The 1938 book, Outwitting the Devil, still ranks as one of the Top 5 most profound books I’ve ever read. Yes, It’s that good…and its message is even more relevant in the age of COVID-19.
This blog post was originally written a few years back. With the onset of COVID-19 the past few months globally, it’s message screams from the pages of history as it’s more timely than ever.
What is your biggest barrier to achievement? Is fear holding you back? I ask these two questions to set the stage for where we’ll go in this post. In addition, I love questions as they are the perfect way to engage the mind which is not always easy to do in the digital, information-overload society we now live and operate within.
So, my question to you is… What is your biggest fear and is it holding you back? I encourage you to take a quick second and utilize the power of self-reflection –only humans have this ability by the way- to write down what your biggest fear is. Again, this is deeply personal, yet important and here’s why: we ALL have fear. It’s how we identify, asses it and take steps to deal with it, that I’d like to focus on with this article.
I’ve been drawn heavily into the life, works and books by the late success legend Napoleon Hill for many years. As I was recently rereading through Napoleon Hill’s amazing and thought provoking 2011 book, Outwitting the Devil – The Secret to Freedom and Success, I was struck by the following quote he uses to set the stage for the book:
“Fear is the tool of a man-made devil. Self-confident faith in one’s self is both the man-made weapon which defeats this devil and the man-made tool which builds a triumphant life. And it is more than that. It is a link to the irresistible forces of the universe which stand behind a man who does not believe in failure and defeat as being anything but temporary experiences.”
I think his recommendations about how to handle and deal with fear and doubt are not only spot on, but even more important than ever especially at a time with the COVID-19 pandemic gripping the globe and crushing the economy, lives, hopes, jobs, and dreams. It’s the perfect storm for the media who love to obsess, package, hype, and aggressively market fear-based news and information. In addition, the lack of spotlight and attention being given to hard work, the good humans do, and success stories built by honest people and businesses, is a shocking indictment again to the fact that the media continues to focus on the wrong priorities by EXCESSIVELY covering negative, fear-based stories and people. Hill warned about the media’s power to influence –often to scare not inspire- long before we had hundreds of TV stations, the Internet and mobile communications.
Here’s a quick look at the seven ways to eliminate fear and doubt within your own life, which Hill discusses in the book, and my perspective on them. Yes, the book was so controversial that his family hid the original manuscript before its eventual release in 2011, some 41 years after his passing in 1970.
#1: Definiteness of purpose. It’s amazing that once someone finds their true passion, life gets much easier. A confused mind uses excess energy and time. When you see or meet someone who’s passionate about their job, career, business or mission it’s very inspiring and the ‘lucky breaks’ seem to go their way. It’s the power of focus and goal alignment which brings opportunities -not luck- into their life.
Think of all the people you meet in a given week who are chronic whiners and complainers. They go on and on about how much they dislike their job, how stressed they are, how sick they feel, etc. Can you feel your energy level dropping as you read that last sentence? So, is it any wonder why these people are struggling? Their own thoughts, actions and words are repelling people and opportunities away every time they open their mouth.
I am very blessed to be surrounded by many “Go-getters” who are dialed in and ready to face the challenges of life because they have a clear vision of where they want to go and grow towards. They know the ‘why’ behind their actions and it serves to inspire them, even when the chips are down, and it keeps them moving forward in spite of what life or others throw their direction.
#2: Mastery over self. Your habits are either making or breaking you each day. Are you focused with your time? Do you have written goals that you review often? Do you have your day planned out with specific deadlines? I ask these questions, because as a society most people run from responsibility and seek to blame others for their own shortcomings. This victim mentality of blame and passing-the-buck is epidemic and is a major reason why so many people are “drifting” as Hill mentions versus moving ahead with confidence.
The following quote is a marvelous reminder about why goal-setting and working on yourself each day is of massive importance: “Failure to plan, is planning to fail.” Yes, this statement is simple and there lies the danger. So many people think that success is elusive, too difficult, and should be more complex. Frankly, it’s not. What it does require is setting up productive daily habits that move you closer to your goals; versus “hoping” and waiting for people, opportunities or breaks to magically appear out of thin air. That’s not how life works.
#3: Learning from adversity. It’s a measure of someone to see how they treat others when life has handed them a tragedy or major setback. If you’re doing well right now in most areas of your life, I congratulate you. However, I caution to be aware that being prepared to handle adversity when it rears its ugly head is a smart insurance policy to staying focused on your goals.
#4: Controlling environmental influence. This is simple: who you associate with and what you put in your mind each day is either making or breaking you. We are given the gift of free will and decision. For example, I’m amazed at how many people make excuses for years to justify and defend why they continue to hang around negative friends, relatives, and even a partner or spouse that saps their energy and dreams. I sometimes want to shake them and loudly proclaim “Please, for yourself and your dream, WAKE UP!”
Do you watch 3-hours of TV versus spending an hour of that time reading an excellent book that could change your life? Do you engage in gossip or listen to negative, fear-based radio shows? I ask this because it’s easy to get pulled into others ‘dramas and traumas’ which chew up time, creativity, and seductively distract you from the real priorities of life.
#5: Time. Use it wisely. Defend it like a hawk. Avoid as my mentor Dan Kennedy calls “time vampires” at all costs. You are in war for not only attention these days, but also defending your time from those who seek to impede, waste, and distract you. Harsh. I know. But high-achievers are militant about the use of time.
A valuable tip I learned from success legend Brian Tracy is to ‘eat the frog’ each day. What he means is simply this: attack your biggest priority at the beginning of the day so as to get it in motion versus letting the enemy of procrastination attempt to sabotage and win the battle for your mind.
#6: Harmony. Your ability to get along with others cannot be understated. In a global, highly connected world, being open to new ideas and life-long learning are essential skills all champions possess. On rare occasion when I meet a ‘know-it-all” person, I immediately do my best to avoid and not engage them. These types of people are usually not only inflexible, but arrogant and full of pride and a massive ego. I’m often reminded when I meet people like this of the classic and prophetic quote, “pride cometh, before the fall.” Not that I’m implying that I wish this upon them, it’s simply a logical progression path they are heading towards.
Here’s the shocking realization that the media rarely talks about or reports on: many self-made millionaires and billionaires are HUGE students of life-long learning. They know that to get too comfortable is often a dangerous thing to do.
#7: Caution. Seeking wise counsel and masterminding are of immense value. To go it alone without other ideas and perspectives is not only arrogant, but dumb. There are countless resources and smart people available to provide advice, tips and contacts which can save you time, money and potential heartache. It is simply shocking to me how many new entrepreneurs and non-profit leaders that are often clueless about their industry and the pros and cons of pursuing their idea.
I think this goes back to the fact that it an instant gratification most people expect immediate results and success. Please wake up. The best advice I’ve ever hear about success was when I spoke with former NFL quarterback Fran Tarkenton at an event several years ago in Indianapolis. He came right out at the beginning of his speech and said, “Do you want to know the secret to success? Here it is: hard work!” I shook my head in agreement and in my mind thought, “Here’s a wise man who really speaks the truth.”
Do yourself a BIG favor, go out and get this book or audio today! It’s amazing and even more relevant today than when it was written at the height of the Great Depression in 1938. Stay strong…this too shall pass. Tony (4/22/20)