Give – and Give Some More…


In the sphere of material things giving means being rich.  Not he who has much is rich, but he who gives much.  The hoarder who is anxiously worried about losing something is, psychologically speaking, the poor, impoverished man, regardless of how much he has. – Erich Fromm; The Art of Loving

The day of the “go-getter” has been supplanted by the “go-giver”.  – Napoleon Hill; Think and Grow  Rich

You can achieve everything you want in this life if you will only help others achieve everything they want. – Zig Ziglar

Life is a game of give and take.  Or is it?

gift

Maybe, in order to be successful and live in love for our fellow humans, life is really meant to be a game of give and give and give and give some more.  If you have the mindset of a giver eventually someone will give you something back.  It is in the act of giving not in taking that we receive.

As Erich Fromm accurately states above, love is found in the act of giving.   Success gurus like Napoleon Hill and Zig Ziglar go on to state that it is in the act of giving that great things can be achieved.  Don’t get me wrong, your motivation should ever be for achievement but it is not a coincidence either that the most successful people are also great givers.

I state in the Meekonomist Manifesto first and foremost that a Meekonomist pays his bills on time.  That is a form of giving.  As Paul states in his letter to the first church in Rome;

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. [Romans 13:8]

In other words, give what you rightly owe and then give some more.

So as we start a new week, and a new month let’s stop and think about what we can give of ourselves and then give more than that…

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On Faith…


“You’ve got to have faith to believe“.

That’s pretty profound and I’m sure somebody famous somewhere has been quoted as saying it.  A quick Google search revealed at least four songs that contain the phrase, everyone from George Michael to Bruce Springsteen has used it at one point.  It’s such a common phrase that to attribute it to anyone is pointless.

But what is “faith” and what’s it for?

Napoleon Hill gave a good working definition of faith way back in the 1930s in his book “Think and Grow Rich”.

Faith is the “eternal elixir” that gives life, power, and action to the impulse of thought.
Faith is the starting point of all accumulation of riches.
Faith is the basis of all “miracles” and of all mysteries that cannot be analyzed by the rules of science.
Faith is the only known antidote for failure.
Faith is the element that, when mixed with desire, gives you direct communication with infinite intelligence.
Faith is the element that transforms the ordinary vibrations of thought, created by the human mind, into their spiritual equivalent.
Faith is the only way the force of infinite intelligence can be harnessed and used.  [Napoleon Hill; Think and Grow Rich]

Napoleon Hill set out to write the first comprehensive philosophy of success and he hit on an essential element when he discovered the link between success and faith.   For Hill faith was not a religious word, as many of us associate it today, he was not writing about faith as something that is placed “out there” into the functioning of some external deity he was instead using the word faith in its correct grammatical form.

When I was in high-school my Christian friends and I had a saying:  “faith is a verb”.  Faith is something you do, not something you “have”.  The phrase; “have faith,” is misleading in that it makes it seem like a passive response when to have faith is really to make an active choice.

The other great definition of faith is found in the book of Hebrews.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. [Hebrews 11:1]

Hebrews 11 has been called the faith hall of fame as the author goes on to give a list of great men throughout history up to that point who acted purely out of faith.  By faith – Abel brought his offering, Enoch received eternal life, Noah built an ark, Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son, etc.

Faith gives us power and strength when we have no reason to believe in ourselves otherwise.  It is confidence and assurance as Hebrews puts it, it’s the elixir of life and the antidote for failure, to quote Hill.

But what happens when we lose faith, or just don’t have any to begin with?

Life without faith is a dark and desperate place.  In The Divine Comedy Dante describes the gates of hell with an inscription that reads in part “abandon all hope, those who enter here”.  Hell is a hopeless place devoid of faith.

I have only seen this level of despair once in my life when I went to visit a friend who had been contemplating suicide.  For years this person had lived with a vision of life that she could not make into reality, she had fought circumstances beyond her control to make a life for herself that lined up with the pictures in her head of what happiness was.   Her family never believed in her, they put her down and at times actively sought to sabotage her efforts until finally she started to believe the messages they were sending.  Confidence was lost and faith soon followed.  And if we read Hebrews backwards we can easily see that without faith, there is no hope.  Life for this friend became a living hell.

So where do you turn when hope and faith are lost?

Sadly the Bible doesn’t really give us the answers.  What it says very clearly is “don’t”.  Don’t lose hope, don’t lose faith, fear not, and rest in the knowledge that you are an infinitely valuable image bearer of the divine.  Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest California and author of the best seller, The Purpose Driven Life recently said that you can tell the worth of something by measuring what someone is willing to pay for it. We know from scripture that God was willing to pay a huge price for us.  We are valuable enough to die for!  Therefore; we can’t lose hope that our lives are worth living.  That’s what love is and it’s the basis for holding on to faith in the midst of despair.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners (without hope and without faith), Christ died for us. [Romans 5:8]

Tapping into The Mastermind


The concept of Masterminding is drawn from the 1930s classic “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill.  The idea is that when you bring people together from a diverse set of backgrounds to talk about their common interests and challenges they learn from one another and each come away with valuable insights that they can apply to their own situations.  The resulting ideas are greater than the sum of their parts, a kind of two plus two equals five, if you will.

The typical mastermind group consists of 4-6 people, all working at about the same level (CEOs with CEOs, middle managers with middle managers, salespeople with other salespeople etc.), but in a diverse set of industries.  That way they have to work at finding commonality in their businesses.  When they meet, each member of the group is given the opportunity to express a concern or challenge they are facing and then the rest of the group brainstorms solutions.  Some of the greatest business minds of all time have been members of mastermind groups.  It has been argued that the assembly line system developed by Henry Ford may never have made it out of the Ford Motor Company had it not been for the fact that Ford met on a regular basis with Andrew Carnegie and Harvey Firestone.

Some, including Hill and many of his modern day disciples like Jack Canfield and Rhonda Byrne, made famous by her bestselling book “The Secret”, say that masterminding and the fact that the resulting ideas are greater than the sum of their parts is somehow evidence of God.   To back up that claim they site passages like this one;

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. [Matthew 18:20]

Jack Canfield quotes this passage in “The Success Principles” when discussing masterminding.  But when I read that my spidey senses when crazy, something just didn’t seem right about it so I looked it up.

As a practising Christ-Follower I am pretty sceptical when I see scripture quoted in a decidedly secular book.   While the overall concept of masterminding is fairly powerful and there isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with it, I even take part through a bi-weekly breakfast meeting with a group of small business owners,  I knew immediately that Canfield was quoting Jesus out of context and bending the word of God to fit his agenda.

This sentence comes at the end of a passage in which Jesus is giving instruction on how to deal with sin in the church.    He begins by saying this;

If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. [Matthew 18:15-16]

You see, “where two are three are gathered” is not about getting together and talk about our personal agendas, it’s about addressing sin and furthering the Kingdom.  That’s not to say that God doesn’t bless us when we follow his commands but this passage just isn’t about that.

When I was first introduced to the law of attraction my immediate reaction was that it sounded a lot like good old fashioned prayer, with one exception, with prayer the goal is not to always get your own way.  When you pray you can ask for what you want or what you think you need but in the end it’s God who decides.  Regardless of what you want, you get what’s best.  That’s why Jesus taught use to ask “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” [Matthew 6:10].

So while masterminding isn’t a sin Jesus wants us to remember that discerning the will of God is really what masterminding should be all about.  It’s not about trying to influence God’s will in anyway and no amout of “group think” is going to change that.

You’re Better Than… “This!”


 First off an apology of sorts; I haven’t written much lately, no excuse, just busy at my day job and not really all that inspired to write, until now. 

Last Friday I picked up a copy of Napoleon Hill’s “new” book “Outwitting the Devil; The Secret to Freedom and Success”.  The original manuscript was written in 1938, the year after he published his landmark book “Think and Grow Rich” but due to the misgivings of his family, remained unpublished until 2011.  Hill claimed that he had interviewed the Devil and his wife felt that this crazy idea and much of the controversial statements made in the “interview” would taint his legacy.  As a result the manuscript remained unpublished for over 70 years. 

After having read the book I agree with Hill’s wife.  The political and religious climate of the 1930s would not have looked favorably upon much of what he as the Devil had to say.  Even today there are number of religious and bible fundamentalist who will try to dismiss this work as the ramblings of a delusional man possibly writing while under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.  No matter, this book is profound and it holds many keys to unlocking a better understanding of our own minds and the excuses we all use as reasons not to live up to our God given potential.

 I had never read any of Hill’s work before although I am familiar with his Law of Attraction as recently popularized by Rhonda Byrne and the rest of the contributors to the book and DVD “The Secret”. 

To be honest, I was never very impressed by “The Secret”.  I’ve always found the Law of Attraction to be a bit simplistic and hokey and the whole “name it and claim it” philosophy that it spawned to be damaging to the health and wellbeing of uneducated, unwise and imperfect humans.  People are too prone to taking the easy way out and the way in which the Law of Attraction is presented in “The Secret” and other similar modern interpretations is just too easy.  It leaves out what I believe to be the most important aspect of things.  It’s not enough to meditate on a problem, eventually you have to get off your ass and do something.

So knowing that the original Law of Attraction was conceptualized by Hill as early as 1918 I was reluctant to give too much credence to anything else he might have to say.

However; by 1938, in his interview with The Devil, Hill had stopped calling it the Law of Attraction and had reconceptualized it as the Law of Hypnotic Rhythm.  This new interpretation changes everything and I dare say had it not been suppressed for some 70 plus years, “The Secret” may never have been published.    

Simply put, while the Law of Attraction says you are what you think about, the Law of Hypnotic Rhythm says you are what you refuse to think about. 

How many times have you observed people that simply drift through life, reacting strongly only when negative input such has job loss, marital breakdown or illness makes it too uncomfortable to continue without putting in some effort?    

Think of the thermostat in your house.  A thermostat is happy to sit and do nothing forever until the temperature in your house gets too cold, at that point it switches your furnace on and is once again happy to sit and do nothing until it gets too hot.  Human behavior is a lot like a thermostat.  As long as our basic needs are met, most people never see the need to change their behavior.  That’s hypnotic rhythm.  Sure we may say we want different things, but just like that thermostat, there are very few influences strong enough to push us out of our comfort zone and force us to make the necessary changes to get us there.

And what hold’s most people in a state of hypnotic rhythm? 

Fear! 

Fear that making changes to our behavior would not only fail to get us what we want but would make our lives so uncomfortable that we would also lose the things we rely on to make our lives bearable.  So instead we compromise, carving out a comfortable little niche that is neither too hot nor too cold and drift through life never completely happy or satisfied but content enough not to have to make any serious effort to change anything.  To stretch the thermostat analogy a bit, it’s as if we are afraid that if we change our behavior before the thermostat says we should we’ll break it and the house will get either way too hot or way too cold and then we will have no choice but to work at changing it. 

According to Hill this is exactly the state of mind the Devil wants us to have.  When we drift along through life, governed by fear of the unknown it’s the Devil who calls the shots.  Slowly but surely we compromise away our inner most dreams and desires until we are trapped in a Hell of our own making. 

The process is started in childhood by well meaning parents and teachers who just want us to be safe and happy but unwittingly stifle creativity and discourage self discovery.  Children who buck the system are called “free spirits” or “reckless” and although some go on to stunning success, most are beaten down by a system that fears them as much as it envies them. 

How many genius children have been flunked out of school and shunned by society because the system didn’t know what to do with them?  How many Einstein’s, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have been lost to us forever simply because their parents and teachers, and later police, social workers, prison guards and parole officer’s didn’t recognize and nurture their creativity?  I shudder to think what we may have lost. 

But there is hope.  We must stop drifting and live with purpose.  Take control of that thermostat and tell it who’s boss!

Sure you might get cold – put on a sweater!  Too hot?  Get naked! 

The point is to DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT!  Nobody ever made their mark in the world by seeking comfort and drifting.  The Devil knows it, God knows it and deep down you know it too. 

Toward the end of the book Napoleon Hill asks the Devil what he fears.  His response sums up the entire message perfectly; 

Q – You seem to hold nothing sacred.

A – You are wrong.  I hold sacred the one thing which is my master – the one thing I fear.

Q – What is that?

A – The power of independent thought backed by definiteness of purpose. – [The Interrogator and The Devil] Napolean Hill; Outwitting The Devil, The Secret to Freedom and Success

 

Independent thought and definiteness of purpose, not fear and drifting are what “outwits” the Devil. 

The apostle Paul put it another way. 

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. [1 Timothy 1:7]

 Stuck drifting?  Face your fears, use your brain, you’re better than “this”!