About this time, around the end of 1988, my personal life started to unravel. I was watching and helping others build their fortunes but I was still struggling in the financial department. Financial stress and my basic immaturity led to my demise. I’d been in a relationship spanning better than five years, but it was simply taking too long for me to find myself. When my significant other left, so did a large source of continuity. The endless string of business failures, the stress of living paycheck-to-paycheck, losing the woman I loved, it was all too much, and I went crashing to the bottom emotionally. Not like the breakdown I had experienced from over working. That was a different breakdown. This breakdown had to do with confidence. I was beginning to doubt myself—with conviction.
In an effort to fight my depressed state, my mother begged me to read some used books she’d found at garage sales or flea markets. She pleaded with me constantly, “Just read ten pages a day.” This went on for days. Finally I decided to humor her. I picked up a stupid little book written by some nerd named Napoleon Hill. The book was titled Think and Grow Rich. I began to read the first ten dumb pages. The ten pages rolled into twenty and then into thirty pages before I knew it. Each day it would take a concerted effort for me to get start- w w w. m i t c h st e p h e n . c o m ed on just ten pages, but I never stopped at ten pages. I always felt better during and after reading. I learned that just a few minutes of reading about the possibility of being successful could actually make me rise above it all for a moment. I recognized the healing power of this diversion called reading. I didn’t read much before that in my life. I never liked reading. But now its effect on me was undeniable. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “God Bless Mommas.”
Think and Grow Rich was absolutely life altering for me. It gave me hope and a direction at a time when I was meeting with more rejection than I could handle. It helped to hear that many of the successful people documented in that book had failed many, many times before their ships came in. It showed me that many of the most successful people in the world didn’t have a college education. Author, Napoleon Hill, was hired by Andrew Carnegie to find and prove up the common denominators for success. Instead the book seemed to prove that success could come from anywhere and everywhere and that there was no right or wrong way. It suggested that success was something that you learned over a long period of time and that if you set certain priorities in your life that your chances for success would be immensely increased if not predestined. The real trick was to make those priorities part of the fabric of your life and not just a garment to wear for a while. I studied those priorities, I agreed with them, and then I wove those new fibers into the fabric of my own life. Over time they formed the cloth that is ME today. I’d heard about such things before but apparently I wasn’t ready to learn it then. I learned it when I picked up the right book at the right time in my life. I learned because I was ready to learn it. Someone once said, “The teacher will appear when the student is ready.” I know this to be true in my life.
We’d all be better off if we paid more attention to what our minds hear, see, and think. More importantly, we need to listen to how we talk to ourselves. The greatest life lesson I’ve ever learned has been to listen to my inner voice. I listen to what it is saying to ME, and if it’s not positive, I start immediately to change that. In a perfect world my inner voice would never say anything bad to me or about me. The worst thing my inner voice should ever say to me is, “You’ll do much better next time, Mitch, and you will get there because you have or will be presented with everything you’ll need to do it.”
There is no doubt about it. We become what we feed our minds. May I suggest, the most important thing you’ll ever do in your life, will be to recognize your inner voice when it speaks, monitor that voice, and control the message you’re sending yourself millions of times a year. The thing we hear more than anything in our entire life is our inner voice. What are you saying to yourself? Are you telling yourself that you can, or are you telling yourself you can’t? Let me tell you a little secret: If we are limited in any way it’s because the message we are sending ourselves is wrong. Change your self-talk and you will change your life! It’s incredible how many people never take control of their inner voice.
One day, when things weren’t going my way, my father showed his intuitive nature. He left me a note that read, “Life is 10% of what happens to us…and 90% of how we handle what happens to us.”
I don’t know where he got his statistics but that statement was good enough for me. It rings true even when we’re not listening for a bell.
One of the teachers that appeared in my life was Maxwell Maltz, M.D., F.I.C.S. If you haven’t read Psycho-Cybernetics by Maltz, DO IT! I’ll assure you I’m not making any money off that book. I will also assure you I would have been well served if I had found his works earlier in my life.