Believe and Achieve: W. Clement
Stone's 17 Principles of Success
by Samual A. Cypert
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Together Hill and Stone published the magazine Success Unlimited and co-wrote bestselling books, including How to Raise Your Own Salary and Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude, that inspired millions. Believe and Achieve takes the combined philosophies of Hill and Stone and uses each principle as a yardstick to measure how today's most successful people and companies have embraced these principles to reach the top. Through a step-by-step comparison and specific examples, it shows how you can create your own plan to take charge of your life and reach your highest goals.
There's a great story about Vince Lombardi and his dedication to the basics. Once, after the Packers played a particularly bad game, Lombardi got on the bus, held up the ball and said, 'Gentlemen, this is a football.' From the back of the bus, Max McGee spoke up and said. 'Coach, you are going to have to slow down; you're going too fast for us."'
Patrick Ryan chuckles obviously relishing telling the tale, as he segues into a comparison of Lombardi and W. Clement Stone. "He [Stone] is a strict fundamentalist in business principles and in the principles of life. One of his great successes — something that I have always believed in and tried to stay with — is to remember the value of the basics. A trip back to the basics periodically is always important, but it's especially essential when things aren't going so well to go back to the basics and remember where you came from. He's a great advocate of that and it has been the cornerstone of his success — something that has allowed his success to endure for so many decades."
Pat Ryan knows something of success himself. The son of a Ford dealer, Ryan pioneered in the sale of credit life and accident insurance sold through auto dealerships. Since merging his $560-million (assets) Ryan Insurance Group with Stone's Combined International Corp. in 1982, he has built a growing $5.4-billion insurance conglomerate and increased the value of his personal stake in the company to about $240 million.
As president and CEO of Aon, the new name adopted by Combined early in 1987, Ryan has steered the company on a course of rapid growth through cost-cutting, diversification, and shrewd acquisitions.
Stone continues to serve as chairman of the board of Combined, but Ryan runs the company. He's "fabulous" to work with, Ryan says of Stone, describing him as "very supportive, totally predictable (which is good), very consistent. He is a man with keen insights, therefore a man you can listen to and learn a lot from, yet he is not intrusive. He allows people to do; he doesn't get in the way of people meeting their responsibilities."
The back-to-basics approach to success that Stone advocates was, perhaps, the first really practical guide to achievement ever written. It had its origins in a chance meeting of its two principal proponents — Stone and Napoleon Hill. At a meeting of the suburban Chicago North Shore Kiwanis Club in 1952, the program chairman arranged for the two to sit together at the head table.
Hill, at age sixty-nine, was semi-retired, enjoying the fruits of a lifetime of writing and lecturing; Stone, at fifty, was head of Combined, an insurance empire that he built with an investment of $100 and dedication to his Positive-Mental-Attitude (PMA) philosophy.
The two dynamic personalities clicked, and before the luncheon was over they had struck a deal to collaborate on a series of books and self-help courses. Both were men of action who didn't hesitate to make the commitment, knowing full well the personal sacrifices such a venture would demand.
Hill's life's work had been the development of a series of principles that could be used by anyone in any field to achieve his or her goals, an idea he credits to turn-of-the century industrialist Andrew Carnegie.
In 1908, as a twenty-five-year-old journalist, Hill was assigned by a magazine to write a profile of the steel magnate. During the course of the interview, Carnegie, then in his early seventies, lamented. "It's a shame that each new generation must find the way to success by trial and error when the principles are really clear-cut."
He challenged young Hill to develop a practical philosophy that anyone could use, and by the time Carnegie had finished elaborating on his beliefs, Hill was smitten. It took him exactly twenty-nine seconds to accept the challenge.
Hill assumed Carnegie was offering to underwrite the project and was stunned when the industrialist asked him if he was willing to devote twenty years of his life-while supporting himself — to accomplishing the task.
"It is not my unwillingness to supply the money," Carnegie said, "it is my desire to know if you have in you the natural capacity for willingness to go the extra mile, that is, to render the service before trying to collect for it." Successful people, Carnegie went on, are those who render more service than they are required to deliver.
The canny Scotsman stuck to his terms. He provided some of the introductions and much of the material, but none of the funding for the work, except some out-of-pocket and travel expenses. Hill kept his end of the bargain as well. He spent almost exactly twenty years interviewing the business and political leaders of his day, cataloging and refining the principles they revealed to him.
Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, James J. Hill, Luther Burbank, William Howard Taft, Harvey Firestone, F. W. Woolworth, and William Wrigley, Jr., were but a few of the famous names who freely shared their secrets of success during Hill's marathon years of research. His personal success philosophy of achievement was the first authoritative treatise on the subject, and his books. Law of Success and Think Grow Rich, were read by millions around the world.
By the time Hill and Stone met over lunch, Stone had read the books and had found in Hill a kindred spirit whose philosophy paralleled his own. To Hill's original principles, Stone added a Positive Mental Attitude (PMA), which became the fundamental doctrine and driving force of the philosophy.
During the ten years they worked together, the two men published several books and crisscrossed the globe telling the story of success through PMA. During the 1950s, thousands of people flocked to Chicago hotels to hear them speak. "PMA Science of Success" clubs based on their principles sprang up all over the country. Letters streamed into their offices telling of lives changed and success achieved by following the principles they taught.
But something was missing. They found that audiences responded enthusiastically to their speeches and lectures, but as time passed, spirits were dampened and negative thoughts returned. To fuel the fire and keep the flames of enthusiasm burning brightly, Stone and Hill founded Success Unlimited, the predecessor of today's popular Success! magazine.
Their book, Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude, has been translated into several languages and is widely recognized as a classic in the field of motivational literature. It formed the foundation on which many who followed built success models. In fact, virtually all modern motivation books have a germ of Hill's and Stone's philosophy in them.
Nevertheless, the world has changed dramatically in the twenty-seven years since Stone and Napoleon Hill published Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude; and Stone's The Success System That Never Fails will celebrate its twenty-fifth birthday this year. In the quarter century since it was first published, we've put a man on the moon and personal computers and VCRs in the home. Smoke-stack industries crumbled, services displaced manufac-turing, the domestic auto industry lost ground to imports, and the flower-power counterculture settled down to raise the "me" generation.
Therefore, it seems appropriate at this time to re-examine this philosophy — to determine how valid W. Clement Stone's PMA approach is in light of today's attitudes, perceptions, and role models.
We began the project with a survey, not exactly an original idea, but one that we believed would prove to be interesting and valuable to our readers. We can't prove conclusively (within an acceptable error rate of plus or minus five percent) how Stone's original formula has held up. It's doubtful if we could even prove that our survey is scientifically or statistically valid. It was not a blind study. We identified ourselves in hopes that the executives who answered the questionnaire would subject themselves to an interview for this book. Many did.
While some names were selected at random, some were chosen for inclusion precisely because of who they are. So much for the "nth name" random-sampling method. The relatively small size of our sample would probably destroy our credibility with statisticians, but the unvarnished truth is that we were more interested in quality than quantity. We got it.
Among the obstacles we confronted in conducting the survey were:
• First, we found that CEOs of Fortune 500 companies have been surveyed to death. Many have developed formal policies about participating in surveys (they don't). Of course, there's always one guy who doesn't get the word. In one instance, two executives from the same company responded; one declined, citing policy, the other agreed to be interviewed.
Some spent more time writing to us to explain their policy and the reasoning behind it than it would have taken to fill out the questionnaire. Letters declining participation were often signed by the CEOs themselves, wishing us luck with the project; one even went so far as to tell us that he regretted having made the decision, but trusted we could understand his reasoning. We tried.
• Second, though it came as no surprise, we learned that there are a lot of busy people out there. Many of the achievers who wanted to participate couldn't; we would arrange a mutually convenient meeting time only to have the appointment evaporate at the last minute. Often, though, we were able to reschedule, and our wait always was worthwhile.
• The old Roman was right. When Pliny the Elder noted in the first century that the only certainty in life is change, he might have been speaking about this project. Two CEOs were rescheduled because they were having surgery at the time of our appointment, one chairman canceled altogether when his company fell victim to a hostile takeover, and one public company went private while we were researching it.
The introduction to our survey listed the Seventeen Principles of Success:
1. A Positive Mental Attitude
2. Definiteness of Purpose
3. Going the Extra Mile
4. Accurate Thinking
6. The Master-Mind Alliance
7. Applied Faith
8. Pleasing Personality
9. Personal Initiative
11. Controlled Attention
13. Learning from Defeat
14. Creative Vision
15. Budgeting Time and Money
16. Maintaining Sound Physical and Mental Health
17. Cosmic Habit Force
The executives who responded said they understand these Seventeen Principles pretty well. One notable exception is the last one: Cosmic Habit Force. Their confusion about it prompted us to take extra care in writing that part of the book, both in explaining the principle and finding examples to illustrate how it works.
A number of CEOs said they were unclear about the principle of The Master-Mind Alliance and how it differs from the principle of Teamwork. We took care also to address this distinction in the text.<>The majority of respondents stated that they consider A Positive Mental Attitude to be the most important of the principles. This, of course, concurs with W. Clement Stone's belief — which is why he and Hill placed it first on the list. Stone and Hill listed Definiteness of Purpose second, because they believed it was second only to PMA in importance. Fully half the CEOs surveyed, however, indicated that Teamwork should be number two.
Among the questions we asked on the survey was: Who is the business executive you most admire? The name of Lee Iacocca came up on the majority of responses. Two other names that occurred frequently, on roughly the same number of survey forms, were those of IBM's Thomas Watson, Jr. and General Motors's Roger Smith.
Although most of the participants in our survey have reached the top position in corporations that post annual sales of hundreds of millions and billions of dollars, they do not rest on their laurels. Most of them stated that they practice the principles of success every day.
One of the side benefits that accrued to us in writing this book was learning how kind, generous, thoughtful, and considerate the top executives of large corporations really are. They shared their experiences and insights with us in what we believe was a genuine desire to help others. Many of these individuals are identified in this book; others, for reasons of their own, preferred to remain anonymous.
In all, writing this book has been an entertaining, sometimes amusing, always enlightening experience. Of course the real test of a book is what the readers, not the writers, think of it. "A good book," said the nineteenth-century Dutch clergyman Talbot Wilson Chambers, "in the language of the booksellers, is a salable one; in that of the curious, a scarce one; in that [of people] of sense, a useful and instructive one."
We hope this book is both salable and plentiful, but given an option, we'd settle for its meeting Chambers's last criterion. We hope you find the book useful and instructive.
Much of W. Clement Stone's contribution to this book was made by means of transcripts of his tape-recorded thoughts about the Seventeen Principles. These tapes were made at a series of monthly meetings called "Essence Sessions," which Stone has held with a group of close associates for the last three years.
After careful study of these transcripts and the wide-ranging philosophical discussions they contain — all based on some aspect of the Seventeen Principles — two ideas gradually emerged:
First, the principles seem to divide naturally into five categories: personal, intellectual, attitudinal, fraternal, and spiritual. That observation led to the organization of this book and the sequence in which the principles are treated herein.
Second, there is a need for emphasis on the importance of honesty and integrity in business dealings. While Stone and Hill stressed the importance of following the Golden Rule, they seemed to assume that honesty and integrity would be taken for granted by their readers. Stone still believes in trusting employees to do the right thing, but he makes clear in the "Essence Sessions" that it behooves the executive to teach employees what the right thing is and to make regular checks on their performance to insure that they are doing it. Our survey of today's successful executives also reflects this concern with honesty and integrity. In the more populous and mobile society of the 1980s, old-fashioned conventions frequently give way to expediency. The new attitude is one of pragmatism. Whatever it takes to get ahead seems to be acceptable.
Naturally, not everyone agreed with this sentiment. Dr. James Botkin, whose insights were invaluable in explaining the intellectual principles, believes that our fundamental values are still intact. While today's generation may appear slicker and faster, he says, its members are not any less honest; they are just more sophisticated and faster moving. "It's a high-tech culture, a coast culture," which contrasts dramatically with the open, honest style that typifies older executives, he says.
Whether it's indicative of a lack of honesty or a cultural shift, the subject of honesty was mentioned so often by the leaders we interviewed that we felt compelled to mention it here. Virtually everyone we talked to voluntarily included honesty and integrity as being fundamental to achieving lasting success.
Success is relative. One CEO expressed great admiration for his gardener, a man who, he says, is a good husband and father, a respected member of the community, and happy and successful. Most survey respondents, however, defined success in terms of money, power, respect, and recognition.
Success by any measure is a moving target. It is never completely achieved. "I believe that at each new level of achievement you have to push yourself or you'll retrench," says Pat Ryan, "so I'm an advocate of reaching one plateau, then springing to another and so on. When you do, your capacity as a person is expanded; success is stretching to meet your goals, then never being satisfied.
"I once said, 'You can't conceive how far up is, except for the limitations of your own mind.' It may not be very good English, but a lot of people — including Mr. Stone — liked and responded to the idea. All I really mean is that once you decide how high it is that you want to go, that's as far as you will go. People sometimes ask me if I ever realized how big my company would become. I tell them that I honestly had no idea, but I knew it would be big from the day I started it back in 1963. I had a goal that it would be a national sales organization. I could have decided that was enough, but I wanted to build to greater heights. I don't want to know how high it is because if you establish the height you want to achieve, that is where you will stop."
Perhaps my greatest revelation in doing the research for this book was the fact that, like success itself, the PMA philosophy is not static. It's alive, moving, ever evolving to meet changing needs and situations. Since Stone's early collaboration with Hill, he's refined the principles they developed and added new insights.
"My perception is that Mr. Stone's basic principles have outlived and endured far beyond the trendy situations we see so often," says Ryan. "It is important for the reader to understand that these principles are not a reflection on a successful man's life, but in my judgment are principles that extend into perpetuity. Readers should accept this philosophy as past, present, and very much a part of the future.''<>Stone's and Hill's original ideas, as well as Stone's evolving perceptions, are explored in depth in the pages that follow. This is the essence of a philosophy of success that has withstood the test of time — overlaid with a template formed by the mores of modern life in America.
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