Elsie Lincoln Benedict.
Recognize her name?
Neither did I until I found a copy of her 1928 book, Brainology.
Turns out this remarkable woman was the most popular self-help author in the world in the 1920s – seen by over three million people during her lifetime – before radio, television, and of the course the Internet.
The only person maybe more well known as a speaker was the former athlete turned fiery evangelist Billy Sunday. (I’ll pause while you Google him.) But even his extreme popularity shrunk in the 1920s as Else’s grew.
Elsie was an American suffragist leader, international lecturer, and popular author on psychology, self-improvement, and more.
She created and ran the Benedict School of Opportunity and founded The International Opportunity League, a book and correspondence business.
She traveled the world with her husband, Ralph Benedict, visiting at least 55 countries, and wrote about their adventures in a popular book, Our Trip Around the World.
She was born in 1885.
She was a millionaire by 1920.
This amazing woman wrote numerous books, such as Practical Psychology (1920), and with her husband, Unlocking the Subconscious (1922), How to Make More Money (1925), and their standout bestseller, How to Analyze People on Sight (1921).
I found Brainology: Understanding, Developing and Training Your Brain, and couldn’t believe it was written in 1928 but as useful today as it was when it first came out. She was way ahead of the modern fields of positive psychology and neuroscience.
Who was Elsie?
Apparently she was a cutting-edge leader, a petite woman with a commanding presence and charming personality, speaking and writing on what Napoleon Hill and Dale Carnegie and a long list of men would do later.
In many ways, while Elsie was just as upbeat as Hill or Carnegie, and just as subtly metaphysical, she was more practical. She gave people the nuts and bolts of how to succeed by teaching them practical psychology.
Hers was a common sense approach to a happy, healthy, prosperous life.
And she championed women’s rights.
She spoke — in the 1920s, remember — on such topics as Sex Psychology, How to Choose a Mate, How to Get Anything You Want, How to Succeed in Business, and more.
In 1922 she told an audience, “Most people use less brains in selecting the person with whom they are to spend their lives than they do in choosing an automobile, a bicycle or a cut of steak. Love isn’t enough; there must also be understanding.”
She made money even during the Great Depression. Her talks (usually free) inspired people. She urged them to think right, take action and take care of themselves. She also wrote, Outwitting the Depression.
She believed in the “work cure,” which was a new way to handle nervousness and hysteria and other psychological problems of the early 1920s.
The idea was to get you to do useful activities, like taking a college class, learning carpentry or music, or running an office.
The “cure” for what ails you was in the “work,” or the doing, of something meaningful.
Instead of disconnecting from life, you re-connected to life.
In 1923, the Oakland Tribune called Elsie “Wonder Woman,” explaining that “..she actually MAKES OVER THE LIVES of those who follow her wonderful, powerful teachings.”
When Elsie was asked, in 1920, how she attracted 3,000 people at a time to her talks, with hundreds being turned away due to lack of room, she replied, “Because I talk on the one subject on earth in which every individual is most interested – himself.”
I got so excited discovering Else that I went looking for more of her books. I found a pristine 1920 edition of Practical Psychology.
What a treat!
I was impressed at how her clear, direct, conversational writing style communicated practical insights about everything from how to stop worrying, how to build self-confidence, to how to make money.
I of course jumped to the How to Make Money chapter, which was the last one in the book.
Knowing all her readers would do what I did, there’s a line in parenthesis in that chapter where she says, “You are reading this chapter first!”
Elsie knew people.
While I haven’t seen her use the phrase “Law of Attraction” – yet, as I haven’t read all of her books yet – she certainly knew the power of the mind to direct action, which attracted results.
In that last chapter in Practical Psychology she writes:
“All men and women who have climbed to the top of life’s ladder climbed up mentally first.”
When her husband died in 1941, Elsie withdrew from public life.
She was heart broken.
She stayed plugged into life by traveling and visiting family.
But her public appearances and books were over.
She died in 1970.
I’m glad I discovered her.
She was one of those pioneers who paved the way for many others, including me and other Law of Attraction authors, by stepping forth in courage to share her message of self-help and self-improvement.
“Make a rule to dwell on nothing but the strong and good in life and people.”- Elsie and Ralph Benedict, Brainology, 1928
Thank you, Elsie.
I love you.
PS — Heather Mickelson, Else’s great granddaughter, is bringing the “forgotten wonder woman” back into public awareness by reissuing her lost books, writing a biography, and carrying her work into the modern age with humanitarian efforts. Heather’s site explains it all. See http://www.elsielincolnbenedict.com/
Reading as much as I do, it’s hard to narrow the stacks of great books down to a handful of memorable classics. Here are the top ten books that really stood out and made a difference in my life in 2014:
Best Books 2014
You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero. This may be my favorite book of the year. Yes, there are plenty of self-help books that say virtually the same thing as Sincero’s book, but almost none do it with attitude. I love the humor, honesty, intimacy, personality, and daring of the author. I love the book so much I reached out and interviewed Sincero for my podcast. She’s sincere, funny, open, and a living badass of the polite I-won’t-hurt-you but I’m-going-for-my-dreams-so-stand-back sort. Fun, wise, empowering. Read it.
Spartan Up! by Joe De Sena. This one lit a fire under my butt and made me want to get out and run up steep hills with my shoes on fire. Since I’m already working out intensely, thanks to personally training with Body-for-Life fitness legend Bill Phillips, I didn’t feel compelled to enter a Spartan endurance race. But I found this book inspiring, motivating, and heart pounding. I love his concept of “obstacle immunity,” which means hard core exercise builds inner strength to easily handle the stresses of normal life. He’s right. After intense exercise, traffic is nothing. Great book.
The Science of Living by Emmet Fox. This book clearly explains the teachings of New Thought pioneer Emmet Fox, most famous for his little books, such as The Mental Equivalent and Make Your Life Worthwhile. Though Fox taught and published in the 1930s, The Science of Living is a recent publication based on his private classes with metaphysical students. I love its clarity, plus it made me feel like I was in the room with him. This fully explains what the philosophy of Mind Science is all about. A true gem.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I’ve read this 1937 classic before, of course, but after reading a recent biography of Carnegie (Self-Help Messiah), I decided to read it again. It is a masterpiece. I am in awe of Carnegie’s conversational writing style, powerful stories, and crisp message. I wish just one of my books was this good. The message, while simple, is as relevant today as it was over the last several decades. Priceless.
Making the American Body by Jonathan Black. I found this book hypnotic. It masterfully tells the story of the men and women who shaped fitness in the United States. That may sound boring to you but believe me, the feats, feuds, and fuss of the often egomaniac men and women who urge us to get fit is an entertaining, enlightening, and even appalling read. My only disappointment is the author somehow left out Bill Phillips, who is a living legend in fitness. Otherwise, riveting.
A Moment in Time: The Steve Reeves Story by George Helmer. I’m one of the biggest Reeves collectors in the world. I have the famous body builder/movie star’s gym, car, clothes, trophies, and more. My collection is impressive enough that Lou Ferrigno (The Hulk) came to see it. This long awaited biography, by Reeves’ personal friend and executor of his estate, is mesmerizing. The hundreds of photos are worth the price of admission alone. The stories are alive. It’s a loving tribute to a legend; the definitive biography of the original Hollywood Hercules.
The Devil’s Horn by Michael Segell. As you may know, I’m now a saxophone player. (Afflatus, my baritone sax album, came out last month.) This is the hands-down best book ever written on the dramatic roller-coaster history of the sax, an instrument once considered the “devil’s horn” by some while others swooned to its cool sound. It was once the most popular instrument in the world (until the guitar got plugged in). The man who invented the sax – named (no surprise) Adolphus Sax – went through business failure, ridicule, controversy, political manipulation, envy, and even a death threat. An astonishing book.
The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. Nicholas Herman, later known as Brother Lawrence, lived in France in the 1600’s as a kitchen working monk. He dedicated his life to constantly living, working, playing, and praying “as in His presence” at all times. “His” means God. If the God word pushes a button in you, exchange it for Divinity or something else. This little book of conversations with, and letters by, Brother Lawrence has been changing lives for centuries. It did mine, too, and deeply influenced the writing of my forthcoming book, The Secret Prayer. There are numerous editions of this holy work around, many published in English for the first time around 1895. Highly recommended.
Managing Thought: How Do Your Thoughts Rule Your World? by Mary J. Lore. I love the direct simplicity of this well crafted book. It helps you understand what your thoughts are doing, whether you are aware of them or not. Of course, once you are aware of your thoughts, you are now separate from them and more in control. A practical, inspiring guide.
Willpower: The Owner’s Manual by Frank Martela. This brief book surprised me with the 12 tools it describes for “doing the right thing.” I expected fluff, I got wisdom. People often resist will power, thinking it is pure ego or pure pain, when in reality will power is what you often need to align your desires, achieve your intentions, and attract what you want. Great book. Will yourself to read it.
And here’s a bonus title —
You Are the Placebo by Joe Dispenza. I’m not a fan of so-called scientifically based books describing how the world works, mostly because I can’t follow their terminology and the authors often disagree with each other, but this book is easy reading, easy to understand, and truly eye opening. Dispenza explains how it is possible to heal many “incurables” with thought alone, by detailing how the mind influences everything. In a way, this is a manual on how to create the placebo effect as needed. I read every word. Fascinating.
What about you?
What did you read this year that moved you?
Please post your comment below.
PS – My list of best books for 2013 is at http://blog.mrfire.com/best-books-of-2013/
Someone on Facebook wrote a variation of this statement…
“Napoleon Hill said, ‘Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.’ This is the biggest load of monkey poo since the Law of Attraction. Right now, I am conceiving and believing that I can walk on water. Wish me luck.”
This is a wonderful example of illogical thinking.
Does the person really think they can walk on water?
Can they really imagine it?
Do they really believe it?
And if they can’t, then they just proved Napoleon Hill right.
Hill said, “Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve” and not “Whatever your mind can make up, even though you don’t really believe it and it’s not really possible, it can achieve.”
And please note that Hill said you can achieve it, not that you will achieve it.
He wisely left room for the possibility of you not actually attracting what you “conceive and believe.”
He knew you still had to work all the steps, including taking action.
His quote wasn’t just about conceiving and believing.
He said there were at least 16 laws, remember.
He wrote about them in such books as Laws of Success and of course Think and Grow Rich.
The ridicule people give the Law of Attraction or Napoleon Hill is a reflection of people’s own belief system – only they rarely see it.
I remember being in Russia at one of the many book signings and author meet and greets I did there.
An elderly gentleman in one audience said, “I really want to believe in this Law of Attraction but the skeptics make a good case against it.”
“Have you ever noticed that the skeptics seem to hang out together,” I began, “and the Law of Attraction positive thinkers seem to gather together?”
He smiled, nodding, as it dawned on him what I was saying.
“Everyone is living the Law of Attraction,” I explained, “but some know it consciously and others do not. You are free to believe what you like and you will attract whatever evidence you need to support your belief, even when it’s illogical to others. That’s the Law of Attraction.”
Remember, you get what you really believe, not what you want to believe.
In other words, when you examine your own statements, you might see the twisted logic behind them.
But like the person who posted the opening line, you probably won’t see the fallacy of your thinking without someone there to lovingly point it out to you.
This is why it’s so important to have a coach.
A coach can listen to you speak, reflect back to you the very beliefs you won’t even hear yourself saying, and help you question any beliefs that don’t serve you.
For example, the person who was poking holes at Napoleon Hill’s statement probably didn’t realize they weren’t being logical or even accurate. Seeing this blog post, they might grasp it.
But arguing for limitations seems silly to me.
Why argue against goals, success, visualization, positive thinking and the like?
Why not argue for them?
After all, the whole point is to help you achieve success.
Why not find ways to prove Napoleon Hill right?
Hill also wrote, “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”
Anyone who tries to dismiss the positive and encouraging words of Hill is speaking without thinking.
More than that, they are raining on the hopes and dreams of other people.
That isn’t wise, kind, loving, or useful.
As Mark Twain said, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
Napoleon Hill believed in you.
So do I.
Go for your dreams.
PS – For the record, I can walk on water. I’ve done it numerous times, usually in Ohio, usually during the Winter months. We called it ice.
PPS – I also found this on Facebook: “Dear Optimist, Pessimist and Realist: While you guys were arguing about the glass of water, I drank it.” – Opportunist
PPPS – And here’s Napoleon Hill himself giving you some coaching:
When I look around my office, I see success literature everywhere.
One of my favorites, especially in my early years, was Napoleon Hill’s classic, Think and Grow Rich.
You know that one. But I wonder if you know about another, smaller book he wrote 40 years later, when he was nearly 85 years old, called Grow Rich with Peace of Mind.
He said he wrote it because he wanted to demonstrate more fully not only that “there is more to life than making money” but also “that peace of mind in itself is a mighty force in helping you make money.”
He’s right on both counts.
But here’s something else he wrote – something intriguing you might easily overlook:
“I have said this book has been nearly 70 years in the planning. Quite true, but until recently I did not know it. I believe we are all guided by invisible sources of inspiration, and recently there came to me inspiration from a strange and very real source, revealing how much of my life has been spent in preparing me to write these pages, urging me to uncover my typewriter and get to work.”
Just reading that gives me chills — especially in light of my newest audio program with Nightingale-Conant – The Zero Point: How to Enter the Realm of Limitless Possibilities.
What is this invisible source of inspiration that Napoleon Hill describes?
The Zero Point.
The White Board.
All that is.
Zero is not something “out there.”
It’s something within you, intrinsic and innate, that whispers to your heart, “Be this…Do this…”
It includes your mind, but goes beyond your mind.
It’s how you can think bigger than ever before.
Zero is alive – and you can make a request of it that is so magnificent that you’re constantly able to live a life of consistent expectancy.
This is not the same as intending something.
Intentions are from your ego, based on your past.
They’re based on what your mind thinks is possible, which means that intentions are based on current data.
They have built-in limitations.
Inspiration, on the other hand, can blow your mind.
How do you receive this kind of inspiration?
As I wrote in my recently released book, At Zero: The Quest for Miracles through Ho’oponopono —
“The key to modern day Ho’oponopono is letting go of any and all programs, so you can be one with Divinity, otherwise called at Zero. The secret is to delete the programming as you become aware of it. When you do, Divinity will come to you and through you.”
I believe when Napoleon Hill talked about peace of mind and inspiration, he was referring to the Zero Point. I believe he was quite familiar with it.
How else could he have written a book that reached around the world as many times as Think and Grow Rich?
Just as I said in my new audio program, the promise of Zero, of awakening to your Divinity, is such that it will “help you create limitless possibilities for yourself, your family, your friends, and the world at large – from this day forward, a new level of peace, joy, and confidence.”
Napoleon Hill – he was my kind of guy.
Inspiration was his secret, too.
PS – Research shows you can change a habit in 30 days but you need help to do so. Here’s a new way to do just that when it comes to attracting more money My Wake Up Calls.
I’ve been struggling for months with writing this post about Napoleon Hill and his disturbing book about the devil, forbidden to be published by Hill or his family for generations.
It’s been years since I read a book that made me as uncomfortable as Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon Hill. I thought it was just me until I talked to a friend who said she was having trouble completing the book. It was stirring up too much energy within her. We both agreed to finish reading it to find out what secret it held for us.
Napoleon Hill wrote Outwitting the Devil in 1938, just after publication of his all-time bestseller, Think and Grow Rich. This powerful tale has never been published before, considered too controversial by his family and friends. I can see why.
The book is Hill’s interview with the devil. And the devil admits to controlling people through everything from culture and education to religion.
The devil comes across as the most powerful persuasion expert of all time. He/she/it is working within the very medium that we’ve grown to respect as good. As a result, the devil programs us to believe in lack, limitation, scarcity and victimhood. Since we don’t see the devil’s hand at work in these mediums, we rarely question what we’re taught.
I found the book unnerving. The devil is working within religion to keep us controlled? I suspect it made all my childhood programming about the “bogeyman of spirituality” come to life.
It’s unsettling to realize people are programmed to feel they are victims by the culture itself, yet the culture is being programmed to think it’s in charge by this force Hill calls the devil. It’s an entire cycle of vicious victimhood programming. And I didn’t like it.
I still haven’t finished the book. It would be a disservice to you not to tell you about it, though. When so many people are struggling, and don’t know why, considering the limiting programming coming from the very culture we live in can help us break free.
Whether that programming is actually from a “devil” or not is something I’m not going to debate. But I do strongly believe that we are being brainwashed to think negative and expect the worst by a system that is already entranced in that mindset.
In Zero Limits terms, you can call the devil a “program.” A program is a kind of virus of the mind; a limiting belief that attracts matches to the program.
Devil or not, program or not, it’s not helping you.
It’s time to awaken and break free.
PS – Read Outwitting the Devil for the challenge, but balance it by reading The Attractor Factor, Zero Limits and of course Attract Money Now. And be sure to soothe your body and mind during or after reading those books with some healing music over at Blue Healer. For my next CD, called Strut!, I wrote a song about choice. You always have it. You can listen to the “devil” or you can listen to Spirit. Choose wisely.