A Sample of Genesis

One of the main points I emphasize about The Right Question is that it encapsulates everything I’ve ever read in any self help book, ever.  I also describe in Succeed at Anything how I decided to write my own self-help book that I could refer to whenever I needed inspiration or motivation, and how in doing so, The Right Question was born.

I’m going to include my notes on one of the more helpful books.  It’s called SuperSelf, by Charles J. Givens.  I saw a battered, water-damaged copy of it at a garage sale.  I love books, and am always looking for one that will teach me something, so I grabbed it right away.  I don’t remember what I paid, if anything, but whatever it was, it repaid its investment to me many times over.

As in the case with every other self help book I made notes on, I wrote at the top what the title was, in case I wanted to refer to it to expand on an idea more.  I listed the headline of the idea I was taking from the book, and then I made a point-form list if there were more things to consider about that central idea.

The reason for all this, as I’ve said elsewhere, is that I wanted to have a reference manual of my own, in which every single page would contain the best ideas from all the self help books I had.  But as I wrote, I began to see just how much these authors borrow from each other, and I also saw what it was they were leaving out.

I think the reason that Givens’s book made such an impression on me is that he isn’t a self help writer, he’s a successful investor.  He’s not dispensing what I call “attaboy theory”, the fist-in-the-air motivation that runs out two days after the seminar, he’s dispensing practical advice and tips that worked for him.  In the book he describes a rather unappealing childhood, to say the least, and his path up the ladder to multimillionaire.  This personal approach based on historical fact is what makes his book different from many others I read at the time.  Not for long, though, because it turned me onto a genre I hadn’t studied much before, that of biographies of successful people.

So sit back and watch one of the steps toward The Right Question beginning to take shape, and in the process, get a bird’s-eye view of a great self help book.  I wrote this in the summer of 2008 or so.  See how towards the end I begin to lose interest and the notes just sort of arbitrarily stop?  I did read it to the end, but this book is one of the last ones that made it through the gate before I realized what I was actually trying to do – find the one sentence that would make it all come alive – in other words, to find The Right Question.  I think that SuperSelf is recommended reading for anyone looking to understand how a successful person became so.  I know it helped me along the way.

I’ve cut and pasted this from Word.  In the process it didn’t keep my highlights, but I’m sure you’ll find points in it that leap out at you.

If you want them all in one sentence, just download The Right Question.


Charles J. Givens SuperSelf Outline/Summary

Doing more of what doesn’t work won’t make it work any better.  Live your life as most people do and you will be forced to settle for what most people settle for.


1. “Where You Is, Is Where You Is.”

·         Your only point of power is in the present moment.
·         To design and control your future, you must first let go of your past.
·         To go where you want, firmly plant your feet on ground where you are.
·         Use losses and failures of the past as a reason for action, not inaction.

2. Playing to Win: The Ballpark Principle

·         Being right is often in conflict with winning.
·         To win in other people’s ballparks, play by their rules.
·         Accept the rules or change ballparks.

3. Trying Is Lying

·         Failure is the refusal to establish a plan and work toward its accomplishment regardless of the obstacles.
·         When striving to achieve your goals, there is no such thing as trying.
·         You never fail until you quit, make excuses, or die.
·         Cut your losses short and run your wins long.

Use near misses as sign you’re off course, not sign that you have failed.
Use negative feedback to make positive course corrections.


4. Developing Your Blueprint

Organize your blueprint into a three-ring notebook.

5. Discovering Your Dreams

·         11. Begin your life’s blueprint with a Dreams List.
·         12. Prepare your Dreams List as if there were no limits to your life.
·         13. Crystallize your dreams by writing them down.
·         14. Allow your Dreams List to expand to form framework for your entire life.

6. Generating Goals
·         Don’t confuse your goals with your expectations.
·         Defining what you are after is 50 percent of the battle in getting there.
·         Make choices, not excuses.
·         Accelerating your life by setting goals also accelerates but does not create the problems and setbacks you’ll encounter.
·         The difference between dreams and goals is in commitment and the length of time required to achieve them.
·         Success is the progressive, timely achievement of your stated goals.
·         The more specific and measurable your goal, the more quickly you will be able to identify, locate, create, and implement the use of the necessary resources for its achievement.
·         The more specific and measurable your goal, the more quickly it can be accomplished.
·         The impact of doubt is directly proportional to both the level of difficulty in achieving a goal and the intensity of the doubt.
·         Increased clarity equals increased opportunity.

·         15. Set goals to organize and structure your mind for maximum effectiveness.
·         16. Make your goals specific and measurable.
·         17. Make your goals believable.
·         18. Overcome doubt with positive, present-tense affirmations.
·         19. Commit your goals to a written list.
·         20. State your goals as single, concise sentences beginning with action verbs.
·         21. Set a realistic target date for the completion of each goal.
·         22. Keep a copy of your top ten goals where you will see it every day.

7. Seeing Success

·         23. Visualize your goals clearly to achieve them more quickly.
·         24. Make visualizing your goals a regular habit.
·         25. Add momentum to your visualizations with some high-powered emotions.
·         26. Visualize your goals just before you go to sleep.
·         27. Visualize your goals as if you have already achieved them.

8. Aligning Your Goals with Your Values
Conflict inevitably occurs when your goals and values are out of alignment.  The only thing more destructive to your life than setting goals that are out of alignment with your values is setting no goals at all.

·         28. For maximum enjoyment of success, first determine your top ten values.
·         29. For maximum satisfaction and effectiveness, align goals with top values.

9. Operating with Objectives: Your Action Plans
Activate opportunity by getting into action.

·         Complete one Action Plan for each goal on your list.
·         Specify a first step as the first objective on your Action Plan.
·         Break each goal down into a set of manageable objectives.

10. Prioritizing Your Activities
The mind tends to take the path of least resistance.

·         To double your effectiveness, apply the 20/80 rule.
·         Transform efficiency into effectiveness w/ prioritized activities list.
·         Divide your activities list into four sections.
·         Record, prioritize on activities lists all important phone calls and appointments
·         Review, revise blueprint at year’s end to assess past, chart future.


1. Discipline
Discipline is a choice, not a legacy.  Focus is the process of keeping your thoughts, attention, and energy totally on the task at hand.  Excuses are only made for failure, never success.

·         Increase your level of effectiveness by learning to maintain focus.
·         Increase effectiveness, earn confidence and trust of others by keeping agreements.
·         Promise only what you can deliver, and deliver what you promise.

2. Controlling Your Time Line
1. Leave your life to chance and chances are you won’t like the way you live your life.

·         Take control of your time or time will control you.
·         Avoid triggering the no-slack principle by making, sticking to your plan.
·         Arrive on time, every time.
·         Arrive early, but never late.
·         Don’t make getting ready the last thing you do before leaving the house.
·         Leave your car keys in the same place every time you arrive home.
·         Combine all frequently used keys into complete duplicate sets.
·         Change door locks so that one key fits all.
·         Ignore the telephone and doorbell when getting ready.
·         Practice effective time management on yourself, not those around you.
·         Fill up your tank on your time–not at stress time.
·         Add a ten-minute fudge factor to your travel time.
·         Carry a local map in the glove compartment of your car.
·         Allow an extra five minutes to find the correct address or office.

3. Prioritizing Your Personal Time
It’s what you accomplish, not how long it takes, that determines your level of success.

·         Schedule personal time w/ same priority, attention to detail as business time.
·         Schedule personal activities as if appointments that cannot be canceled.
·         Don’t allow job-related problems to interrupt scheduled personal time.
·         Stop treating your family as second-class citizens.

4. Managing the Mundane

·         Increase your effectiveness by eliminating mundane maintenance activities.
·         Think of cost of hiring out mundane maintenance as investment, not expense.
·         If cost is less than your per-hour value, hire someone else to do the job.
·         When in doubt, let someone else do it.
·         Begin giving up mundane maintenance now.

5. Eliminating Interruptions

·         Take back control of your time by eliminating interruptions.
·         Break telephone interruption habit; ignore telephone for an entire day.
·         Become the caller instead of the callee.
·         Let an answering device screen and record your incoming calls.
·         Check your incoming messages no more than twice a day.
·         Make all callbacks at the same time.
·         Use built-in speaker on answering machine to monitor for “must take” calls.
·         Keep unwanted guests out of your bedroom.
·         Unlist your phone numbers.
·         Install separate personal and business lines at home.
·         Don’t give business number to personal acquaintances; don’t give personal number to business contacts.
·         Stop playing switchboard for other family members.
·         Don’t allow thought of emergency to compel you to answer phone at all times.
·         Install phones in your cars and use them for “callbacks”.
·         Install a personal fax machine in your home.

6. Intercepting Office Interruptions

·         Install voice mail on your business telephone system.
·         Install fax machines in each department.
·         Write all letters, memos at same time during your Peak Performance Period.
·         Install select code security locks on departmental doors.
·         Keep customer service people in their seats w/ research support.
·         If you work in an office, create a controlled open-door policy.
·         To be successful in your own business, hire the best people.

7. Handling Talkers and Dumpers
Dumpers are drainers.  Don’t get caught in someone else’s problems, or they become your problems.

·         Screen talkers and dumpers with your answering machine.
·         Immediately set a limit for the time you will spend with a talker.
·         Listen, listen to the whole story, listen only once.
·         Ask the dumper, “What can I do to help?”

8. Cutting the Commute

·         Cut your one-way commuting time to twenty minutes or less.
·         Use commuting time to increase your knowledge by listening to audiotapes.
·         Use your commuting time to make necessary phone calls from your car.
·         Keep mini-cassette recorder in glove compartment for capturing ideas, dictating letters.

9. Extending Your Peak Performance Period

Determine your hours of peak performance.
·         Use Peak Performance Periods for activities that require maximum mind power.
·         Get best out of Off-Peak Performance Periods by scheduling routine, non-critical activities.
·         Avoid negotiating, potentially confrontational meetings during off-peak hours.
·         Exercise at least every other day.
·         Cut down on both the quantity of food and the quantity of fats you eat.

10. Fighting Fatigue

·         Push past fatigue.
·         Drink plenty of water.
·         Breathe deeply and sit up straight.
·         Do some quick exercises.
·         Trigger your adrenal glands.
·         Refocus on your goals and objectives.
·         Use short naps to overcome fatigue.

11. Flattening Your Fears
Caution is a mental process; fear is a destructive emotion.  Fear causes the reaction of avoidance or inaction.  Worry is an accumulation of thoughts about future, potentially negative outcomes.  Worry is the process of mentally creating potential negative outcomes.  The first step in confronting fears is to identify exactly what you fear.

·         Eliminate worry by refocusing your thoughts on the present.
·         Constantly confront the things you fear.
·         Act even in the face of fear.
·         Visualize a positive outcome for every fear-triggering situation you face.
·         Create a mind-movie to experience the event you fear in a non-threatening environment.

12. Handling Stress
The intensity of emotion experienced by an unmet demand is directly proportional to the intensity of the demand.

·         Exercise for twenty minutes to one hour every other day to help drain stress.
·         Eliminate negativity from your life.
·         Continuously affirm to yourself, “It’s just an event”.
·         To reduce stress, don’t make value judgments about people or events.
·         To cut stress, disconnect your emotions from the outcome of events.
·         State preferences instead of expectations or demands.

That ends my notes on SuperSelf.  As I mentioned, I did read it to the end, but by then I was beginning to realize that there was too much information to bother putting it into one book.  What I needed was a simple sentence that encapsulated everything I’d bothered transcribing from all these books.  Years later, after testing and refining it, it’s here.

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