The Key To Success, by Russell H. Conwell is an essay to encourage people to seek their own success by observing the events around them. Russell H. Conwell seeks to find the intelligent and the “leading men and women” of tomorrow.
An intelligent person recognizes their abilities and limits, understand that they have to hire someone with more insights, knowledge and competencies to do what she or he is not able to do so.
Furthermore, in life, having a leading man or woman is necessary. It is evident that very few are fit to lead or to know what to do under difficult or important circumstances: only wise and good men are fit to be leaders.
The story of the Silver Crown
In Ackba, there was a beautiful palace and in the palace, next to the throne, there was a pedestal with a Silver Crown, which the emperor wore when he passed a law and without which the emperor was a regular citizen. After many years of ruling, the emperor died and left the throne without an heir or anyone to claim the Silver Crown.
After twelve years of searching for a successor, when the country started to sink, the astrologers, who worshipped the stars, asked the stars where to find a successor. The stars answered:
Look up and look down your country, and when you find a man whom the animals follow, the sun serves, the waters obey, and mankind love, you need not to ask who his ancestors were. This man will be one of the royal line entitle to the throne of gold and the Crown of Silver.
The astrologers searched the country, asked the people but were met with ridicule. Until one night, an old astrologer got lost in the Himalaya Mountains and took refuge in a cottage to find an intelligent leader, worthy of the throne.
Through the story of the Silver Crown, Russell H. Conwell illustrates four characteristics that he deems are necessary to subsist in modern civilization.
How to find the intelligent leaders of tomorrow?
Russell H. Conwell uses the four characteristics of the Silver Crown story to determine the leaders of tomorrow: a man or woman whom the animals follow, a man or woman whom the sun serves, a man or woman whom the waters obey, and a man or woman who possesses mankind love.
Characteristic 1: Animals will follow the leader
Conwell considers that, alike universities, animals ought to instruct and encourage us. He takes a scientifical approach to demonstrate the knowledge and power embodied in animals.
Studying the animals and taking notice of their instinctive knowledge on a daily basis will allow us to comprehend life better. For example:
- The horse is much more useful than a human being. The horse “has within its body so much galvanic and electric force continually generated by the activities of life, that if that electricity could be concentrated and held to a certain point, a horse could stand still and run a forty-horse power electric engine.” Whereas, a human being, standing still, can run a ten-power horse engine.
- A hen and her egg are filled with mystery and more knowledge than an intelligent professor with degrees from prestigious schools are willing to admit or to spend time studying. Conwell believes, contrary to science, that hens or chickens possess their own language, the “egg is the greatest scientific problem with which the world has ever grappled — the beginning of life and the God-given design”.
Characteristics 2 & 3: the sun will serve the leader and the waters will obey the leader
Through the story of the locomotive and the milkman, Conwell shows how a leader is being served by both sun and water, the importance of getting educated on a daily basis and noticing the events around us and noticing the unnoticed.
The locomotive, using steam to move and driven by Man, is used to illustrate these 2 characteristics. A milkman took a locomotive every day to distribute his milk. On the train, he consistently asked questions about the functioning of the train to the engineers. One day, while the fireman and the engineer were absent, the train rolled down the mountain. Fortunately, the milkman was on the train, knew how to drive it and saved everyone, including a stakeholder in the railroad company. The milkman happened to get rich of his knowledge and his curiosity.
Characteristic 4: mankind will love the leader
A leader gains the love of mankind by being great benefactors: while they are going after their own success, they bless humanity, they hear the call of humanity and respond to it.
The university from which they have graduated from does not matter in real life. University can make you unlearn the real values and useful knowledge, needed in real life. An uneducated person will know more instinctively than anyone who has been to school by using their everyday observations, even though they have a degree from a university or not.
The Key To Success by Russell H. Conwell is a great book that takes approximately one hour to read. It is filled with picturesque stories and fictional dialogues to illustrate and to get us to remember his point. It is dedicated to those who wish to become leaders and strengthens their core values, for those who are eager for success. It emphasizes the idea that every man is his own university, that every man should take notice of his surroundings and learn from everything.
In The Key To Success, Russell H. Conwell is very controversial, progressist, scientifically curious and forward for his time. He is continually questioning the limits of science and of human knowledge, is answering the questions that science cannot answer with the knowledge of God.
After reading this book, all I could think is “I like this guy” for his opinion. Conwell does not hesitate to denounce academics, with diplomas from prestigious schools, who have no time to study “lesser” things in life, who belive that their studied education trumps their natural and instinctive education. Hence, for him, science does not explain everything but we should seek explanation from God.
There is danger that a man will get so much education that he won’t know anything of real value because his useless education has driven the useful out of his mind.
The great scientific men—and we need more—often are not given the full credit that is due them because they have not “graduated” from somewhere. It seems to me there is a feeling in these later days for creating an aristocracy among the men who have graduated from some rich university. But that does not determine a man’s life. It may be a foolish tyranny for a little while, but nevertheless every man and woman must finally take the place where he and she are best fitted to be, and do the things that he and she can do best, and the things about which he and she really know. Where they graduated, or when, will not long count in the race of practical life.
Do you know that the humblest man, whatever his occupation, really knows instinctively certain things better for not having been to school much? It is so easy to bias the mind.
No man ever gives himself for others’ good in the right spirit without receiving “a hundredfold more in this present time.”
Many of us spend our lives searching for success when it is usually so close that we can reach out and touch it
In How Full is Your Bucket?, Donald O. Clifton and Tom Rath have partnered up in the hopes of helping people focus on the positive and not the negative. In his previous research and in his life experiences, Donald O. Clifton noticed that every interaction in life made a difference and profoundly shaped his perceptions.
The theory of the dipper and the bucket
To Donald O. Clifton and to Tom Rath, everyone possesses an invisible bucket and an invisible dipper. Filling your bucket would be synonymous to “boosting your well-being” and feeling engaged in your work.
An invisible bucket that can be emptied or filled depending on our interactions with others. When the bucket is full, we feel great, optimistic, energetic, renewed and strong.
An invisible dipper that can empty of fill someone else’s bucket. When the dipper is used to fill someone else’s bucket, we simultaneous fill our own bucket. When we use our dipper to empty someone else’s bucket, we empty our own bucket.
The power of Negativity
Negativity has the power to kill an individual. For most of us, negativity is common and harmless, but erodes our well-being and productivity. Negativity is also contagious and pushes us to start dipping in someone else’s bucket in the hopes of fulling ours.
In the workplace, daily multiple micro aggressions or the accumulation of negative interactions can cause people invisible and individual bucket to be emptied. An empty bucket has consequences on your well-being, on the well-being of your friends and family members, on your work performance, on your team’s productivity.
The disengagement and the negativity of employees are conveyed by “glazed looks”, counter productivity, a tendency to “stirring up trouble with whining, complaining, and even paranoia.
Fortunately, positivity is much more impactful than negativity.
As a leader or manager, how to make sure that employees individual bucket is full? How to get them to stay engaged?
Employees often lack recognition for their good work and “praise is rare in most organization”.
It takes a little initiative to create inexpensive and meaningful bucket filling experiences. For example, a short, motivating, positive conversation from leaders to increase employees productivity, alignment and engagement would suffice.
Leaders and managers have to:
- switch the focus on their employees strengths only,
- daily and positively interact with their team members.
Where is Negativity Rooted?
Our predisposition for either positivity or negativity is similar to our metabolism and our or disposition for weight gain. No matter how much someone eats, they will always remain thin.
Filling someone bucket should be unique, specific to the individual, appropriate to the work environment. Generic one size fits all approaches often backfire.
The american culture is to blame for the development and inclination toward negativity. In the American culture, we focus on what we do wrong instead of what we do right, on fixing weaknesses and dismissing strengths. “This focus is particularly evident in our school experiences” or at work where our natural talents and our skills don’t fit our roles. Also, we expect our employees to change their personality to fit the role.
According to John Gottman’s research on marriage, there is a magic ratio to respect in order to maintain positivity and to fill your bucket. The magic ratio is 5:1 which means that there must be 5 positive interactions for every 1 negative interaction.
This magic ratio is critical for the workplace. For instance, teams with having more than 3 positive interactions for every negative interaction (3:1 ratio) gain in productivity and engagement. However, teams having more than a 13:1 ratio lose in productivity.
That is why, Rath and Clifton recommend grounding positivity in reality, but also acknowledging negativity and weaknesses and correcting mistakes.
The Benefits of Positivity
Positive or negative encounters are highly memorable and can change your life forever. Positivity creates a mindset that:
- becomes a buffer against adversity, depression, health issues,
- enables recovery from traumatic, painful experiences,
- improves mental physical well-being,
- stands as a coping and defense mechanisms,
- transforms and breaks down social barriers,
- generates optimal functioning in organizations and in individuals,
- Induced by leader, improves productivity and group performance in the workplace.
How to Increase Positive Emotions?
To increase positive emotions and positive encounters, apply the following five strategies:
Prevent any type of bucking dipping
- Stop poking fun at someone, focusing in their insecurities, chronically criticizing others.
- Encourage this change among people around you.
- Start pressing pause consciously eliminating unwarranted negativity.
- Keep track of your progress by scoring your interactions.
Focus on what is right instead of what is wrong
To know if your focus us centered around what is right or if you have some impact on your environment, take the Positive Impact Test from Gallup. The Positive Impact Test provides 15 statements to measure your impact and your progress. Don’t hesitate to print them, read them and encourage your friends to take the test.
Develop several good relationships
- These relationships have to be best friends quality with coworkers in order to increase your job satisfaction and productively and subsequently increase theirs.
- Actively listen to your coworkers.
- Acknowledge when someone is doing a great job.
Reverse the Golden Rule
How Full is Your Bucket? by Donald O. Clifton and Tom Rath is a brief, easy to read, encouraging and compelling book that gives tools to spread positivity in life or at work, to become a better leader, to develop values and character.
Furthermore, I found interesting that both authors share their personal adversities and explain how they have ingrained positivity in their lives and thoughts to overcome their health obstacles.
On a personal level, I wanted to read a positive book, that can stimulate everyone’s mind, inspire leaders to work on themselves and their leadership skills, to provide some tools to dilute the toxicity and the negativity in the workplace, to break the cycle of negativity in your life.
I believe that most of us can handle positive situations and encounters, but not everyone can handle difficult situations, that preparation is key and it is better to be safe then sorry, that it is better to be warned about toxicity than to be blindsided by it, and finally that knowledge is power.
In addition, Donald O. Clifton and Tom Rath are right when they claim that negativity stems from your culture and has become the norm. They are also right when they state that emptying someone else’s bucket will not make you feel better but only make you feel less then. So, you have to wonder: are you a bucket filler or a bucket dipper?
Most of us want more positive emotions in our lives. We want to feel like Tammy did in her brief meeting with Karen more often – and like she did after her performance review less often. Unfortunately, wanting a more positive environment isn’t enough. Most of us have grown up in a culture in which it’s much easier to tell people what they did wrong instead of praising them when they succeed. Although this negativity-based approach might have evolved unintentionally, it nevertheless permeates our society at all levels.
Recognition is most appreciated and effective when it is individualized, specific, and deserved.