50 Success Classics


50 Success ClassicsWinning Wisdom for Work and Life, London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2004.

50 Success Classics by Tom Butler-Bowden is a useful sampler that surely was much work to produce; in addition it’s true that writing your own ideas is easier than correctly sharing the ideas of others in your own words.

In this sense, the book has high value and is a precious asset in every business and personal growth library because many of us won’t have the time to read all the books and life stories reviewed by Tom Butler-Bowden: exciting, interesting life stories of highly successful and extraordinary men and women. Hence the function of this review sampler conveys the essential wisdom from fifty landmark books.

This unabridged guide to the literature of prosperity and motivation surveys fifty of the all-time classics, giving you their key ideas, insights and applications—everything you need to know for benefiting from these legendary works. From rags-to-riches stories of entrepreneurs such as Dale Carnegie, Warren Buffett and Sam Walton, over master motivators like Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy and Napoleon Hill, to contemporary business blockbusters as Jack Welch, Spencer Johnson and Robert Kiyosaki, these are the leaders and pioneers who have helped generations of readers unleash their potential and discover the secrets of success.

Let me first point out what the author understands under ‘success’. It was thoughtful of his part to define what he means by that term as after newest stress-research, the term success itself has become controversial. This research found that in modern consumer society, success is actually a trap for many, a high-voltage trip to the grave, a cosmetic and socially approved vintage of suicide that comes with a golden coffin!

It goes without saying that Tom Butler-Bowden does not talk about this kind of success, but about real success which always involves the soul and which is not based upon greed, but a true mission. So let me provide some quotes that indicate of what kind of success the author is actually talking about in his book.

You need to make a distinction between a compulsion to succeed for the sake of winning, and the desire for enduring achievements that will enrich your life and the lives of others./2

Success requires a concentration of effort. Most people disperse their energies over too many things and so fail to be outstanding in anything. /2

The greater part of genius is the years of effort invested to solve a problem or find the perfect expression of an idea. With hard work you acquire knowledge about yourself that idleness never reveals. /3

Great achievers know that while the universe is built by atoms, success is built by minutes; they are masters when it comes to their use of time. /3

Successful people have a good relationship with their unconscious or subconscious mind. They trust their intuition, and because intuitions are usually right, they seem to enjoy more luck than others./3

The greater the risk, the greater the potential success. Nothing ventured, nothing gained./3

These quotes show that the author talks about success that is wholesome to the person, that, while it entails hard work, is in accordance with the greater picture of our inner life, and especially our higher direction. It is by no means the compulsion-like success that many today take for the one and only form of social advancement. In the same vein of thought, the author defines leadership as the ultimate form of expression, not a selfish power drive that needs to be acted out on the back on others. He writes:

True leaders are not interested in proving themselves; they want above all to be able to express themselves fully./19

Structured education and society often get in the way of leadership: What we need to know gets lost in what we are told we should know./19

Real learning is the process of remembering what is important to you, and becoming a leader is therefore the act of becoming more and more your true self./19

Discussing Warren Bennis On Becoming a Leader (1989), the author notes the following distinct criteria describing the know-how of becoming a leader:

  • Continuous learning and never-dying curiosity

  • A compelling vision: leaders first define their reality (what they believe is possible)

  • Developing the ability to communicate that vision and inspire others to follow it

  • Tolerating uncertainty and taking on risk: a degree of daring

  • Personal integrity: self-knowledge, candor, maturity, welcoming criticism

  • Being a one-off, an original: Leaders learn from others, but are not made by others

  • Reinvention: to create new things sometimes involves recreating yourself

  • Taking time off to think and reflect, which brings answers and produces resolutions

  • Passion for the promises of life: a belief in the best, for yourself and others

  • Seeing success in small, everyday increments and joys

  • Using the context of your life, rather than surrendering to it./20

The author explains that to lead, ‘you have to make a declaration of independence against the estimation of others, the culture, the age,’ that you have ‘to decide to live in the world, but outside existing conceptions of it’, because ‘[l]eaders do not merely do well by the terms of their culture, they create new contexts, new things, new ways of doing and being.’/21

In this sense, real success also comes with certain obligations. It’s not given for free. It has to be managed. Managing success means, according to the author, that you manage your time, and your productivity. And your advancement, or the advancement of your organization for that matter, has to be incremental, one step at a time, but that step done safely, thoroughly and carefully. He writes:

Success may look fully formed when we behold it with the perspective of years, but those who have achieved it know that it arrived because they made every hour and every moment productive./27

We are often so fearful of whether or not we can achieve something that we cannot see that if it is broken down into smaller, daily steps it becomes much easier./27

Bowdon CollectionReal success also involves people management, both the people you are working with in a team, and the people who buy stuff from you. And, last not least, the people who are in the ring with you – your competitors – that you ought to consider not as your enemies but as your friends, for through their eyes, you can see your weaknesses. When you talk with customers, will you smugly tear down your competitors? The author sees success potential in the precisely opposite attitude, and he stresses values like optimism, friendliness, openness, and a positive attitude:

In contacts with clients, praise your competitors. It shows clients you are even-handed and won’t hide anything from them./28

When you greet someone, say their name./28

For 30 days, smile frequently and watch it transform your life./28

Don’t ever engage another person in argument. Instead, ask questions whose answers are likely to bring them round to your viewpoint./28

Now, a very important point. What is the place of discipline in management and in leading people? Is it really effective or does it have side effects? The answer is it does:

Discipline doesn’t work with people who are not secure in what they are doing, only encouragement does. Praise gets them moving in the right direction. Though it need take up very little time, praise is the fuel that can drive a whole enterprise./32

Another value is what the author calls continuity, and what the I Ching discusses under the header of hexagram 32. Constancy. What is the meaning of constancy, and what does it mean in business? The author illustrates this value in discussing Warren Buffett’s stock management strategies.

What is most radical about Buffett is that once he chooses a stock, he hangs on to it. (…) Buffett had always craved, and had always felt enriched by, continuity: to work with the same people, to own the same stocks, to be in the same businesses. Hanging on was a metaphor for his life./52

Benjamin Graham said that one of the three important elements of a successful investor was firmness of character. Buffett has this in spades, because his style of investment has required him to stick to his convictions. As Lowenstein correctly notes, Buffett is so attractive because his value investing goes hand in hand with ideas like loyalty, integrity, and keeping things for a long time. These seem out of step with our era, yet they prove their worth in their results./54

Next, the author elucidates other values needed for building long-term success, such as focus, honesty, self-confidence, a set of positive beliefs and a basically sane mind that is able to evaluate reality with a minimum of perception bias. The author writes:

This is the power of focus, of sacrificing what you might gain by broadening in order to gain a smaller but well-defined market./58

Speaking comes from the heart, which is always true./59

If you exude self-confidence, people will naturally want to let you succeed. Self-doubt creates a perception of incompetence./63

What you believe about yourself, the world will believe about you./64

The higher level of black heart is reached when you are not driven by your shortcomings or emotions, taking action that is driven by your true spirit./64

If you like to present yourself as sugar-coated, you will lose out on any opportunities that may require you to seem sour or hardened./64

If you are a naturally negative thinker, make the most of it and don’t try to adopt false positivity. Don’t fall into the trap … of thinking / that you must change yourself before you will have success. You can succeed just the way you are./64-65

Another value or virtue of the successful entrepreneur has been called a sense of duty or fulfilling one’s dharma.

At the personal level, dharma is the duty that is yours to fulfill in your lifetime. You cannot be a soldier and refuse to fight; you cannot be a doctor and refuse to operate. If you are a writer, you can’t work in a bank. Once you commit yourself to your duty, the universe has a way of protecting you and freeing you from other worries./65

We were talking about managing time, but what is perhaps more difficult, and yet a duty to fulfill for the successful business person is managing money. The author elucidates:

Although money itself is a mystery, whatever best expresses your brilliance will inevitably lead to wealth. It will free you from poverty and give you a mindset that attracts abundance./66

Money comes to those who save. Money multiplies for those who invest it. Money stays with the person who entrusts it to wise people. Money is lost when invested in things with which you are not familiar. Money is lost at a fast rate by pursuing get-rich-quick schemes. /71

Although it seems obvious, the richest man in Babylon got that way because he lived within his means. In time, anyone who can live on 80 or 90 percent of their income can become rich./72

Last not least, the perhaps most powerful driving agent for success simply is desire! But for making desire the motor of your success, you must know what you desire, what you want! That sounds simplistic, but it is really not as simple as it sounds. When you are not clear about your true wishes, you may run for twenty years in the wrong direction, only to see afterwards that the effort was not worth it because all the riches you acquired on the way mean nothing to you – as it was not what you really desired. Discussing Robert Collier’s The Secret of the Ages (1926), the author explains:

Collier notes that once you have achieved, you are more likely to achieve again because you now have it in you to succeed. In a further analogy, he suggests that when you strongly desire something and believe that you will have it, it sets in motion a mental whirlpool that sucks in the things, people, and circumstances necessary to enable its realization. You develop a momentum that allows you to continue achieving but with less energy./76

The greatest discoveries, Collier notes, came from a person who actually noticed something everybody else had seen. The biggest fortunes, he says, were made out of opportunities that many had but only one person grasped. It is not that unsuccessful people never see opportunities; they do. But they differ from people who are called winners in that they rarely have the will or the courage to act on a good idea. They give themselves only the reasons why something could not be done, while the winner only thinks of how it could./76

Why is visualizing something you desire so important to its attainment? Everything made in the real world, Collier says, begins as an image. … By looking at these images several times a day, you prepare the way for their entry into your life. … There is an occult law that power flows from the higher to the lower potential, not the other way around. Therefore, always imagine the best possible outcome, and the forming of reality will follow this design./77

It may seem paradoxical, but few people know what they want. Humans may be a bundle of wishes and wants, but unless we hone these hankerings to a sharp point we will forever drift in a sea of unfulfillment./77

The challenge is to refine our longings and discontents into a single powerful purpose. You begin this process … by making a list of everything you could possibly desire, then weeding out the things that won’t serve you in the long run. If you’re not sure which desires are best, ask, Will this tend to make me better, stronger, and more efficient?/77

Once you have this sense of purpose, be willing to pay the price. Impose discipline on yourself and never let up on attaining your one true desire. Even if you are not brilliant, it does not matter in the long run, because the law of averages means that if you persist you will reap rewards./78

While my collection of quotes of this book was about ten times the size of what I put in this review, I shall stop here for respect of copyright. And anyway, knowing more about the book won’t make it more attractive than it is. This book is brilliant in every respect, and I have great admiration for the author to have mastered such difficult a challenge.

The price of the book, by the way, is very modest compared to what you get out of it. What is my overall feeling regarding this book? It’s gratitude! Did you know that a sense of gratitude and a conscious awareness of the blessings that are already in your hands is a thousand times stronger than the most excellent time management?

Singularity of purpose can produce a relaxed knowing, a faith in your future triumph that all really successful people share. This sense of gratitude and knowing attracts what you want on the principle that like seeks like: things flow to the person who already appears to have./78

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Categories Career and Success, Leadership and ThinktankTags

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