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Success: A Breakdown

June 12, 2012

Writing shortly after the Great Depression, when confidence in the American economy was low, the teacher and business consultant Napoleon Hill made a remarkable observation.

He did not credit, or blame, a person’s success, or failure, at any activity based on 1) family background, 2) available financial resources or 3) governmental policies.

Single-minded focus leads to results.

He firmly affirmed that American culture permitted all men of talent, intelligence and inner drive access to whatever their heart truly desired.  Twenty years of interviewing great men and women from every walk of life convinced him of this.  In all that time he discovered only one thing that separated the haves from the have nots: thought!  In short, how you and I think about the world and act in the world determines what we receive from the world.

The number one problem Hill believed his generation of religious, business and political leaders faced was: few people knew what they wanted in life.  “What a different story men would have to tell if only they would adopt a definite purpose, and stand by that purpose until it had time to become an all-consuming obsession!”  Hill wrote in his monumental book, Think and Grow Rich.  (pg. 21, 1937)  The remainder of his life was spent trying to impart that pearl of wisdom to every person he encountered.

Unlike the majority of American young men, who willingly choose not to accept their cultural inheritance, Nnamdi knew exactly what he wanted from life.  He wanted the honor and distinction of being the village wrestling champion.  To achieve this goal he had to publicly defeat Seko in a match.

This is not a spectacular goal.  I do not imagine its accomplishment would inspire the local historian to record it.  The fate of the village did not rest on whether Nnamdi failed or succeeded.  But it was a goal!  The boy invested a tremendous amount of emotional value into the title of wrestling champion.  It meant enough for him to devote time, energy and thought to carefully examining why and how Seko kept defeating him.

The idea that Seko was simply a more talented wrestler than he, did not satisfy Nnamdi.  He refused to entertain such a thought.  It went against everything he had already achieved.  Nnamdi was a great wrestler in his own right!  Time and time again he had demonstrated his wrestling skill by defeating opponent after opponent.  No one in the village could defeat him, except Seko.  No, it was not talent that separated Nnamdi from his coveted title.

Such thought echoes Norman Vincent Peale’s statements in the Power of Positive Thinking, “Believe in yourself!  Have faith in your abilities!  Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.  But with sound self-confidence you can succeed.” (pg. 13, 1952)

Nnamdi decided to analyze Seko’s every move, searching for any sign of weakness; any flaw of technique; any unconscious habits.  This proved difficult because Seko, just like Nnamdi,  defeated every villager put before him.  So, Nnamdi was forced to become creative.

Purely, in his imagination, he literally dreamt up new moves to use against Seko.  For this he is to be commended.  Nnamdi had no guide-rule; no model; no example.  All he possessed was the end picture of Seko defeated.  Converting his imagination to physical action, Nnamdi practiced his new moves on the best competition he could find.  Each worked like a charm!

Then he faced Seko . . . and experienced defeated yet again.

It is here that many men fail, including myself.  Life turns out not to proceed in the manner that we dreamed.  We are hit with adversity that we cannot surmount with our own strength, talent or intelligence.  And we have to make a decision to quit or continue pursuing our dream.

Our society puts a premium on the image of the self-made man.  Without any assistance, beyond his own ingenuity, the great man succeeds.  He arrives at the right place, at the right time, carrying the right solution.  The need he fulfills validates his value.  But what happens when you have given your all and it is not enough?

Overtaken by frustration Nnamdi did not entertain the thought of giving up.  He was emotionally invested in being the village wrestling champion.  With his back against the wall he did the only thing left to him – he sought help.  When the village leader’s advice proved useless he searched out and found Dafur.

More than an elder or parent, Dafur is a spiritual leader.  He represents humanity’s access to supernatural wisdom.  Drawing from something beyond what flesh and bone can adequately embrace, Dafur communicates answers to impossible questions.  Nnamdi’s problem veered on the impossible – at least for him.

Finding Dafur proved just as much work as his original efforts spent analyzing Seko for any potential weaknesses.  Weary from a full day of work and sapped from enduring an unmerciful African sun, Nnamdi reached Dafur emotionally and physically exhausted.

Many men and women come to spiritual wisdom in his manner.  They have exhausted all other means to resolve their problems. As a last resort they seek spiritual counsel.  Sometimes the answers they receive are uncomfortable to accept or difficult for them to understand.  The answer may be completely contrary to the way they have previously lived or were raised.  Even with the pressure the problem presents, many spiritual counselor have to gain the person’s respect.

So, tired as Nnamdi was at first he doubted if Dafur possessed the ability to assist him.  The little, eccentric man did not exhibit any of the signs that Nnamdi associated with great wisdom or supernatural power.  In his ignorance Nnamdi insulted Dafur, who in turn rebuked the insolent young man sharply.

Then, as if everything else he had endured was not enough, without asking his consent, Dafur dragged Nnamdi into the river.  The cool water felt refreshing at first.  Overheated muscles welcomed the relief, until they locked and cramped in response to it.  Unable to mover or free himself from Dafur’s grasp it was everything Nnamdi could do just to hold his breath!

When the ordeal was finally over, and Nnamdi could freely breathe again, the young man had his answer.  Revelation was given.  He had been correct not to credit Seko’s ability to defeat him on greater talent or skill.  What separated the two wrestlers was the expression of will.  Seko won because he wanted to win more than Nnamdi did.  If Nnamdi really wanted to possess the title of village champion he had to be willing to trade his life for it.

Ah, this brings us to a very interesting question, dear Reader: What are you willing to trade your life in for?  What do you define as victory?  Who are your opponents?  What is the obstacle that stands in your way?

The answers to these questions are crucial if you ever intend to rise above mediocrity.  Life will give back to you directly in proportion to what you are willing to give to it.  If you desire to give your life the equivalent in whatever the world can exchange will be given.

Again, Napoleon Hill articulated this in his book The Master Key to Riches.  “It is one of the great tragedies of civilization that ninety-eight out of every one hundred persons go all the way through life without coming within sight of anything the even approximates definiteness of a major purpose.” (pg. 34, 1965)

This problem still exists.  Many young men today seem to walk aimlessly through life, devoid of any real, meaningful direction for their boundless energy.  They possess a tremendous amount of energy and talent, but no constructive avenue to express it.  Instead, they consume drugs in large quantities, seduce young women and prey on our society by contributing to a sub-culture of crime.

The questions I just asked you dear Reader are not asked to them or by them.

A purpose exists for you!  A define reason for you walking the planet Earth exists for you right now!  You are needed to fulfill some service that is known only to you and your Creator!  Do humanity a favor, seek the counsel you so desperately need in order to birth the greatness that lies within you.

The signature of the most keen observer of successful people ever in American history.


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