Napoleon Hill’s 4th Key: Use Applied Faith

Some people believe in the God they learned about in their families of origin, others in a Higher Power of their own understanding. According to Napoleon Hill (and millions of twelve-steppers), it doesn’t matter what you believe in, as long as you are willing to put your faith in a Higher Power and act on it. As it says in “The Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous, “faith without works is dead.” According to Hill, faith is a state of mind that can be developed through daily practice. He refers to his own higher power as “Infinite Intelligence.”

Hill goes on to describe the various ways faith in “Infinite Intelligence” can be found. He discusses the patterns and order to be found in nature, and compares them to the workings of a wristwatch, in that it could never have been created randomly. Then he goes on to the inner workings of the mind, the still, small voice inside that guides us, the creative energy of the Mastermind Alliance, or the union of multiple minds to a single purpose, and the conscience which teaches us right from wrong.

Like Hill, I am a firm believer in a daily spiritual practice, which I have accomplished with varying degrees of success for the past twenty years or so. It began with “The Artist’s Way,” by Julia Cameron, and her wonderful suggestion of morning pages. Through those pages I found my voice as a writer, but first I found myself.  The days I didn’t write them, I felt disconnected from me. I was less able to make decisions, take positive actions, or even identify how I was feeling. My morning pages kept me in touch with what was most important to me.

From there I began to do some meditation, to write a gratitude list, and, yes, to pray. I came to believe in a Higher Power that had a plan for me. H.P. gave me talents and a dream and it became clear that it was my responsibility to use those talents. Since little else had worked for me in the career department, I threw myself into the dream of screenwriting.

I believe that’s what Hill means by “applied faith.” When those negative voices creep in to say I’m too old, not talented enough, or wasting my time, I only have to remind myself that I’ve got a job to do and my H.P. wants me to do it. And that no obstacle is too large for the Universe to conquer, but that it’s my job to do the footwork. So I do it, each day.

According to Hill, when you have a problem and ask your Higher Power for help:

You will recognize the solution by the soundness of the plan that occurs to you and by the feeling of enthusiasm which accompanies its recognition. As soon as you do recognize the plan, act on it at once! Do not hesitate, argue, challenge, worry, or fret about it. Act on it!

Hill goes on to talk about the various ways that we trip ourselves up with fear, and the power of naming those fears and accepting their existence. Then we can begin to overcome them by proceeding with our Major Purpose. He also speaks about the power of visualization and a Positive Mental Attitude.

For me, visualization is sometimes too powerful, in the sense that we can manifest something we aren’t ready for, or that we only think we want. I believe the power of positive thinking is overrated. I refuse to be an automaton who doesn’t let a little negativity creep in once in a while. Sometimes I even indulge in it. On the other hand, I am certain that obsessing on my fears of inadequacy and all the things wrong with the world and the industry will keep me from ever reaching my goals. So I plan to err on the side of positive thinking, at least most of the time.

I hope you are all pursuing your dreams. Until next time, happy writing!

Napoleon Hill’s 3rd Key: Assemble an Attractive Personality

Napoleon Hill’s 3rd Key to Success: “Assemble an Attractive Personality”

This key is quite daunting to me, I have to admit. I used to think of my personality as being something I was born with, not something that I had control over, let alone responsibility for. Of course it makes perfect sense to cultivate mannerisms and attitudes that are appealing to others. I just would prefer to think of it as out of my control. Which, it turns out, is a completely self-defeating stance to take.

According to Hill, there are twenty-five aspects of our personalities that can be worked on, although many of them are inter-related. It all starts with a Positive Mental Attitude, or PMA:

PMA is the most important aspect of any attractive personality; indeed, it is crucial to many of the Seventeen Principles of Success. PMA influences your tone of voice, your posture, your facial expressions. It modifies every word you say and every emotion you feel. It affects every thought you have and the results your thoughts bring you.

Over and over, I’ve read that in order to get a job in the writer’s room, the show-runner has to like you enough to want to spend ten hours per day in the same room with you. No one wants to spend ten minutes in the company of a negative, whiny writer who doesn’t enjoy the work, the company, or support other’s ideas. It makes sense to me! Unless you have a positive attitude, chances are good that you’ll never get the interview, let alone the job–even if you are a great writer.

Some people are great at hiding the way they really feel. Others wear their hearts on their sleeves. For me, the worst thing someone can be is phony.  Give me an honest and angry companion over a smiling, sneaky one any day of the week. I’d rather know what I’m dealing with.

One thing I notice a lot, in women particularly, but not exclusively, is a neurotic tendency to think everything is about them. They examine every interaction for the seed of an insult, and then nurture it until it grows into resentment within them. It’s exhausting just to think about. Everyone walks on eggshells around them to avoid saying anything that can be misinterpreted.

I prefer to believe that nothing anyone else does is really about me; not even direct insults. If I’ve done something wrong, I try to apologize and take responsibility. Otherwise, if you have a problem with me, I’m certain it has more to do with what’s going on in your life. Or perhaps you recognize some character flaw in me that you dislike in yourself. In either case, it’s none of my business. I keep my eyes on my own work, I don’t gossip and I try to accept others for who they are. It’s true that I love to give advice, but a better strategy is to share my experience if someone has a problem. That way they know I understand and I’m not judging them.  If I really don’t understand what they are going through, I’ll say so, hopefully with compassion.

One of the great things about being in my forties is the perspective it gives me. When I was a kid, I thought if everyone knew where I was coming from, they would understand me. Today I know it’s much simpler than that. No one ever will know where we are coming from, because no one else has walked in our shoes. And we haven’t walked in theirs. We bring a lifetime of experience to every moment of every day.

There’s way too much in this chapter of great importance for me to cover in one blog, so perhaps I’ll come back to this key again. Hill covers so many important topics, such as tact and courtesy, tolerance, and promptness of decision.  It really is life-changing. I’ll leave with this:

The world has the habit of making room for the man whose actions show that he knows where he is going. Napoleon Hill

Do you believe that an attractive personality is an important key to success? Have you worked at cultivating PMA? Send me an email @ —I’d love to hear about it.

Until next time, happy writing!

Napoleon Hill’s 2nd Key to Success: Establish a Mastermind Alliance

Okay, time to get real. I’ve been dragging my feet on this key, because I didn’t think I had a Mastermind Alliance, which Hill defines as “… two or more minds working actively together in perfect harmony toward a common definite object.”

Although I certainly appreciate the importance of forming a Mastermind Alliance, I have no clue how to put one together for myself, right now, today. Sure, I started a new Writer’s Group. That’s great. We all want to write screenplays, get better at writing screenplays, and get paid to write screenplays. But in terms of a group of people working towards a common definite purpose, does it fit the bill? They like me and want me to be successful, I think, but they aren’t working towards my success.  And I’m not working towards theirs either. Except, in giving each other support and positive feedback, helpful insights and criticism, we do make each other’s work better.

If I had an agent, a manager, or a writing partner, they could be part of my alliance. But I don’t have any of those. They would certainly want the same things I want – for me to make money and have a rewarding writing career. When I have a job in TV, a mastermind alliance will take place in the writer’s room, because we will all be working towards the same goal of a great next episode of the show.

But that’s all in the future. What about now, when I have to do the really hard work of getting to the show that I will eventually work on? Who will help me now? Okay, there is the former teacher who has always been a cheerleader for me, and made me feel good about all the effort I put in. I suppose he is working towards my success. He is always willing to give me honest and helpful feedback that makes my writing better.

Then there’s my husband and kids. My two teenagers have been my greatest supporters. They have both had unwavering faith in my ability to be a success, and endless patience with me during the process.  Although they pay the price for my dream by living with a mom who isn’t as available to them as I’d like to be, they never complain. They are glad I am doing something that makes me happy. They help me stay up on pop culture, slang and what their friends are watching. They even, once in a while, pick up some of the slack on the housework that gets neglected so I can put more time in writing. Wow. They are definitely working for a common purpose.

I can’t even begin to tell you how supportive my husband has been. In a way, I think it’s harder for him than the kids. For one thing, I’m quite unavailable in the role he needs me to fill as administrative assistant for his home-based business. Other than typing the occasional letter and sending out a report here and there, he’s on his own. He works hard, makes most of the money, and believes in me with almost the same naiveté as the kids do. And he’s a tough, cynical Irishman, so that is saying a lot. And he does it while hardly ever complaining that he does most of the shopping and it’s sometimes difficult to find a clean pair of socks.

Then there’s my sister, my nieces, and my two best girlfriends, who always find time to support me and put up with my absent-minded ways when we’re supposed to be having lunch, but I’m up in my head, writing.  There are the Social Networking sites, the online groups I belong to, the networking events I attend. Oh, and the wonderful people who read my blog, and write blogs that help me.

It seems I’ve been building a Mastermind Alliance without even knowing it. And it’s a damn powerful one.

Do you have a mastermind alliance? If you are working hard at a dream, the support shows up. I would love to hear about yours.

Hill’s Key #1: Develop Definiteness of Purpose

I’ve always been a sucker for self-help. Many of the books I’ve read have helped me. As long as I was reading them, that is. But there are a few books that I have returned to over the years, gradually building deeper understanding of their principles, and adapting their usage into my own life. The author that has helped me the most is Napoleon Hill.

Hill, may, in fact, be the father of self-help. His book “Think and Grow Rich,” was published in 1937, and was twenty years in the making. In it Hill recorded his observations from the study of many self-made millionaires, and interpreted his findings for anyone to use. It’s a very powerful book, but I prefer the more modern “Keys to Success,” which was published from his later teachings after his death. Since I’m blogging about my goals as a screenwriter, anyway, I thought it would be a great exercise to put the principles into action and report on each of them.

The first principle is that in order to achieve your goal you must have a “Definite Purpose.” This is a sort of road map to your goal. It includes not only exactly what you want, but what steps you are willing to take to get there. This is mine:

Karen’s Major Definite Purpose: I am a staff writer on a well-written, popular TV drama. As a part of the team, I am respected and valued for my contribution to the show, and depended upon for ideas, pages and integrity. I am well-paid, have good health insurance and benefits, and enjoy my life immensely. I am able to support my husband in retirement and put my children through college. Any debts I have accumulated along the way are paid in full, and I am generous with those less fortunate.

In order to achieve this purpose, I get up early and write each day for two to four hours or more. I submit my work to carefully chosen contests and fellowships, and show it to producers, agents, and anyone in a position to further my career. I behave in a professional manner, send thank-you notes and stay in touch with people I meet. I follow-up and follow through appropriately. I am building a body of work, and have several stories ready to pitch at any given time. I am prompt, agreeable, well-groomed and dependable. I maintain good physical health through diet and exercise so that I am able to meet the demands of long hours.

I maintain a presence on the internet through my blog, groups and social networking. I continue to build my Writers Action Group and to attend networking opportunities. I look for opportunities to help others achieve their goals, so I am deserving of the help I ask for. I keep my eyes and ears open for opportunity to further my goals, and act on the opportunities that present themselves.

I will post this statement on my office wall, read it aloud each day, and practice all of the above actions and more, without fail, until I have achieved my “Definite Purpose,” and am writing for TV.

For me, and perhaps for you as well, it takes a lot of courage and commitment to dare to want what I want, and to admit it to the world. My goals may change over time, in which case my “Definite Purpose” will change, too.

Next time, I’ll discuss Key #2, “Establish a Mastermind Alliance.” In the meantime, do you have a definite purpose? I would love to hear about it.