The 17 Laws of Success

By t. | In Articles, Mindset | on September 15, 2013

Originally posted 25 July 2012

Successful behavior is learned behavior.  My Father taught me how to work hard and to be successful at achieving my goals.  He did not ever sit me down and give me lectures on success or how to be successful.  No, he simply set an example.  Day in and day out, he was, and still is one of the hardest working men Iknow.  He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s almost ten years ago and has had knee replacement surgery, but he still works…  a lot.  At a very young age my Dad would give me tasks and say “have it done by the time I get back.”  In some cases I would have no idea how to do the job he gave me.  If I said I didn’t know how to do whatever it was I needed to have done, my Dad would say “figure it out”.  He taught me a lot this way.  I guess it is an anti-teaching, teaching technique.  Some in education would argue it is not the most optimal way for a child to learn.  Still, I did learn a lot that way.  Trial and error was probably more error than anything.  But I knew I would not be able to quit the job until it was done.  Actually, until it was done correctly and with quality.

I didn’t know it at the time, but my Father is a great example of all 17 Laws of Success I have listed and outlined below.  I’am certain he has never read any of Napoleon Hill’s work even though very oddly, my Dad and Mr. Hill were born in the same tiny, poor, mountain town of Wise, VA.  I can still see my Dad using each of the 17 Laws, unbeknownst to him, each day.   I’m thankful.  The example he set for me undoubtedly set me up for my own successes.

Success is often achieved simply through perseverance alone.  Do not quit trying and somehow you will figure out how to accomplish your goal.  In reality, there are few things you can attempt that someone else has not already done.  So the hard part… the mistakes, have been done for you.  Often, a little research will point you in the right direction.  These day, research is easy.  Just pull out your smartphone and Google it…  if only I had had Google as a child.  Things would have been so much easier to figure out.  Either way, if you do not give up, you will accomplish your goal.

“The difference in a special forces soldier and the guy who didn’t make it is, the guys who don’t make it, quit.”  

"You can't succeed, much less win, if you take the path of least resistance.  You have to work.  If what you have is given to you, you haven't earned it.  Success can't be financed, it is payed in advance."  -t.

“You can’t succeed, much less win, if you take the path of least resistance. You have to work. If what you have is given to you, you haven’t earned it. Success can’t be financed, it is payed in advance.” -t.

The guys I trained up for special operations schools have heard me say that statement.  It is fact.  You might hear someone say that guys get hurt during training or they are “not cut out for” that type of service.  But the bottom line is, they quit. They didn’t have the passion and desire to succeed in the SOF community.  The one thing all successful people have in common is they did not quit.

The old saying if at first you do not succeed, try again is one the most important ideas for being successful. Thomas Edison failed over 10,000 times in creating the light bulb.  He was not a quitter, but the most famous inventor of all time.

Napoleon Hill (1883-1970), while on his way to becoming one of the most successful writers of the 20th century, interviewed many of the early 20th century’s most wealthy and successful men in an effort to outline the things common to success.  He was one of the earliest writers of personal success.  He wrote how the mind played the most important roles in achievement. ”What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve” is one of Hill’s most famous expressions.  It illustrates Hill’s idea of how powerful the mind is. After an interview with Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), the brilliant American industrialist who led the expansion of US steel production and one of America’s greatest philanthropists, Carnegie sponsored Hill to interview over 500 successful people and compile and publish the formula for success. In Hill’s first book, The Law Of Success, which I highly recommend to anyone who would like to be more successful, he first outlines his fifteen principles of success.  Later, he added two more that were actually discussed at length in the book.  Hill specifically states in the introduction that almost all of the principles are directly taken from Henry Ford’s methods of achieving success, but all successful people, without exception, apply these principles in their daily lives. *The bullets are Hill’s words, the bold italics are my take and in some cases, an interpretation for modern times. -t.

Hill’s 17 Principles Of Success

1. Definiteness of Purpose

  • The starting point of all human achievement is the development of a Definite Major Purpose.
  • Success and progress towards achieving your goals in life begin with knowing where you are going.
  • Any dominating idea, plan, or purpose held in your conscious mind through repeated effort and emotionalized by a burning desire for its realization is taken over by the subconscious and acted upon through whatever natural and logical means may be available.
Without a clearly defined goal, you’ve no direction to focus your efforts.  If you do not know where you are going, you cannot plan a route to get there.  


2. Establish a Mastermind Alliance

  • A mastermind alliance consists of two or more minds working actively together in perfect harmony toward a common definite objective.
  • Through a mastermind alliance you can appropriate and use the full strength of the experience, training, and knowledge of others just as if they were your own.
  • The value of “gathering together those of a like mind” is self-evident.
The difference between friends and allies is that the ally has a like-minded initiative and intent as you.  Friends are something we can gain on Facebook by simply clicking a mouse.  Allies are vastly more important for gaining success.  They are trustworthy and dependable on a higher rate than friends because you share a common goal.  Your success leads to their success…  and vice versa.  


3. Use Applied Faith

  • Faith is awareness of, belief in, and harmonizing with the universal powers.
  • Faith is a state of mind which must be active, not passive, to be useful in achieving lasting success.
  • Close the door to fear behind you and you will quickly see the door of faith open before you.
  • Fear is nothing more than a state of mind, which is subject to your own direction and control.
  • Faith will not bring you what you desire, but it will show you the way to go after it for yourself.
Hill said Applied Faith “is a state of mind which may be enjoyed only by those who have learned the art of taking full and complete control of their minds!”  In other words, you must completely apply your mind’s efforts to the belief that you cannot fail.  When young guys inquire with me about the difficulty of trying out for a Special Operations unit, I simply tell them the difference between a guy who becomes one of our nations warriors and a guy who does not, is “one of them quit”.  The quitter, when the task became difficult, did not have the applied faith required for the mind to ensure the body would finish the task.  


4. Go the Extra Mile

  • Render more and better service than you are paid for, and sooner or later you will receive compound interest from your investment.
  • The quality of the service rendered, plus the quantity of service rendered, plus the mental attitude in which it is rendered, equals your compensation.
You get what you give and if you want more, you have to do more.  I’ve used these two statements to fuel my successes for my adult life.  I can look back over my life and clearly see the level of effort I put into my successes and  and the lack of effort or lack of quality effort I put into endeavors that became failures.  No goal worth achieving, or that you can be proud of yourself for achieving, is easy.  Not one.


5. Assemble an Attractive Personality

  • Emotions are nothing but reflections of your mental attitude, which you can organize, guide, and completely control.
  • A positive mental attitude is the right mental attitude in any given situation.
  • Your personality is your greatest asset or your greatest liability because it embraces everything you control …your mind, body, and soul.
There is no person I meet, whether only in passing on the street, in a meeting with like professionals, or just picking up a brew at Starbucks, that I cannot learn something from.   I attempt to keep a smile and positive attitude with anyone and everyone I encounter.  I think this is one of those things our parents teach and instill in us.  If not, it can be difficult to develop good manners and become a pleasant person in adulthood.  How you present yourself is how people judge you.  There are not many successful a**holes.  


6. Create Personal Initiative

  • Personal initiative is the inner power that starts all action.
  • Personal Initiative creates work, opportunity, advancement, and the future.
  • It is better to act on a plan that is still weak than to delay acting at all.
  • Procrastination is the archenemy of personal initiative.  Procrastinators are experts in creating alibis.
Get started on what you can get started on.  Reaching a goal is an undertaking that requires us to take steps.  Sometimes the undertaking itself seems insurmountable.  If so, break it down into substeps that are easier to complete.  Either way, you have to begin your work.  Initiate action.


7. Build a Positive Mental Attitude

  • A positive mental attitude is the single most important principle of success, without it you cannot get the maximum benefit from the other sixteen principles.
  • Success attracts success and failure attracts more failure.
  • A positive mental attitude attracts opportunities for success, while a negative mental attitude repels opportunities.

I’ve always believed that you are the only person you can affect change on.  Since positive and negative emotions cannot possibly occupy your mind at the same time, you can… no, you must choose to have a positive mindset.  Find the good in any bad and exploit it.  Success cannot be had by “Negative Nancys” and there is not enough time to become successful if you’re worried about things beyond your control.  My Dad is great example of all these things, but his positive (never quit) attitude was remarkable.  If it was raining out, people would ask why he would not take a break and find things to do inside.  He would say “I can’t stop the rain, so I won’t let it stop me.  I have work to do.”  Of course, that meant I was getting rained on too.


8. Control Your Enthusiasm

  • Enthusiasm is to progress toward success as gasoline is to a car’s engine. It is the fuel that drives things forward.
  • Enthusiasm stimulates your subconscious mind. By feeding your conscious mind with enthusiasm, you impress upon your subconscious that your burning desire and your plan for attaining it are certain.
  • Enthusiasm is a state of mind. It inspires action and is the most contagious of all emotions.
  • Enthusiasm is more powerful than logic, reason, or rhetoric in getting your ideas across and in winning over others to your viewpoint.
Have you noticed yet these principles are actually more like commands?  Hill is telling us, not suggesting, these are the things we have to do to become successful.  Each of them are things you must to or for yourself to achieve.  Most of them are things you must do with your mind.  In this case, he says control your enthusiasm.  In this day and age, control is typically associated with placing boundary on something that is otherwise out of control.  But in this case, Hill means turn up the enthusiasm and keep it up.  If you are excited about something everyday it will become your priority.  Participating in activities that fuel your enthusiasm is key to positive control and not allowing your excitement to dwindle.

9. Enforce Self-Discipline

  • Self-discipline is the process that ties together all your efforts to control your mind, your personal initiative, positive mental attitude and control your enthusiasm.
  • Self-discipline makes you think before you act.
  • If you don’t discipline yourself, you are sure to be disciplined by others.
Another command, and in my opinion the most important: without being in complete control of your emotions, the actions they motivate will sabotage your efforts.  While you cannot control your environment, you can control how you react to it and act in it.  
I think we all get away with too much these days.  You can say or do just about anything and get away with it.  There used to be repercussions for things we did, especially if they encroached upon others’ tolerance.  I was raised, both by my parents and in the SOF community, to know I could get smacked in the mouth for saying the wrong things.  We’ve all heard the saying “your mouth shouldn’t write checks your a** can’t cash”. Lately our society’s acceptance of the lack of personal accountability has worsened.  Criminals receive lessened pleas so municipalities do not show increases in crime.  Corporations receive bail outs and incentives for (if they contributed to the right politician’s campaign) not being successful.  There are more ways out of mortgages and personal debt than ever.  Drinking and driving, when irresponsible people who have no regard for innocent people’s lives and livelihoods, has not been reduced.  The penalty for action should reflect the potentiality of the action’s consequences.  So in Hill’s time, the last bullet may have been true.  Not as much now.  Now you may receive less feedback that you are actually in control.  In other words, it is possible to go along doing stupid things and no one will ever inform you.  


10. Think Accurately

  • Thoughts have power, are under your control, and can be used wisely or unwisely.
  • Accurate thinkers accept no political, religious, or other type of thought, regardless of its source, until it is carefully analyzed.
  • Accurate thought involves two fundamentals. First you must separate facts from information. Second you must separate facts into two classes: the important and unimportant.
  • Accurate thinkers allow no one to do their thinking for them.
Think for yourself and conduct your own research to validate facts and find what information will most effectively lead you to success.  I’ve said it repeatedly… do not take anything anyone says as truth.  If I give you training or nutrition advice, do follow up research to make sure I’ve provided accurate information.  As it should be with anything you care about.


11. Control Your Attention

  • It is much easier to focus your attention on something you believe will happen than on something you believe is unlikely.
  • Controlled attention is the act of coordinating all the faculties of your mind and directing their combined power to a specific end.

You cannot be like the crow, easily distracted by shiny things.  You cannot be like the dog, easily distracted by birds.  You have to be focused, obsessed even, with achieving your goal to ultimately become successful at it.  A pressure washer is a good analogy for this.  It takes an easy stream of water from a hose and directs it under specific focus capable of peeling away paint.  Your attention has to be formed by focus on the goal.


12. Inspire Teamwork

  • There is no record of any great contribution to civilization without the cooperation of others.
  • Enthusiasm is contagious and teamwork is the inevitable result.
  • A successful team relies more on harmonious coordination of effort than individual skill.
Building a successful team takes a brave, confident person.  I think there are two primary factors that go into building a successful team.  One is you must be able trust others with aiding your success.  The second is you must be able to place the right person in the right position for his capabilities.  I relate to the childs’ game and say it is like “placing square pegs into square holes and circular pegs into circular holes”.
It is daunting and a true test of leadership if a person is confident in his ability to choose a team.  A controlling, dictator type of leader naturally surrounds himself with “yes men”.  This type of leadership is never successful.  I have seen it time and again in the military, business, and politics.  The controlling leader who employs weaker types, leads them all to failure.  


13. Learn From Adversity and Defeat

  • Everyone faces defeat. It may be a stepping-stone or a stumbling block, depending on the mental attitude with which it is faced.
  • You are never a failure until you accept defeat as permanent and quit trying.
  • Every adversity, every failure, and every unpleasant experience carries with it the seed of an equivalent benefit which may prove to be a blessing in disguise.
There are quitters and there are successful people.  That’s it.  The only tragedy in a defeat is if you do not learn from it. 


14. Cultivate Creative Vision

  • Creative imagination has its base in the subconscious mind and is the medium through which you recognize new ideas and the newly learned.
  • Synthetic imagination springs from experience and reason; creative imagination springs from your commitment to your definite purpose.
  • Imagination recognizes limitations. Creative vision sees no limitations.
Visualize your success.  Now visualize the steps it will take to achieve your success.  Allow nothing to interrupt your vision.  See it with exacting clarity and you will see it to fruition.


15. Maintain Sound Health

  • To maintain a positive mental attitude and develop a healthy mind and body, you must conquer fear and anxiety.
  • Anything that affects your physical health also affects your mental health.
  • A positive mental attitude is the most important quality for sound mental and physical health.
  • Exercise produces both physical and mental buoyancy. It clears sluggishness and dullness from body and mind.
  • If you do not have the willpower to keep your physical body in repair, you lack the power of will to maintain a positive mental attitude in other important circumstances that control your life.
Eighty years ago this man wrote about the importance of health and wellness.  It is no secret that what you put in your stomach feeds your brain.  If you are attempting to be successful, you are probably going to need your brain.  Compromising quality food and not getting ample sleep will lead you to a point of diminishing returns.  You simply cannot out perform bad health. A time saving trip through the McDonald’s drive thru will cost more in the long run than the time you saved hurrying though the line.  The need for self discipline is apparent here.


16. Budget Your Time and Money

  • Tell me how you use your time and how you spend your money, and I will tell you where and what you’ll be ten years from now.
  • Take regular inventory of yourself to learn how and where you are spending your time and money.
  • The secret of getting things done is: DO IT NOW!
  • Time is too precious to be wasted on arguments and discontent.

Wasting time is the biggest waste in which we can partake.  Once it has passed, it is gone.  Money wasted typically goes hand in hand with wasting time.  If you are wandering from shop to shop looking for a new pair of britches, you are wasting time and you are about to waste your money.  A recent survey found that the most popular cars for those people making over $250,000 per year where Honda, Volkswagen, Toyota, and Ford.  Think about it.


17. Use of Cosmic Habitforce

  • It takes habit to replace habit.
  • All of your successes and failures are results of habits you have formed.
  • The orderliness of the world of natural laws gives evidence that they are under control of a universal plan.
  • For every result there is a cause, and results are brought about through the use of cosmic habitforce.

First you develop a habit, then the habit develops you.  My first really good lesson on creating habits came from a Ranger squad leader.  I was a very young, inexperienced trooper, who knew about nothing… maybe less, about conducting sustained operations in the field.  We were in one of those Army schools where you don’t sleep or eat for days at time.  In an environment like that, habits become VERY important to success.  Since you are exhausted, you forget very easily.  In this one case, the Ranger and I were assembling pieces of communications equipment.  I took a glove off for increased dexterity. I placed the glove on the ground beside me.  My Ranger buddy gave me a look of disgust, picked up my glove and handed it back to me.  He told me to put it in my front pants pockets and then said “If you always put them there, they will always be there”.  That was fifteen years ago and I still put my gloves in my front pockets…  I have never lost a glove.

Pick up a copy of any of Napoleon Hill’s books.  You’ll learn something, I promise.  Give it to your kids to read and give them an idea of the mindset they’ll need to be successful.  Think about it, instead of reading vampire drama and silly remakes of people hunting each other, they might start their way on to becoming something.  A something that might help you retire one day! Sorry Dad, no retirement for you yet.

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