The fourth of the lessons in Napoleon Hill’s Laws of Success in 16 Lessons concerns the habit of saving. I must confess that when I first read the sixteen principles, I thought it slightly odd that this habit should be listed as a success habit. To save, you need to have acquired the necessary funds and they come, generally, through the action of achieving success i.e. they are an effect, not a cause.
However, in lesson four, Hill is telling us that, whilst it is undoubtedly true that money is an effect – the product of success – it is also a cause of success; and, indeed, as I recall, Wallace D Wattles makes exactly the same point in The Science of Getting Rich. Quite simply, as we accumulate more wealth, more opportunities tend to open up to us. We are able to make investments, acquire valuable assets and so on, so this lesson is indeed an important one; it applies equally well – perhaps even more so – to those who don’t have money to begin with.
It is an interesting aspect of how our economies work in the developed world that if you can manage your money well, live within your means and pay your way, there will be people falling over themselves trying to lend you money. And if you cannot manage money, constantly overspend and are always in need of extra cash, you will find it much more difficult to get a loan. Of course, that’s because of the amount of risk involved.
Hill speaks of the ‘poverty consciousness’ and contrasts it with the ‘prosperity consciousness’; we discussed these attitudes in a previous post about the abundance mentality. What I find particularly interesting in his analysis is the connection he makes between having the poverty consciousness and the habit of saving. He says that the actions previously described in lesson two (having a definite major objective and constantly keeping it in mind) will effectively destroy the poverty consciousness. With the effect that:
You will actually begin to DEMAND prosperity, you will begin to expect it, you will begin to prepare yourself to receive it and to use it wisely, thus paving the way or setting the stage for the development of the Habit of Saving.
Thus, developing the abundance mentality, or prosperity consciousness as he calls it, is one of the fruits of being focused upon your own individual mission; and the habit of saving is, in part, a product of that attitude. I really like the way he explains the poverty consciousness (scarcity mentality).
Fix in your mind the thought that your ability is limited to a given earning capacity and you will never earn more than that, because the law of habit will set up a definite limitation of the amount you can earn. Your subconscious mind will accept this limitation.
Personally, I think the above statements are both very powerful indeed. Whether you have an abundance or scarcity mentality (prosperity or poverty consciousness) is an important part of the process of succeeding because your dominant attitude will attract or repel the opportunities to serve which are an important part of the process of acquiring wealth.
So this is, essentially, how Hill suggests that these ideas are connected:
• A Definite Major Objective
• Focused Persistent Action in the Direction of Your Goal
• Development of the Prosperity Consciousness
• The Attraction of Opportunities
• Services Rendered and Income Received
• The Habit of Saving
As, I mentioned above, Wallace D Wattles says that the acquisition of money is both a product of getting rich and a part of the process. The value that is captured by saving becomes available to fund further resource acquisition that can be used to accelerate the progress toward your major objective. In other words, saving is not the end result of the process of becoming wealthy, it is an important part of the process.
It is vital then, to get into the habit of saving, no matter how little you earn at present. Unless you establish this as a solid habit within your basic character, what will happen as you begin to acquire money is that your tastes will ensure that you always continue to live beyond your means no matter how much you earn. You will always be borrowing. You may have a big car, a big TV and a big house, but you will have a big debt to go with all of that stuff.
Poverty, alone, is sufficient to kill off ambition, destroy self-confidence and destroy hope, but add to it the burden of debt and all who are victims of these two cruel task-masters are practically doomed to failure.
As it happens, I actually know a person who is a perfect example of what Hill is talking about. He has never learned to live within his means and therefore has never developed the habit of saving. As far as I am aware, he still has the same problems today. I wrote about this person when I recommended reading The Richest Man in Babylon.
Most men who develop the habit of debt will not be so fortunate as to come to their senses in time to save themselves, because debt is something like quicksand in that it has a tendency to draw its victim deeper and deeper into the mire.
Now is it wrong to have a big car, a big TV and a big house? No. I don’t think so (though having a TV at all is something that I do question the value of these days). However, there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting or having any of these things. The problem is in the method of acquiring them.
When you have correctly applied the principles in this series of posts, you will be unable to prevent the acquisition of wealth. Hopefully you can see that is quite a statement and it is true. That doesn’t mean simply reading about these principles; it means actually applying them. So let me restate it: if you do these things, you will become wealthy.
That means that you will be able to indulge the taste you had for the car, telly and house if you so desire. If however, you fail to master this simple habit of living within your means, do you know what will happen should you acquire any substantial wealth? You will want a bit more than the big car – you will want a helicopter; you will want more than a big TV – you will want a home cinema; and you will want more than a big house – you will want a castle.
Perhaps, I should end by re-emphasising that money is not the true measure of success. Hill himself says that he “should be greatly disappointed to know that any student of the course got the impression from anything in this or any of the other lessons that Success is measured by dollars alone.”
That said, if you master this habit and you follow the principles in this series, you will always have more money than you will ever need.