It was one year before my high school graduation when Earl Nightengale introduced “The Strangest Secret” to the world, and expanded the growing interest in personal growth and development. He wanted to discover why over half the population of the “the richest country in the world” was retiring broke and dependent on others after 40 years of work. He had heard Albert Schweitzer’s theory that it was because “men simply don’t think.” He had read in Rollo May’s book, “Man’s Search for Himself, that they were missing the courage required to go for higher goals, and instead just “conformed” to their peers, thereby “failing.”
As he studied the 5% of the population that did reach financial independence, he formulated his own definition of “success:” The progressive realization of a worthy ideal. In other words, the successful person was deliberately doing what he or she decided what they wanted to do, and making regular progress in improving to reach that goal that would benefit others — a worthy ideal. Each of those wealthy individuals had higher goals that brought into being something of great value — a steel company, cars, railroads, other enterprises that provided jobs, goods and services enjoyed by society as a whole.
A young woman who desired a home and family learned homemaking skills to be the best wife and mother she could be. A young man who wanted to start his own business apprenticed himself to a mechanic to gain the knowledge to open his own shop. Another young person worked her way through school to earn the credentials to fulfill her dream of becoming an outstanding teacher. Each of these would be considered a success because they had a vision that they were willing to pay the cost to make into a reality, and the plan to take care of themselves and their families by reaching that goal. (By the way, a main part of Nightengale’s teaching was to save 10% of every dollar earned.)
But a lot of people have desires and visions and goals — why are so few “successful”? Where’s the secret? Nightengale finds a hint from God’s word in Galatians 6:7 …”for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” He goes on to compare our minds to garden soil — if you plant a seed of corn and a seed of nightshade (a poisonous weed) and cultivate them, you will soon have what? A corn stalk and a destructive plant! No surprise there.
The same is true, he explains, for what we “plant” in our minds. Those who turn their visions into reality allow only thoughts that support that vision. No thought about “can’t” or “impossible for me” or “too late,” or any other negativity is ever allowed to take root. (Exactly what Og Mandino talks about in Scroll III.)
In Haanel’s Master Key lesson 16, it appears that he talks about Nightengale’s concept of a “worthy ideal.” In 16:3-5 he explains that the true value of wealth consists not in its utility but in its exchange, which makes it a medium for securing the things of real value — our worthy ideals. Wealth should never be desired as an end, but simply as a means of accomplishing an end. Success is contingent upon a higher ideal than the mere accumulation of riches, and he who aspires to such success must formulate an ideal for which he is willing to strive.
Then in MK lesson 17, Haanel explains further how to attain that worthy ideal by teaching our mind to concentrate on it. Just as a great actor forgets himself in his portrayal of his character, our minds must learn to focus so intently, even for a few minutes throughout our day, that we forget everything else around us and only see that ideal as if it already exists. The more often we can plant that ideal seed, and in the meantime, refuse to allow anything negative to take root in our mental garden, the sooner that ideal will become a reality.
Now you can go play “I’ve got a secret” with your best friend and share your vision!