The following article was sponsored by Mars Evolving.

Have you ever had a goal in life, that seemed like it should have been within your reach, but no matter how much you wanted it, or what you tried to do to get it, it remained tantalizingly out-of-reach? Like maybe you wanted to get fit, but it was an uphill battle sticking to your diet and exercise program, or even if you did, it wasn’t working?

Maybe you resolved to make more friends, and meet attractive and compatible women, but you never felt like you made any progress. A lot of men feel stuck in dead-end careers, but have no idea how to get out of the rut they’re in.

Reading self-help books often doesn’t help, and neither do college courses. The type of knowledge that makes you successful isn’t conscious or declarative in nature, like knowing that a dog is a mammal; it’s deeper and more implicit, like knowing how to relate to a dog.

Have you ever wondered how success comes to some men who don’t seem to be any smarter, better-looking, or talented than you are, without any great adversity? It’s probably not because of a how-to book they read, or a class they took.

Here are two interesting facts:

  • Most self-made billionaires are not geniuses!
  • Most geniuses are not billionaires!

Now, you probably aren’t willing to commit this lifetime to the level of personal sacrifice that would likely be needed to reach billionaire status, but self-made millionaire status doesn’t require more than discipline and good choices.

So if raw intelligence and talent are not prerequisites for self-made wealth, what are? Here’s a short-list:

  • Drive
  • A readiness to adapt to externally-imposed change
  • A habit of initiating change instead of just reacting to it
  • A personality that doesn’t react to problems with disempowering emotions
  • A habit of making good choices at critical junctures after weighing costs and benefits

You might reasonably assume that at least some of these traits are more-or-less genetic. The good news is that whatever you were born with, you can have more of by developing, and small changes make big differences downstream. Where do you learn how to develop these traits? Well, probably not from reading a book about how to get rich, or by going to college. It seems as though if college were really all that valuable, college graduates would be more uniformly successful in terms of prosperity, accomplishment, and personal happiness than they actually are, even if they lacked the connections to get into a prestige school.

Most of what you know, you learned unconsciously. You didn’t learn to talk by your parents shoving a fork in front of your face and saying “Fork! Fork!”, and then having to do the same thing for every word you learned. You picked it up unconsciously just by hearing people talk about forks and seeing the results, without even paying any conscious attention. Every time you heard the word and then saw or otherwise experienced the object, your brain made an unconscious association between the two. Although you might have experienced frustration when you didn’t know how to express yourself, the process of learning new vocabulary was itself effortless.

Trying to learn consciously, versus unconsciously, is why it’s so much harder to learn a second language through formal lessons in class or out of a book. People often find they can’t speak a language after years of lessons, but make rapid progress when they immerse themselves in a part of the world where that language is spoken. It’s possible to simulate the same process with lessons that are designed much differently than traditional lessons, but almost nobody who designs languages lessons realizes that.

A better way to reach success

The vast majority of what you know is the result of experience, and not from a school-marm prattling at you. Your success in life is more the result of your experiences than of your formal education. In fact, a lot of your success in formal education is the result of your experiences of education, not the content! You might think you’re “no good” at some topic, when the real problem is your unconsciously-programmed associations to it. You probably have more potential than you’ve ever realized; it’s a matter of developing it, and to do that, you might need different programming than what you’ve had up to now.

A lot of your success in life is a function of your overall thought patterns, and these are influenced by your experiences. Suppose when you were a boy, you got slapped and screamed at for accidents, honest mistakes, or for taking initiative without permission. Lacking opportunities to build up more emotional stability than the adults around you, you would tend to react with your own emotions, typically some combination of fear, anger, or shame. Men who had too many of these experiences growing up never accomplish great things, out of fear of failure, or fear of acting without permission.

Because men tend to not only hide their emotions, but are often actually out-of-touch with them, they never notice how their disempowering emotions are sabotaging their success, just like a fish doesn’t notice water. The wrong kinds of experiences unconsciously program you for failures. The right kinds of experiences unconsciously program you for success.

Experience through stories

If only there were a way to borrow better experiences than the ones you actually had. Well, there is…stories are vicarious experiences. As long as you are fully engaged in them, your brain is processing them as experiences.

Reading stories also helps to develop the ability to accurately 2nd-guess other people’s thoughts, emotions, and motives, and to detect lies. This is valuable for getting along with others, including in cut-throat corporate environments.

Men are at a disadvantage for reading in part because of the relative paucity of fiction tailored specifically to men’s needs and tastes. Even to the extent that men do read or watch movies, the vicarious experiences they offer are often no better, or even worse, than the ones they had in real life:

  • Most novels and movies are trashy for the same reason that cheez puffs and soda-pop outsell brussel sprouts.
  • Many modern authors write protagonists with obvious mental problems. To the extent that your thought patterns start to entrain to theirs, that’s bad for you.
  • Movies and books are commissioned to program you in ways that benefit a government or corporate sponsor, not you. You’re being programmed to behave in ways that benefit someone else, to your own disadvantage.
  • Most literature transfers unrealistic experiences that inspire bad choices. If you live your life the way that characters in typical television shows or novels live theirs, you’re not going to experience the same happy ending they do!

That’s why I’ve started a new magazine whose feature content is serialized stories that actually make you a little smarter, mentally tougher, and give you a certain sophistication about how to live well.

A magazine for men who want to succeed

A typical mass-media magazine is around 85-100% “Public Relations” (PR)—actually, a euphemism for advertising and propaganda in disguise. The staff get it for free because the article is more valuable to the sponsor than to you. My magazine, MarsEvolving, contains none.

Another service is the forums where you can ask questions and get answers from peers and mentors. One of the hot topics will be how to find a way to make a living in an economy where unemployment levels are widely predicted to hit the 50-75% range. And companies are already under pressure, that will soon turn into mandates, to hire people who DON’T look like you! This is something you really need to know about to plan for it.

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“I should have met you 20 years ago. Would have saved me a lot of grief.” -P.G., Mukilteo, WA, USA

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Disclaimer: any discussions of financial matters are for informational purposes only and do not constitute advice.

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