Refuse to be Afraid: The Book

We all live with fear, ranging from little anxieties to sheer, stark-raving-mad, paralyzing terror, and everything in between. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of getting started, fear of being stopped before we’re finished, fear of what to do next after we’re finished. Fear of hate, fear of love, fear of hating, fear of being loved. Fear of sickness, fear of health, fear of other people’s habits, fear of our own.

Fear of death.

Life is scary. But you don’t have to let your fears control your actions.

As I’ve been blogging these themes have come up time and again, and I’ve long been tinkering with compiling them into a book. The book is here. Thanks for your encouragement.

Self Help: Words that could have been written this morning

I am still amazed that the opening paragraphs of Samuel Smiles’ book Self Help were published in 1859. Except that he uses an occasional word or turn of phrase that people don’t use anymore, Smiles could be writing about the contemporary debate about government bailouts versus the power of the individual and the private sector.

Smiles’ book is packed with examples of real-life (19th century) success and encouragement. No wonder it created an entire new genre. I’m tickled to be in a position to re-introduce this classic to modern audiences. Check this out (and click on the book cover to find out how to buy or download it):

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“Heaven helps those who help themselves” is a well-tried maxim, embodying in a small compass the results of vast human experience. The spirit of self-help is the root of all genuine growth in the individual; and, exhibited in the lives of many, it constitutes the true source of national vigour and strength. Help from without is often enfeebling in its effects, but help from within invariably invigorates. Whatever is done for men or classes, to a certain extent takes away the stimulus and necessity of doing for themselves; and where men are subjected to over-guidance and over-government, the inevitable tendency is to render them comparatively helpless.

Even the best institutions can give a man no active help. Perhaps the most they can do is, to leave him free to develop himself and improve his individual condition. But in all times men have been prone to believe that their happiness and well-being were to be secured by means of institutions rather than by their own conduct. Hence the value of legislation as an agent in human advancement has usually been much over-estimated. To constitute the millionth part of a Legislature, by voting for one or two men once in three or five years, however conscientiously this duty may be performed, can exercise but little active influence upon any man’s life and character. Moreover, it is every day becoming more clearly understood, that the function of Government is negative and restrictive, rather than positive and active; being resolvable principally into protection — protection of life, liberty, and property. Laws, wisely administered, will secure men in the enjoyment of the fruits of their labour, whether of mind or body, at a comparatively small personal sacrifice; but no laws, however stringent, can make the idle industrious, the thriftless provident, or the drunken sober. Such reforms can only be effected by means of individual action, economy, and self-denial; by better habits, rather than by greater rights.

The Government of a nation itself is usually found to be but the reflex of the individuals composing it. The Government that is ahead of the people will inevitably be dragged down to their level, as the Government that is behind them will in the long run be dragged up. In the order of nature, the collective character of a nation will as surely find its befitting results in its law and government, as water finds its own level. The noble people will be nobly ruled, and the ignorant and corrupt ignobly.
Indeed all experience serves to prove that the worth and strength of a State depend far less upon the form of its institutions than upon the character of its men. For the nation is only an aggregate of individual conditions, and civilization itself is but a question of the personal improvement of the men, women, and children of whom society is composed.

National progress is the sum of individual industry, energy, and uprightness, as national decay is of individual idleness, selfishness, and vice. What we are accustomed to decry as great social evils, will, for the most part, be found to be but the outgrowth of man’s own perverted life; and though we may endeavour to cut them down and extirpate them by means of Law, they will only spring up again with fresh luxuriance in some other form, unless the conditions of personal life and character are radically improved. If this view be correct, then it follows that the highest patriotism and philanthropy consist, not so much in altering laws and modifying institutions, as in helping and stimulating men to elevate and improve themselves by their own free and independent individual action.

It may be of comparatively little consequence how a man is governed from without, whilst everything depends upon how he governs himself from within …

Good stuff, huh? To access more of it, click here.

What Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Poison Belt’ tells about the creative process

There is a message for us in the creative life of Arthur Conan Doyle, who tried to kill off his most immortal creation.

Doyle got tired of writing the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and wrote a stirring final episode in which the famed detective dies. The public outcry was such that he had to bring Sherlock back.

As an alternative to Holmes’ death, Doyle instead breathed life into new characters, notably the bombastic but brilliant Professor George E. Challenger and the three friends with whom he discovers The Lost World. Instead of destruction (killing Holmes), Doyle chose the creative act of assembling an entirely different iconic character.

While the world largely knows Challenger through The Lost World, there are four other tales, three of which are collected in The Poison Belt, my latest little product under the Richardson Press emblem. In the title novella, the four adventurers reunite to face a graver threat than dinosaurs: a section of outer space the Earth is passing through that may result in the death of the human race itself. In “The Disintegration Machine,” Challenger investigates an inventor who claims to have created a device that can scramble a person’s atoms and then bring him back — sort of an early version of Star Trek’s transporter. And “When The World Screamed,” the professor theorizes that Earth is one giant living being, and he proposes to get that being’s attention. Still to come to complete my little Challenger trilogy: The Land of Mist, a novel steeped in the spiritualism that marked Doyle’s later years.

The lesson from Doyle’s work: Don’t dismiss the good you’ve done before. Do keep finding new ways to exercise your creative chops.

Challenger is not as immortal as Holmes — but The Lost World and its sequels are still something special nearly 100 years later.

W.B.s Book Report: Thou Shall Prosper

Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s book is one of those eye-opening, game-changing books. He purports to explain what money is and how money works.

The laws of the marketplace don’t change — you can try changing the rules as governments often do, but it won’t work. Lapin explains the rules as clearly as I’ve ever seen, drawing on the ancient teachings of the Torah itself.

Business and money itself, Lapin says, are products of humanity’s spiritual nature. As such they only work well when values like trust and integrity are at play. Again, some folks find temporary success with business and money without trust or integrity — but the emphasis there is on temporary.

This is one of those rare books that needs to be read more than once — studied and absorbed. I would be doing a disservice by trying to relate its concepts based on my still-growing understanding.

This much I can and will say: The attitude of our nation’s leaders and most entertainment venues toward business and business people is based on falsehoods and a complete misunderstanding of the free market. I knew that much instinctively before I picked up this book, and Lapin does a nice job of explaining why it’s true.