Book Review – The Secret of the Ages (1975 Revised Edition)

It is Mind that rules the world. —R. Collier

This is one of the historic self-help texts you actually want to love before you even start to read it. Unfortunately, the truth is the anticipation in this case was better than the actual experience. It’s funny how often that’s true in life.

You open the book and end up struggling through it—and no matter the ending—you know you’re going to be disappointed. However, my theory this time isn’t to fault the work itself. I’m placing the blame on the revisions in the 1975 edition and not the original 1926 text.

I’ve heard amazing things about the original work, and I can clearly see how this one has started arguments that it was the source material for Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich. I’m not going to contribute to that argument here however. What I can say is that I’ve listened to the original text on Audible and compared it to the 1975 edition I read. There’s clearly a difference which favors the original text. Next, I’ll find a copy of the 1926 edition and write another review on its value as a standalone piece.

Here’s what I can see that really highlights the value this text played in the psychology of positive thinking movement. Collier’s original contribution set the stage for our modern re-obsession with the Law of Attraction mentality. What I appreciate most is the author’s enthusiastic approach to truly driving his formula for success into the mind of the reader.

For Collier, the only limitations men face are the ones they inflict upon themselves through their mental attitudes. Your thoughts then become the gateway to your physical and emotional success in the newly industrialized world of 1926.

Bottom line—avoid this edition and wait for my review on the original text. If you’re a fan of Positive Thinking or the Law of Attraction add this one to your shopping list.

Book Review – Letters from a Stoic by Seneca

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Letters from a Stoic by Lucius Annaeus Seneca

One has to accept life on the same terms as the…crowds, or travel. Things will get thrown at you and things will hit you. Life’s no soft affair. It’s a long road you’ve started on: you can’t but expect to have slips and knocks and falls….

Seneca, Letter CVII

Seneca’s letters are some of the most diverse and well written essays on the development of character that I’ve come across. I admit that I may be a little biased on this point as I’m coming from the perspective of an English Major, MBA graduate and a philosophy enthusiast—AKA nerd. However, at their core, the Stoic theme of self restraint and reliance are undying principles that have the power to enrich our lives in any century. This is the one book that never grows old and always has something powerful to say about the way we live.

I’m not saying that the material isn’t dated and that you won’t come across cultural norms and taboos that aren’t appropriate in the 21st century. This is a period piece and we need to be cognizant of that reality when we look to the author for ancient Roman insights. The lessons are just as applicable today even if the examples are no longer valid. Seneca lived in a different time, and we have to keep that in mind. We should ask ourselves if Seneca were with us today how would his advice and insights be utilized? What new examples would he come up with to share with us?

What I love about Seneca is that his writings can be envisioned as a personal discussion with you about life and the hardships we face. He’s always a firm voice of reason and gives us a new perspective on the ordinary. He really does have something to say on just about everything, and his letters cover a wide range of topics, but here are some highlights.

  • Aging and Mortality
  • Drunkenness and Overindulgence
  • Illness
  • Keeping up with the Joneses
  • Knowledge vs. Wisdom
  • Luxury and Vanity
  • Overcoming Difficulty
  • Planning for the Unexpected

Really, the best feature of Seneca’s letters are that you can read a new one each night and get a pocket sized dose of daily inspiration to help you live your best life. Every letter is only a few pages long and allows you to access new insights daily. Occasionally, he may begin to ramble, but often that can make you laugh as he catches himself in the letter and apologizes for his loss of precision. It’s as close as you can get to talking with a Roman or a Stoic. Bottomline—Add this one to your shelf and keep it handy for some light reading when life looks a little dreary.

Book Review – Psycho-cybernetics: A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life

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Psycho-cybernetics: A New Way to Get More Living Out of Life by Maxwell Maltz

Even in regard to tragic conditions, and the most adverse environment, we can usually manage to be happier, if not completely happy, by not adding to the misfortune our own feelings of self-pity, resentment, and our own adverse opinions.

Maxwell Maltz

Dr. Maltz is a little dated on his science in this 1960 piece on the psychology of success, but that’s bound to happen after more than 60 years. Happily, there are some powerful self-motivating resources in here for individuals who suffer from chronic failure, self esteem issues, or even toxic perceptions and beliefs.

The key to getting the most out of the text is to overlook the dated science. I would even suggest blasphemy—and skip the last chapter entirely as it is a little out of place with the rest of the author’s work and is a Frankenstein-esque combination of now recognized science fiction and religious credo.

Overall, I like the theme on how our perception can have both positive and negative impacts in our life by impacting our responses to the world. We are constantly motivated or inhibited by our personal beliefs and feelings. Maltz uses experiences from a collection of patients to show the reader just how we can overcome these mental traps and improve our lives by improving our perceptions.

That said, I did have difficulty appreciating the heavily Western religiosity present throughout the work. However, I tend to overlook that uncomfortableness in a text. I focus on whatever I find valuable in the book and allow some levity due to the historical context in which this work was authored.