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Think and Grow Rich: Book Review-Chapter 5: General Versus Specialized Knowledge

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Chapter 5:  Specialized Knowledge

This is another blog post that is going to continue with my journey through the book Think and Grow Rich that was written by Napoleon Hill and published in 1937.

In chapter 5 we are confronted with a dilemma of what specific knowledge is necessary to the entrepreneurial mind. Hill goes very far to say that book intelligence is general intelligence and is not necessarily what is needed when looking to start a business or begin an entrepreneurial venture. When dealing directly with those who teach in universities and colleges, Hill had this to say:

“Most of the professors have but little or no money. They specialize on teaching knowledge but they do not specialize on the organization, or the use of knowledge.”1

The knowledge that you need to be an effective businessman or woman in this particular day and age is not all that different from what you needed in 1937. Robert Kiyosaki is the modern-day business maven who also calls for a revision of what is taught in schools and universities. Children need to be taught about money, about credit, about assets, and about liabilities and how all of these financial tools are used to build wealth.

Ford’s Got A Better Idea

Napoleon Hill used as an example Henry Ford. Hill relates the story that during the First World War, Henry Ford was labeled an “Ignorant Pacifist.” We are not told directly if Ford was more upset about being be called ignorant or a pacifist but he decided to take the Chicago paper that labeled him to court for libel. During the course of the trial it was brought out that although Ford did not possess a large amount of classical education, he was a man who knew how to put together the teams of specialists who could get to the desired result he envisioned. In some respects this is a much greater gift than having all the book smarts of every library in the world. He could use his ability to set goals, integrate teams of specialists and get his cars off the production line as he saw fit. Ford also answered one question that particularly made him angry. When asked one particularly offensive question, Ford’s response was:

“If I should really want to answer the foolish question you have just asked or any of the other questions you have been asking me let me remind you that I have a row of electric push-buttons on my desk and by pushing the right button, I can summon to my aid men who can answer any question I desire to ask concerning the business to which I am devoting most of my efforts.”2

Others who were mentioned in this particular chapter were Thomas Edison, who did not have a formal education, and Andrew Carnegie, who knew nothing about the steel industry but was another who knew exactly what specialists to speak to when he needed to get things accomplished.

The MasterMind

Everything revolves around how you can get your knowledge, but not just any knowledge. Everyone who aspires to be an Entrepreneur needs to find a mentor and a group of those who are on a higher level in the particular field to become a Mastermind group. The Mastermind group can completely transform the abilities of one individual by utilizing the specialized knowledge of the many for a desired outcome. Hill was very specific on how this knowledge was to be attained. He was also very specific about the leadership qualities of those who sought out this particular type of knowledge. The main avenue of knowledge that was proposed in 1937 was the Home Study Course. The amount of writing that Hill gave to this avenue of study leads me to believe that he was a firm devotee of home-study as a way to rise to the top of one’s profession. In this day and age an online degree or specialized courses in whatever an individual’s field of employment would seem to be the closest relation to the Home Study Courses in 2014.

In this chapter Hill specifically points out that lack of ambition is a killer in today’s workplace. You have to be driven, you have to use your specialized knowledge, and you have to use all of the first chapters in this particular book to achieve your final goal of riches. You can also use the ability to purchase specialized knowledge as well, and knowing where to purchase the specialized knowledge is also a well-respected trait for any businessman or businesswoman.

Success through Imagination and Application

Finally in this chapter, Hill has two specific examples where people use their knowledge and ideas to build a business that was outside the realm of the everyday individual. The first example he gave was of a Mr. Wier who had been let go from his previous employer where he was a Construction Engineer. Mr. Wier took this time to go back to law school and complete his degree in a much accelerated fashion. Now Mr. Wier was over 40 years old when he made this change, but he decided that his prospects were better if he took this step and applied himself to becoming a lawyer. Once his law firm was up and running, he was hugely successful and even had to turn clients away at certain points in time.

The other example was of the woman who put together the marketing packets in book form for her son. He was just out of school and did not have a large array of experiences in the workplace to draw from, but his mother put together a booklet that allowed him to highlight various points in his life that could show experiences that would cross over into the workplace. He ended up getting a position where he started as a junior executive instead of at the bottom of the corporate ladder.

This chapter is all about cultivating your desire, seeking an opportunity, and applying your imagination to come up with an idea that sets you apart from all other businessmen. The ability to solve a problem in a unique and innovative way is paramount to setting you apart as an individual.  

1 and 2  Hill, Napoleon:  Think and Grow Rich, 1937

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The Golden Nugget of Opportunity: Publishing Layoffs!

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I read with profound interest the article on the DBW website by Tom Chalmers:  Rich Pickings for the Small and Beautiful and wanted to use this blog post to convey some of my thoughts on his article.

Mr. Chalmers has given us a snippet glimpse into his point of view with initial comments about his Communist- leaning father’s mindset. I think it is an admirable quality to feel empathy for those who are displaced by corporate upheavals. The immediate impact of the layoff or job loss is disastrous and financially catastrophic as well as emotionally and physically draining. Having been through this series of events four times in my career I can speak from a point of experience on this issue:  the latest event coming in February 2013.  Eventually I will have to thank ABC-CLIO for taking the direction they decided to take!

Not being a free market thinker, Mr. Chalmers has missed the point that a layoff or job loss can also be the staging platform for a complete transformation and career reinvention. If you continually go from day-to-day with the mindset that you owe something to a corporate structure, then that corporate structure will always have you at a disadvantage in any rational thought process about finances and career goals. Being able to process and use your own intelligence and academic credentials is something that is challenging and rewarding to the person who steps out and plays the role of maverick. The people who do not “color within the lines” are usually the ones who innovate and expand the knowledge base of the field in which they are associated. Steve Jobs is a perfect example of someone who did not play by the rule-set of the corporate and business structure model that was in place at the time. Thomas Edison did not play by the rules of his time. And even in the arena of politics, although now we think of him as a great statesman, Winston Churchill was a reviled maverick for most of his political career. It is lucky for us, that the most important five years of his political career took place during World War II.

The book publishing industry right now is going through a convulsive period. I have been lucky enough to be in this industry for the past 30 years, and also advanced my skills by getting an MS Degree in Publishing Science. I did not go back to school because I wanted to continue to be laid off and work for other corporate entities that might lay me off again. I went back to school because I am a maverick in this industry and I want to see other people succeed and breakout of the mold that the publishing industry has created. You do not have to sit and work for a company and get laid off every three or five years to be successful in this industry. The way to get ahead is to continually advance your skills, move up the ladder within corporate enterprises and then strike out on your own to create a business model that is new and innovative. Also if you can brand yourself with a catchy moniker, that doesn’t hurt either.

To summarize the article:  I think Mr. Chalmers has every good intention in feeling sympathy for the people who are laid off or displaced by corporate contractions, but I think that he has a mindset that does not look beyond the workstation cubicle to envision displaced workers striking out and forming business entities that will make them successful in the market without being part of a traditional corporate publishing structure.

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