Wake Up and Live!
Author: Kent Thune
Imagine casually strolling through your favorite bookstore or library looking for inspiration and happening upon a book titled, Wake Up and Live! Curious, you pull it off the shelf, open it, and read the first few lines: “Two years ago I came across a formula for success which has revolutionized my life. It was so simple, and so obvious once I had seen it, that I could hardly believe it was responsible for the magical results which followed my putting it into practice.”
After reading those first two sentences and verifying to the best of your immediate capacity that the seemingly bold and introductory words are not some kind of gimmicky pitch to sell a product or service, your search for inspiration would seem to have been successful, right?
Fortunately, this book exists. Better yet, reading it is a perfect way to begin the New Year (and possibly a new life), enabling you to finally unlock the secret to success.
No, this is not a review of a new and trendy book by a modern-age spiritual guru; it’s an 80-year old lost classic, authored by a woman named Dorothea Brande, who shares an eight-word formula that could potentially turn your life around.
There is no way to capture the essence of the book in a thousand words here, but Brande poignantly explains the human tendency to perpetuate failure by remaining in an unintended self-induced state of inertia. We tend to keep ourselves in a dream state. We consistently talk ourselves out of transforming our dreams into reality, and we rationalize and make excuses as to why we have not yet set out to accomplish them.
As she struggled with her own failures in life, Brande discovered that she and all other humans have a malady that she calls “the will to fail.” We are all our own worst enemies; the only thing standing between us and our dreams is ourselves. But we don’t set out to fail; we all inherently want to win; we want to do more than just survive; we want to live!
The will to fail explains why you haven’t finished that book you’ve always wanted to write. It’s the reason you won’t leave that job you don’t like and chase the one of your dreams. The will to fail is that invisible thing that holds you in your metaphorical chair and keeps you from jumping up and running to the destination chosen by your authentic self. The will to fail is you.
The will to fail is what lies behind something that a scientist or modern psychoanalyst might call inertia. But a more apt term might be entropy, which is a term central to the second law of thermodynamics that can be described as a measure of the unavailability of a system’s energy to do work. Entropy is a derivative of a Greek word translated as “a turning toward.” Webster’s online dictionary offers a broader definition of entropy as “a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder.”
In simpler terms, the will to fail, or entropic activity if you will, is useless energy. A common example of entropy in science is the melting of ice. As an ice cube melts, it changes states. To change states, the ice cube’s molecules must increase in activity—an increase in disorder—an increase in entropy. It is important to note, however, that energy is used to melt the ice, but no work is done. This is why it may be considered useless energy.
Now read more of Brande’s words: “A powerful struggle must be waged against the forces of life and movement in order to remain inert, although this struggle takes place so far beneath the surface of our lives that we do not always become aware of it. Physical inaction is no true sign that life-force is not being burned away. So even the idler is using fuel while they dream.”
Does this sound familiar? Do you feel stuck? Why does it seem as if you’re spinning your wheels, so to speak, but you’re not getting anywhere? What life accomplishments (large or small) have you failed to even begin?
Which potential successes have you abandoned by struggling against them? Are you the melting ice cube?
Brande said, “Failure indicates that energy has been poured into the wrong channel. It takes energy to fail.” How do you break this spell of inertia, the will to fail? Brande’s eight-word formula for success: “Act as if it were impossible to fail.”
If you want evidence that Brande’s formula for success works, look no further than the world’s most successful entrepreneurs. Their ideas aren’t necessarily better than yours. They just acted without thought or concern of failure. There isn’t a Plan B or contingency. Why use a safety net when you’re confident you won’t fall? Success begins with the first step.
There’s also something liberating and exhilarating about setting out to do something that you love or to chase the thing or person you desire. It’s the thrill of the chase, but it’s also the idea that life is about the path and not the destination. We get so caught up in how high the mountain is but forget how beautiful the steps are that lead up to it.
Success is exactly equivalent to doing one’s best. What that best may be, what its farthest reaches may include, we can discover only by freeing ourselves completely from the will to fail. Brande and any successful person you care to talk to about their own formula for success will tell you that the only real failure is not trying. What others call failure is what winners consider to be steps toward success.
To help you take that first big step, absorb these words from Brande: “We know that those who succeed see the same sunsets, breathe the same air, love and are loved no less than failures; and in addition, they have something more: the knowledge that they have chosen to move in the direction of life and growth instead of acquiescing in death and decay.”
Now wake up and live!
Kent Thune owns a Hilton Head Island investment advisory firm, Atlantic Capital Investments, and is a freelance writer. He also teaches entrepreneurship and finance at Hilton Head Island High School. You can follow his musings on mind, money and mastery of life at TheFinancialPhilosopher.com or on Twitter @ThinkersQuill.