doesn’t cease when you leave the university. Education is a lifetime process. You have to keep putting yourself through the paces to learn. That’s how you get into the higher numbers income. That’s how you get into the higher brackets enterprise. That’s how you become a more useful, productive, valuable citizen, making a contribution to family, community, country, enterprise. Work hard on developing these skills and be self-educated.
Mr. Shoaff said to me, “Standard education gets you standard results.” Why not go beyond the standard and the average and the acceptable and become the advantaged, the extraordinary or the extra-capable? Why not? I had decided back at age 18 or 19 just to get a job, work hard and do the best I could, and Mr. Shoaff said there is a lot more to life than that. Why don’t you master some extraordinary skills? Why don’t you move up to the higher level? So I did that.
Now, some people are just into self-improvement, self-help, inspirational things, but you can’t live on mental candy alone. You need more than that. Your library needs to be balanced like the pantry in your kitchen. You can’t be strong just on the easy stuff. We should study history, biographies and autobiographies. Study people who have done unique things, both admirable and despicable. We need to be students of both.
All of the books that we will ever need to make us as rich, as healthy, as happy, as powerful, as sophisticated and as successful as we want to be have already been written. People from all walks of life, people with some of the most incredible life experiences, people that have gone from pennies to fortune and from failure to success have taken the time to write down their experiences so that we might share in their wealth of knowledge.
The habit of reading is a major stepping-stone in the development of a sound philosophical foundation. And in my opinion, it is one of the fundamentals required for the attainment of success and happiness.
4 Steps to Success
I’ve developed four steps to success in the quest for personal development.
1. Good Ideas
Ideas are the life seeds of enterprise. A better life comes by the search for good ideas. Never cease your quest for knowledge. Finding ideas can be life changing. Business ideas, social ideas, personal ideas—nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come. Be a searcher of good ideas: timely ideas, political ideas, family ideas, healthy ideas. Then, do what I do: Keep a journal. Keep a log of good ideas. That’s for the serious students. I used to take notes on pieces of paper and found out I couldn’t go through them, couldn’t catalog them, and I missed a lot of good stuff. So I learned to keep good ideas in a journal. It’s an extension of your learning library.
2. Good Plans
Be a student of good plans. Plans are important because they give birth to ideas. Plans take ideas to the marketplace. Plans well executed bring ideas into the better life. Ideas without plans forever hang like an artist’s rendering on the wall. They never become reality. They never become substance. So be a student of good plans. Develop good, disciplined plans. Riches do not come by crossing your fingers and walking through the day hoping. Riches and wealth come from well-laid plans.
3. The Passing of Time
All of us have to learn to handle time. It’s one of the challenges of life, learning to wait. Part of success is patience—the passing of time. It takes time to build a career. It takes time to make changes. It takes time to learn, grow, change, develop and produce. It takes time to refine philosophy and activity. So give yourself time to learn, time to start some momentum, time to finally achieve.
4. Solving Problems
Success is simply solving problems. There are all kinds of problems: business problems, family problems, personal problems, financial problems, emotional problems. Everybody’s got a list of problems. Problem-solving is where enterprise comes from. It’s how you build worth and wealth.
I once met Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon. He put it fairly simply. He said going to the moon and back was merely a matter of solving problems. Problem 1: how to get there. Problem 2: how to get back. That’s simple, right? He said make sure you don’t leave until you’ve solved both problems. Well put. Sure, some things are complicated, but if you take it one piece at a time—solve the problems, put it back together—you can’t believe the enterprise you can build, the life you can build, the skills you can build. Take it a piece at a time, master it, and then put it back together to solve it.
Put It on Paper
Learn to solve problems on paper. You’ve got to commit some of your thoughts to paper. If you just deal out of your head all the time, it’s too easy to make errors. So take a piece of paper and just spend a little time outlining the problem. Instead of just thinking about it, take what’s in your head, put it on paper and work it out. It helps you to focus. It helps you to zero in.
Now, when you state the problem to the best of your ability, you just add this one question: Is that all of it? You say, well, we’re not to dwell on problems. No, we’re not to dwell on them or live in them, but at least you have got to state them. Because you can’t solve them until you clearly define them.
3 Simple Questions
The answer to solving problems falls into three simple questions.
1. What can I do?
What can I do to solve the problem? What can I do? This is when you start developing what we call working papers. You say, well, here’s potential answer number one. That’s an answer. Potential answer number two is a possibility. And number three, that’s a possibility. You just start laying out possible solutions. Then you go back and analyze these solutions. Number three? You’ve already come to the conclusion it would take too long. OK, number two? Too big a question mark. Number one is probably it. Your first inclination was right. Study that a little more and see if that’s it.
2. What can I read?
The first step to solving problems is to write them down. The second step is to develop working papers on possible solutions. If that doesn’t do it, here is the second question to ask: What can I read? Maybe there’s a book on your problem. Somebody may have spent a lifetime trying to figure out this problem. You could receive the instant benefit of this person’s advice if you take the time to look. Maybe it’s concisely written somewhere. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. If you do your homework, you just may find the solution.
3. Who can I ask?
If that still doesn’t work, here’s the third question: Who can I ask? Now, don’t hesitate to ask, but let me give you a clue: Don’t ask first. If you always just ask, you won’t develop the skills you need for solving problems. What’s more valuable than the solution to a problem? The skills of solving problems. The answer to a problem is temporary, while problem-solving skills are permanent. So it’s not just answers we need, it’s skills we need. But if you’ve tried your best to figure it out yourself and you’re still falling short, have your notes ready when you ask for help. You can’t believe how willing people will be to help you if they know you’re willing to help yourself.
5 Skills That Create Success in the Marketplace
Learn to concentrate on these five abilities in your personal development quest. They will help you skillfully attack the marketplace.
Develop the ability to absorb, the ability to soak in, take in, be like a sponge. Sitting in class or at the workplace, sometimes it’s easy to daydream, to be preoccupied, to be somewhere else.
I read a good article once in Reader’s Digest. The title was, “Wherever You Are, Be There.” I thought that was excellent. Be there. Concentration. It’s also important in learning extra skills to really pay attention. Absorb, take in.
Most people are trying to get through the day. I’ve got a better objective for you: Learn to get from the day. Not just get through it; get from it. Soak it up. Each day is a piece of the mosaic of your life. Don’t waste any. Treat it with care. See how much you can get from a day—how much advice, how much information, how much color, how much sight and sound to add to your worth and your wealth and your equity of mind.
Develop the skill to respond, the ability to be affected by what you see and hear and sense. Success is not just knowledge. Success is response to knowledge. Success is not just experience. Success is emotion created from experience. It’s the emotional part that plays such a major part in our life and our future and our success.
Responding to life means to let sad things make you sad, to let happy things make you happy, to let puzzling things puzzle you. Let things that are difficult create difficulty for you. Respond.
I’m asking you to let it affect you, let it do things to you. This builds your emotional bank.
Learn to reflect. Reflecting is an extra way of getting more value from what you know and what you’ve been through. Reflecting is going back over.
Take just a few minutes at the end of the day, find a place, if you can, to be alone, and just go back and think through the day. Where have you been? What did you see? What did you hear? What did you feel? If you’ll just relive it, I’m telling you, it will add multiplied value to you. The day you’ve just been through will be more valuable for your future if you just go back through it.
Take a few hours at the end of the week and minutes at the end of the day, half a day at the end of the month and a weekend at the end of the year. Those are called times to reflect. Now, why go back over? Let me tell you why: to make the past more valuable. If you’ll take the time to review what’s going on, review the decision-making, review the people you’re with, review the actions you’re taking, the decisions you’re making, review all that stuff, go back through the feeling, you will make your life more valuable.
Now, why try to make your life valuable? Simple answer: to invest it in the future. We call that bright. We call that skillful, to make more out of your past, to have more value to invest in the future, instead of just trying to get through one more day, trying to get through one more week. It’s to get more out of your past and invest it in your future.
Develop the ability to act, the ability to take action on your feelings and your knowledge. Disciplined action is what gives birth to ideas, enterprise and values. Without activity, ideas and dreams have no life.
Disciplined activity is the most demanding of arts to take you where you want to go. Now, sometimes it doesn’t take much of a change of activity. Daily or weekly disciplines are those small changes of intelligent activity that take you in a better direction. Here’s a good way to look at it: Ten years from now, you will surely arrive. The question is, where? Now is the time to fix the next 10 years. Fix a better course.
Now, to unsophisticated people, what they do during the day doesn’t seem to matter. But to sophisticated people, it makes all the difference in the world. The books you read, the actions you take, the disciplines you engage in on a daily basis, those are the activities that are taking you somewhere, and all of us need to take a look at where our daily activities are taking us. The activity of learning, the activity of mind, health disciplines, wealth disciplines, culture disciplines—all values come from disciplines. Ideas put into disciplined activity create value.
Sharing is a unique human capacity. Sharing is a phenomenon, especially in the human experience. It seems when we share, we are the bigger and better for it.
It seems like if you share something and give it away, you’d have less. But it’s a paradox. What you share creates more for you. That’s why we call it a paradox. You’re not diminished by sharing. You’re increased.
If you have a child and you love him dearly, and if a second child comes along, must you now cut your love in half? The answer is no. From some strange, mysterious source comes an increased capacity. From sharing with the first, capacity and an awareness and uniqueness are increased. So that is what I would ask you to do, become gifted in sharing.
There are many ways to share. One is by the gift of language. One of the most important studies for you is the study of communication, how to affect other people with words.
Sharing With Good Communication
Have something good to say. You can’t speak what you don’t know. Talking is like writing a check. You want to make sure you’ve got a verbal check that will cash when you get ready to talk. And here’s the true power of communication: What you say is only the tip of the iceberg of what you know. I’m sure we’ve all been around people who quickly told us more than they knew. Do your homework. Have something good to share. Have something good to say.
Here are some steps toward sharing with good communication.
Say it well.
Part of the gift of language is saying it uniquely. Winston Churchill had the unique ability to take the English language and send it into battle. The words he composed and the speeches he gave and the language and style gave such hope to the free world that soon the enemy was defeated. But part of it was the structure of the language, the skill, the gift of saying things well.
Read your audience.
When you talk, you’ve just got to be interested enough to look and see how you’re doing. Learn to read your audience. I had to learn that. At first, I was so absorbed in what I was saying that I’m sure the audience could have left and I would have never known it. But I finally learned to look up to see what’s going on here, over here, in the back. That was an experience for me, learning to read, to see, to study the reflection of whomever you’re communicating with. That’s an art, a skill.
Say it with intensity.
Words with strong feeling behind them change the meaning. Words can have power if they’re loaded with emotion and belief, courage, love, understanding, awareness, sympathy, concern, being touched by somebody. If you put more of that into what you say, it’ll have an incredible effect.
So share your knowledge. You can’t believe how well you can help somebody just by recommending a book. Recommend a poem. Share a word, a phrase. You say, “Hey, I just read this, and I think you’ll get a lot out of it.” Somebody reads it and comes back and says, “Hey, that had an impact on my life, and I’m glad you shared that with me.” Then you start getting compliments.
It’s an incredible feeling when people tell you, “What you said made a difference for me.” But you don’t have to lecture in front of thousands of people to get that same feedback. All you have to do is recommend a book or share an idea. Somebody comes back and says, “That book got me started,” or, “The things you told me at breakfast that morning, wow, I’ve been thinking about that and I’m making some changes.” You can experience this incredible pleasure that comes from sharing ideas.
Remember, what you pour out creates a capacity for more. So pour out what you know. Pour out what you feel. Let go in a sharing way the good things that have come your way. That’s a major part of the skill in the marketplace of developing success, wealth and value.
The Person You Wish to Become
So, develop skills that make you attractive to the marketplace. Develop the temperament and the attitude that make you attractive to the business world, the attitude and the temperament that make you a splendid husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, friend, co-worker, business partner. Because, here’s what’s important: It’s not what you get that makes you valuable, it’s what you become that makes you valuable.
One last phrase to consider in the quest for personal development: Promise is on the other side of price. For the promise, you must always pay the price. If you want the glory of success, the glory of a unique family, the glory and the recognition of a unique enterprise, the glory of a job well done, then you’ve got to pay up front. And the discipline of developing skills for the marketplace is part of the pay. But once you get a taste of value, you don’t mind paying the discipline. I wish for you all these good things that come from paying the price.