Sunday, January 27, 2008

Commentary: Major Definite Aim

I recently posted about Napoleon Hill’s concept of the Major Definite Aim, and how my own recent experiences with it have, for me, confirmed its value as one of the greatest success principles. I came across an interesting anecdote in Harold Evans’ book They Made America: From the Steam Engine to the Search Engine: Two Centuries of Innovators, an exhaustively researched collection of biographies of the inventors and entrepreneurs that , innovation by innovation, created our modern world over the last two and a half centuries.

Leo Hendrik Baekeland was the brilliant chemist who created Bakelite, the revolutionary plastic that transformed industrial design in the first half of the 20th century. He was blessed with superb scientific gifts, and turned down the prospect of professorships in his native Belgium to try his luck in America.

But brains aren’t enough.

At one point facing isolation and ruin , seriously ill, and with growing debts, he was clearly facing utter failure. Then, in Baekeland’s words:

“ dawned upon me that instead of keeping too many irons in the fire, I should concentrate my attention on one single thing which would give me the best chance of the quickest possible results”

That “one single thing” of course was the Major Definite Aim. Baekeland went on to make a fortune.

The instructive point here is that brains, hard work, or any other talent, are only a single component of the success puzzle. The Major Definite aim focuses the mind, and even the brightest of the bright can benefit immensely from it. We cannot merely work hard (a prerequisite, of course, for any achievement) , but we have to think about how to best focus that work.

One single thing.

So simple. So profound.

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Claire Tompkins said...

Picking just one goal is tough, isn't it? What if you pick the wrong one? What if you get burned out working on one thing all the time?

I think it's a good idea, though. This year, I have three goals, but they're in three different areas of my life, so I'm only thinking about or working on one at a time. This is the fewest goals I've ever set for myself and it feels much more do-able.

Manny said...

Claire -

Thanks so much for your comment. I am always interested to hear others' experiences with goal-setting. And I firmly believe that any set of goals (from one to a million) is better than none. I am finding several ongoing positive outcomes from going back to the MDA. First, it automatically prioritizes my actions. Anything to do with the MDA has the "right" to be first priority. Also, I seem to be generating an ongoing stream of creative ideas related to the MDA. Finally, as I continue to read and revise the "how I am going to achieve this" section, the priciples I have set for myself become firmer, and tend to "flash" into my consciousness when there is a "judgement call" to make. Like you, I certainly have other projects that I work on, but, currenly, only one is my Major Definite Aim. I would welcome any further insights you might have in this area. Please come back anytime with some more comments!