Get ya boots on! Get making some money and stop sitting around reading blog posts…or maybe just this one. This is the third and final instalment of my fairly free examination of A.E. van Vogt’s ideas in his book The Money Personality. Which is a far more interesting book than its title might suggest.
It’s certainly been fascinating going back over this book which I picked up years ago from a library sale for a £1 and immediately knew was very different from all other self-help/get rich quick books. Cheaper for a start! Van Vogt doesn’t look at habits and behaviours so much as how someone looks at the world, how they make sense of it. If you look at the world differently, or manage to change the way you look at the world then your life will change. Seems obvious but who isn’t resistant to having their ‘world view’ altered, even a little? Comfort lies on the shore not out to sea.
When I look at the twelve traits of the ‘moneymaker’ now they seem self-evident and yet if I had to pass on to someone what I have learned it boils down to: 1. don’t take your eye off the ball. 2. See where the money is in any business idea. When I asked a very successful oil selling entrepeneur what he thought, he told me luck was the main ingredient in money making as far as he was concerned!
What this reveals I think is a)people who make money may not be very good at knowing exactly how they did it- just as a top athlete might not be able to say how he kicks a ball in a certain way and b)many of the traits that van Vogt picks up on we hardly realise we have, or don’t have- though they may be crucial. Take his 8th trait: have the ability to make an idea real. Sounds easy but this is not an easy thing to do. A fair number of people manage to write, say, 60,000 words- but this isn’t a book. You’re about half way there when you’ve got your words. Then you need to get them into good order and get them out as a book. Make them real. It’s at the last stage that many fail. So this trait covers in an unusual way other, more commonly espoused, habits such as persistence and visualising success. But for me it strikes a chord- ‘make it real’ I can say to myself and that helps me to refocus.
OK. The last six traits (see the previous articles for the others):
7. acquiring the common touch
8. making things real and important
9. giving generously
10. becoming sensitive to ‘signals’
11. maintain winning habits
12. escape an orientation to failure
Acquiring the common touch
Everyone can talk to people who resemble them. Nerds get on with nerds. Bankers talk to bankers. Even writers, notoriously cranky individuals, often have a whale of a time with others writers. But can you talk to people outside your group? That’s what having the common touch means. It doesn’t mean the guy cleaning the street thinks you’re a diamond geezer. It means can you talk to anyone.
Van Vogt calls this ‘the key to confidence’. I love the way he takes confidence, that mysterious ethereal thing which somehow we always think is ‘inside us’ somehow and roots it in just three external behaviours. These are, according him:
“The ability to say ‘hello’, ‘congratulations’ and to clearly enunciate your name, and to be able to hear one word when it is spoken- the other person’s name…or, if, you do not hear that word the first time, to have the courage to ask that it be repeated.”
Even though we think we have to have ‘a congratulatory feeling’ inside before we congratulate someone that’s nonsense. If you waited around for that you’d probably only congratulate people on marriage, birth, promotion…not a lot of opportunity here. Any time someone does something that succeeds- congratulate them. And if you can do that you have confidence.
Don’t like saying hi? Say it. Mumble your name? Say it clearly. Forgotten theirs? Ask again. Done that? OK, you have confidence.
All the rest, all the ‘feelings’ inside are pure subjectivity. When some actors go on stage they suffer momentary dread. Should they listen to that ‘feeling’?
Just do it.
Now you have confidence. You can increase your confidence by just saying and doing all of the above with greater cheerfulness and greater volume, clarity and greater warmth. In Egypt people are usually confident- and they always are pleased to see you- even if you saw them only a few days ago. It’s catching too. Once you start ‘acting’ pleased to see people you start to ‘feel’ it too. So it gets easier and easier.
What’s the point? I mean what are these people to you?
The point is that if you can only talk to people like yourself you are stuck on appearances. You mistake a similar outward appearance for a certain similarity inside. Life is about moving towards greater and greater appreciations of what is real and what isn’t. By ignoring superficial appearances, labels, one is freer to observe what is really going on.
How does this make you money? By being able to talk to anyone you have the ability to pick up all sorts of useful information, the ability to sell to anyone, the ability to manage others different from yourself.
Making things real and important
There are people out there with ideas, good ideas- any one of which, if realised, would probably make a fortune. Except these people never do anything. Now if that’s you then you either need to meet someone who can make it real, or, better, learn to make things real yourself.
If you have a special, intense and meaningful interest in your work then you will be able to make ideas real.
As someone who has written novels I can say there is a point when a character ‘comes alive’. It doesn’t happen by accident. You have to focus on that character, imagine them with real interest. Even if they are horrible you have to be interested in them.
On the long expeditions I have made we succeeded despite many setbacks largely because that was, at the time, our sole aim. On the last trip there was a chance to visit a spot never before recorded (and unvisited probably for the last 5000 years) but it meant a hazardous 20km trip over steep dunes- leaving the camels behind. Balancing the effect of this on water supplies, Bedouin morale and our own strength we didn’t do it. We refocused on the main aim of finishing the 670 km walk.
Things aren’t realised because usually attention on them is diluted. Diluted because of distraction or because of lack of interest. Wars are lost when they are fought on two fronts. By focusing on one front you increase you chances, and, this serves to increase interest as well. When you are more interested you focus harder- it’s a winning cycle.
One of van Vogt’s informant, a very successful entrepeneur said:
“The main point is concentration, singleness of purpose, intensity of interest in what you are doing, one product for the manufacturer, one character for the writer.”
It’s a nice idea but where’s the profit in this one?
The weird thing is, giving generously is one of the most selfish things you can do. The man who begs, who looks to get and not give is subconsciously reinforcing his self image as a child, as someone who needs to be looked after. The man, or woman, who gives generously is reinforcing their self image as someone with more than enough, someone who can not only survive but prosper and help others.
Van Vogt recommends giving little and often, giving a lot if you can, and if you are not well off, giving time and assistance, piling up help for others but taking none in return.
By being psychologically ‘a giver not a taker’ you’ll find you feel stronger, braver and more in control.
Becoming sensitive to signals
Van Vogt’s most mysterious trait, being sensitive to signals is really about being perceptive and making better judgement calls over time.
As a writer I am not sure I have improved my word skill that much since writing novels. But I have improved my judgement calls on what will and won’t work. I am more sensitive to certain ‘signals’ when editing such as ‘the desire to skip’ (means cut this bit out) or a certain jerkiness in transitions. Small signals but vitally important when you want to create a story.
I was once with Egypt’s top desert tour operator. He had with him a group of Italian tourists, and one, when it was time to leave, held everyone up with his taking of photographs. The message was clear: I paid for this and I’ll take my time even if it means everyone else is late to camp.
He wanted to show he was important.
Back in the car my friend engaged him in a long chat, giving him attention asking about his job in Italy.
The guy was fine after that. My friend told, “He is a kind who can make real trouble if you are not careful.”
He could read the signals and act before disaster struck.
To improve signal sensitivity you need to hold the idea of what is important and what is not important in the forefront of your mind. The signals are there, so by cutting out the background noise and distraction, you should perceive them.
Again, by copying others who have succeeded at what you want to do you will get a fast line into what signals to pay attention to and what to ignore.
Maintaining winning habits
Not those seven bloody habits again!
You know they make sense, but I venture to suggest van Vogt can add a few extra that are unexpected. These include:
Begin with one product; develop ‘warding off thoughts-mantras such as ‘this too will pass’, ‘every experience is a learning experience’, ‘what will it matter in 100 years’ to keep you from being knocked down; be persistent; make a start now; use precise language.
I’ve written elsewhere on habits, which I often also call ‘addictions’ because it makes them sound more fun and easier to acquire! (see the blog article the 7 addictions of highly successful people)
Escape an orientation to failure.
I am a little league soccer dad and of course an expert on the failings of every one of the ten year old players…But one thing I’ve noticed time and again- the OK player who scores a lot and the great player…who doesn’t. You’ve all seen that player, he dribbles the ball up the field, he defeats every member of the opposing team but he either passes at the last minute to someone in a worse position than he, or somehow miskicks and fails to score. There’s no need to analyse such behaviour- it just is.
Some people are oriented towards failure according to van Vogt. What it means is they are usually of a highly dependent nature and unless massively ‘helped’ find a way to screw stuff up, thus confirming their need for help. But this dependent nature could just be an habitual way to get attention. If they find a better way to get attention they can break free of the need to fail.
A pessimistic outlook may be well hidden in ‘optimistic language’. But look at what the person does. If they take no risks and are very worried about the future then they reveal their pessimism. Lots of terrible things never happen! Lots of marvellous things do!
The final ‘failure’ trait is stepping back at the last minute- like the soccer player. Often there comes a point in every project where the gap between success and failure is tiny. A little push is all you need, even though it may look impossible. So you have to keep up the habit of pushing until the end is reached, until the money is in your account.
So there you have the twelve traits of the money personality. I think, whenever you engage in a project that aims to make money, it’s worth thinking about some or all of these traits- especially when the going gets tough. Often you can recharge your enthusiasm and get over a problem by simply reading what others have done to succeed. It may not be an exact solution but it may inspire one.