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Chapter 7 : Manage Your Environment: Go First Class
Your MIND IS AN amazing mechanism. When your mind works one way, it can carry you forward to outstanding success. But the same mind operating in a different manner can produce a total failure.
The mind is the most delicate, most sensitive instrument in all creation. Let’s look now and see what makes the mind think the way it does. Millions of people are diet conscious. We’re a calorie-counting nation. We spend millions of dollars on vitamins, minerals, and other dietary supplements. And we all know why. Through nutritional research, we’ve learned that the body reflects the diet fed the body. Physical stamina, resistance to disease, body size, even how long we live are all closely related to what we eat.
The body is what the body is fed. By the same token, the mind is what the mind is fed. Mind food, of course, doesn’t come in packages, and you can’t buy it at the store. Mind food is your environment-all the countless things that influence your
conscious and subconscious thought. The kind of mind food we consume determines our habits, attitudes, personality. Each of us inherited a certain capacity to develop. But how much of that capacity we have developed and the way we have developed that capacity depends on the kind of mind food we feed it.
The mind reflects what its environment feeds it just as surely as the body reflects the food you feed it.
Have you ever thought what kind of person you would be had you been reared in some foreign country instead of the United States? What kinds of foods would you’ prefer? Would your preferences for clothing be the same? What sort of entertainment would you like the most? What kind of work would you be doing? What would your religion be?
You can’t, of course, be sure of the answers to these questions. But chances are you would be a materially different person had you grown up in a different country. Why? Because you would have been influenced by a different environment. As the
saying goes, you are a product of your environment.
Mark it well. Environment shapes us, makes us think the way we do. Try to name just one habit or one mannerism you have that you did not pick up from other people. Relatively minor things, like the way we walk, cough, hold a cup; our preferences for music, literature, entertainment, clothing-all stem in very large part from environment.
More important, the size of your thinking, your goals, your attitudes, your very personality is formed by your environment.
Prolonged association with negative people makes us think negatively; close contact with petty individuals develops petty habits in us. On the bright side, companionship with people with big ideas raise the level of our thinking; close contact with ambitious people gives us ambition.
Experts agree that the person you are today, your personality, ambitions, present status in life, are largely the result of your psychological environment. And experts agree also that the person you will be one, five, ten, twenty years from now depends almost entirely on your future environment.
You will change over the months and years. This we know. But how you will change depends on your future environment, the mind food you feed yourself. Let’s look now at what we can do to make our future environment payoff in satisfaction and prosperity.
RECONDITION YOURSELF FOR SUCCESS
The number one obstacle on the road to high-level success is the feeling that major accomplishment is beyond reach. This attitude stems from many, many suppressive forces that direct our thinking toward mediocre levels.
To understand these suppressive forces, let’s go back to the time we were children. As children, all of us set high goals. At a surprisingly young age we made plans to conquer the unknown, to be leaders, to attain positions of high importance, to do exciting and stimulating things, to become wealthy and famous-in short, to be first, biggest, and best: And in our blessed ignorance we saw our way clear to accomplish these goals.
But what happened? Long before we reached the age when we could begin to work toward our great objectives, a multitude of suppressive influences went to work.
From all sides we heard “It’s foolish to be a dreamer” and that our ideas were “impractical, stupid, naive, or foolish,” that you have “got to have money to go places,” that “luck determines who gets ahead or you’ve got to have important friends,” or you’re “too old or too young.”
As a result of being bombarded with. the “you”can’t get-ahead-so-don’t-bother-to-try” propaganda, most people you know can be classified into three groups:
First group: Those who surrendered completely. The majority of people are convinced deep down inside that they haven’t got what it takes, that real success, real accomplishment, is for others who are lucky or fortunate in some special respect. You can easily spot these people because they go to great lengths to rationalize their status and explain how “happy” they really are.
A very intelligent man, age thirty-two, who has dead-ended himself in a safe but mediocre position, recently spent hours telling me why he was so satisfied with his job. He did a good job of rationalizing, but he was only kidding himself and he knew it. What he really wanted was to work in a challenging situation where he could grow and develop. But that “multitude of suppressive influences” had convinced him that he was inadequate for big things.
This group is, in reality, just the other extreme of the discontented job switcher searching for opportunity. Rationalizing yourself into a rut, which incidentally has been described as a grave with both ends open, can be as bad as wandering aimlessly, hoping opportunity will somehow; someday hit you in the face.
Second group: Those who surrendered partially. A second but much smaller group enters adult life with considerable hope for success. These people prepare themselves. They work. They plan. But, after a decade or so, resistance begins to build up, competition for top-level jobs looks rugged. This group then decides that greater success is not worth the effort.
They rationalize, “We’re earning more than the average and we live better than the average. Why should we knock ourselves out?”
Actually, this group has developed a set of fears: fear of failure, fear of social disapproval, fear of insecurity, fear of losing what they already have. These people aren’t satisfied because deep down they know they have surrendered. This group includes many talented, intelligent people who elect to crawl through life because they are afraid to stand up and run.
Third group: Those who never surrender. This group, maybe 2 or 3 percent of the total, doesn’t let pessimism dictate, doesn’t believe in surrendering to suppressive forces, doesn’t believe in crawling. Instead, these people live and breathe success. This group is the happiest because it accomplishes the most. These people become top salesmen, top executives, top leaders in their respective fields. These people find life stimulating, rewarding,worthwhile. These people look forward to each new day, each new encounter with other’ people, as adventures to be lived fully.
Let’s be honest. All of us would like to be in the third group, the one that finds greater success each year, the one that does things and gets results.
To get-and stay-in this group, however, we must fight off the suppressive influences of our environment. To understand how persons in the first and second groups will unwittingly try to hold you back, study this example.
Suppose you tell several of your “average” friends, with the greatest ‘sincerity: “Someday I’m going to be vice president of this company.”
What will happen? Your friends will probably dunk you are joking. And if they should believe you mean it, chances are they will say, “You poor guy, you sure have a lot to learn.”
Behind your back they may even question whether you have all your marbles.
Now, assume you repeat the same statement with equal sincerity to the president of your company. How will he react? One thing is certain: he will not laugh. He will look at you intently and ask himself: “Does this fellow really mean this?”
But he will not, we repeat, laugh.
Because big men do not laugh at big Ideas.
Or suppose you tell some average people you plan to own an expensive home, and they may laugh at you because they think it’s impossible. But tell your plan to a person already living in an expensive home, and he won’t be surprised. He knows it isn’t impossible, because he’s already done it.
Remember: People who tell you it cannot be done almost always are unsuccessful people, are strictly average or mediocre at best in terms of accomplishment. The opinions’ of these people can be poison.
Develop a defense against people who want to convince you that you can’t do it. Accept negative advice only as a challenge to prove that you can do it.
Be extra, extra cautious about this: don’t let negative-thinking people-“negators” –destroy your plan to think yourself to success. Negators are everywhere, and they seem to delight in sabotaging the positive progress of others.
During college I buddied for a couple of semesters with W. W. He was a fine friend, the kind of fellow who would loan you a little money when you were short or help you in many little ways. Despite this fine loyalty, W W was just about 100 percent sour and bitter toward life, the future, opportunity. He was a real negator.
During that period I was an enthusiastic reader of a certain newspaper columnist who stressed hope, the positive approach, opportunity. When W W would find me reading this columnist, or when her column was mentioned, he’d swing verbally and say, “Oh, for Pete’s sake, Dave. Read the front page. That’s where you learn about life. You ought to know that columnist is just making a quick buck dishing out sweet sauce for the weak.”
When our discussions turned to getting ahead in life, W W was right there with his moneymaking formula. In his own words, it went like this: “Dave, there are just three ways to make money these days. One, marry a rich woman: two, steal in a nice, clean, legal way; or three, get to know the right people, somebody with plenty of pull.”
W W was always prepared to defend his formula with examples. Sticking to the front page, he ‘was quick to cite that one labor leader in a thousand who had siphoned off a pile of money from the union till and got away with it. He kept his
eyes open for that rare, rare marriage of the fruit picker to Miss Millionaire. And he knew a fellow who knew a fellow who knew a big man and got cut in on a big deal that made him rich.
W W was several years older than I, and he made excellent grades in his engineering classes. I looked up to him in a younger-brother sort of way. I came dangerously close to ditching my basic convictions about what it takes to be a success and accepting the negators’ philosophy.
Fortunately, one evening after a long discussion with W W I grabbed hold of myself. It dawned on me that I was listening to the voice of failure. It seemed to me W. W. was talking more to convince himself than he was to convert me to his way of thinking. From then on I regarded W. W. as an object lesson, a sort of experimental guinea pig. Rather than buy what he said, I studied him, trying to figure out why he thought the way he did and where such thinking would take him. I turned my negator friend into a personal experiment.
I haven’t seen w. W. in eleven years. But a mutual friend saw him just a few months ago. W. W. is working as a low-paid draftsman in Washington. I asked my friend whether W. W. has changed.
“No, except if anything he’s more negative than when we knew him. He’s having a tough go of it. He has four children, and on his income it’s rough. Old W. W. has the brains to be making five times what he is if he just knew how to use those brains.”
Negators are everywhere. Some negators, Like the one who almost tripped me, are well-meaning folks. But others are jealous people who, not moving ahead themselves, want you to stumble too. They feel inadequate themselves, so they want to make a mediocre person out of you.
Be extra careful. Study negators. Don’t let them destroy your plans for success.
A young office worker recently explained to me why he had changed car pools. “One fellow,” he said, “talked about nothing trip in and trip out except what an awful company we worked for. Regardless of what management did, he found fault. He was negative about everyone from his supervisor on up. The products we sold were no good. Every policy had something wrong with it. As he saw it, absolutely everything had something wrong with it.
“Each morning I arrived at work tense and wound up tight. And each night, after hearing him preach and rant for forty-five minutes about all the things that went wrong that day, I got home discouraged and depressed. Finally, I got sense enough to get in another car pool. It’s made a world of difference, for now I’m with a group of fellows who can see two sides to a question.”
That young fellow changed his environment. Smart, wasn’t he?
Make no mistake about it. You are judged by the company you keep. Birds of a feather do flock together. Fellow workers are not all alike. Some are negative, others positive. Some work because they “have to”; others are ambitious and work for advancement. Some associates belittle everything the boss says or does; others are much more objective and realize they must be good followers before they can be good leaders.
How we think is directly affected by the group we’re in. Be sure you’re in the flock that thinks right.
There are pitfalls to watch in your work environment. In every group there are persons who, secretly. aware of their own inadequacies, want to stand in your way and prevent you from making progress. Many ambitious fellows have been laughed at, even threatened, because they tried to be more efficient and produce
more. Let’s face it. Some folks, being jealous, want to make you feel embarrassed because you want to move upward.
This often happens in factories, where fellow workers sometimes resent the fellow who wants to speed up production. It happens in the military service when a clique of negative minded individuals poke fun at and try to humiliate the young soldier who wants to go to officers’ school.
It happens in business, too, when a few individuals not qualified to advance try to block the way for someone else.
You’ve seen it happen time and again in high schools when a group of lunkheads deride a classmate who has the good sense to make the most of his educational opportunities and come out with high grades. Sometimes-and all too sadly often-the bright student is jeered at until he reaches the conclusion that it isn’t smart to be intelligent.
Ignore such negative thinkers in your midst.
For often the remarks made in your direction aren’t so personal as you might at first think. They are merely a projection of the speaker’s own feeling of failure and discouragement.
Don’t let negative thinkers pull you down to their level. Let them slide by; like the water from the proverbial duck’s back. Cling to people who think progressively. Move upward with them.
You can do it, simply by thinking right!
A special word of caution: be careful about your source of advice. In most organizations you will encounter freelance advisors who “know the ropes” and are tremendously eager to clue you in. One time I overheard a freelance advisor explaining the facts of office life to a bright young man just starting in. Said the advisor: “The best way to get along here is just stay out of everybody’s way. If they ever get to know you, all they’ll do is pile more work on you. Be especially careful to stay away from Mr. Z. [the department manager}. If he thinks you haven’t got enough to do, he’ll really load you down … “
This freelance advisor had been with the company for almost thirty years and was still bottom man on the totem pole. What a consultant for a young fellow who wants to ‘move upward in the business!
MAKE IT A RULE TO SEEK ADVICE FROM PEOPLE WHO KNOW
There’s a lot of incorrect thinking that successful people are inaccessible. The plain truth is that they are not. As a rule, it’s the more successful people who are the most humble and ready to help. Since they are sincerely interested in their work and’ success, they are eager to see that the work lives on and that somebody capable succeeds them when they retire. It’s the “would-be-big” people who are most often the most abrupt and hard to get to know.
An executive made this clear: ‘Tm a busy woman, but there’s no Do Not Disturb sign on my office door. Counseling people is one of my key functions. We give standardized training of one kind or another to everybody in the company. But
personal counseling, or ‘tutoring,’ as I like to call it, is available for the asking.
“I stand ready to help the fellow who comes in here with either a company or a personal problem. The fellow who displays curiosity and exhibits a real desire to know more about his job and how it relates to other jobs is the individual I like most to help.
“But,” she said, “for obvious reasons, I can’t spend time offering advice to anybody who isn’t sincere in seeking it.”
Go first class when you have questions. Seeking advice from a failure is like consulting a quack on how to cure cancer.
Many executives today never employ persons for key jobs without first interviewing the fellow’s wife. One sales executive explained to me, “I want to be sure the prospective salesman has his family behind him, a cooperative family that won’t object to travel, irregular hours, and other inconveniences which are part of selling, a family that will help the salesman over those inevitable rough spots.”
Executives today realize that what happens on weekends and between 6 P.M. and 9 A.M. directly affects a person’s performance from 9 ·A.M. to 6 P.M. The person with a constructive off-the-job life nearly always is more successful than the person who lives in a dull, dreary home situation.
Let’s look in on the traditional way two co-workers, John and Milton, spend their weekends. Let’s look, too, at the ultimate results.
John’s psychological diet on weekends is something like this: Usually; one evening is spent with some carefully selected, interesting friends. Another evening is generally spent out: perhaps at a movie, a civic or community project, or some friends’ house. John devotes Saturday morning to Boy Scout work. Saturday afternoon he does errands and chores around the house. Often he works on some special project. Currently it’s building a patio in the backyard. On Sundays John and his family do something special. One Sunday recently they climbed a mountain; another Sunday they visited a museum. Occasionally they drive into the nearby countryside, for John wants to buy some country property in the not-too-distant future.
Sunday evening is spent quietly. John usually reads a book and catches up on the news.
Wrapped up, John’s weekends are planned. His many refreshing activities keep boredom locked out. John gets plenty of psychological sunshine.
Milton’s psychological diet is much less well balanced than John’s. His weekends are unplanned. Milton is usually pretty “tired” on Friday night, but he goes through the motions of asking his wife, “Want to do anything tonight)” but the plan dies there. Rarely do Milton and his wife entertain, and rarely are they invited out. Milton sleeps late on Saturday morning, and the rest of the day is taken up with chores of one kind or another. Saturday night Milton and his family usually go to a
movie or watch TV (,What else is there to do?”). Milton spends most of Sunday morning in bed. Sunday afternoon they drive over to Bill and Mary’s or Bill and Mary drive over to see them. (Bill and Mary are the only couple Milton and his wife visit regularly. )
Miltons entire weekend is marked by boredom. By the time Sunday evening rolls around, the whole family is on each other’s nerves as a result of “cabin fever.” There are no knock-down, drag-out fights, but’ there are hours of psychological warfare.
Milton’s weekend is dull, dreary, boring. Milton gets no psychological sunshine.
Now, what’s the effect of these two home environments on ,John and Milton? Over a period of a week or two there probably is no perceptible effect. But over a period of months and years the effect is tremendous.
John’s environmental pattern leaves him refreshed, gives him ideas, tunes up his thinking. He’s like an athlete being fed steak.
Milton’s environmental pattern leave,S him psychologically starved. His thinking mechanism is impaired. He’s like an athlete being fed candy and beer.
John and Milton may be on the same level today, but there ,will gradually be a wide gap between them in the months ahead, with John in the lead position.
Casual observers will say; “Well, I guess John has more on the ball than Milton.”
But those of us who know will explain that much of the difference in job performance is the result of the difference in the mind food consumed by the two fellows.
Every farmer in the corn belt knows that if he puts plenty of fertilizer with his corn, he’s going to get a bigger yield. Thinking too must be given additional nourishment if we want to get better results.
My wife and I, along with five other couples, spent a wonderful evening last month as guests of a department store executive and his wife. My wife and I lingered just a little longer than the others, so I had a chance to ask our host, whom I know well,
a question that had been in my mind all evening. “This was really a wonderful evening,” I said, “but I’m puzzled about one thing. I’d expected to meet mainly other retailing executives here tonight. But your guests all represented different fields. There was a writer, a doctor, ~n engineer, an accountant, and a teacher.”
He smiled and said, “Well, we often do entertain retailing people. But Helen and I find it’s very refreshing to mix with people who do something else for a living. I’m afraid if we confined our entertaining to people who have only interests similar to our own, we’d find ourselves in the old, well-known rut.
“Besides,” he went on, “people are my business. Every day thousands of people of every occupational group imaginable visit our store. The more I can learn about other people-their ideas, interests, viewpoints-the better job I can do in giving them the merchandise and service they want and will buy.”
Here are a few simple “do’s” to help make your social environment first class:
1.Do circulate in new groups. Restricting your social environment to the same small group produces boredom, dullness, dissatisfaction; equally important, remember that your success-building program requires that you become an expert in understanding people. Trying to learn all there is to know about people by studying one small group is like trying to master mathematics by reading one short book.
Make new friends, join new organizations, enlarge your social orbit. Then too, variety in people, like variety in anything else, adds spice to life and gives it a broader dimension. It’s good mind food.
2.Do select friends who have views different from your own. In this modern age, the narrow individual hasn’t much future. Responsibility and positions of importance gravitate to the person who is able to see both sides. If you’re a Republican, make sure you have some friends who are Democrats, and vice versa. Get to know people of different religious faiths. Associate with opposites. But just be sure they are persons with real potential.
3.Do select friends who stand above petty, unimportant things. Folks who are more concerned with the square footage of your home or the appliances you have or don’t have than with your ideas and your conversation are inclined to be petty. Guard your psychological environment. Select friends who are interested in positive things, friends who really do want to see you succeed. Find friends who breathe encouragement into your plans and ideals. If you don’t, if you select petty thinkers as your close friends, you’ll gradually develop into a petty thinker yourself.
We’re a poison-conscious nation-body poison, that is.
Every restaurateur is on guard against food poisoning. Just a couple of cases of it, and his patrons won’t come near his place. We’ve got tons of laws to protect the public against hundreds of body poisons. We put-or should put-poisons on the top shelves so the kids can’t reach them. We go to any extreme to avoid body poison. And it’s good that we do.
But there’s another type of poison perhaps a little more insidious-thought poison-commonly called “gossip.” Thought poison differs from body poison in two ways. It affects the mind, not the body, and is more subtle. The person being poisoned usually doesn’t know it.
Thought poison is subtle, but it accomplishes ”big” things. It reduces the size of our thinking by forcing us to concentrate on petty, unimportant· things. It warps and twists our thinking about people because it is based on a distortion of facts, and it
creates a guilt feeling in us that shows through when we meet the person we’ve gossiped about. Thought poison is 0 percent right thinking: it is 100 percent wrong thinking.
And contrary to lots of opinion, women have no exclusive franchise on gossip. Every day many men, too, live in a partially poisoned environment. Every day thousands of gossip fests staged by men take place on such’ topics as “the boss’s marital or financial problems”; “Bill’s politicking to get ahead in business”; “the probability of John being transferred”; “the reasons for special favors being awarded Tom”; and “why they brought in that new man.” Gossiping goes something like this: “Say, I just heard … no, why … well, it doesn’t surprise me … he had it coming to him … of course, this is confidential … “
Conversation is a big part of our psychological environment. Some conversation is healthy. It encourages you. It make you feel like you’re taking a walk in the warm sunshine of a spring day. Some conversation makes you feel like a winner.
But other conversation is more like walking through a poisonous, radioactive cloud. It chokes you. It makes you feel ill. It turns you into a loser.
Gossip is just negative conversation about people, and the victim of thought poison begins to think he enjoys it. He seems to get a form of poisoned joy from talking negatively about others, not knowing that to successful people he is becoming increasingly unlikable, and unreliable.
One of these thought-poison addicts walked into a conversation some friends and I were having about Benjamin Franklin. As soon as Mr. Killjoy learned the topic of our chat, he came through with choice bits about Franklin’s personal life, in a negative way. Perhaps it’s true that Franklin was a character in some ways and he might have made the scandal magazines had they been around in the eighteenth century. But the point is, Benjamin Franklin’s personal life had no bearing on the discussion at hand, and I couldn’t help being glad that we weren’t discussing somebody whom we knew intimately.
Talk about people? Yes, but stay on the positive side.
Let’s make one point clear: Not all conversation is gossip. Bull sessions, shop talk, and just ‘batting the breeze” are necessary at times. They serve a good purpose when they are constructive. You can test your proneness to be a gossiper by taking
- Do I spread rumors about other people?
- Do I always have good things to say about others?
- Do I like to hear reports of a scandal?
- Do I judge others only on the basis of facts?
- Do I encourage others to bring their rumors to me?
- Do I precede my conversations with “Don’t tell anybody”?
- Do I keep confidential information confidential?
- Do I feel guilty about what I say concerning other people?
The right answers are obvious.
Meditate on this thought for just a moment: Taking an ax and chopping your neighbor’s furniture to pieces won’t make your furniture ‘look one bit better; and using verbal axes and grenades on another person doesn’t do one thing to make you a better you or me a better me.
Go first class: that is an excellent rule to follow in everything you do, including the goods and services you buy. Once, to prove the unconditional truth of the go-first-class thinking, I asked a group of trainees to give one example of how they had been penny wise and pound-foolish. Here are some sample replies:
“I bought a low-priced suit from an offbeat retailer. Thought I got a bargain, but the suit was simply no good.”
“My car needed a new automatic transmission. Took it to an alley garage that agreed to do the job for $25 less than an authorized dealer. The ‘new’. transmission lasted 1,800 miles. And the garage wouldn’t make it right.”
“For’ months I ate at a real greasy spoon trying to save money. The place wasn’t clean, the food wasn’t good, ‘the service-well, you couldn’t call it that-and the clientele was a bunch of down-at-heel-ers. One day a friend persuaded me to join him for lunch at one of the best restaurants in town. He ordered the businessman’s lunch, so I did too. I was amazed at what I got: good food, good service, good atmosphere, and for just a little more than I had been paying at the greasy spoon. I learned a big lesson.”
There were many other replies. One fellow reported that he got in trouble with the Bureau of Internal Revenue because he used a “bargain” accountant; another went to a cut-rate doctor and later learned he had received a completely wrong diagnosis. Others related the costs of going second class in home repairs, hotels, and other goods and services .
Of course, I’ve heard the argument many times ‘but I can’t afford to go fir~t class.” The simplest answer is: you cannot afford to go any other way. Certainly in the 100ig run, going first class actually costs you less than going second class. Then, too, it’s better to have fewer things and have quality than to have many things and have junk. It’s better, for example, to have one really good pair of shoes than to have three pairs of second-class shoes.
People rate you for quality. often subconsciously perhaps. Develop an instinct for quality. It pays. And it costs no more, often costs less, than second class.
MAKE YOUR ENVIRONMENT MAKE YOU SUCCESSFUL
- Be environment-conscious. Just as body diet ,makes the body, mind diet makes the mind.
- Make your environment work for you, not against you. Don’t let suppressive forces-the negative, you-can’t-do-it people-make you think defeat.
- Don’t let small-thinking people hold you back. Jealous people want to see you stumble. Don’t give them that satisfaction.
- Get your advice from successful people. Your future is important. Never risk it with freelance advisors who are living failures.
- Get plenty of psychological sunshine. Circulate in new groups. Discover new and stimulating things to do.
- Throw thought poison out of your environment. Avoid gossip. Talk about people, but stay on the positive side.
- Go first class in everything you do. You can’t afford to go any other way.
-David J. Schwartz
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