The book rumored to have inspired Bill Gates to drop out of Harvard to start his own venture was Charles Haanel's The Master Key System, a series of lessons originally published in 1912 that prescribe a way of thinking that drives successful outcomes through a focus on harmonious principles, and the ability to concentrate. It is hands-down the best book I've read in years, and has reframed how I think about creative power, positive thinking, time efficiency, health, mental ability and capacity to concentrate.
For those of you not addicted to self-help books yet intrigued by mind control tactics, below is a summary of the takeaways for your reading pleasure slash consideration for improving your own life:
#1 Almost everything about you and your life is a direct product of your thoughts
Your past reactions to external situations, responses to other people, choices on what to put in your body, and control over your mind has led you to your current body and health, lifestyle, relationships, career and overall happiness.
This is a simple concept, but a hard one to accept. However, it sank in for me when I thought about the most challenging times I've had in my life and realized how I'd mostly created them myself by dwelling in a negative mindset, allowing impulses to become actions and ultimately bad choices. It's so much easier to blame external forces, rather than considering how much control I truly have over every aspect of my life.
On the flip side, the most wonderful experiences I've had resulted from positive thoughts, enabling my desires to become actions and ultimately the exactly right choices that led me to my goals.
#2 Your ability to think about HOW you think is the secret to greatness
And the secret to abundant possibility. Taking time to consider why you're thinking in a certain way enables you to adjust your thought pattern. Positive thoughts lead to productivity, and you have the power to program your mind to focus only on those positive, productive thoughts and learn to tune out negative, unproductive thoughts regardless of what internal or external factors trigger them. However, it takes discipline to think about your own mind objectively, which is why most people haven't mastered control of their minds.
Practicing on my own mind, I realized that many of my negative thoughts stem from insecurities and fear. Thinking logically about how my negative thought patterns were unproductive has helped me tremendously. I've started to recognize when they're simmering and have learned to shut them down quickly to pave the way for productive thoughts.
#3 All thought is creative, and every single thought produces some kind of reaction or action
Haanel gives the great example of how thoughts can trigger physical reactions on our bodies. Laughter, tears, and chills are examples we're all familiar with, and can agree that our own thoughts produce these reactions. He takes it a step further with examples of how our thoughts can influence health, that prolonged negative thinking produces actions and reactions that stress our bodies and can lead to disease. Although this isn't a secret (doctors have linked common diseases to lifestyle choices, which of course are driven by thoughts), it's sort of astonishing to think that your body has a physical reaction to your thoughts.
So if we're in agreement that our thoughts can influence our bodies, it's also logical that our thoughts can influence our external environment. For me, I think about how my thoughts led me to walk into an open house all the way to selecting paint colors and filling it with my things. Having a vision in my mind, combined with the positive conviction that my vision would become reality, created a home that I now love out of an ugly-with-good-bones house. We can all think of examples where we've had a vision that we turned to reality out of pure excitement. Haanel suggests that training our minds to apply vision and concentration towards whatever we desire will lead to successful outcomes.
#4 The fastest way to fail to allow negative thoughts to take hold in your mind
If all thought is creative, then negative thought will create negative experiences and repeated, prolonged negative thought will drive you backwards. This is sort of common sense, but something that I never really actively considered. Thinking back to the times in my life when I allowed negative thinking to take hold, I realized that it manifested problems in almost everything about me. The condition of my skin, propensity to get sick, likelihood of a failed date, willingness to engage in an argument, etc. were directly related to my mindset.
Thoughts stemming in anger, jealously, self-pity, helplessness, fear and other negative emotions hold us back, and we have the power to consciously choose to let those thoughts go - and, more importantly - never let them take hold from the start.
#5 We are all connected to a greater mind
There's a passage in the book about the concept of a "Universal Mind" - it's not religious, or philosophical, or scientific - it's just a suggestion that there is a common, universal set of intelligent principles that guide the human progress and are rooted in positive, productive thought. Haanel argues that every successful human being to walk the Earth has in some form or another subscribed to these principles in order to drive their development.
I read this while sitting in the Starbucks at O'Hare, and had this odd realization that the concept of Starbucks started in a human mind and inspired thoughts in other human minds and then exploded into a reality that touches millions of people every hour of every day (and also started a global pumpkin spice trend that sort of scares me). Same thing goes for the concept of communicating via telephony, traveling through the air in a metal tube, selling products via the internet, conducting business on personal computers, breaking a host of colonies free from Great Britain to start America, etc.
In summary, our capacity to align all of our thoughts to positive, intelligent principles and develop a vision on which to concentrate our thoughts is the "master key" to all success.
Thanks for reading this far, and I hope you'll pick up this book if you're intrigued to learn more on the theory behind these principles. I'm off to go practice mind control, would love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments!