CURE YOURSELF OF EXCUSITIS, THE FAILURE DISEASE People—as you think yourself to success, that’s what you will study, people. You will study people very carefully to discover, then apply, success-rewarding principles to your life. And you want to begin right away. Go deep into your study of people, and you’ll discover unsuccessful people suffer a mind-deadening thought disease. We call this disease excusitis. Every failure has this disease in its advanced form. And most “average” persons have at least a mild case of it. You will discover that excusitis explains the difference between the person who is going places and the fellow who is barely holding his own. You will find that the more successful the individual, the less inclined he is to make excuses. But the fellow who has gone nowhere and has no plans for getting anywhere always has a bookful of reasons to explain why.
Persons with mediocre accomplishments are quick to explain why they haven’t, why they don’t, why they can’t, and why they aren’t. Study the lives of successful people and you’ll discover this: all the excuses made by the mediocre fellow could be but aren’t made by the successful person. I have never met nor heard of a highly successful business executive, military officer, salesman, professional person, or leader in any field who could not have found one or more major excuses to hide behind. Roosevelt could have hidden behind his lifeless legs; Truman could have used “no college education”;
Kennedy could have said, “I’m too young to be president”; Johnson and Eisenhower could have ducked behind heart attacks. Like any disease, excusitis gets worse if it isn’t treated properly. A victim of this thought disease goes through this mental process: “I’m not doing as well as I should. What can I use as an alibi that will help me save face? Let’s see: poor health? lack of education? too old? too young? bad luck? personal misfortune? wife? the way my family brought me up?” Once the victim of this failure disease has selected a “good” excuse, he sticks with it. Then he relies on the excuse to explain to himself and others why he is not going forward. And each time the victim makes the excuse, the excuse becomes imbedded deeper within his subconsciousness. Thoughts, positive or negative, grow stronger when fertilized with constant repetition. At first the victim of excusitis knows his alibi is more or less a lie. But the more frequently he repeats it, the more convinced he becomes that it is completely true, that the alibi is the real reason for his not being the success he should be. Procedure One, then, in your individual program of thinking yourself to success, must be to vaccinate yourself against excusitis, the disease of the failures.
THE FOUR MOST COMMON FORMS OF EXCUSITIS
Excusitis appears in a wide variety of forms, but the worst types of this disease are health excusitis, intelligence excusitis, age excusitis, and luck excusitis. Now let’s see just how we can protect ourselves from these four common ailments. 1. “But My Health Isn’t Good.” Health excusitis ranges all the way from the chronic “I don’t feel good” to the more specific “I’ve got such-and-such wrong with me.” “Bad” health, in a thousand different forms, is used as an excuse for failing to do what a person wants to do, failing to accept greater responsibilities, failing to make more money, failing to achieve success. Millions and millions of people suffer from health excusitis. But is it, in most cases, a legitimate excuse? Think for a moment of all the highly successful people you know who could—but who don’t—use health as an excuse. My physician and surgeon friends tell me the perfect specimen of adult life is nonexistent. There is something physically wrong with everybody. Many surrender in whole or in part to health excusitis, but success-thinking people do not. Two experiences happened to me in one afternoon that illustrate the correct and incorrect attitudes toward health. I had just finished a talk in Cleveland.
Afterward, one fellow, about thirty, asked to speak to me privately for a few minutes. He complimented me on the meeting but then said, “I’m afraid your ideas can’t do me much good.” “You see,” he continued, “I’ve got a bad heart, and I’ve got to hold myself in check.” He went on to explain that he’d seen four doctors but they couldn’t find his trouble. He asked me what I would suggest he do. “Well,” I said, “I know nothing about the heart, but as one layman to another, here are three things I’d do. First, I’d visit the finest heart specialist I could find and accept his diagnosis as final. You’ve already checked with four doctors, and none of them has found anything peculiar with your heart. Let the fifth doctor be your final check. It may very well be you’ve got a perfectly sound heart. But if you keep on worrying about it, eventually you may have a very serious heart ailment. Looking and looking and looking for an illness often actually produces illness. “The second thing I’d recommend is that you read Dr. Schindler’s great book, How to Live 365 Days a Year. Dr. Schindler shows in this book that three out of every four hospital beds are occupied by people who have EII—Emotionally Induced Illness. Imagine, three out of four people who are sick right now would be well if they had learned how to handle their emotions. Read Dr. Schindler’s book and develop your program for ‘emotions management.’
“Third, I’d resolve to live until I die.” I went on to explain to this troubled fellow some sound advice I received many years ago from a lawyer friend who had an arrested case of tuberculosis. This friend knew he would have to live a regulated life but this hasn’t stopped him from practicing law, rearing a fine family, and really enjoying life. My friend, who now is seventy-eight years old, expresses his philosophy in these words: “I’m going to live until I die and I’m not going to get life and death confused. While I’m on this earth I’m going to live. Why be only half alive? Every minute a person spends worrying about dying is just one minute that fellow might as well have been dead.” I had to leave at that point, because I had to be on a certain plane for Detroit. On the plane the second but much more pleasant experience occurred. After the noise of the takeoff, I heard a ticking sound. Rather startled, I glanced at the fellow sitting beside me, for the sound seemed to be coming from him. He smiled a big smile and said, “Oh, it’s not a bomb. It’s just my heart.” I was obviously surprised, so he proceeded to tell me what had happened.
Just twenty-one days before, he had undergone an operation that involved putting a plastic valve into his heart. The ticking sound, he explained, would continue for several months, until new tissue had grown over the artificial valve. I asked him what he was going to do. “Oh,” he said, “I’ve got big plans. I’m going to study law when I get back to Minnesota. Someday I hope to be in government work. The doctors tell me I must take it easy for a few months, but after that I’ll be like new.” There you have two ways of meeting health problems. The first fellow, not even sure he had anything organically wrong with him, was worried, depressed, on the road to defeat, wanting somebody to second his motion that he couldn’t go forward. The second individual, after undergoing one of the most difficult of operations, was optimistic, eager to do something.
The difference lay in how they thought toward health! I’ve had some very direct experience with health excusitis. I’m a diabetic. Right after I discovered I had this ailment (about 5,000 hypodermics ago), I was warned, “Diabetes is a physical condition; but the biggest damage results from having a negative attitude toward it. Worry about it, and you may have real trouble.” Naturally, since the discovery of my own diabetes, I’ve gotten to know a great many other diabetics. Let me tell you about two extremes. One fellow who has a very mild case belongs to that fraternity of the living dead. Obsessed with a fear of the weather, he is usually ridiculously bundled up. He’s afraid of infection, so he shuns anybody who has the slightest sniffle. He’s afraid of overexertion, so he does almost nothing. He spends most of his mental energy worrying about what might happen. He bores other people telling them “how awful” his problem really is.
His real ailment is not diabetes. Rather, he’s a victim of health excusitis. He has pitied himself into being an invalid. The other extreme is a division manager for a large publishing company. He has a severe case; he takes about thirty times as much insulin as the fellow mentioned above. But he is not living to be sick. He is living to enjoy his work and have fun. One day he said to me, “Sure it is an inconvenience, but so is shaving. But I’m not going to think myself to bed. When I take those shots, I just praise the guys who discovered insulin.” A good friend of mine, a widely known college educator, came home from Europe in 1945 minus one arm. Despite his handicap, John is always smiling, always helping others. He’s about as optimistic as anyone I know. One day he and I had a long talk about his handicap. “It’s just an arm,” he said, “Sure, two are better than one. But they just cut off my arm. My spirit is one hundred percent intact. I’m really grateful for that.” Another amputee friend is an excellent golfer. One day I asked him how he had been able to develop such a near-perfect style with just one arm. I mentioned that most golfers with two arms can’t do nearly as well. His reply says a lot. “Well, it’s my experience,” he said, “that the right attitude and one arm will beat the wrong attitude and two arms every time.” The right attitude and one arm will beat the wrong attitude and two arms every time. Think about that for a while. It holds true not only on the golf course but in every facet of life. Four Things You Can Do to Lick Health Excusitis The best vaccine against health excusitis consists of these four doses:
1. Refuse to talk about your health. The more you talk about an ailment, even the common cold, the worse it seems to get. Talking about bad health is like putting fertilizer on weeds. Besides, talking about your health is a bad habit. It bores people. It makes one appear self-centered and old-maidish. Success-minded people defeat the natural tendency to talk about their “bad” health. One may (and let me emphasize the word may) get a little sympathy, but one doesn’t get respect and loyalty by being a chronic complainer.
2. Refuse to worry about your health. Dr. Walter Alvarez, emeritus consultant to the world-famous Mayo Clinic, wrote recently, “I always beg worriers to exercise some self-control. For instance, when I saw this man (a fellow who was convinced he had a diseased gallbladder although eight separate X-ray examinations showed that the organ was perfectly normal), I begged him to quit getting his gallbladder X-rayed. I have begged hundreds of heart-conscious men to quit getting electrocardiograms made.”
3. Be genuinely grateful that your health is as good as it is. There’s an old saying worth repeating often: “I felt sorry for myself because I had ragged shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” Instead of complaining about “not feeling good,” it’s far better to be glad you are as healthy as you are. Just being grateful for the health you have is powerful vaccination against developing new aches and pains and real illness. 4. Remind yourself often, “It’s better to wear out than rust out.” Life is yours to enjoy. Don’t waste it. Don’t pass up living by thinking yourself into a hospital bed.
2. “But You’ve Got to Have Brains to Succeed.” Intelligence excusitis, or “I lack brains,” is common. In fact, it’s so common that perhaps as many as 95 percent of the people around us have it in varying degrees. Unlike most other types of excusitis, people suffering from this particular type of the malady suffer in silence. Not many people will admit openly that they think they lack adequate intelligence. Rather, they feel it deep down inside. Most of us make two basic errors with respect to intelligence: 1. We underestimate our own brainpower. 2. We overestimate the other fellow’s brainpower. Because of these errors many people sell themselves short. They fail to tackle challenging situations because it “takes a brain.” But along comes the fellow who isn’t concerned about intelligence, and he gets the job. What really matters is not how much intelligence you have but how you use what you do have. The thinking that guides your intelligence is much more important than the quantity of your brainpower. Let me repeat, for this is vitally important: the thinking that guides your intelligence is much more important than how much intelligence you may have. In answering the question, “Should your child be a scientist?” Dr. Edward Teller, one of the nation’s foremost physicists, said, “A child does not need a lightning-fast mind to be a scientist, nor does he need a miraculous memory, nor is it necessary that he get very high grades in school. The only point that counts is that the child have a high degree of interest in science.”
Interest, enthusiasm, is the critical factor even in science! With a positive, optimistic, and cooperative attitude a person with an IQ of 100 will earn more money, win more respect, and achieve more success than a negative, pessimistic, uncooperative individual with an IQ of 120. Just enough sense to stick with something—a chore, task, project—until it’s completed pays off much better than idle intelligence, even if idle intelligence be of genius caliber.
For stickability is 95 percent of ability. At a homecoming celebration last year I met a college friend whom I had not seen for ten years. Chuck was a very bright student and was graduated with honors. His goal when I last saw him was to own his own business in western Nebraska. I asked Chuck what kind of business he finally established. “Well,” he confessed, “I didn’t go into business for myself. I wouldn’t have said this to anyone five years ago or even one year ago, but now I’m ready to talk about it. “As I look back at my college education now, I see that I became an expert in why a business idea won’t work out. I learned every conceivable pitfall, every reason why a small business will fail: ‘You’ve got to have ample capital;’ ‘Be sure the business cycle is right;’ ‘Is there a big demand for what you will offer?’ ‘Is local industry stabilized?’—a thousand and one things to check out. “The thing that hurts most is that several of my old high school friends who never seemed to have much on the ball and didn’t even go to college now are very well established in their own businesses.
But me, I’m just plodding along, auditing freight shipments. Had I been drilled a little more in why a small business can succeed, I’d be better off in every way today.” The thinking that guided Chuck’s intelligence was a lot more important than the amount of Chuck’s intelligence. Why some brilliant people are failures. I’ve been close for many years to a person who qualifies as a genius, has high abstract intelligence, and is Phi Beta Kappa. Despite this very high native intelligence, he is one of the most unsuccessful people I know. He has a very mediocre job (he’s afraid of responsibility). He has never married (lots of marriages end in divorce). He has few friends (people bore him). He’s never invested in property of any kind (he might lose his money). This man uses his great brainpower to prove why things won’t work rather than directing his mental power to searching for ways to succeed. Because of the negative thinking that guides his great reservoir of brains, this fellow contributes little and creates nothing. With a changed attitude, he could do great things indeed. He has the brains to be a tremendous success, but not the thought power. Another person I know well was inducted into the Army shortly after earning the Ph.D. degree from a leading New York university.
How did he spend his three years in the Army? Not as an officer. Not as a staff specialist. Instead, for three years he drove a truck. Why? Because he was filled with negative attitudes toward fellow soldiers (“I’m superior to them”), toward army methods and procedures procedures (“They are stupid”), toward discipline (“It’s for others, not me”), toward everything, including himself (“I’m a fool for not figuring out a way to escape this rap”). This fellow earned no respect from anyone. All his vast store of knowledge lay buried. His negative attitudes turned him into a flunky. Remember, the thinking that guides your intelligence is much more important than how much intelligence you have. Not even a Ph.D. degree can override this basic success principle! Several years ago I became a close friend of Phil F., one of the senior officers of a major advertising agency. Phil was the director of marketing research for the agency, and he was doing a bang-up job. Was Phil a “brain”? Far from it. Phil knew next to nothing about research techniques. He knew next to nothing about statistics. He was not a college graduate (though all the people working for him were).
And Phil did not pretend to know the technical side of research. What, then, enabled Phil to command $30,000 a year while not one of his subordinates earned $10,000? This: Phil was a “human” engineer. Phil was 100 percent positive. Phil could inspire others when they felt low. Phil was enthusiastic. He generated enthusiasm; Phil understood people, and, because he could really see what made them tick, he liked them. Not Phil’s brains, but how he managed those brains, made him three times more valuable to his company than men who rated higher on the IQ scale. Out of every 100 persons who enroll in college, fewer than 50 will graduate. I was curious about this so I asked a director of admissions at a large university for his explanation. “It’s not insufficient intelligence,” he said. “We don’t admit them if they don’t have sufficient ability. And it’s not money. Anyone who wants to support himself in college today can do so. The real reason is attitudes. You would be surprised,” he said, “how many young people leave because they don’t like their professors, the subjects they must take, and their fellow students.”