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The Cabinet

July 12, 2009

Dear Reader,

In case you’re wondering about the title, no, I’m not going to lecture you about the philosophical positions of my furniture. Instead, I’m going to expose you to a technique, if you will, that will help you drastically in planning and sorting out your life. Napoleon Hill, in his incredibly popular self-help book Think and Grow Rich espouses the idea of a Master Mind group that will help guide you to riches (or whatever goal you are trying to attain). This Master Mind group was to be made of your closest friends and confidantes, and regular meetings with them would help you make a perfect, or close to perfect, plan for your prosperity. But, I asked a question: “What happens if you don’t have anyone you trust enough to make a Master Mind group with?” I was delighted when Hill provided his own answer later in the text:

While I was passing through the age of “hero-worship” I found myself trying to imitate those whom I most admired. Moreover, I discovered that the element of FAITH, with which I endeavored to imitate my idols, gave me great capacity to do so quite successfully.

I have never entirely divested myself of this habit of hero-worship, although I have passed the age commonly given over to such. My experience has taught me that the next best thing to being truly great, is to emulate the great, by feeling and action, as nearly as possible.

Long before I had ever written a line for publication, or endeavored to deliver a speech in public, I followed the habit of reshaping my own character, by trying to imitate the nine men whose lives and life-works had been most impressive to me. These nine men were, Emerson, Paine, Edison, Darwin, Lincoln, Burbank, Napoleon, Ford, and Carnegie. Every night, over a long period of years, I held an imaginary Council meeting with this group whom I called my “Invisible Counselors.”

The procedure was this. Just before going to sleep at night, I would shut my eyes, and see, in my imagination, this group of men seated with me around my Council Table. Here I had not only an opportunity to sit among those whom I considered to be great, but I actually dominated the group, by serving as the Chairman.

I had a very DEFINITE PURPOSE in indulging my imagination through these nightly meetings. My purpose was to rebuild my own character so it would represent a composite of the characters of my imaginary counselors. Realizing, as I did, early in life, that I had to overcome the handicap of birth in an environment of ignorance and superstition, I deliberately assigned myself the task of voluntary rebirth through the method here described.

By some people’s invisible friend that begins with a G and rhymes with sod, I found a magnificent way to enrich myself! (I know, it’s ironic that I don’t believe in God, but representations of my heroes in my imagination) I found exactly what I needed, for I too lacked heroes in my own, real life and resorted to hero-worship of people I read about – and I wished to become like them, to continue their legacies. Hill goes on:

Being an earnest student of psychology, I knew, of course, that all men have become what they are, because of their DOMINATING THOUGHTS AND DESIRES. I knew that every deeply seated desire has the effect of causing one to seek outward expression through which that desire may be transmuted into reality. I knew that self-suggestion is a powerful factor in building character, that it is, in fact, the sole principle through which character is builded.

With this knowledge of the principles of mind operation, I was fairly well armed with the equipment needed in rebuilding my character. In these imaginary Council meetings I called on my Cabinet members for the knowledge I wished each to contribute, addressing myself to each member in audible words, as follows:–

“Mr. Emerson, I desire to acquire from you the marvelous understanding of Nature which distinguished your life. I ask that you make an impress upon my subconscious mind, of whatever qualities you possessed, which enabled you to understand and adapt yourself to the laws of Nature. I ask that you assist me in reaching and drawing upon whatever sources of knowledge are available to this end….

My method of addressing the members of the imaginary Cabinet would vary, according to the traits of character in which I was, for the moment, most interested in acquiring. I studied the records of their lives with painstaking care. After some months of this nightly procedure, I was astounded by the discovery that these imaginary figures became, apparently real.

Each of these nine men developed individual characteristics, which surprised me. For example, Lincoln developed the habit of always being late, then walking around in solemn parade. When he came, he walked very slowly, with his hands clasped behind him, and once in a while, he would stop as he passed, and rest his hand, momentarily, upon my shoulder. He always wore an expression of seriousness upon his face. Rarely did I see him smile. The cares of a sundered nation made him grave.

That was not true of the others. Burbank and Paine often indulged in witty repartee which seemed, at times, to shock the other members of the cabinet. One night Paine suggested that I prepare a lecture on “The Age of Reason,” and deliver it from the pulpit of a church which I formerly attended. Many around the table laughed heartily at the suggestion. Not Napoleon! He drew his mouth down at the corners and groaned so loudly that all turned and looked at him with amazement. To him the church was but a pawn of the State, not to be reformed, but to be used, as a convenient inciter to mass activity by the people.

Surely this was very powerful if Hill had such visions of his Cabinet members! I tried it at first, though I was nowhere near Hill’s success. I picked my first Cabinet out of members I had admired. They numbered 6: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Voltaire, Thomas Edison, and one man whom I forget at the moment. Unfortunately, the only two men with any sort of personality happened to be Paine and Voltaire, since I had read some of their work. All in all, the cabinet started to be dreary and monotonous, and I stopped consulting them during the night.

A month ago, however, I returned to it, and I fired every last one of them, except for Paine, whom I liked. I replaced them with 2 new people who I deeply admired: Alexander Hamilton and Marcus Aurelius. The new triumvirate was excellent, since I had researched all of them well (I had read Meditations twice and read an excellent biography on Hamilton, who is, at the moment, my idol, if I look past his short temper and sex scandal). This cabinet actually gave me great advice, because my mind was able to simulate the advice that they’d give me in their shoes. I did not, like Hill, ask them explicitly to endow them with their best attributes, as I did not require that – I merely wanted their advice. Admittedly, I find myself acting most like the Cabinet member I most heavily interrogated the previous night during my excursions in the Princedom, and I laugh it off when I slip into an Aurelius-esque meditative mood or I launch into Hamiltonian eloquence in argument – it is by nature of the meetings that my behavior is changed so greatly.

I had a guest speaker in my cabinet last night, and was very pleased with her performance, as she argued with eloquence and wit, and I found myself thinking quite like her today. No, reader, I cannot divulge who she is, for I would be quite embarrassed as she is, regrettably, a fictional character. Oftentimes I find that fictional characters are fun to have as they are easier to make into Cabinet members than real people; they have imprinted their personalities onto my mind so effectively through stories, while it is hard to determine real men’s personalities without biography (I am so glad I read a biography on Hamilton). Among fictional characters, I have had my mystery guest, Francisco d’Anconia, Ivan Karamazov, Alexei Karamazov, Edmond Dantés, and Jean Valjean in my Cabinet at some time or the other. However, I plan to study real men more, and admit more into my cabinet, though the current trio of Hamilton, Aurelius, and Paine serves me well.

I hope I may faithfully recall and reprint my nightly Cabinet meetings here in the future, so I may preserve their memory.

Meeting with my Cabinet,
The Prince

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 21, 2009 11:12 pm

    Well, I finally made my way over here, and have realized what I’ve been missing—some damned fine writing!
    I shall comment elsewhere later, but I must tell you I appreciated this post greatly. This is a wonderful technique, and I read with much pleasure how you assembled your cabinet, and then hired and fired people until it pleased you; but also how it is a work in progress.
    I’ve used other techniques, such as making a list of historical figures I admire, to be virtual mentors, but this, having an actual cabinet is better!
    I would be interested in the philosophical positions of your furniture, too, if any of it ever wants to share. 🙂

  2. July 28, 2009 2:38 am

    Ah, Muse, I haven’t checked my own blog in what seems like 2 weeks, so I missed your comment! Sorry for taking so long to approve.

    And my next post will be an interesting one, so I hope you’ll read the entire thing (I predict it will be the length of a novel). It will be the culmination of everything that I have experienced in my short life. It will be the instruction manual on how to live my life – the final one, as I have attempted many, many times to create it, but they were incomplete drafts. It will trace my life, my flaws, my virtues, and all I have done. And it will certainly embody all I have learned, especially in the last year. You know when those celebrity magazines get some sort of “exclusive interview” with some celebrity and they tell all? That’s the next post.

    Except it’s more than that. It will take that, and build on it. It will be the road map to the “good life”. It will draw on all my influences, and throw them in the trash can, for I am my only influence. Or am I?

    Whatever I say, one fact that cannot be overstated is this: my next post will be the most important thing I have ever written. PERIOD.

    Hopefully you read my late reply and eventually read my titan of a post when it comes out.

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