The arrival of a new year traditionally has been a time of reflection for many people. I, for one, have been thinking a lot about the events that have led up to where we are now. I contemplate my own accomplishments and where I'd like to make improvements. I look at the prospects for the publishing business, the vending and amusement industry, how we fit together and the role media will play in the years ahead. And I wonder about the global economy, whether anything will change in the wake of the recent election (or after the election of 2012), where we will be five or 10 years from now, and what the impact will be on our ways of doing business. Sometimes I wish I had a crystal ball.
In the short term, of course, we need policies that will revitalize the economy and strengthen the middle class. I think most of us realize the important role that education will play in increasing our country's ability to be more competitive, create jobs and so, ultimately, to generate wealth and restore prosperity. History has shown that this country's colleges and universities attract "the best and the brightest" from all over the world, and as long as this country continues to encourage entrepreneurship, many of them will innovate. This will bolster research and development, and encourage investment in the United States.
But what about our own education? For many of us, life experience (sometimes called the "School of Hard Knocks") completes and deepens our education. What has it taught us, this time around? What might we have done differently to prepare for the challenges? How might our own personal growth affect our predicament?
With that New Year's time-for-reflection idea in mind, I revisited the inspiring words of Dale Carnegie. I hadn't realized that his most popular book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, was published more than 70 years ago. A huge best-seller in 1936, it is still widely popular today.
Carnegie's approach has stood the test of time, and I don't think it just applies to selling; it is almost a philosophy to live by. One of the core ideas in his book is that it is possible to change the behavior of others by changing our own reactions to them.
This made me wonder: might changing our reactions to our circumstances change them too? Do self-improvement, salesmanship and interpersonal skills play a role in our success by shifting the odds in our favor? To that end, I share some of my favorite Dale Carnegie quotes here:
"Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success."
"If you believe in what you are doing, then let nothing hold you up in your work. Much of the best work of the world has been done against seeming impossibilities. The thing is to get the work done."
"Feeling sorry for yourself, and your present condition, is not only a waste of energy but the worst habit you could possibly have."
"First ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? Then prepare to accept it. Then proceed to improve on the worst."
"Most of us have far more courage than we ever dreamed we possessed."
"People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing."
"You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you."
"There is only one way … to get anybody to do anything. And that is by making the other person want to do it."
"One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today."
There is a good deal of perennial philosophy in all this (what traditionalists know as the philosophia perennis). That is a system of beliefs about right conduct, often considered the base upon which the major religions are built. With a bit of effort, you can find the same concepts in Islam, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shinto, Sikhism and Buddhism -- or, for that matter, the Bible.
Some may argue that there is a limit to the effects of "positive thinking," and of course they would be right. But I claim you get better results by believing that you will succeed, and working toward that end, than by thinking that your circumstances doom you to failure. And the Taoists observe that "the journey is the reward."
If you don't like these precepts, what would you have in their place? So, take a chance! The successful person will profit from his or her mistakes and try again, profiting from the experience to improve the technique. We all have possibilities we don't know about, and can do things we don't even dream we can do.
From all of us at VT, best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous 2011.