stories of people achieving unusual success
despite all manner of handicaps never fail to
capture our attention. They're inspirational to
be sure. But they're much more than that if we
study them closely.
boy whose legs were terribly
burned and who was told he'd be lucky to ever
walk again becomes a champion track star. The
woman blind and deaf from infancy becomes one of
the most inspirational figures of the century.
And the poor children who rise to fame and
fortune have nearly become commonplace.
In this age of unprecedented immigration, we see
examples of people who start off in this world
with virtually nothing and within a surprisingly
short time have become wonderfully successful.
What sets these people apart, people with vast
handicaps such as not knowing the language, not
knowing the right people, not having any money?
What drives the boy with the burned legs who
becomes the champion runner or a Helen Keller,
blind and deaf who becomes one of the most
inspirational figures of our time? The answer,
if fully understood, will bring you and me
anything and everything we truly want, and it's
deceptively simple. Perhaps it's too simple.
The people we've talked about here and the
thousands currently doing the same thing all
over the world are in possession of something
the average person doesn't have. They have
goals. They have a burning desire to succeed
despite all obstacles and handicaps. They know
exactly what they want; they think about it
every day of their lives. It gets them up in the
morning, and it keeps them giving their very
best all day long. It's the last thing they
think about before dropping off to sleep at
night. They have a vision of exactly what they
want to do, and that vision carries them over
This vision, this dream, this goal, invisible to
all the world except the person holding it, is
responsible for perhaps every great advance and
achievement of humankind. It's the underlying
motive for just about everything we see about
us. Everything worthwhile achieved by men and
women is a dream come true, a goal reached. It's
been said that what the mind can conceive and
believe, it can achieve.
It's the fine building where before there was an
empty lot or an old eyesore. It's the bridge
spanning the bay. It's landing on the moon. And
it's that little convenience store in Midtown
Manhattan. It's the lovely home on a tree-shaded
street and the young person accepting the
diploma. It's a low golf handicap and a position
reached in the world of business. It's a certain
income attained or amount of money invested.
What the mind can conceive and believe, it can
We become what we think about. And when we're
possessed by an exciting goal, we reach it.
That's why it's been said, "Be choosy,
therefore, of what you set your heart upon. For
if you want it strongly enough, you'll get
Americans can have anything they want. The
trouble is they don't know what they want. Oh,
they want little things. They want a new car;
they get it. They want a new refrigerator; they
get it. They want a new home and they get it.
The system never fails for them, but they don't
seem to understand that it is a system. Nor that
if it'll work for a refrigerator or a new car,
it will work for anything else they want very
much, just as well.
Goals are the very basis of any success. It is
in fact the definition of success. The best
definition of success I've ever found goes like
this, "Success is the progressive
realization of a worthy goal." Or in some
cases the pursuit of a worthy "ideal."
It's a beautiful definition of success. It means
that anyone who's on course toward the
fulfillment of a goal is successful.
Now, success doesn't lie in the achievement of a
goal, although that's what the world considers
success; it lies in the journey toward the goal.
We're successful as long as we're working toward
something we want to bring about in our lives.
That's when the human being is at his or her
best. That's what Cervantes meant when he wrote,
"The road is better than the inn."
We're at our best when we're climbing, thinking,
planning, working. When we're on the road toward
something we want to bring about.
With our definition, success being the
progressive realization of a worthy goal, we
cover all the bases. The young person working to
finish school is as successful as any person on
earth. The person working toward a particular
position with his or her company is just as
If you have a goal that you find worthy of you
as a person, a goal that fills you with joy at
the thought of it, believe me, you'll reach it.
But as you draw near and see that the goal will
soon be achieved, begin to think ahead to the
next goal you're going to set. It often happens
that a writer halfway through a book will hit
upon the idea for his next one and begin making
notes or ideas for a title even while he's
finishing work on the one in progress. That's
the way it should be.
It's estimated that about 5% of the population
achieves unusual success. For the rest, average
seems to be good enough. Most seem to just drift
along, taking circumstances as they come, and
perhaps hoping from time to time that things
will get better.
I like to compare human beings with ships, as
Carlyle used to do. It's estimated that about 95
percent can be compared to ships without
rudders, subject to every shift of wind and
tide. They're helplessly adrift, and while they
fondly hope that they will one day drift into
some rich and bustling port, for every narrow
harbor entrance, there are 1,000 miles of rocky
The chances of their drifting into port are
1,000 to 1 against them. Our state lottery is a
tax on such people. So are the slot machines in
Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Someone wins from
time to time to be sure, but the odds are still
there. . . stacked steeply against them.
But the 5 percent who have taken the time and
exercised the discipline to climb into the
driver's seat of their lives, who've decided
upon a challenging goal to reach and have fully
committed themselves to reaching it, sail
straight and far across the deep oceans of life,
reaching one port after another and
accomplishing more in just a few years than the
rest accomplish in a lifetime.
If you should visit a ship in port and ask the
captain for his next port of call, he'll tell
you in a single sentence. Even though the
captain cannot see his port, his destination for
fully 99% of the voyage, he knows it's there.
And then, barring an unforeseen and highly
unlikely catastrophe, he'll reach it. If someone
asks you for your next port of call, your goal,
could you tell him?
Is your goal clean and concise in your mind? Do
you have it written down? It's a good idea. We
need reminding, reinforcement. If you can get a
picture of your goal and stick it to your
bathroom mirror, it's an excellent idea to do
so. Thousands of successful people carry their
goals written on a card in their wallets or
When you ask people what they're working for,
chances are they'll answer in vague
generalities. They might say, "Oh, good
health or happiness or lots of money."
That's not good enough. Good health should be a
universal goal. We all want that, and do our
best to achieve and maintain it.
Happiness is a byproduct of something else. And
lots of money is much too vague. It might work,
but I think it's better to choose a particular
sum of money. The better, the clearer our goal
is defined, the more real it becomes to us, and
before long, the more attainable. Happiness
comes from the direction in which we're moving.
Children are happier on Christmas morning before
opening their presents than they are Christmas
afternoon. No matter how wonderful their
presents may be, it's after Christmas. They'll
enjoy their gifts, to be sure, but we often find
them querulous and irritable Christmas
afternoon. We're happier on our way out to
dinner than we are on the way home. We're
happier going on vacation than we are coming
home from it. And we're happier moving toward
our goals than even after they've been
accomplished, believe it or not.
Life plays no favorites. Yet of one thing you
may be sure, you will become what you think
about. If your thinking is circular and chaotic,
your life will reflect that chaos. But if your
thinking is orderly and clear, if you have a
goal that's important for you to reach, then
reach it you will.
One goal at a time. That's important. That's
where most people unwittingly make their
mistake. They don't concentrate on a single goal
long enough to reach it before they're off on
another track, then another, with the result
that they achieve nothing. Nothing but confusion
By thinking every morning, every night, and as
many times during the day as you can about this
exciting single goal you've established for
yourself, you actually begin moving toward it
and bringing it toward you. When you concentrate
your thinking, it's like taking a river that's
twisting and turning and meandering all over the
countryside and putting it into a straight,
smooth channel. Now it has power, direction,
So decide upon your goal. Insist upon it. Demand
it! Look at your goal card every morning and
night and as many times during the day as you
conveniently can. By so doing, you will
insinuate your goal into your subconscious mind.
You'll see yourself as having already attained
your goal, and do that every day without fail,
and it will become a habit before you realize
it. A habit that will take you from one success
to another all the years of your life. For that
is the secret of success, the door to everything
you will ever have or be.
You are now and you most certainly will become.
. . what you think about.