HOPE & “THE QUESTION”
Hope is the Superman of emotions. It’s more powerful than a locomotive and when you properly harness hope, you can leap tall buildings with a single bound.
I’m in the hope business. I help people turn hope into reality. And many of you are in the hope business too, especially with your children. Let me tell you how being in the hope business works.
In the book, “Yesterday And Today For Tomorrow,” by Napoleon Hill and Judith Williamson, 2011, it is said that “Hope is invisible and it can slip right through our fingers as if it were quicksilver. We cannot see, hear, touch, taste or smell hope. Yet we know when it’s there. If we seek out hope it can be as elusive as a leprechaun. Yet without it, our lives lose the capacity to endure. Where does hope come from and where does it go? These are important questions to answer, for without hope, our life can spiral down and even end prematurely.
“Hope comes from the optimistic belief that the best outcome will occur regardless of the circumstances. Hope is the lighthouse of the soul that keeps the beacon lit and pointed in our direction. It uplifts us and gives us momentum for the future. Hope enriches our lives and is one of the main ingredients for a positive mental attitude. It promotes thankfulness by causing us to recognize our daily blessings. And, hope inspires us to keep on keeping on because by hoping we know that the perfect end result is right around the corner. Hope is a spiritual elixir or tonic that creates a predisposition for the development of good habits. It is a “yes” rather than a “no.”
“Hope leaves us when we permit pessimistic thoughts to invade our mental space and take up permanent residence. Negativity spreads quickly and forces hope out. By choosing to be depressed rather than uplifted, hope vacates the poisonous environment. By choosing to be depressed…yes there is a lot of choosing going on when it comes to our feeling and emotional states. Like leaves caught up in a whirlwind, hope can become entangled in the mental storm and whisked away. Hope leaves when the environment does not support its presence. Hope is evicted and soon fear becomes the new resident.
“Our power to choose creates our outcome. By staying on the positive side of the street not only do we enlighten ourselves but spread light to others. Modeling hopefulness creates the atmosphere for miracles to occur. When hope is present, people recognize that the possibility can exist for a better end result. Why not cultivate hope? You have far less to lose than if you pursued the other option.”
Napoleon Hill was a brilliant man.
Emily Dickenson wrote this about hope. “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings a song, without words, and never stops at all.”
So yes indeed, hope is a powerful force. We need hope. We hope for happiness and success.
Let’s define those terms.
Let’s define those terms.
Success is a favorable outcome, the obtainment of wealth, position, or honor. Happiness is the combination of momentary joy and lasting contentment. Momentary joy is the easy part. Lasting contentment is the hard part.
By nature, humans are happiness seekers. Little children’s main daytime activity is called play. If a child does not enjoy what he is doing, he stops and does something else, because he seeks pleasure. When we become adults, our main daytime activity is called work. We seek happiness and success at work.
Human behavior is an amazing and mysterious thing. It is by applying behavior that we hope to find happiness and success. As we all know, some people find these things and some people don’t. Assuming we all leave the starting gate with about the same potential, and assuming no severe negative mitigating factors are present, how do we account for the difference? How is it that some are motivated and some are not? How is it some win and some don’t? How is it that some are just better at life than others?
I’ve been interested in human behavior all my life, especially high achievement and in perseverance in the search for success and happiness. This interest might be genetic or because I was born into a family of high achievers. In my family, there were two school teachers, a university professor, a nurse, a New York opera company costume designer, a six-term superior court judge and adviser the President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a dentist, a mechanical engineer, two inventors who became millionaires, and seven physicians, including my great aunt and my grandmother. Not too many people can say that their grandmother was a physician, but I can. I can also say that a cousin of mine is a heart transplant surgeon.
Now let me tell you about my father, and the giant of a man he was, so you can perhaps understand the depth of my predicament, and how small and insignificant I often felt when sitting across from him at the evening dinner table.
My father finished four years of high school in three, then four years of college in three, then went to medical school where he was president of the graduating class. Dad had two medical specialties, not one, but two, one in psychiatry and one in neurology. He practiced medicine in three states simultaneously, had an airplane. He employed a covey of clinical psychologists, social workers, nurses, and electroencephalography technicians. He ran two electroencephalographic clinics, two. In our town in Indiana, he kept both hospital psychiatric wards full, personally saw 25 to 30 patients a day, and often worked seven days a week. He was active in community affairs, was an artist, a musician, and even a Rotarian. At one time he owned eight cars. And I had dinner with him every night. So I grew up wondering two things: HOW did my dad do all that he did? And, WHY did he do all that he did. What drove him? Why all the dedication?
A little story goes right in here.
Over 100 years ago, in 1908, an unknown young man stood in the foyer of a wealthy and famous old man’s 64-room, Fifth Avenue mansion in New York City, waiting for the butler to escort him to the library where the two men were to meet. This wealthy man, who was 73 years old the day of this meeting, had immigrated to America with his parents from Scotland. The family settled in a poor area of Pennsylvania. The first job he had, when he was 13 years old, was as a bobbin boy, changing spools of thread in a cotton mill, where he worked twelve hours a day, six days a week. His wages were $1.25 per week, per week. But, he progressed. He had a ravenous appetite for knowledge, read everything he could get his hands on, and in time, he got better jobs. He quickly progressed up the ladder of success, much farther than anyone could have imagined, all the way to unprecedented fame and fortune. What drove him to do so much?
The young man was 25 at the time of the meeting. He was also born into poverty, in one-room cabin in Virginia. His parents gave him an unusual first name. They named him Napoleon. His last name was Hill. And the old man was Andrew Carnegie, the founder of US Steel.
Napoleon Hill had been hired by a magazine to write a profile on Andrew Carnegie, and he had been granted three hours in which to conduct an interview. However, by the end of the allotted time, the 73 year old Carnegie had become so taken with the intelligence of this intense 25 year old young man, that he kept extending their meeting…until it had stretched into a three-day marathon.
Hill later wrote that his first question to Mr. Carnegie was this. “In as few words as possible, to what do you owe your fortune?” Carnegie said, “My fortune is due entirely to the work of my Mastermind Group.” Hill wrote that down, and then asked, “What’s a Mastermind Group?” Carnegie explained, “My Mastermind Group is 50 experienced business people who give me input and business advice, and, who hold me accountable to taking their input and doing all the good things what I say I want to do. Why do I need advice? Simple, I do not know everything. To be successful, I need to see what I cannot see. I need to learn what I do not know, so I can make decisions that build wealth and make me happy. Without the input from my Mastermind group, I would-be-nothing.” Hill wrote that down too, and it changed his life, and the lives of millions.
At the conclusion of their meeting, Carnegie enlisted Hill to interview many of the successful people of his time, to uncover and write about how they became so successful. Hill interviewed Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, Charles Schwab, F. W. Woolworth, William Wrigley Jr., George Eastman, John Wanamaker, William Jennings Bryan, three US Presidents: Theodore Roosevelt, William H. Taft, Woodrow Wilson, The Premier of Russia: Joseph Stalin, 500 men in all. The project lasted over twenty years, during which time Hill became a personal advisor to Carnegie as well as to Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. All his years of study culminated in a book entitled Think and Grow Rich, published in 1937. It’s one of the bestselling business success books of all time.
Hill describes The MASTERMIND PRINCIPLE: “Economic advantage can be created by anyone, anyone, willing to surround himself or herself with the advice, counsel, and personal decision-making cooperation of a group of individuals, who are willing to lend wholehearted aid, in a spirit of harmony.” In other words, no one gets rich alone. Unrelenting stress and frustration is the unforeseen cost of going it alone in life.
Now back to my father.
My father had a Mastermind Group too. There was a monthly Borough Family Board of Directors meeting that my father and his two brothers, the dentist and the mechanical engineer, had at a little delicatessen in South Bend, Indiana where we lived. On occasion I was invited to attend this gathering. In their meetings, the Borough Boys would review what each brother had done since last meeting, and discuss what they intended to get done or well started between that meeting and the next one. It was there that I began to understand HOW people could achieve so much, as I observed that my father and his two brothers figured out the HOW together. They were using the Mastermind Principle.
But, the WHY eluded me until I recalled something that my father and his two brothers did with ME all the time. They were always asking a particular question, a life-generating question. Not with the same words all the time, but the crux of the question was ever-present in my life. THE QUESTION was WHAT DO YOU WANT.
Aimed at one’s self THE WHAT DO YOU WANT QUESTION has subsets. What am I willing to do to get what I want? What’s the plan? Who can help me? What must I do more of, less of, or start doing, or stop doing?
When we properly answer THE WHAT DO “I” WANT QUESTION, we create a Future Based Self. This is a snap shot of who we want to be at some time in the future…and it’s very motivating.
ALL my family members asked THE QUESTION of themselves and each other. And, of course, anyone can do this. And, answering THE QUESTION in the proper way, gives us the WHY we do things and, at the same time, it compels us to figure out the HOW.
The proper way for you to answer THE QUESTION is on paper, and in the present of others who care about you, and who will encourage you to develop a good answer. The others can be family members, business associates, partners, co-workers, and employees. That’s what my father and his brothers did. It’s what Edison and Ford and Rockefeller and Carnegie did. The answer to THE QUESTION allows us to envision new possibilities then lean forward in time, and step right on into those opportunities.
In truth, most people spend more time thinking of how they’ll spend their Fourth of July weekend than figuring out what they want. When that holiday is looming, they take out a piece of paper, get their ideas together, start writing them down, they talk to family members, get input from all concerned, solicit support, get agreement, allocate resources, then they proceed with their plans and have a great 4th. Seems to me that we ought to do the same with what we want for our lives too, don’t you think? For a full life, a life of happiness and success we need an answer to THE QUESTION.
You can ask this question of yourself on a grand scale. What do I want for my life? What do I want for my business or career? You can also ask yourself this question on a small scale. What do I want today? What’s my top priority today, this morning? Get this one answered and you’ll focused and dialed in on the three to four hours until lunch. This prioritizing helps you block out distractions and get things done.
Your answer to THE QUESTION will help you find your passion. And isn’t finding and living your passion important?
Now, here’s the real secret of life. No one is going to give you much - opportunity perhaps, encouragement sure, you may be equipped with knowledge and skills, people may point you in a direction, help you find your passion then cheer you on - but for the most part, you’ll have to go get what you want. You’ll have to take life. Now you can take a lot, IF you are willing to do things that sometimes may make you uncomfortable, and IF you will do enough of what’s known to work. We know what those things known to work are. To my mind, the first and most important of those things is to properly answer THE QUESTION “WHAT DO I WANT?” Start with the end in mind. Then it’s all behavior.
I wrote a book about my work with business owner clients, and what I’ve learned from them over the years. I may write more books. If I do, one will be about THE QUESTION.
People say “We ARE what we do.” I think that’s backwards. I say “We DO what we are.” If were seriously engaged in life, we can’t help but DO what we are.
I remain fascinated with the psychology of achievement. I love coaching people in their pursuit of all they seek. And, I know about hope, and how we need hope. But, hope alone is not a strategy for life. You also need to ask and answer the WHAT DO I WANT QUESTION. When you get that clear nothing will stop you.