A Brief Lesson in How to Succeed in Life


I write for, and serve as art and literature editor and founding web designer of The Hollywood Sentinel, and proudly share our publication’s focus on positive thinking and success. Many people are vaguely aware of “law of attraction” techniques and philosophies made popular by talk shows, but in practice they never move beyond active daydreaming into goal achievement and prosperity. A small minority of people make serious study of their own minds and a smaller number still take the action steps needed every day to take them from where they are to where they want to be. Regardless of which category you fit into right now, this article, with a condensed version of the key concepts I have learned from dozens of teachers over hundreds of hours of self-study, is designed to help you.

A practical tip that you can take from my article right away is this: The best free way to find this material other than a trip to the library, is to search names in this article on YouTube for thousands of free videos you can watch every day. If you find yourself complaining about the same things over and over, feeling down in the dumps, lacking momentum, or just not where you want to be, try doing this even while you are doing other things and eventually it will change your mind. Your life will follow!

Brief History

Greek (Aristotelian) philosophy may be the forerunner of positive thinking, but for all practical purposes, formally studying how to use the mind to create success can be traced back to the late 19th Century. Orison Swett Marden (1850-1924) founded Success Magazine in 1891. In 1902, James Allen published As a Man Thinketh, which states that our thoughts create our lives. All that exists, he explains, exists first as a thought. The language of this book and books written in the early 20th Century such as Napoleon Hill’s 1937 Think and Grow Rich can be difficult to understand, even turgid or bombastic at times. But the more formal writing style of the day is what makes these books enjoyable in their own unique way, with quotes such as “Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.” (James Allen, As a Man Thinketh).

Key Players and Core Ideas

Zig Ziglar

1. Zig Ziglar, who was born in 1926 and died in 2012, was an iconic American salesman, sales trainer, and positive thinker. The key concept he is associated with is the power of positive thinking. Practicing positive thinking is as simple as when you are feeling negative or angry, turn your attention to what is good in your life. As an example, I recently told someone important in my life one hundred things I appreciate about him. The truth is, I had been upset with him before I started doing the exercise. But once I started going, it was easy to think of many good things about him. After I’d told him my 100 things, his behavior toward me was more considerate and thoughtful than it had been previously.

Zig tells a similar story about a woman who hated her job: he told her there wasn’t a company big enough to contain her poisonous attitude, and she had better think of what she loved about the job or get ready to get fired. Making a list of the benefits of this job changed her life. That’s what Zig Ziglar’s philosophy is all about. On an interesting and personal sidebar, I learned only after discussing concepts in this article with my father, that before I was old enough to remember, my parents, owners of Cues for Health LLC, once served as organizers, promoters and bookers for Zig Ziglar in our hometown.

Tony Robbins

2. Tony Robbins is a protege of Terry Cole Whitaker (who you can read about in The Hollywood Sentinel archives section in the link below). The most important concept I learned from listening to Tony Robbins is what I call the kinesthetic angle. Think about the last time you did something you were proud of. You probably stood with your shoulders back, your head held high, and a smile on your face. By checking in with your body and recreating that state physically, you begin to act like that most successful version of yourself and set yourself up for more good things to happen. On the contrary, if you slump over, repeat self-limiting thoughts in your mind, and breathe poorly, you will start to feel terrible. So don’t do it!

The next time you feel awful take a minute to check in with your body. Do something to break the state you’re in physically, like jumping up and down or remembering what your body feels like when you are on track. This technique works well for people who learn best with movement and expressive types.

Brian Tracy

3. Brian Tracy is known as an extraordinary time manager, but really he’s an expert in prioritization, which is a way of tricking the mind into doing the essential things at the speed you require to succeed. The key concepts I have found most useful in my own life are his eat the frog idea and the way he suggests making to do lists. Eating the frog is a way of doing the thing you are most nervous about first. Imagine the worst thing you had to do all day is you had to eat a frog. Yuck, right? So, do you do it first thing in the morning and get it over with or do you stare at it, watch it hop around, go get a cup of coffee, check to see how high the frog can jump and if it’s still breathing … you get the picture. Just eat that frog! Because that frog is probably the one thing that is going to make a difference in your life.

If you have a list of things to do, you make an “A” by the most important things that have the worst consequences if you don’t do them. “B” is important but there are fewer consequences to waiting. By the time you get to “D” you can “delegate” and if it’s so inconsequential, you can “E” or eliminate it. If it’s not going to get you a raise to listen to your coworker complain about her children or medical problems, and it’s just going to encourage her to waste more time in your cubicle, then why do it at all? Here’s a Hollywood twist to help you remember the ABC’s of lists: Which list do you want to be on? The A-List, right? Well, to get on the A-List, not only do you have to make a list, but you must identify and perform A-Level activities.

The second Brian Tracy concept I really like is that he suggests at the beginning of the day you write out your main life goal as if you have achieved it, and then before you go to bed you review what you have done to move forward in that regard. I like this approach because as a hyper creative and somewhat stubborn person, I don’t like being told what to do (even by myself) or locked into a schedule that feels rigid. I have to maintain a feeling of playfulness in order to succeed in the creative arena. I have a master list of hundreds of high level A activities already made, and I can choose during the day which ones are the best ones in relation to what is happening and my energy as it changes. Of course, there are times when I have to be rigid, but understanding myself and how I respond to self-discipline, this idea was liberating for me.

Bob Proctor

4. Bob Proctor has been studying success for more than 50 years, and is well known today as one of the masterminds behind the best selling book and movie, The Secret. I was a young child when I first learned about the power of the subconscious mind, which Bob is an expert in. On one of my favorite guided visualizations Bob says, “You are not a body, you live in a body.”

The mind, he claims, is infinitely powerful and all-knowing if you can expand your conscious awareness so that it is as big as your subconscious mind, which he likens to the part of an iceberg that you don’t see: the bulk of it, which is submerged underwater. That’s why they say “It’s only the tip of the iceberg.” The part of your mind that you can’t see or hear is bigger than the part you are aware of. It includes your DNA, your dreams, things you hear or see on television, and how others responded to you in the past, especially as a young pre-verbal child.

Because this subconscious mind is so big and so powerful, it’s important to understand how it works differently than your “regular” mind. The subconscious mind is like a genie. It likes to grant wishes. It likes to say “yes!” and doesn’t understand the word “no.” Here’s where a lot of people get stuck. They start using affirmations, stated in the present, to activate their subconscious mind. You can walk around all day saying “I am rich, I am famous, I am powerful and I am in control,” but it’s not going to help if you do so without any emotion or visualization. Images of the thing you want (such as yourself living in that dream home or holding that Oscar) are more powerful to your inner genie, and are seen as blueprints to put into action. Also try getting emotional! It’s OK! Nobody’s watching anyway.

I was once told to look myself in the mirror, think about the money I wanted and jump up and down as if it was really in the bank. There was only one problem with this approach which I had to learn the hard way. The person in the mirror isn’t me; she’s an illusory reflection or impostor. I know I have a tear drop shaped scar on my left eye. The girl in the mirror has the same scar on the right side of her face. So now when I look for myself to reprogram myself whenever some type of unsavory paradigm rears its ugly head, I use two mirrors, one at an angle, to see a true reflection of who I really am as I truly appear from the outside. I would advise you to adopt this same modification to any variation you may practice in regards to this exercise.

Napoleon Hill

5. Napoleon Hill is famous for Think and Grow Rich, but he also wrote The Law of Success which distills the principles of success into seventeen principles or lessons. The sixteenth law is the Golden Rule, which, of course, is far older than Napoleon Hill. Jesus told us to love our neighbors and treat them like we wanted to be treated. During the 16th century, during China’s Ming dynasty, Yuan Liao Fan wrote a book called Liao-Fan’s Four Lessons which stipulates that a person can change his destiny by cultivating good deeds. However, charity toward others can bring more immediate rewards than how it eventually comes back to you in your own success.

The immediate rush of joy you feel when you relieve the suffering of another sentient being is its own reward. I like to say, “Doing good is feeling good.” File this under how to be happy. Maybe you don’t have your dream car, you weigh more than you’d like, you can’t get the kids to wipe the counters so that they don’t leave a thin sticky film of food residue, or that ten million dollar deal just fell through because of someone else’s egotistical demands (never your own, right?) or you can’t pay rent. So what. There’s somebody else out there worse off than you are. If you live in Los Angeles county, there are at least fifty thousand people every night who don’t even have a place to sleep.

Doing Good is Feeling Good

I learned through my parent’s example that the joy of helping others is better than any anti-depressant, dietary change, positive thinking technique, or exercise. I’m going to repeat myself: Doing good is feeling good. Try it. Click here to explore a list of opportunities in your area, or simply do something to help another when the opportunity arises.

This article might have ended here, but I developed two additional, and hopefully helpful concepts between the first draft of this article, and final press of this, our 37th issue.

Jack Canfield, Jim Rohn, and Others

The first is this BONUS TIP: When seeking a system to upgrade your life, feel free to treat the wealth of self-help material in regards to success like your own salad bar and sample as many teachers as you like. The multiplicity of voices in this field (Jack Canfield, Jim Rohn, Grant Cardone, Les Brown, etc.) serve as a chorus for human advancement.

You don’t have to deify these leaders. They are human. For someone who is new to all of this, or has been holding on to a lot of negativity for many years, I would recommend starting out with an open mind and absorbing as much as possible, but give yourself permission in advance to filter out anything that may be harmful to you. As you gain knowledge and confidence, or as you are inspired by your Higher Power, it is okay to tweak suggested exercises and techniques or distill them to suit yourself. This process is similar to how more advanced students in a yoga class are able to practice solo, with one move flowing into another effortlessly, through a quiet (or perhaps only wordless) mind. (For what is silence?)

Perfectly Clear Coaching

As we go to press, I am pleased to announce the launch of a new business, Perfectly Clear Coaching. My practice is creative, poly-sensory, and grounded in empiric rather than subjective reality. I am qualified to work with diverse populations in every sense of the word, equally comfortable in corporate and private settings. As a certified life, business, and organizational coach, I can not help you, hurt you, sell you my services, or give you answers to life’s tough questions. That’s your job. I won’t polish your tarnished brass dreams, or give you a booster shot of motivation. Other people can do that for you better than I. I will teach you how to help yourself. And I will hold you accountable as you take steps toward your personal goal.

I will never blame, shame, or invalidate my clients. I will not violate my own ethics or your personal boundaries by touching you or telling you “I love you,” because, as much as I want you to feel loved, it’s inappropriate in a professional context. If you are interested in developing a coach-client relationship, my rate is $250.00 per hour for clients beginning after June 1. Spots are limited. Credit cards and alternative payment arrangements including barter or volunteering for a meaningful cause, such as reducing carbon emissions, are accepted at my own discretion. For more information please contact me at The Hollywood Sentinel in the link below.

Contact Moira at TheHollywoodSentinel.com.