Harlan Ellison, and Step #6: Organized Plans

“Keep in mind these facts:—

First. You are engaged in an undertaking of major importance to you. To be sure of success, you must have plans which are faultless.

Second. You must have the advantage of the experience, education, native ability and imagination of other minds. This is in harmony with the methods followed by every person who has accumulated a great fortune.

No individual has sufficient experience, education, native ability, and knowledge to insure the accumulation of a great fortune, without the cooperation of other people. Every plan you adopt, in your endeavor to accumulate wealth, should be the joint creation of yourself and every other member of your “Master Mind” group. You may originate your own plans, either in whole or in part, but SEE THAT THOSE PLANS ARE CHECKED, AND APPROVED BY THE MEMBERS OF YOUR “MASTER MIND” ALLIANCE.

If the first plan which you adopt does not work successfully, replace it with a new plan, if this new plan fails to work, replace it, in turn with still another, and so on, until you find a plan which DOES WORK. Right here is the point at which the majority of men meet with failure, because of their lack of PERSISTENCE in creating new plans to take the place of those which fail.”—Napoleon Hill

If I had to make a guess at which of the “thirteen principles” is followed least often, this would be it.    This chapter (and PLEASE read the book!) says that you need solid plans, and that you CANNOT create these plans alone.   That, further, you have to have a feedback loop between plans, actions, and results.   This chapter spends much time on the concept of leadership.  Why?  Restated yet again:

1) you need plans.

2) you cannot create these plans alone

3) you will have to align a group of people to examine and brainstorm your plans AND help you  bring them to life.

4) Each of these people must receive a benefit from working with you.

5) The most important benefit you can offer is your character, personal integrity, capacity to inspire them with a common dream. To exemplify the greatest, highest values.

OMG.  Look at the principles expressed so far, and ask yourself why this step is a KILLER:

1) Desire.   You have to express and tap into your passion.

2) Faith.  You have to be able to BELIEVE in what you are doing, the righteousness of your actions in alignment with your deepest values, as well as the possibility of actual accomplishment.

3) Auto-Suggestion.  You have to align conscious and unconscious minds so that your “inner mastermind” is like a human laser—all beliefs, values, goals, emotions running in the same direction.  This is starting to get difficult, yes?

4) Specialized Knowledge.  You have to know what you need to know to accomplish your goals, and acquire and apply that knowledge.  But…how do you figure this out?  Study. Modeling.

5) Imagination.   You have to begin to tap into “higher mind” aspects of your process.  Hill suggests that this happens by aligning emotions, spirit, conscious and unconscious mind, and knowing clearly what you intend to do.  At that point, IF YOU ARE SUFFICIENTLY EMOTIONALIZED  you can tap into ideas you would not normally have access to. 

5) Organized plans.   The reason things begin to break down is that here, for the first time, you MUST have the cooperation of others.  The first four steps you can accomplish alone, but here…once your plans get large, the knowledge, resources and energies of multiple people must be tapped into. MUST BE.

And he suggests that if you have properly accomplished the previous steps, you will have no problem attracting others to help you.   Let’s turn that around: if you CANNOT attract others to help you, advise you, support you, you have NOT properly accomplished the previous steps.

That a person blazing with desire, with faith that they can reach their goal, who is aligned consciously and unconsciously, who knows the path they must walk, who has a clear vision of what will be achieved if the goal is reached…

This person is a LEADER.  And human beings seek out such rare creatures.  We want our lives to have meaning, and to move to higher and higher levels of accomplishment.  This step, the ability to attract and hold allies (and in a very real sense, THIS IS ALL YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE, as well) is to be found in “locking in” the first steps.  And that if you cannot attract allies or customers, it is a sign that you have not done so.

Beautiful and ugly in its simplicity.   All thirteen steps are important.  But this one, on the “Hero’s Journey” pattern, is the “gathering of allies” step:

1) Confronted with challenge (acknowledging pain or wish for pleasure)

2) Reject the challenge (hypnotized by inertia and fear)

3) Accept the challenge ( favorable pain/pleasure ratio to motivate action, clarity of vision: “what must be done.”)

4) Road of trials (beginning to act, which teaches you the territory to be traversed. If you pay attention, you begin to build an accurate “map” with this feedback.)

5) Gathering of allies and powers.

The “road of trials” teaches you who you really are, separate from your illusions of self. And what the territory is, separate from your illusions of THAT.   The “gap” between where you are and where you need to be MUST be closed.  If you cannot “close” it yourself, you must gather allies who have the necessary resources. And how do you get these people to invest their time and energy in you..?

1) Blazing passion.  People are attracted to ENERGY.

2)Greater faith.  Everyone loses their capacity to believe.  If you can extend genuine hope to people at a moment of despair, they will respond with friendship and support…and a curiosity that can lead to a desire to follow you.

3) “Internal alignment” created by auto suggestion (or techniques like Ancient Child).   The greatest leaders and highest functioning performers just seem to be comfortable in their skin. Are not fighting their own programming. 

There isn’t a paragraph above that hasn’t been expanded into a success book on someone’s shelf.   Here’s an example: the quality of personal congruence as it relates to charisma and success.


I’ve always been crazy about modeling success.  In 1974 Harlan Ellison was a unique figure on the SF scene:   not only a fabulous writer, but hugely charismatic, quick as a whip mentally, and just a fascinating figure I’d only seen from afar.  Really, a “Hollywood” level personality walking among the very human (if often brilliant) literary folks of the SF field.   I bid on a LASFS fundraiser auctioning a dinner with him, wanting a closer peek.      I won, and the meal was at an award ceremony for the Society of Science Fiction Fantasy and Horror films. 

I remember being SOOO nervous: he had a reputation for being a devastating “fast gun” verbally, and I had to try him.    See for myself.  Knew exactly how some young tough must have felt trying to stare down Wyatt Earp, except that if I lost, rather than ending face-down in the Tombstone dust, I would probably survive with minor ego burns.  Maybe.

So…I went to the event, sat at my table early, and waited his arrival.  Harlan arrived and it was as if the crowd parted before him like a ship cresting the waves. The man had ENERGY.  A buzz around him.  It was really amazing.  And by the way, there was a gorgeous woman on his arm, of course.

He was gracious, and we made polite conversation as the award ceremony went on, and I looked for an opening to try him.   A few comments about career (his CV included lecturing, radio, television, essays, short stories, novels, television and film.  Ouch!) social things (clearly liberal Democrat) religion (lapsed Jewish), and other things.  He was brilliant, witty, a little wary perhaps.

And then I saw my opening.   The previous year, Sammy Davis Jr. had appeared in an ABC “Movie of the Week” called “Poor Devil” about a minor demon trying to seduce humans into hell.  He won “best actor” and a representative from ABC was there to accept.  After the crowd applauded, I leaned over to Harlan and said:

They only gave it to him because he’s Jewish.”

To which Harlan replied INSTANTLY: “Shut up and eat your watermelon.”

Holy crap.  I had never, ever, EVER in my life heard a retort that fast, that fearless, that devastatingly appropriate.  And what flashed through my mind was:  that went straight from mind to mouth with no stop at `common sense.’”

And I’ve seen that quality in Harlan many times over the years—but moreover, also seen it in high level improvisational jazz performers, martial artists, public speakers.   THEY DON’T EDIT THEMSELVES.

To succeed, then, they have to actually have their @#$$ together. They have to have done the work necessary for their instinctive function to be at such a high level that they SPONTANEOUSLY and INSTANTLY do what you or I might do if we thought about it for a week.

What does that take on average?   Somewhere between a thousand to ten thousand hours of practice.   But the skill is transferrable from one arena of your life to another.  In other words, once you’ve found it SOMEWHERE in your life, you have the basic knowledge to apply it ANYWHERE.  You may not figure out how to do it, but you COULD.

This alignment of conscious and unconscious, an internal permission to act without editing, is essential to having access to the unconscious creative faculty.

1) in writing, you have to have enough faith to simply write your first drafts, knowing that your real “creative spark” lies in what Stephen King calls “the boys in the basement”, not your conscious mind.

2) in sports and martial arts, overall tactics and strategies can be evolved consciously, but implementation must be in the moment, or the moment is GONE forever.

3) In public arenas, you will be challenged.   You have to have the capacity to ACT or RESPOND without conscious thought.

Ever watch a very smart but insecure person giving a speech?  They weigh every word, sweating and mumbling, thinking about the possible result of any error at every moment.

How about a formerly abused child stammering as they constantly evaluate whether this or that word, facial expression or tonality might attract a blow or unwanted sexual attention?

Socially, any member of a dominated community watches everything they do or say, always running every action and word through a filter, praying they won’t run afoul of some unwritten rule that will turn them into a “them” on the “us-them” gradient.  This can be DEADLY, as well as lose jobs or friends.

The amount of energy and time lost in asking yourself what the result of an action might be, rather than simply acting, can be devastating.  Ever run a software emulator?  Run “PC” software on a Mac?  Notice how slow it runs?  This is because every command has to be translated and re-translated a couple of times, slowing response.

This can make someone walking between cultures actually look STUPID.  Lead to fear and anger. And violence, creating a downward spiral of behavior and response.

Certain, prevent you from simply being able to “be yourself.”  For all of the natural human flaws Harlan may have, he is more “himself” than any human being I’ve ever met.  He’s just Harlan.  Oh, yea, there is a difference between public and private personae, but still…the guy is as solid as an ice cube. He just is what he is, and that quality of “congruence” or “coherence” allows the speed of thought, which means more compute cycles per second, which means more testing cycles to determine the “lay of the land”, leading to more micro-adjustments, leading to faster progress and growth…

Ever see a Chinese Puzzle Ball?  One of those toys with a series of wooden spheres nestled inside one another? And if you line them up just right you can slide a stick all the way through?

THAT is what I’ve seen in leaders, winners, peak performers.  They don’t necessarily have more “stuff” in their molten core. But somehow, they have aligned themselves to access it, on command, or at least as needed.  The most fortunate do this naturally.  But to a greater or lesser degree, the rest of us can learn.

This quality is not only powerful, it is addictive to those watching and observing. It is CHARISMA.  It is the quality leaders need. With it, you can attack the people you need to help you with your plans.  But even before they come to you, you have tapped into desire, improved your faith, aligned your inner and outer selves, and mapped out the territory. 

And that is pretty damned fine.   Wow, I could talk about this forever.  But we’ll go on to the next step—I want to have an overview before we go deeper.

But…can you see how critical this is, whether you “just” want to improve your own life, or wish to change the world?  And by the way…it is sexy as hell.  Really.  Amazingly so.  Woof.  Trust me, it works.

Can you grasp the power of this?

I hope so, I really do. 





One comment

  1. Thanks for that insight into Harlan Ellison! Great story. I hope you were able to laugh. (Or maybe that’s just what I, who rarely manages repartee before leaving the party, would have done — a little, nervous hiccup response.)
    I’ve met him in passing a couple of times — not long enough to interact (or feel the whiplash). I have friends who knew him well in his earlier days, and can often come up with any of a number of anecdotes. And do.


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