The Strangest Secret

Chris Smith BA Hons

Table of Contents
The Strangest Secret
The Definition of Success
Your 30-Day Experiment
Bonus Book: How to Create Million Dollar Ideas
Creative Thinking Creates Our Life
The Gold Mine Between Your Ears
Test Your C.Q.
Characteristics of Creative People
Your Most Valuable Creative Tools
The Power In Asking Questions
New Ways to Think
Creative Problem Solving
The Brainstorm
Ready for Action
The Creative Person
The Challenge of Creativity
For More Earl Nightingale
The Strangest Secret
I would like to tell you about the strangest secret in the world.
Not long ago Albert Schweitzer, the great doctor and Nobel Prize
winner, was
being interviewed in London and a reporter asked him, “Doctor
what’s wrong
with men today?”
The great doctor was silent for a moment and then he said, “Men
simply don’t
think.” And it’s about this that I want to talk with you.
We live today in a golden age. This is an era that man has looked
forward to,
dreamed of and worked hard for thousands of years.
But since it’s here, we pretty well take it for granted.
We, in America, are particularly fortunate to live in the richest land
that ever
existed on the face of the earth. A land of abundant opportunity for
everyone, but
do you know what happens?
Let’s take a hundred men who start even at the age of 25. Do you
have any idea
of what will happen to those men by the time they’re 65?
These one hundred men, who all start even at the age of 25,
believe they are
going to be successful. If you ask any one of these men if he
wanted to be a
success, he would tell you that he did and you would notice that he
was eager
towards life, that there was a certain sparkle to his eye and
erectness to his
courage and life seemed like a pretty interesting adventure to him.
But by the time they’re 65 one will be rich. Four will be financially
Five will still be working, 54 will be broke.
Now think a moment, out of the one hundred, only five make the
grade. Why do
so many fail? What has happened to the sparkle that was there
when they were
25? What’s become of the dreams, the hopes, the plans and why is
there such a
large disparity between what these men intended to do and what
they actually
When we say about 5% achieve success, we have to define
success, and here’s
the definition. Success is the progressive realization of a worthy
ideal. If a man
is working towards a predetermined goal and knows where he is
going, that man
is a success. If he’s not doing that, he’s a failure. Success is the
realization of a worthy ideal.
Rollo May, the distinguished psychiatrist, wrote a wonderful book
called Man’s
Search for Himself, and in this book he says the opposite of
courage in our
society is not cowardness, it is conformity. And there you have the
trouble today.
It’s conformity. People acting like every one else without knowing
why, without
knowing where they’re going.
Now think of it. In America right now there are over 40 million
people 65 years
of age and over and about 13 million of these 40 million are broke.
dependent on someone else for life’s necessities.
Now we learn to read by the time we’re seven. We learn to make a
living by the
time we’re 25. Usually by that time, we’re not only making a living,
supporting a family. And yet, by the time we’re 65, we haven’t
learned how to
become financially independent in the richest land that has ever
been known.
Why? We conform. And the trouble is that we’re acting like the
percentage group — the 95% who don’t succeed.
Now why do these people conform? Well, they don’t know really.
These people
believe that their lives are shaped by circumstances, by things that
happened to
them, by exterior forces; they’re outer directed people.
A survey was made one time that covered a lot of men, working
men, and these
men were asked this question. Why do you work? Why do you get
up in the
morning? 19 out of 20 had no idea. If you ask them, they’ll say
everyone goes to
work in the morning and that’s the reason why they do it because
everyone else
is doing it.
Back to top
The Definition of Success
Now let’s get back to our definition of success. Who succeeds? The
only man
who succeeds is the man who is progressively realizing a worthy
ideal. He’s the
man who says, “I’m going to become this” and then begins to work
towards that
I’ll tell you who the successful people are. A success is the school
teacher who is
teaching school because that’s what she wanted to do. The
success is the woman
who is a wife and mother because she wanted to become a wife
and mother and
is doing a good job of it. The success is the man who runs the
corner gas station,
because that’s what he wanted to do. The success is the successful
salesman who
wants to become a top-notch salesman and grow and build with his
A success is anyone who is doing deliberately a predetermined job
that’s what he decided to do deliberately. But only 1 out of 20 does
That’s why today, there isn’t really any competition, unless we make
it for
ourselves. Instead of competing all we have to do is create. Now for
years I looked for the key which would determine what would
happen to a
human being. Was there a key, I wanted to know, which would
make the future a
promise that we could foretell to a large extent? Was there a key to
a person
becoming successful if he only knew about it and knew how to use
Well, there is such a key and I’ve found it. Have you ever wondered
why so
many men work so hard and earnestly without ever achieving
anything in
particular and others don’t seem to work hard and yet seem to get
They have a magic touch. You’ve heard them say that about
Everything he touches turns to gold. And have you ever noticed that
a man who
becomes successful tends to continue to be successful, and on the
other hand
have you noticed how a man who is a failure, tends to continue to
fail. It’s
because of goals. Some of us have them, some don’t.
People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going.
Now think
of a ship leaving a harbor and think of it with a complete voyage
mapped out and
planned. The captain and crew know exactly where it’s going and
how long it
will take. It has a definite goal. Nine thousand, nine hundred and
times out of ten thousand it will get to where it started out to get.
Now let’s take another ship, just like the first, only let’s not put a
crew on it or a
captain of the helm. Let’s give it no aiming point. No goal, no
destiny. We just
start the engine and let it go. I think you’ll agree with me that if it
gets out of the
harbor at all, it will either sink or wind up on some deserted beach,
a derelict. It
can’t go any place because it has no destination, no guidance.
It’s the same with a human being. Take the salesman for example.
There is no
other person in the world today with the future of a good salesman.
Selling is the
world’s highest paid profession, if we’re good at it and if we know
where we’re
going. Every company needs top notched salesmen and they
reward those men.
The sky is the limit for them, but how many can you find.
Someone once said the human race is fixed, not to prevent the
strong from
winning but to prevent the weak from losing. The American
economy today can
be likened to a convoy in time of war. The entire economy is slowed
down to
protect its weakest link, just as the convoy had to go at the speed
that would
permit its slowest vessel to remain in formation.
That’s why it’s so easy to make a living today. It takes no particular
brains or
talent to make a living and support a family today. So we have a
plateau of so
called security, if that’s what a person is looking for. But we do have
to decide
how high above this plateau we want to aim for.
Now let’s get back to the strangest secret in the world — the story
that I wanted
to tell you today. Why do men with goals succeed in life and men
without them
fail. Well let me tell you something, which if you really understand it,
will alter
your life immediately.
If you understand completely what I’m going to tell you from this
moment on,
your life will never be the same again. You will suddenly find that
good luck just
seems to be attracted to you. The things you want just seem to fall
in line and
from now on you won’t have the problems, the worries, the knowing
lump of
anxiety that, perhaps, you have experienced before. Doubt, fear,
well they’ll be
things of the past.
Here’s the key to success and the key to failure: We become what
we think
about. Now let me say that again. We become what we think about.
all history, the great wise men and teachers, philosophers and
prophets have
agreed with one another on many different things. It is only on this
one point that
they are in complete and unanimous agreement.
Listen to what Marcus Aurelius, the great Roman Emperor said. He
said, “a
man’s life is what his thoughts make of it.” Disraeli said this,
“everything comes
if a man would only wait. I have brought myself, by long meditation,
to the
conviction that a human being with a settled purpose, must
accomplish it and
that nothing can resist a will that will stake even existence for its
Ralph Waldo Emerson said this, “a man is what he thinks about all
day long.”
William James said, “the greatest discovery of my generation is that
beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.” And
he also said,
“we need only in cold blood act as if the thing in question was real
and it will
become infallibly real by growing into such a connection with our life
that it will
become real. It will become so knit with habit and emotion, that our
interest in it
will be those which characterize belief.”
He also said this, “if you only care enough for a result, you will
almost certainly
ascertain it. If you wish to be rich, you will be rich. If you wish to be
you will be learned. If you wish to be good, you will good. Only you
must then
really wish these things and wish them exclusively and not wish at
the same time
a hundred other compatible things just as strongly.”
In the bible you read, in Mark 9:23, “if thou canst believe, all things
are possible
to him that believeth.” Dr. Norman Vincent Peale said, “this is one of
greatest laws in the universe. Fervently do I wish I had discovered it
as a very
young man. It dawned upon me much later in life and I found it to
be one of the
greatest, if not my greatest discovery, outside of my relationship to
God. And the
great law briefly and simply stated is that if you think in negative
terms, you’ll
get negative results. If you’ll think in positive terms, you will achieve
results. That is the simple fact which is at the basis of an
astonishing law of
prosperity and success. In three words, ‘believe and succeed’.”
William Shakespeare put it this way: “our doubts are traitors and
make us lose
the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.” George Bernerd
Shaw said,
“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I
believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are
the people
who get up and look for the circumstances they want and if they
can’t find them,
make them.”
Well, it’s pretty apparent, isn’t it? And every person who discovered
this for a
while believed that he was the first one to work it out. We become
what we think
Now it stands to reason that a person who is thinking about a
concrete and
worthwhile goal is going to reach it because that’s what he is
thinking about and
we become what we think about.
Conversely, the man who has no goal, who doesn’t know where he
is going and
whose thoughts must therefore be thoughts of confusion and
anxiety and fear
and worry, becomes what he thinks about. His life becomes one of
fear, anxiety and worry and if he thinks about nothing, he becomes
Now how does it work? Why do we become what we think about?
Well I’ll tell
you how it works as far as we know. Now, to do this, I want to tell
you about a
situation that parallels the human mind.
Suppose a farmer had some land and it’s good, fertile land. Now
the land gives
the farmer a choice. He may plant in that land whatever he
chooses, the land
doesn’t care. It’s up to the farmer to make the decision. Now
remember, we’re
comparing the human mind with the land. Because the mind, like
the land,
doesn’t care what you plant in it. It will return what you plant, but it
doesn’t care
what you plant.
Now let’s say that the farmer has two seeds in his hand. One is a
seed of corn,
the other is night shade, a deadly poison. He digs two little holes in
the earth and
he plants both seeds; one corn, the other night shade. He covers up
the holes,
waters and takes care of the land and what will happen?
Invariably, the land will return what is planted. As it is written in the
Bible, “as
you sow, so shall you reap.” Remember the land doesn’t care. It will
poison in just as wonderful abundance as it will corn. So up comes
the two
plants: one corn, one poison.
Now the human mind is far more fertile, far more incredible and
mysterious than
the land, but it works the same way. It doesn’t care what we plant.
Failure? A concrete worthwhile goal or confusion,
misunderstanding, fear,
anxiety and so on. But what we plant it will return to us.
You see, the human mind is the last great unexplored continent on
the earth. It
contains riches beyond our wildest dreams. It will return anything
we want to
Now, you might say, “but if that’s true, why don’t people use their
more?” Well I think they’ve figured out an answer to that too. Our
mind comes
as standard equipment at birth. It’s free and things that are given to
us for
nothing, we place little value on. Things that we pay money for, we
The paradox is that exactly the reverse is true. Everything that’s
worthwhile in life came to us free: our mind, our soul, our body, our
hopes, our
dreams, our ambitions, our intelligence, our love of family and
children and
friends. All these priceless possessions are free, but the things that
cost us money
are actually very cheap and can be replaced at any time.
A good man can be completely wiped out and make another
fortune. He can do
that several times. Even if our home burns down we can rebuild it.
But the things
that we got for nothing, we can never replace. The human mind isn’t
merely because we take it for granted. Familiarity breeds contempt.
It can do any
kind of job we assign to it, but generally speaking, we use it for little
jobs instead
of big, important ones. Universities have proved that most of us are
operating on
about 10% of our abilities.
Decide now, what is it you want? Plant your goal in your mind. It’s
the most
important decision you’ll ever make in your entire life. Do you want
to be an
outstanding salesman, a better worker at your particular job? Do
you want to go
places in your company, in your community? All you’ve got to do is
plant that
seed in your mind. Care for it. Work steadily towards your goal and
it will
become a reality. It not only will, there’s no way that it cannot.
You see, that is a law, like the laws of Sir Isaac Newton, the laws of
gravity. If
you get on top of a building and jump off you’ll always go down,
you’ll never
go up. And it’s the same with all of the other laws of nature — they
always work,
they’re inflexible.
Think about your goal in a relaxed positive way. Picture yourself in
your mind’s
eye as having already achieved this goal. See yourself doing the
things that you
will be doing when you’ve reached your goal.
Ours has been called the Phenobarbital Age, the age of ulcers and
breakdowns. At a time when medical research has raised us to a
new plateau of
good health and longevity, far too many of us worry ourselves into
an early
grave trying to cope with things in our own little, personal ways
without learning
a few great laws that will take care of everything for us. These
things we bring
on ourselves by our habitual way of thinking.
Every one of us is the sum total of his own thoughts. He is where he
is because
that is exactly where he really wants to be, whether he’ll admit that
or not. Each
of us must live off the fruits of his thoughts in the future because
what you think
today and tomorrow, next month or next year, will mold your life and
your future. You’re guided by your mind.
I remember one time I was driving through Arizona and I saw one of
those giant
earth moving machines roaring along the road at about 35 mph with
what looked
like 20 tons of dirt in it. A tremendous incredible machine, and there
was a little
man perched way up on top with the wheel in his hands, guiding it.
And as I
drove along I was struck by the similarity of that machine to the
human mind.
Just suppose you’re sitting at the controls of such a vast source of
energy. Are
you going to sit back and fold your arms and let it run itself into a
ditch, or are
you going to keep both hands firmly on the wheel and control and
direct this
power to a specific, worthwhile purpose. It’s up to you. You’re in the
You see, the very law that gives us success is a two-edged sword.
We must
control our thinking. The same rule that can lead a man to a life of
wealth, happiness and all the things that he has ever dreamed of for
himself and
for his family, that very same law can lead him into the gutter. It’s all
in how he
uses it, for good or for bad. This is the strangest secret in the world.
Now why do I say it’s strange and why do I call it a secret? Actually
it isn’t a
secret at all. It was first promulgated by some of the earliest wise
men and it
appears again and again throughout the Bible. But very few people,
who have
learned it understand it. That’s why it’s strange and why, for some
strange reason, it virtually remains a secret. I believe that you could
go out and
walk down the main street of your town and ask one man after
another what the
secret of success is, and you probably wouldn’t run into one man in
a month who
could tell you.
Now this information is enormously valuable to us if we really
understand it and
apply it. It’s valuable to us not only for our own lives but the lives of
around us — our family, employees, associates and friends.
Life should be an exciting adventure. It should never be a bore. A
man should
live fully, be alive. He should be glad to get out of bed in the
morning. He
should be doing a job that he likes to do because he does it well.
One time I heard Grove Patterson make a speech, the editor and
chief of the
Toledo Daily Blade, and as he concluded his speech he said
something that I’ve
never forgotten. He said something like this, “my years in the
business has convinced me of several things. Among them, that
people are
basically good and that we came from someplace and we’re going
So we should make our time here an exciting adventure.
The architect of the universe didn’t build a stairway leading
nowhere. And the
greatest teacher of all, the carpenter from the plains of Galilee,
gave us the secret
time and time again, “as you believe so shall it be done unto you.”
Back to top
Your 30-Day Experiment
I’ve explained the strangest secret in the world and how it works.
Now I want to
explain how you can prove to yourself the enormous returns
possible in your
own life by putting this secret to a practical test. I want you to make
a test that
will last 30 days. Now it isn’t going to be easy. If you’ll give it a good
try, it will
completely change your life for the better.
Back in the 17th century, Sir Isaac Newton, the English
mathematician and
natural philosopher, gave us some natural laws of physics which
apply as much
to human beings as they do to the movement of bodies in the
universe. Now one
of these laws is that “for every action there is an equal and opposite
Simply stated as it applies to you and me, it means we can achieve
without paying the price.
The results of your 30-day experiment will be in direct proportion to
the effort
you put forth. To be a doctor you must pay the price of long years of
study. To be successful in selling — and remember that each of us
succeeds to
the extent of his ability to sale — selling our families on our ideas,
education in schools, selling our children on the advantages of
living the good
and honest life, selling our associates and employees on the
importance of being
exceptional people, to, of course, to the profession of selling itself.
But to be successful in selling our way to the good life, we must be
willing to
pay the price. Now what is that price? Well, it’s many things. First,
understanding emotionally, as well as intelligently, that we literally
become what
we think about — that we must control our thoughts if we are to
control our lives.
It’s understanding fully that as you sow, so shall you reap.
Secondly, it’s cutting away all the fetters from the mind and
permitting it to soar
as it was divinely designed to do. It’s the realization that your
limitations are
self-imposed and that the opportunities for you today are enormous
belief. It’s rising above narrow-minded pettiness and prejudice.
Thirdly, to use all your courage to force yourself to think positively
on your own
• to set a definite and clearly defined goal for yourself,
• to let your marvelous mind think about your goals from all possible
• to let your imagination speculate freely upon many different
possible solutions,
• to refuse to believe there are any circumstances sufficiently strong
to defeat
you in the accomplishment of your purpose,
• to act promptly and decisively when your course is clear and to
keep constantly
aware of the fact that you are, at this moment, standing in the
middle of your
own acre of diamonds, as Russell Cromwell used to point out.
Fourth, save at least 10 percent of what you earn.
It’s also remembering that, no matter what your present job, it has
possibilities if you’re willing to pay the price.
Now let’s just go over the important points in the price teach of us
must pay to
achieve the wonderful that can be ours. It is, of course, worth any
One, you will become what you think about.
Two, remember the word imagination. Let your mind soar.
Three, courage — concentrate on your goal everyday.
Four, save 10 percent of what you earn, and ACTION! Ideas are
unless we act on them.
Now I’ll try to outline the 30-day test I want you to make. Keep in
mind that you
have nothing to lose by making this test and everything that you
could possibly
want, to gain.
There are two things that may be said of everyone: each of us
wants something
and each of us is afraid of something. I want you to write on a card
what it is you
want more than anything else. It may be more money. Perhaps you
would like to
double your income or make a specific amount of money. It may be
a beautiful
home. It may be success at your job. It may be a particular position
in life. It
could be a more harmonious family. Each of us want something.
Write down on your card, specifically, what it is that you want. Make
sure it is a
single goal and clearly defined. You need not show it to anyone, but
carry it with
you so that you can look at it several times a day.
Think about it in a cheerful, relaxed, positive way each morning
when you get
up and immediately you have something to work for, something to
get out of bed
for, something to live for. Look at it every chance you get during the
day and
just before going to bed at night. As you look at it, remember you
must become
what you think about and since you’re thinking about your goal, you
realize that
soon it will be yours. In fact, it’s yours, really, the moment you write
it down
and begin to think about it.
Look at the abundance all around you as you go about your daily
business. You
have as much right to this abundance as any other living creature.
It’s yours for
the asking.
Now we come to the difficult part. Difficult, because it means the
formation of
what is probably a brand new habit and new habits are not easily
formed. Once
formed however, it will follow you for the rest of your life.
Stop thinking about what it is you fear. Each time a fearful or
negative thought
comes into your consciousness, replace it with a mental picture of
your positive
and worthwhile goal. There will come times when you will feel like
giving up.
It’s easier for a human being to think negatively than positively,
that’s why only
5 percent are successful. You must begin now to place yourself in
that group.
For 30 days you must take control of your mind. It will think only
about what
you permit it to think. Each day, for this 30 day test, do more than
you have to
do. In addition to maintaining a cheerful positive outlook, give of
yourself more
than you’ve ever done before. Do this knowing that your returns in
life must be
in direct proportion to what you give.
The moment you decide on a goal to work towards you are
immediately a
successful person. You are then in that rare and successful
category of people
who know where they’re going. Out of every 100 people, you
belong to the top
Don’t concern yourself too much with how you’re going to achieve
your goal.
Leave that completely to a power greater than yourself. All you
have to do is
know WHERE you’re going. The answers will come to you of their
own accord.
Remember these words from the Sermon on the Mount and
remember them
well. Keep them constantly before you this month of your test. “Ask
and it shall
be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened
unto you. For
every one that asketh, receiveth, and he that seeketh, findeth, and
to him that
knocketh, it shall be opened.” It’s as marvelous and simple as that.
In fact, it’s so simple, that in our similarly complicated world, it’s
difficult for an
adult to understand that all he needs is a purpose and faith. For 30
days, do your
best. If you’re a salesman go at it as you’ve never done before, not
in hectic
fashion but with a calm cheerful assurance that time well spent will
give you the
abundance in return that you deserve and want. If you’re a
homemaker, devote
your 30-day test to complete giving of yourself, without thinking
about receiving
anything in return, and you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes
in your life.
No matter what your job, do it as you’ve never done it before for 30
days and, if
you’ve kept your goal before you everyday, you will wonder and
marvel at this
new life that you’ve found.
Dorothea Brande, outstanding editor and writer, discovered it for
herself and
tells about it in her fine book, Wake up and Live. Her entire
philosophy is
reduced to the words “act as though it were impossible to fail.” She
made her
own test with sincerity and faith and her entire life was changed to
one of
overwhelming success.
Now you make your test for 30 full days. Don’t start your test until
you’ve made
up your mind to stick with it. You see, by being persistent you’re
faith. Persistence is simply another word for faith. If you didn’t have
faith, you
would never persist. If you should fail during your first 30 days, by
that I mean
suddenly finding yourself overwhelmed by negative thoughts,
you’ve got to start
over again from that point and go 30 more days. Gradually your
new habit will
form, until you find yourself one of that wonderful minority to whom
nothing is impossible.
Don’t forget the card. It is vitally important as you begin this new
way of living.
On one side of the card write your goal, whatever it might be. On
the other side,
write the words we’ve quoted from the Sermon on the Mount, “ask
and it shall
be giveth, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto
In your spare time during your test period read books that will help
Inspirational books like the Bible, Dorothea Brande’s Wake up and
Live, The
Magic ofBelieving by Claud Bristol, Think and Grow Rich by
Napoleon Hill and
other books that instruct and inspire. Nothing great was ever
without inspiration.
See that during these crucial first 30 days your own inspiration is
kept at a peak.
Above all, don’t worry. Worry brings fear and fear is crippling. The
only thing
that can cause you to worry during your test is trying to do it all
yourself. Know
that all you have to do is hold your goal before you. Everything else
will take
care of itself.
Remember also to keep calm and cheerful — calm and cheerful.
Don’t let petty
things annoy you and get you off course. Now, since making this
test is difficult,
some may say why should I bother? Well, look at the alternative. No
one wants
to be a failure. No one really wants to be a mediocre individual. No
one wants a
life constantly filled with worry, fear and frustration. Therefore,
remember that
you must reap that which you sow. If you sow negative thoughts
your life will be
filled with negative things. If you sow positive thoughts, your life will
cheerful, successful and positive.
Now gradually, you have a tendency to forget what you’ve read in
this book.
Read it often. Keep reminding yourself of what you must do to form
this new
habit. Gather your whole family about and talk about what has been
written here
at regular intervals.
You know, most men will tell you that they want to make money
understanding the law. The only people who make money work in
the mint. The
rest of us must earn money. This is what causes those who keep
looking for
something for nothing or a free ride to fail in life. The only way to
earn money is
by providing people with services or products which are needed and
useful. We
exchange our product or services for the other man’s money.
Therefore, the law
is that our financial return will be in direct proposition to our service.
Success is not the result of making money. Making money is the
result of
success and success is in direct proposition to our service. Most
people have this
law backwards. They believe that you’re successful if you earn a lot
of money.
The truth is, that you can only earn money after you’re successful.
It’s like the story of the man who sat in front of a stove and said to it,
“give me
heat and then I’ll add the wood.” How many men and women do
you know, or
do you suppose are out there today, who take the same attitude
towards life.
There are millions.
We’ve got to put the fuel in before we can expect heat. Likewise,
we’ve got to
be of service first before we can expect money. Don’t concern
yourself with the
money. Be of service. Build. Work. Dream. Create. Do this and
you’ll find that
there is no limit to the prosperity and abundance that will come to
Prosperity is founded upon a law of mutual exchange. Any person
contributes to prosperity must prosper, in turn, himself. Sometimes
the return
will not come from those you serve, but it must come to you from
someplace, for
that is the law.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. As you go
through your 30-day test period, remember, that your success will
always be
measured by the quality and quantity of service you render and
money is a
yardstick for measuring this service. No man can get rich himself
unless he
enriches others.
There are no exceptions to a law. You can drive down any street in
America and,
from your car, estimate the service that is being rendered by the
people living on
that street. Have you ever thought of this yardstick before? It’s
Some, like ministers and priests and other devoted people,
measure their returns
in the realm of the spiritual, but again, their returns are equal to their
Once this law is fully understood, any thinking person can tell his
own fortune.
If he wants more, he must be of more service to those from whom
he receives
his return. If he wants less, he has only to reduce his service. This
is the price
you must pay for what you want.
If you believe you can enrich yourself by diluting others, you can
only end by
diluting yourself. Just as surely as you breath, you’ll get back what
you put out.
Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking you can avert this. It’s
impossible. The
prisons and streets where the lonely walk are full of people who
tried to make
new laws just for themselves. We may avoid the laws of man, but
there are
greater laws that cannot be broken.
An outstanding medical doctor recently pointed out six steps that
will help you
realize success:
1) Set yourself a definite goal.
2) Quit running yourself down.
3) Stop thinking of all the reasons why you can’t be successful and
instead, think
of all the reasons why you can.
4) Trace your attitudes back to your childhood and try to discover
where you
first got the idea you couldn’t be a success, if that’s the way you’ve
5) Change the image you have of yourself by writing out a
description of the
person you would like to be.
6) Act the part of the successful person you have decided to
The doctor who wrote those words is a noted West Coast
psychiatrist, David
Harold Fink, M.D.
Do what all the experts since the dawn of recorded history have told
you you
must do — pay the price by becoming the person you want to
become. It’s not
nearly as difficult as living unsuccessfully.
Make your 30-day test, then repeat it, then repeat it again. Each
time it will
become more a part of you until you wonder how you could ever
have lived any
other way.
Live this new way and the flood gates of abundance will open and
pour over you
more riches than you may have dreamed existed. Money, yes, lots
of it, but
what’s more important you’ll have peace. You’ll be in that wonderful
who lead calm, cheerful successful lives. Start today. You have
nothing to lose.
But you have a life to win.
Back to top


More of Earl Nightingale
Get a FREE audio of the original recording of Earl’s famous
The Strangest
Secret at
Bonus Book
By Earl Nightingale
Creative Thinking Creates Our Life
There are two ways in which we are paid for what we do. One is
tangible, in the
form of money, and the other is intangible, but just as important. To
many, it’s
more important.
This latter form of payment comes in the form of inner-satisfaction,
in the form
of joy as the result of accomplishment. It also comes in the form of
in position and the standing it gives us.
So each of us is paid in these two ways, money and satisfaction,
and there’s a
very simple way to increase both of these forms of income.
You may wonder how I can say that I can tell you of a simple way to
your income, from the standpoint of money as well as
inner-satisfaction. Yet, I
can and you’ll be able to see and spend the results.
First, I want you to understand and believe completely the great law
which lies
as the foundation of all life, business and personal. It is “our
rewards in life will
be in exact proportion to our service.”
The more you think about this and observe people and businesses
in their true
light, the more you’ll see the undeniable truth of it.
Now, try as best you can to estimate the proportion of your total
ability you have
been giving to your work. I don’t think anyone gives 100%. I don’t
think it’s
possible to give 100% day in and day out, I know I don’t. But,
estimate what you
consider to be the percentage of 100% you have been giving to
your work.
Would you say it’s been 30%? 50%? Anyway, try to decide.
Now, since your rewards will be in exact proportion to your service,
you can
increase your income, both financially and from an
inner-satisfaction standpoint,
simply by narrowing the distance between what you have been
giving to your
work, and the 100% of what you maybe said you could give under
You don’t have to ask for a raise. The income will appear of its own
accord and
in the right time. You may want to question this, but try to take my
word for it.
Now, the second point I want to make is this. If you will begin to do
your work
better, better than you’ve ever done before, you will immediately
begin to
receive incalculably more inner-satisfaction.
You’ll also find that what may have been a boring or uninteresting
job will take
on new meaning and interest.
No matter what it is you do during the working day, try, in every
case, to do a
little more than you have to, more than you’re being paid for,
because, unless
you do more than you’re being paid for now, you can’t hope for or
justify an
increase in pay.
And the third point I want to make is this. Each of us is
interdependent. Other
people pay our salaries, buy our homes, cloth, feed and educate
our children;
therefore, we depend upon others for our very lives, just as they
must depend
upon us.
If we expect others to give us excellent service and fine products for
the money
we spend, doesn’t it make good sense that we should treat them
the same way?
Every hour spent at our work should be spent in the attempt to give
the best of
which we are capable; a baker’s dozen for the money our
company’s customers
spend for our products and services, and with which our salaries
are paid.
A person who tries to get the maximum return for the minimum of
effort is only
kidding himself. Sooner or later the scales will balance. They must,
for that is
the law, whether we like it or not.
This kind of individual actually shrinks as a person, as a human
being and he has
no real place in a dynamic and swiftly changing world.
The fourth point is to try each day to find some way in which the
work you’re
doing can be improved. Here again, you’re guaranteeing an
increase in your
income in both categories.
We all know the cynical type of individual who will laugh at this. I
know them,
you know them. But I don’t know one who could be said to be doing
well, do
I know lots of men and women who are at the top of their fields,
who live their
lives every day in the way I have suggested.
Rather than go along with someone who’s never proved in his own
life that he
knows what he’s talking about, I’d prefer to believe the one who
said “as ye
sow, so shall you reap.” I feel, as I’m sure you do, that he was more
qualified to
speak than the know-it-all who’s behind in his installment payments.
Anyway, it’s worth a test. If you will follow my suggestions for the
next year,
you’ll be a different person, living a rich, rewarding and meaningful
Four things, all of them simple:
1) Remember that our rewards in life will be in exact proportion to
our service.
2) By giving your work a larger percentage of your capabilities and
talents, you
will, you must, increase your income substantially.
3) Since our lives depend on others, treat others in every facet of
your life
exactly as you want others to treat you. If you expect others to give
you excellent
products and services for the money you and your family spend,
then you should
make certain that your job is handled as excellently as it is possible
for you,
since it is the money of others which pays your salary.
4) Try to find some way, every day, in which your work can be
And above all, know your boss, he’s the customer. Treat him with
the respect,
care, courtesy and good humor he deserves. Remember, he pays
all of your bills
every month. He will buy everything you will ever own. He may be
crude, ignorant, selfish, conniving and a thorough going savage, he
often will be.
Here, it is more important than ever that you treat him with all the
care and
attention you can muster. If you don’t, and if you permit his attitude
to affect
yours, you’re admitting that he’s the stronger person.
If you respond the way he conducts himself, you’re admitting you
are no better
than he is.
But most people are nice people. They’re people like you and me
who want to be
liked, who want to get along, who want to be friends. They have
problems and
sorrows of their own, about which we’re not aware, and they have
bad days and
Make sure that the time there with you is a high spot in their day
and that they’ll
want to come back, not just because of your company but because
of you.
If you will do these things for a year, you’ll be surprised and
delighted and
you’ll find you wouldn’t live any other way for the world. If you’re
living this way, you know what I mean.
Back to top
The Gold Mine Between Your Ears
Have you ever given much thought to the value of ideas? From less
worthless, they run the gamut all the way into the hundreds of
billions of dollars,
from the wheel to the zipper, fire to the home permanent, the bow
and arrow to
the H-Bomb, electricity to the Iron Engine, each has been drawn
from that
bottomless, richest of all minds, the brain of man.
Everything you and I will ever have will come to us as the result of
the way we
use our minds, the one thing we possess that makes us different
from all other
And the highest function of which our minds are capable is to think
This is the kind of thinking that puts a fresh, new face on the world
and all of our
progress has come, now comes, and will always come as a result of
thinking, from using our brains creatively.
But what is a brain? Well, it’s a priceless resource that is given free
to each
human being at birth. It’s as though the Creator said, “Here you are.
You now
have a copy of the creative agent that produced the plays of
bridged San Francisco Bay, and harnessed the energy and fire of
the sun. I put it
into your keeping for the span of your life. Do with it what you will.”
A British neurophysicist has said that if we would have tried to
electronically an average human brain, it would cost three billion,
billion dollars;
that’s the number 3 followed by 18 ciphers and you and I each own
Yes, you have a goldmine between your ears, your mind, your
imagination. But,
for most of us owning this great of all earthly possession is like
owning some
great complex Chinese puzzle containing, at its heart, a jewel of
great value.
We have to find a secret key that will enable us to unlock the
puzzle’s treasure.
Do you realize that nothing has yet been done perfectly? Everything
in the world
remains to be done or done over.
A major magazine recently reported that one out of every four
advertised in a particular issue was little more than an idea or a
project in
experimental laboratories ten years ago.
Today, more money is spent for research and development in a
single year than
was spent during the first 150 years of our nation’s history. No one
product has
ever been manufactured, distributed, advertised, or sold efficiently
as it might be
and someday will be.
There isn’t, in all the world, a perfectly managed business,
institution, or government. The greatest picture hasn’t yet been
painted. They
ideal labor contract is yet unwritten. The best way to train salesmen,
an easy way
to stay slim, something to prevent baldness, a better mousetrap, all
of these
problems are still unsolved.
Physics, mathematics, and chemistry are still being revised.
sociology, and economics await another Darwin. Nothing is known
and positively. Nothing has been done finally and right. Everything
So, the world waits and then moves forward in surges as here a
man and there a
woman makes a fresh and daring discovery or proposes some bold
new ideas.
And, most of these contributions to social and scientific progress
come from
creative individuals who have the courage and strength who
challenge and break
the bonds of conventional routine average thinking.
Yes, in this swift moving world, there’s tremendous opportunity for
the men and
women who use more of their total brain power. So, use your mind
to think
about the things which need to be done or done over, starting right
where you are
Your brain is always ready for instant use. It thrives on exercise.
How about
giving it some right now? The best way to exercise your brain is to
ask yourself
questions. So, try these.
1) How can I improve myself so that I can become a better person?
2) How can I get along better with my customers, colleagues,
friends, family?
3) What can I do to increase my value and advance faster in my
4) How can I come up with new ideas for advancing my profession
or improving
the business I’m in?
Think about how you can create something in your work, in your
Remember, nothing is done. Nothing is final and complete. You’ve
important and significant things in the past and you can do more if
you will use
more of your full brainpower now and in the years ahead.
Back to top
Test Your C.Q.
It’s been established that creative people are intelligent. But,
intelligent people are not always creative. If you’re typical you’re
only using
about a fraction of your creative power. The objective is to increase
your ability
to use it. You’re probably far more creative than you think.
Like most of us, you’ve perhaps had, at one time or another, a test
to determine
your IQ, your intelligence quotient. But, I doubt whether you’ve ever
had a test
to determine your creativity quotient, your CQ. Please get a piece of
paper and a
pencil. In fact, I recommend you always have paper and pencil
ready. You’ll
find they’re aids to creative thinking.
Please answer each of these 16 questions with yes or no,
whichever honestly
describes you best.
1) Do you seek out and jot down ides while listening to a speaker,
chatting with
someone, traveling, or just waiting in a reception room?
2) Do you take prompt and positive action on your better ideas? Do
you do
something with them?
3) Do you make it a daily habit to really use your eyes? Do you look
at things
carefully, thoughtfully? Do you absorb while you observe?
4) Do you ever ask yourself questions like these? How can I
improve myself?
How can I be more effective in my work? How can I help make my
a better place in which to live?
5) Have you ever written down your specific personal and business
6) Do you spend some time each day purposefully reading or
listening to others?
7) Do you make a steady effort to widen your interests and
friendships? For
example, do you read books and magazines outside of your field?
Do you make
new friends by taking an active role in church and civic groups?
8) Do you welcome ideas from everywhere? That is, do you
encourage family,
friends, colleagues, and neighbors to share their thoughts with you?
9) Do you always try to understand something fully before you pass
10) Do you find yourself destructively discontented with the things
around you?
For example, do you often say to yourself there must be a better
way to do this?
Or, how can I improve this?
11) Do you pick a time and place to think each day? No one has
more time than
you have. Each person is given 24 hours a day. Do you use any of
this time for
creative thinking or for just plain thinking?
12) Do you ever give away your ideas, ideas you believe might help
13) Do you ever combine ideas or build big ideas from little ones?
Do you ever
adapt or associate ideas or modify, rearrange, or reverse the ideas
you have?
14) Do you keep yourself in good mental and physical health, keep
a bright
outlook, and keep fit?
15) Do you consciously ask questions that require an explanatory
answer rather
than a simple yes or no? For example, do you try to ask questions
which begin
with these conversation starters who, what, when, where, why,
which, how, and
16) What about your overall attitude toward life? Do you expect the
best and do
you constantly search for it?
All right, that completes the test. Now, please add up all your yes
answers. If
you have between 11 and 16 yes answers, you have a positive
attitude and many
of the tools for creative thinking. You are well on your way to a high
If you have between six and ten yes answers, you’ve started up the
thinking road but you still have a ways to go.
I hope you did well on the test. If you didn’t, don’t worry. Your
potential can be increased quickly and effectively by studying the
you’ll learn in this book and by conscientiously practicing the
techniques of
creative thinking.
Back to top
Characteristics of Creative People
Our studies show that certain characteristics are almost always
present in the
creative individual. And, what are these characteristics? Well,
here’s a list of 25
of them.
And no one man or woman has all of the traits here. But the really
people, the Socrates, da Vincis, Shakespeares, Edisons, Einsteins,
and all the others who led us to where we are today, have had most
of the
following characteristics. So check yourself.
1) Drive, the desire to work hard and long.
2) Courage, tenacity of purpose, the mental and moral strength to
venture and
3) Goals, knowing what they wanted and going after it.
4) Knowledge, a thirst for knowledge, they knew their fields. They
boned up on them.
5) Good health, they kept physically and mentally fit. They
exercised their
bodies and, of course, their minds.
6) Honesty, they were frank, forthright, honorable. They had
integrity and they
were, above all, intellectually honest.
7) Optimism, the great creative people were usually optimistic and
They believed in people and they were cheerfully reasonable trying
hard to be
part of the solution to a problem, not part of the problem.
8) And judgment, they exercised judgment. They searched for facts,
them, tried always to understand first, then judge.
9) Enthusiasm, they were enthusiastic, they were vital, they had a
zest for life.
They lived life fully.
10) They were chance takers. They didn’t fear failure. They knew
failure is often
a stepping stone to success.
11) They were dynamic. They were energetic, always on the move.
12) Enterprising, they courageously took on jobs others didn’t want
or couldn’t
do. They were never afraid to try the unknown. They were
opportunity seekers.
13) They were persuasive. They knew how to sell. They knew what
people. They inspired action and backed it up with reason and
sound arguments.
14) They were outgoing. They made friends easily and they were
easy on their
friends. They encouraged people and ideas to grow in their
15) They were good communicators. They had verbal skill and
They spoke fluently and interestingly.
16) They were perceptive. Their gateways to the mind were always
wide open.
Their senses were highly tuned to life around them. They were
quick, acute, and
sensitive. Their mental radar was always on.
17) They were both patient and impatient. Patient with others most
of the time
but always impatient with themselves believing they could and
should be doing
more and doing it better.
18) And, adaptable, they were resilient not ridged in their thinking.
They were
intelligent and flexible, adjusting quickly to changing situations.
19) They were perfectionists, always striving for the highest
possible degree of
excellence. They would not settle for mediocrity, particularly in
They tried to be tolerant with others but others knew they insisted
20) They had a sense of humor. They saw the lighter side of life.
They laughed
easily, enjoyed a good story, often at their own expense.
21) They were versatile. They were able to do many things and do
them well.
22) They were curious, inquisitive, always asking why. They knew
questions are the creative act of intelligence.
23) Individualistic, they were purposely independent. They did
things the way
they believe they should be done.
24) They were both realists and idealists occupied by reality and
guided by
25) And, of course they were imaginative. They knew how to
imagineer. They
knew how to think in new combinations. They were able to conceive
relationships because of their curiosity and their habit of thinking
outside the
boundaries of conformity. They thought imaginatively. They judged
And, they got their best ideas into action.
Well, those are 25 of the characteristics found in the most creative
people. And
again, let me stress that few creative people have all of these traits.
Yet, every
creative person seems to have many of them in varying degrees.
Each of these characteristics, one at a time, can be fashioned into a
solid habit.
And, together, they can become a living philosophy, a creative way
of life.
You already have many of these traits. My objective here is to
encourage you to
bring them out, spotlight them, polish them, hone them, and use
them in your
daily life.
And here’s how you’re going to start making these creative
characteristics a part
of your life right now. Take 25 white index cards and write each of
characteristics on a card, a different one on each card. Spread the
cards in front
of you, study each one, and think negatively. That’s right, think
Take the card which lists your weakest creative characteristic and
put it aside.
Take another card listing your next weakest trait and so on until
you’ve got a
stack of 25 cards weakest traits on top, strongest on the bottom.
Start today and work on weak trait number one. Work on it diligently
for one
week. Make it a part of your life. Next week, start on weak trait
number two.
Keep going. Work on all 25 characteristics one at a time. Soon, all
25 will be a
living part of you. You’ll have studied, worked on, and put into
action 25
different creative characteristics.
If you do this faithfully, you’ll be a far more creative person. You’ll
be more
interesting, more valuable, and perhaps more uncomfortable. That
is, you’ll start
to realize the scope, the depth, and breadth of your creative power.
You’ll see new horizons, new ways to solve problems, new ways to
build, invent, and improve. Even more important, you’ll begin to
work and live
closer to the highest level of your mind power to realize fulfillment of
your own
Back to top
Your Most Valuable Creative Tools
Not long ago, I had someone say if only each of us had one of
those new highspeed computers hooked up in his head, he’d be
much better off. Well, whoever
made that statement, either knew very little about computers, or,
didn’t realize
what kind of potential he already has between his ears.
We’re really much better off just the way we are right now. The
human brain is
probably the only thing in existence that can’t be improved upon
perhaps, by the slow passage of centuries.
The computer has been called a high-speed moron. That is to say
that, although
the modern computer is among the most sophisticated electronic
systems yet
devised, it’s still severely limited in its abilities and it falls far short of
the human
We have enormous mental powers and the intelligence to explore
and utilize
them. The computer can only carry out orders which are fed into it.
It can only
be fed mathematical calculations and make mechanical
comparisons. It can’t
make valued judgments.
True, computers whiz through reams of problems almost
instantaneously saving
us days even months of laborious figuring. Yet, the computer is only
as good as
the person who’s programming it.
Experts tell us that the brain can capture, store, recall and program
more than
600 bits of information per second. In the course of a lifetime, this is
enormous total, billions and billions of facts and impressions. On
the other hand,
our latest computers can handle only a few million characters in
their memory
A comparison between us and those electronic marvels finally boils
down to
this. We can think, the machines cannot. And that’s a really
Now, let’s take a careful look at the brain. It has four basic powers.
One: The power to absorb, the ability to take in information,
knowledge. We do
this by looking, listening, touching, tasting, and smelling, by using
all five of our
senses and keeping the gateways of our mind always open.
Number Two: The power of retention, the capacity to retain
knowledge and
recall it. Our brains are like endless rows of filing cabinets with
relatively few
packed file drawers full of all sorts of information. There’s always
much room
for more.
Three: The power of judgment and logical thought. The more facts
we feed our
brain, the more able it is to reason and judge intelligently.
And Four: The power of imagination, the ability to think creatively.
With the first two powers, absorption and retention, we gather the
raw material
with which to think. And, with the attitude, judgment, and
imagination we
evaluate old ideas and create new ones.
Put another way, we have four switches in our minds. Turn on
switch number
one and we gather information. Switch number two snaps on our
powers. We retain and recall the facts that come in through the first
Number three clicks on our judgment. When it’s on all the way, we
And number four is the switch for imagination. With most people,
this is the one
that collects the must rust. When we were children, we used the
switch all the time fighting imaginary bandits and flying make
believe airplanes.
This is pure imagination.
But, as we grow older, we’re seldom encouraged to use the
imaginative power
we spent our childhood cultivating. Instead, we’re taught to
conform, to take no
chances, to play it safe, to follow the crowd. So, switch number four
soon gets
rusty and we find it difficult to turn it back on when we get older.
The other thing is, as we grew up, people had a way of making us
uncomfortable when they saw us using imagination. When we came
up with new
ideas they were often greeted with smears or sarcastic laughter or
such as that’s a crazy idea. It won’t work. It’s never been done
before, or we
always do it this way and so on.
These are idea killers. And, I’m sure you’ve heard them and many,
many more.
They stifle creativity. Sometimes, too often really, we use them on
others. But
even worse, we use them on ourselves. We actually kill our own
ideas before
they’re given a chance to prove themselves one way or the other.
Now, in order to combat this type of negative behavior, here are a
few thoughts
you might like to remember.
One: Ideas can come from anyone, anywhere, at anytime. Ideas,
like babies,
don’t pick their parents. So, be a sponge for ideas.
Two: Ideas, particularly in their early stages of development,
demand care and
attention. They can be crushed all too easily.
And three, ideas need encouragement or rather people need to be
encouraged to
think up ideas and communicate them to us. Try never to be guilty
of uttering
idea killers. You can never tell when or where you’ll find a good
So, make it a point to create a receptive atmosphere around you.
Let other people
know you’re interested in them and in what they have on their
Treat your ideas and the ideas of others with extreme care. Let
people and their
ideas grow in your presence. When you do, you’re using your four
brain powers
the way they were meant to be used. You’re thinking creatively.
Use your wonderful mind to its fullest. It won’t wear out. Our brains
thrive on
exercise. It might not be a bad idea to try out all four of your
creative switches
today. I mean the absorption, retention, judgment, and imagination
we’ve been talking about.
This evening, for example, you might pick a subject that’s important
to you.
Read about it, or talk with someone who’s well informed about it.
Absorb all
you can. Recall from your memory all the information it contains on
this subject.
Put these facts down on paper. Next, judge which of these facts are
useful to
you. Then imagine, think of new ways to apply these in your daily
Absorb, recall, judge, and imagine. When you consciously use this
formula for a
while, it quickly becomes a habit. And, it’s a habit you’ll be pleased
to have.
Back to top
The Power In Asking Questions
Creative people are invariably intelligent people and they’re curious
themselves, those around them, and the world in which they live.
This is the kind
of curiosity that’s been called one of the permanent and certain
characteristics of
a vigorous intellect.
Questions are the creative acts of the intelligent. And the questions
that work
hardest for us and bring us the greatest amount of useful
information are the
open-ended questions. Now these questions that can’t be answered
with a simple
yes or no, they’re asked by using the six W’s, H, and I technique;
who, what,
when, where, why, which, how, and if.
Rudyard Kipling put it this way:
“I had six honest serving men. They taught me all I knew. Their
names were
where and what and when and why and how and who.” All we’re
doing is
adding two more, which and if.
Now, this isn’t entirely new to us. We employ the six W’s, H, and I
all the time
when we were children. Have you ever tried to count the number of
times each
day a four or five year old uses the word why?
You see, each question a child asks is an attempt to add to his
knowledge. When adults lose patience with this constant barrage of
the child either finds some other way of getting the information or
just forgets
the whole thing, thereby neglecting a valuable tool he’ll want later in
life, the
open ended question.
Now, as adults, we know that inside the mind of each person we
meet there is
some knowledge that could benefit us if only we could learn what it
is. The
open-ended question technique really opens people up.
By asking open-ended questions, we get people to lose the barriers
that normally
keep this information out of our grasp. Human beings like to talk
about things
that interest them. Open-ended questions let people know we want
to hear their
ideas, opinions and thoughts.
Each of us has two ears and one mouth and it seems to be a good
idea to do
twice as much listening as talking. An old Texas friend of mine used
to say “you
ain’t learning nothing while you’re talking.”
But the object of asking open-ended questions isn’t merely to get
other people to
talk. We can spend days standing around gabbing with people who
have very
little to say that would benefit us. Instead, the object of our who,
what, when,
where, why, which, how, and if questions is to gather, absorb, and
utilize that
information which will be useful to us, move us ahead in the fields of
our own
interests and endeavors.
But in so doing, we’re also employing the best technique known for
friends, for success in human relations, and for selling our own
ideas. Oddly
enough, the more we listen, the better conversationalists we seem
to the person
doing the talking.
One of this country’s top newsmen set an example of this kind of
questioning. He knew how to ask open-ended questions so
provocatively that he
could almost always get world leaders to give him exclusive
interviews. His
questions earned him the highest position in his field; that of chief
executive for
one of the great news services.
And, the open-ended question is equally useful for the
businessman. Suppose,
for instance, you just met a Mr. Smith who’s an official of the
operating in an area different from your own. Instead of talking
about the
weather, you might ask him, “Mr. Smith how did you get into your
line of
work?” Here’s a man who obviously has some degree of success in
business. So,
you stand an excellent chance of learning something that’ll be
useful to you.
One of the best salesmen I know uses open-ended questions to a
great advantage
when he’s talking to a prospect. Instead of saying we make the best
in the world, he asks Mr. Prospect, when you buy a thingamabobs,
what features
are most important for you.
Here’s an effective method for taking people off the offensive, by
getting them
to talk to your advantage. This technique works well for anyone
who’ll give
some thought to what he’s going to say rather than just blurting out
the first
thing that pops into his mind. So, ask skillfully probing open-ended
and ask them in a sincere, courteous manner.
Anyone who uses these six W’s, H, and I technique wisely,
courteously, and
with those people who can contribute something to his
understanding, will
quickly find this to be one of his most useful creative techniques.
The best way I know to practice asking open-ended questions is to
try out a few
on myself. If this sounds like a good idea, you might want to try it
too. Ask
yourself who has a greater knowledge of my job than I? What can I
do to learn
some of the things he knows that I don’t? Why must my job be done
this way?
And, if there is a better way to do my job, what would it be?
The housewife and the student can make up a similar set of
questions that would
be just as stimulating in their own fields. Take time to ponder these
They’re answers, the facts, and information you’ll gain can make
your life more
interesting and rewarding. And, whenever you talk with others, use
lots of openended questions. They’re your most valuable creative
Back to top
New Ways to Think
Up to this point we’ve been preparing ourselves to think more
creatively, first by
recognizing how important our ability to think creatively really is.
Second by
looking at the characteristics creative people have in common and
ourselves in the light of these. Third, by understanding more about
the functions
of the marvelous mind by which we’re all equipped, and fourth by
studying the
art of gathering information, asking questions, and listening.
Now we’re ready to examine the best techniques for using our
creative faculties
more effectively to solve problems, make decisions, achieve goals,
and better
fulfill our ultimate responsibility as human beings, to think.
Have you ever considered that you can think in various ways? Let’s
look at some
ways to think. First, think association. An example of thinking
association is that
the best way to remember names is to associate them with familiar
objects and
Two more examples of the thinking association are the keyword of
association lists techniques. The keyword technique is used by
people who want
to remember a series of ideas. They join the initial letters of the idea
together to form a simple keyword. By remembering the keyword
they can recall
the whole series of ideas.
An association list is used by memory experts to recall prodigious
lists of articles
by associating each one with another article in a previously
memorized list. The
creative person is forever associating ideas and continually
searching for
associative relationships.
Next, think combination. Almost everything in nature is a
combination of
elements. You’re quite a combination yourself. Scientists calculate
that if the
energy in the hydrogen atoms of your body could be utilized, you
could supply
all the electrical needs for the entire country for nearly a week. A
Scientist says that the atoms of your body contain a potential
energy of more
than 11 million kilowatt hours per pound. Each of us then, by this
estimate, is
worth about 85 billion dollars, give or take a few million.
A simple pencil is a combination of wood, carbon, rubber, paint,
metal. Consider
the combination of things that make up ham and eggs, pie alamode,
radio, TV,
record player combinations and orbiting satellites combined with
telephone relay stations. Somebody dreamed up the idea of
combining comedy
and music and musical comedy was born.
You can come up with some really great ideas by finding new
yourself. Everything you see, hear, touch, taste, and smell during
the day offers
opportunity to consider new combinations. When you brush your
teeth, you
might think of a toothbrush that contains the toothpaste in the
handle. You might
combine your mirror with a motto reminding you to start the day
right. It might
read how can I increase my service today or today is the only time
I’ve got, I’ll
use it well. So let’s think combination.
Next, think adaptation. Burlap fabric originally used for making
gunnysacks has
been adapted for drapes, wall covering, and stylish dresses. Some
salesmen were
thinking adaptation. Airplane seatbelts have been adapted for use
in automobiles
to bring more safety to highway driving. The phonograph record and
picture, originally developed for entertainment, are today adapted
for instruction
and education.
Rocket motors, which were developed to propel atomic missiles,
have been
adapted to lift peaceful space vehicles into orbital and into planetary
During the next year, you’re going to see the result of people
thinking adaptation
and coming up with ideas worth thousands of dollars. Why couldn’t
one of these
people be you? The only limit to what you can achieve by adapting
old products
to new uses, old methods to new applications is the limit of your
own creativity.
Next, think substitution. When you think substitution, you ask
yourself how you
might substitute a different material or thing for the one now used.
For example,
plastic is used for a substitute for wood and metal. Aluminum is a
substitute for
other metals. Stainless steel is often substituted for chrome. The
transistor often
replaces the vacuum tube. Old weathered planking can be used as
a substitute for
a conventional wall in a family room or study with dramatic and
In short, don’t assume that, because a particular thing has always
been used in
the past that you have to use it now. Perhaps there’s a substitute
that will work
better or last longer or cost less or be lighter or more colorful and so
forth. Let’s
think substitution.
Next, think magnification. Think big. Example, skyscrapers, the
Pentagon, king
size soft drinks, giant economy size packages. What do you work
with that
might be made larger? Or, think mini-fication. Think small.
Examples like the
solar battery, the transistor, the compact car, tiny radios that fit into
your pocket,
small portable TV sets and smaller size food products. How about
the bikini?
That’s certainly thinking small.
And now, to keep your mind moving, think rearrangement. That is,
turn things
around, backward, upside down, or inside out. An interesting
example of this is
when someone came up with the idea of putting the mink on the
inside of a
woman’s coat, all the warmth, luxury, and status of full length mink
in a casual
coat. And it’s nothing more than a mink coat turned inside out.
Another good example of this is the building with its skeletal
framework outside.
The building is suspended inside. Insects have their skeletons
outside. We have
ours inside. They both work fine.
What do you work with that can benefit from this kind of thinking?
What can
you turn around, revolutionize? Rearrange things, change pace,
alter sequence,
think of modifying, changing color, motion, timing, sound, odor,
taste, form and
This type of thinking works for everyone. Salesmen use these
techniques to discover new application for products or services,
new ways of
emphasizing customer benefits, new ideas to solve customer
problems, better
ways to organize their time and effort.
Summing up, if you want to spur your mind into new action, think
association, adaptation, substitution, magnification, mini-fication,
If, at first, you force, literally force, your mind into thinking all of
these seven
ways, you’d probably be amazed with the ideas you developed. And
before long,
you’ll find yourself thinking in each of these ways as a matter of
This kind of thinking increases the scope of your mind power. It
enables you to
achieve full use of your brain. Your mind has an infinite variety of
things it can
do and an infinite capacity for work. Let it work for you. Take
nothing for
granted. Everything can and will be changed, improved. The only
thing you can
count on for certain is change. Don’t wait for it. Be in the forefront.
Help bring it
Back to top
Creative Problem Solving
What are the similarities in problem solving, decision-making, and
Naturally, they are alike in many ways. A decision that must be
made is little
more than a problem awaiting a solution. We might even call it a
problem. When we’re faced with a decision, we rarely have to
choose between
more than three alternatives. Whereas, in solving a problem, we
sometimes face
what seems to be an endless list of possibilities.
And, what about goal achievement? Isn’t a goal a point we wish to
reach? The
problem is to move from where we are now to where we want to be.
So, you see,
problem solving, decision-making, and goal achievement are all
closely related
functions of creative thinking. It’s important that we keep this in
The first step in solving any problem is to define it. A problem well
stated is a
problem half-solved. Define the problem clearly. We should always
be sure we
understand the problem before we go to work on its solution.
Now write down everything you know about the problem. This
might come from your own experience or from books that contain
and statistical data or from friends and business associates who
know something
about the area in which the problem lies.
Third, who to see. List the names of people and organizations that
recognized authorities on the problem. This is your opportunity to
go all out for
After determining who can help you, contact them, talk with them,
pick their
brains for all the information they possess that can help you solve
the problem.
After doing this write down the additional facts and information you
have now
obtained. Be sure to make a note of each thing that is germane to
the problem.
Don’t risk forgetting anything that could help you find the best
The fifth step in solving a problem creatively is called individual
ideation. This
is personal brainstorming, thinking with the brakes of judgment off.
Don’t try to
decide whether an idea is good or bad. Just write it down the
moment it comes to
you. You can pick and choose and rate these ideas later. Right
now, all you’re
after is a lot of ideas.
Now here are the four rules for brainstorming.
One: No negative thinking.
Two: The wilder the ideas, the better.
Three: A large number of ideas is essential.
And Four: Combination and improvement of ideas is what you’re
One idea often leads to a better idea. Don’t worry if some of your
ideas seem far
fetched or impractical. You’re looking for all the ideas you can
possibly find.
Don’t reject any. Write them all down.
Then when you have all your ideas written down, rate them for
effectiveness and
facility. The effectiveness scale ranges from very effective to
probably effective
to doubtful. And, the facility scale ranges from easy to not so easy
to difficult.
This rating of ideas will clearly indicate the likely success of any
solution. Of course, it’s best to consider first the idea or ideas that
are rated both
very effective and easy.
The next step in your creative process for solving problems is the
brainstorm. This is your opportunity to put the minds of others to
work on the
problem. Handle this session the same way you did your individual
ideation, no
negative thinking and no criticism at this stage. The wilder the
ideas, the better.
Get as many ideas as possible and try for idea combination and
Write down all the ideas the group comes up with. Then, after all
the possible
solutions are in, screen them as you did earlier for their predictable
and ease of implementation. Be careful, though, not to pass
judgment on any
idea while the brainstorm is in progress. It’s sure death to
brainstorming. The
rating always comes last. We’ll go into this more thoroughly later.
Of course, you may not want group brainstorming on every
problem. If you
don’t, just skip this step and go on to the next one.
Seventh, list only ideas that have received the highest ratings.
Then, estimate the
time and cost involved in implementing each of these ideas. When
you’ve found
the ones that check out best for effectiveness, facility, time, and
cost put them on
a page named “Action Plan”. This is your schedule for putting the
best ideas to
When you review an idea in your action plan, decide who might do
it, when it
might be done, where it will start, and how to do it. These are
considerations. Be certain to give yourself a deadline for putting
your plan into
action. We work hardest and most efficiently when we know there’s
a definite
time element involved. So, make a note of the date when you must
put your
solution to work.
It’s good to remember that timing is often critical when a new idea is
So, carefully calculate the deadline date in the light of the general
situation. You
also might like to write down a second date, the one by which you
intend to have
the action completed, the problem solved.
Remember what we wrote earlier about problem solving,
decision-making, and
goal achievement? They have a great deal in common. They can all
be attacked
in much the same way. And, you’ll find your worksheet a real help.
Step by step
it can take you through to the successful solution of any problem.
You know, for any problem, no matter how big or complex it may
be, there is a
solution. All you have to do is find it. And, you can find it by
organizing your
approach, by attacking the problem emphatically with
determination, by working
long and hard, by applying your full brain power and by using wisely
all the help
you can get. You CAN solve it!
Back to top
The Brainstorm
I’ve talked about two kinds of brainstorming, individual ideation, a
thinking up solutions on his own, and, group brainstorming, a
number of people
working together on a problem. Now, I’d like to explore each of
techniques and go into them in greater depth.
But first, consider for just a moment the middle ground between
these two. This
is a situation in which two people work together in creative
collaboration and
idea improvement. There are many good examples of this, ranging
from Madam
Curie and her husband to Rogers and Hammerstein. This team of
two technique
often works on the sparkplug and brake system. One half of the
team may be the
thinker upper and the other half the toner downer, the judge.
So, that’s the middle ground, the team of two technique. It’s
productive. And I
recommend you use it whenever you can. You might ask your wife
or husband,
business associate or a good friend to be the other half of the team.
This kind of collaboration is a good way to prove the old saying that
two heads
are better than one. In this middle ground example, the team of two
technique, I
mentioned that one collaborator frequently acted as the thinker
upper, the spark
plug, the other as the toner downer, the brake.
This is not brainstorming. In brainstorming, there are only thinker
uppers, only
sparkplugs. There are no toner downers, no brakes, no critics, no
judges until all
the ideas are in. Now let’s get back to the solo method of
brainstorming, the one
we’ll call individual ideation.
As I said previously, your first step toward the solution of any
problem is to
define it clearly. The definition should be as succinct and simply put
as you can
possibly make it. I suggest that you think about your problem until
it’s nature
and limits are so clear in your mind that you can easily write down
the complete
problem in one simple statement. A good working definition gives
you a clear
After your problem is well defined, you can then start your own
personal solitary
brainstorm, your individual ideation. Come up with and write down
as many
ideas, as many possible solutions, as you can think of. This may not
be easy at
first, very few things are the first time you try them. But, it can be
done. It takes
enthusiasm, concentration, and perseverance to find the best ideas
to solve a
When you start getting some ideas down on that sheet of paper
you’ll find these
ideas will enable you to come up with more. They, in turn, will
generate still
more ideas. This is the kind of chain reaction that really gets things
Remember, you’re striving now only for a quantity of ideas. Don’t
worry about
quality, that’ll come later. In fact, the development of quality is
inevitable. Your
best ideas seldom come first. So, don’t hold back. Go all out and
keep going just
as a navigator increases his chances of hitting his target with every
bearing he takes. So do a large number of ideas increase the odds
in favor of
your hitting upon the best solution to a problem.
Strive for variety in your ideas. When you’ve put down as many as
you can think
of, try asking yourself, all right, what’s next? The French Novelist
stated the case for quantity over a century ago when he said, “I
require three or
four cubic feet of new ideas a day as a steamboat requires coal.”
So, try anything
and everything and be sure to write down every idea you get.
One of this country’s most imaginative inventors, Charles Kettering,
worked for
six years developing his new diesel engine. He tried first one
approach and then
another until, as he said, the engine finally told us exactly what it
In the same way, your problems may very likely pick their own best
solutions if
you’ll just give them enough choices and a large enough quantity
and variety of
ideas. Well, that’s individual ideation, your own private brainstorm.
Let’s move now to group brainstorming. This is a technique in which
a number
of people hold a meeting with a single purpose in mind, to think up
together as
many ideas as possible in order to solve one well-defined problem.
Between five and ten participants seems to be the best size for
such a gathering.
It’s a good idea to let each member of the brainstorm know, in
advance of the
session, the problem to be worked on. Be sure they have as clear a
statement of the problem as you can possibly provide. Knowing the
each of them can spend from a few minutes to a few days in
personal research
and individual ideation before the meeting.
When the brainstorm group gathers, make sure each member has a
pad and
pencil with which to capture ideas he might otherwise lose before
he gets a
chance to present them to the group. Have someone present to
take notes to
record every idea that’s produced. Later, these notes should be
transcribed and
passed along to the brainstormers for further improvement and
combination of
the ideas. Always have a leader, but keep the brainstorm as
informal as possible.
Encourage everyone to speak up.
Before starting, it’s helpful to run briefly through the four rules for
1) No negative thinking allowed. The wilder the ideas the better.
2) Suspend judgment, the ideas will be judged afterward.
3) You want the largest possible quantity of ideas.
4) Combination and improvement of ideas is what you’re after.
Then, let the storming begin. Attack the problem from all sides and
letup. You’ll find that there’s a chain reaction that takes place when
the ideas
start flowing, like a string of firecrackers going off one right after the
other. It
isn’t unusual for ten people to come up with a hundred ideas in half
an hour. So,
expect results.
Studies of the brainstorm technique show that a given number of
people working
together on a single problem will be more than 50 percent more
effective —
coming up with at least half again more ideas than the same
number of people
working individually.
Along with the chain reaction, one idea leading to another, there’s a
rivalry and personal interaction that increases individual
performance in a
brainstorming session.
Well, there they are two excellent methods for finding the best
solution to a
problem: individual ideation and group brainstorming. Both are
based on the
amazingly simple procedure of thinking things up, writing them
improving them, and judging them only after all the ideas are in.
The secret of this system’s effectiveness lies in the number of ideas
it generates.
Thomas Edison said, “I’ll try anything, I’ll even try Limburger
cheese.” So, try
anything, try everything, and write it all down. That’s brainstorming
and it gets
Back to top
Ready for Action
We’ve now covered steps one through six. We’ve defined the
problem. We’ve
searched out and rounded up the facts of the problem. We’ve
learned how to
individually ideate. And, we talked about using the technique of
judgment in both individual ideation and group brainstorming.
Now, after coming up with ideas on how to solve the problem, we
need to
evaluate these ideas and take action on them. Too often we tend to
underemphasize these two final steps, evaluation and action. Yet,
they’re vital
steps in creativity.
Ideas need to be rated carefully before they can be implemented.
There are many
scales we can use. Among the most useful are effectiveness and
facility. First,
how effective a solution to a problem the idea is likely to be and
second, how
easy or how difficult it might be to put the idea into action.
So, after looking over all your ideas, first rate them according to
how effective
you can reasonably expect them to be: very effective, probably
effective, or
doubtful. Then, rate them for facility or ease of implementation:
easy, not so
easy, or difficult.
Effectiveness and facility make a good two-way screen for the
brainstorm ideas.
Remember, you’re now judging the ideas. This is a time for cold
hard thinking.
Suppose you’re a manufacturer, and suppose your sales and
marketing team
brainstorm come up with some ideas to increase sales. Let’s say
one of the ideas
is to revamp completely one of the products that your company is
offering to the
Let’s rate this idea. First, in terms of effectiveness, you know the
present product
meets a need and is acceptable to the buying public. What about an
changed product? Without a lot of marketing tests and then a period
of actually
manufacturing for sale, it would be hard to say just how effective
this would be
in increasing sales. Better rate it doubtful.
And how does this idea of completely revamping one of the
products check out
on the facility screen: easy, not so easy, or difficult? It would be
Wouldn’t it? It would require new engineering, new tools, new
plans, new packaging and new marketing methods.
Suppose, however, that one of the salesmen’s ideas is to feature
the company’s
product on a network television program. This would be probably
effective, it
would be not so easy, but it could be done. Now, suppose another
idea is to set
up a new motivational or a sales incentive program, a program
direct to those
people who are at the front of the problem, the salesmen.
If it were a well-designed or implemented motivational or incentive
program, it
would stand a good chance of being very effective. It would be easy
to do. It
should increase the company’s sales.
There are many other evaluation yardsticks you might use. Two
more are time
and money. Try rating your ideas against these measurements. For
example, in
the case of the manufacturer who wants to increase his sales,
certainly, changing
the product would take a great deal of time and money. And to
advertise it on a
popular network television program would cost a great deal of
On the other hand, to introduce a new motivational or sales
incentive program
might be neither too costly nor too time consuming. So, when you
evaluate your
ideas, measure them against these four rating yardsticks,
effectiveness, facility,
time and cost.
Every idea you have may not be worth creative action. And, that’s
why you must
skillfully evaluate each of them. But, once you’ve carefully judged
your ideas
it’s time to take action. Now, let’s look at ways to act on your ideas.
This action step seems to be one of the most difficult. It requires
hard work and
most of us don’t like hard work. But, rewards can’t come without
Here’s an example. Several years ago, one of the telephone
companies had a
major problem. It was how to prevent ice from forming on
communication wires
and breaking them. For months then engineers worked hard on the
Finally, they decided to brainstorm it.
During the brainstorm, one idea was to fly helicopters at a low
altitude over the
wires; the down draft from the rotors would blow away the ice. The
idea was
tried, it was put into action, and it worked. The result, no more ice
on wires and
thousands of dollars saved.
Now, let’s create an Action Plan. First, you select or list the ideas or
idea you
plan to act upon. Second, you decide who might take the action, for
your boss, your general manager, sales manager, advertising
manager or
Third, you determine when is the best time to take action. Timing is
a critical
factor in the introduction of a new idea. Wrong timing might short
circuit an idea
and cause its failure. So, watch the timing of your idea’s
introduction. We can all
think of past great ideas that flopped because of bad timing.
Fourth, decide where the action might be taken, for example, in
your office, in a
factory, at the next board of directors meeting. The staging is
important. So, pay
attention to exactly where the idea is introduced.
Fifth, you need to determine how the idea might be implemented.
For example,
if it’s a new way to increase sales, perhaps direct mail might be
used or
advertising in newspapers or perhaps radio and TV might be the
way to get the
idea across.
Sixth and finally, always give yourself two deadlines. First, a date
on which you
want to start putting your idea into action and second a date by
which you want
to complete the action, have the problem solved. Deadlines spur
the mind to
creative action.
Too often most of us fail to do anything with our ideas. One reason
is that we
fear failure. Here I think it’s well to remember that mistakes are
often stepping
stones to success. Success never crowns those afraid to try. The
point is that, to
be productive, ideas must be implemented. Weigh carefully the idea
you plan to
put into action. Plan how you’ll take the action. Then, take action.
Back to top
The Creative Person
We’ve found that creative people, though they may be dissimilar in
respects, have certain attitudes and employ certain techniques to
their own
benefit and to the benefit of us all.
I’d like now to use these techniques and attitudes as the basis for a
sketch of a creative person. As we go through this sketch, I’d like
you to think
about this person. Where and when have you seen him or her? Is
this a person
you know at work or in your neighborhood or right at home?
It will be helpful to read this description frequently and be reminded
of these
techniques and attitudes, which, if practiced regularly, will result in
your living
an even more creative rewarding life. Another good idea is project
the image of
the creative person on your own actions and then judge for yourself
what areas
could stand some improvement.
First of all, the creative person realizes that his mind is an
storehouse. It can provide anything he earnestly wants in life. But,
in order to
draw from this storehouse, he must constantly augment its stock of
thoughts and wisdom. His mind gives him ideas and ideas solve
The person we’re talking about has a carefully thought out and
clearly defined
set of goals toward which he’s working. By knowing where he’s
going and
determining to get there, he gives meaning and purpose to his daily
work, to
everything he does. He never wastes time just drifting. He’s always
in control of
his life.
The creative person knows his brain thrives on exercise. So, he
uses a part of
each day for thinking imaginatively about three things, himself, his
work, and
his fellow man. By asking himself questions involving these three
areas, he’s
prospecting in the riches goldmine ever known. And the answers to
his questions
are often ideas that he can put into immediate action.
He reaches out for ideas. He respects the minds of others, gives
credit to their
mental abilities. Everyone has ideas, they’re free, and many of them
By first listening to ideas and then thinking them through before
judging them,
the creative person avoids prejudice and closed mindedness. This
is the way he
maintains a creative climate around himself.
You know, ideas are like slippery fish. They seem to have a peculiar
knack of
getting away from us. Because of this, the creative person always
has a pad and
pencil handy. When he gets an idea, he writes it down. He knows
that many
people have found their whole lives changed by a single great
thought. By
capturing ideas immediately, he doesn’t risk forgetting them.
And these captured ideas are deposited in idea banks, eight and a
half by eleven
inch envelopes which are labeled with topics of interest. A friend of
mine, a very
successful writer, writes his books this way. He labels each
envelope with a
name of a chapter. Then, whenever he gets an idea or finds new
material, he sees
that it gets into the proper envelope. Before long his book has
practically written
Having a sincere interest in people, our creative person listens
carefully when
someone else is talking. He’s intensely observant; absorbing
everything he sees
and hears. He behaves as if everyone he meets wears a sign that
reads, “I am the
most important person on earth.” Thus, he makes it a point always
to talk with
other people’s interest in mind. And then, it pays off in a flood of
new ideas and
information that would otherwise be lost to him forever.
Widening his circle of friends and broadening his base of
knowledge are two
more very effective techniques of the creative person. If he is
staying at a hotel
where there is a convention not allied to his own work, he’ll drop in
on it, make
new friends, and listen for ideas that might help him. He’s always
looking for
better ways to do his work and live his life.
The creative person anticipates achievement. He expects to win.
And the above
average production intended for this type of attitude affects those
around him in
a positive way. He’s a prospector for all who know him.
You know, problems are challenges to creative minds. Without
there’d be little reason to think at all. Welcoming them as normal
and predictable
parts of living singles him out as an above average person. He
knows it’s a waste
of time merely to worry about problems. So, he wisely invests the
same time and
energy in solving problems.
He has an organized approach to problem solving. He can even
avoid problems
by anticipating potentially troublesome areas and doing something
about them
before they turn sour on him. The research and development
departments in
many leading companies are constantly involved in exactly this sort
of advanced
The creative person knows the value of giving himself and his ideas
away. He’s
a go-giver as well as a go-getter. The hand that gives always
gathers. And doing
things for other people is a vital part of his way of life.
When the creative person gets an idea he puts it through a series of
designed to improve it. He thinks in new directions. He builds big
ideas and little
ones, new ideas and old ones, associating ideas, combining them,
substituting, magnifying, minifying, rearranging and reversing ideas.
He steers clear of mind weakeners, noise, fatigue, needless worry,
diets, overindulgence in food or drink, and people with negative
attitudes. He
asks polite, probing questions that bolster the ego and expand the
Questions are the creative acts of the intelligent and he uses them
often and to
everyone’s advantage.
And, the creative person uses his spare time wisely. He knows that
many of the
great ideas, books, and inventions were conceived during the
creator’s spare
time. We all have the same number of minutes in a day. And, the
creative person
values each one of them.
Do you recognize the person in this message? Well, it’s someone
you ought to
know. As you use these suggestions and creativity aids you’ve
learned to further
increase your personal potential, I believe you’ll soon discover this
identity and you’ll be pleased with your own enhanced ability.
Back to top
The Challenge of Creativity
Now, with your interest in mind, I’d like to get down to a few
personal thoughts
on creative thinking. Creative thinkers have been around longer
than teachers of
creative thinking or even those who would define it. In fact, by
creative thinking seems to divide itself into two areas: hard work
and inspiration.
You’ve had the experience of working long and hard on a problem
without any
real results. And then, all of the sudden the solution hits you. It’s like
turning on a bright light. But this wonderful experience almost never
without our first preparing the way. And that’s where the hard work
comes in.
Those who give up in frustration simply fail to understand that this is
the way
the mind operates. It’s the methodical striving that makes possible
illuminating flash of insight. Everyone can be creative. But, it seems
that only a
few know they can or realize the success and satisfaction that come
as a result of
being more imaginative and more energetic in their thoughts and
We have a tendency to go along, a tendency not to question
something once it’s
been established as satisfactory. Let’s find an example. Here’s a
down to earth
one. How do you scramble eggs at your house? Have you ever
tried mixing a
dash or two of bitters in with your raw eggs, maybe a couple of
good squirts of
Tabasco sauce? Or, first sautéing some chopped onions or green
peppers then
pouring in the beaten eggs and just before they’re done adding
diced fresh
tomatoes? This makes fixing scrambled eggs more interesting and
it makes
eating them a great deal more satisfying.
Now, if this kind of thinking can change cooking from a laborious
chore into a
creative rewarding art, think what it can do in countless other fields
of endeavor
including your own.
Just as I challenge the way you scramble eggs, challenge, at least
in the back of
your mind, everything that you’re doing as you used to do it, or as
your mother
or father or great-great grandfather used to do it. Most people today
agree that
the once fervently spoken line “what was good enough for my father
is good
enough for me,” was a fatuous absurd remark.
What was good enough for dad is not good enough for us today.
And, what’s
good enough for us won’t be good enough for our youngsters.
That’s the way
this old world improves itself and that’s the way it should be.
A leading businessman has said if you’re doing anything this year
the same way
you did it last year, you’re in serious trouble. The trouble might not
come from
the way you’re doing things, but it very likely will come unless you
maintain a
constant awareness of the necessity, the inevitability of change.
In this book, I’ve given you the creative thinking methods developed
by the best
minds in this field. Creative thinking is a learnable skill and a
practical art. But
creative thinking in its very nature resists perfect definition and rigid
rules of
conduct, as does music or painting or any other art.
Becoming accomplished at any art takes practice and more
practice, years of it.
You can start practicing it right now. You can make it one of your
most valuable
assets now and from here on out. And, if you’ll continue to practice
it every day
of your life, you’ll become a master at it and win a master’s reward.
Maybe it doesn’t make any difference if you still lace your shoes the
way you’ve
always laced them. But, it does make a difference if you don’t
challenge the way
you lace them or why you lace them. Just such a challenge
changed the shoe
industry and today a good many of men’s shoes are made with no
laces at all.
So, form the habit of really thinking about, of questioning everything
you do,
everything you see. Some people can walk by an empty lot for
years without
giving it a second thought, without really seeing it at all. But, one
man will see it
not as a vacant lot but as a beautifully landscaped property sporting
a handsome
new office building. He’ll do something worthwhile for his
community and
probably make himself a fine profit in real estate.
When you ask yourself why the steering wheel on your car is round,
it’s not
necessarily because you want to invent a square one. It’s because
practicing your art, the art of creative thinking. You’re sharpening
your mind
and encouraging it to perform the highest function a human being is
capable of,
deliberate creative thought.
Then when you apply your art to your work, to your home, and
family, and
friends, your mind flashes out of its scabbard like a finely tempered
steel blade
probing, seeking, penetrating through the old to the new that lies
just under the
Creative thinking is an exciting pursuit. It’s exhilarating and it makes
for a
wonderful conversation at the dinner table, while riding in a car,
In the evening, your creative awareness might result in you asking
yourself why
am I sitting here like I mesmerized chicken watching people kill
each other on
my television screen? Isn’t there something more interesting, more
rewarding I
could be doing with a part of this time? Isn’t there a subject I’d like
to know
more about? What about that book I’ve been meaning to read?
You know, one hour a night adds up quickly to a really enormous
amount of
time. Time is one of the few things men can’t buy more of and it’s a
good idea to
use all of it as wisely as we know how.
When you get an idea you think is good, hang it up on an imaginary
hook and
walk all the way around it. Look at it from every angle, poke it, pull
it, twist it,
stretch it in new directions, try to improve it. If it’s an idea you can’t
use, give it
away and get another you can work with. Ideas are free yet they’re
the most
valuable commodities known to man. And the great ideas ennoble
the minds that
conceive them.
Make creative thinking a normal part of your life and attitude and
you’ll find
your world being filled to the brim with a wonderful new interest.
And, one of
these days, you’re going to get the idea that will make a really
contribution, one that will revolutionize your life, for it will be an idea
that will
make the world a better place because you happened to live here
for a while.
In the meantime, just looking for that idea can be a challenge, an
inspiration, and
a lot of fun. Good hunting and good creative thinking.
This is Earl Nightingale and thank you.

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