How to build discipline and brainwash yourself with the Greatest Secret in the World

At the beginning of 2010, I started reading a book called The Greatest Secret in the World which is basically a motivational book that teaches you to brainwash yourself 🙂 The book was originally written in the 1960s as a motivational tool for salespeople, and was titled The Greatest Salesman in the World. It was republished later as The Greatest Secret in the World, due to its wide appeal beyond the world of sales. Despite the title, the book bears no resemblance to The Secret; you won’t be conjuring up your dreams by invocation of the “Law of Attraction” or any such nonsense. The basic idea is pretty simple, actually: to repeatedly read some short passages about important concepts like time management or avoiding procrastination. The book is made up of ten “scrolls” which are 2-3 page sections based on a principle, like “Today, I will be master of my emotions.” or “Today, I will multiply my value a hundredfold.” Stuff like that. The book recommends you read each passage 3 times a day for five weeks before moving on to the next one. You end up reading each scroll 75 times, and since a typical scroll repeats its key phrase 10-15 times, you end up reading that phrase about 1000 times during the course of the month.

My primary motivation in reading the book was to develop discipline, so I resolved to do it as recommended; I read each scroll 3 times a day, once when I woke up, once at lunch, and once before bed. Monday through Friday, for five weeks per scroll, then on to the next. It took almost a year to get through all ten, but as of last week, I finished without missing a single reading.

Now, for full disclosure, I should point out that I tried to do this back in 2007 and failed after a few months. I was doing it seven days a week back then, which I think had a dramatic effect on my ability to keep up with it. Having a break on the weekends has been crucial to all of my daily habits, giving me a chance to relax without worrying about whether I should be doing something.

So would I read this book again? Without hesitation. The book isn’t mystical or weird or exciting. It’s basically just a simple collection of some positive reminders of ways to live, wrapped in a plan for learning self-discipline. And it gets pretty dull at times, but I didn’t mind that. It seemed like that’s what building discipline should feel like. I enjoyed the book so much that I’m still reading a scroll once per day, so I rotate through all ten every two weeks. They’re good reminders of what it means to live to the fullest. Here’s a short passage from one of the scrolls:

I will persist until I succeed.

Henceforth, I will consider each day’s effort as but one blow of my blade against a mighty oak. The first blow may cause not a tremor in the wood, nor the second, nor the third. Each blow, of itself, may be trifling, and seem of no consequence. Yet from childish swipes the oak will eventually tumble. So it will be with my efforts of today.

I will be liken to the rain drop which washes away the mountain; the ant who devours a tiger; the star which brightens the earth; the slave who builds a pyramid. I will build my castle one brick at a time for I know that small attempts, repeated, will complete any undertaking.

I will persist until I succeed.

~Scroll III, The Greatest Secret in the World

I know what you’re thinking: “Well, duh. Why would I need to read this more than once?” No, the message isn’t complicated, but the kind of thing everyone would do well to remember. And reading that phrase more than a thousand times definitely drills it into your brain. If you’re interested in that kind of thing, I recommend the book. It’s not easy, but few good things are.

PS – The book is $8 from Amazon, and well worth it. As with all of the books I recommend, if you feel like it would improve your life but you genuinely can’t afford it, please email me and I’ll send you a copy. You can do something nice in return like telling someone about this blog, but I’d really hate for someone to miss out on a life-changing book because they couldn’t afford it.