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Profiting through self-reliance.

"What we, the colored people want is character. And this nobody can give us. It is something we must earn for ourselves."

"Heaven helps those who help themselves" is a well-tried maxim embodying in a small compass the results of vast human experiences. Biographies of black men and women of achievement are the most instructive and useful incentives to others. Some of the best are almost equivalent to gospels - teaching high ambition, right thinking, and energetic action to further their aims. These valuable examples exemplify the power of integrity, self-help, individual initiative, and patent purpose.

Great men and women of science, literature, and the arts have belonged to no exclusive class or social rank. Some of the Master's greatest apostles came from the ranks. The impoverished have sometimes risen to the highest stations. And the most indigent proved insurmountable obstacles no great task.

Take for instance Frederick Douglass, the esteemed orator and exslave, who said, "Our destiny is largely in our own hands. If we find, we shall have to seek. If we succeed in the race for life must be by our own energies, and our own exertions. Others may clear the road, but we must go forward or be left behind in the race for life. If we remain poor and dependent the wealth of others will not avail us. If we are ignorant the intelligence of others will do but little for us. If we are foolish, the wisdom of others will not guide us. If we are wasteful of our time and money, the economy of others will only make our destitution the more disgraceful."

Also from the humble ranks sprang Marcus Garvey, the twentieth-century "Black Moses," who suggested: "There is no force like success, and that is why the individual makes all efforts to surround himself throughout life with the evidence of it. As of the individual, so should it be of the race."

In both these cases, strenuous individual application was the price paid for distinction. This lesson will single out those who will embark on this same great adventure in the arena of self-reliance.

Who among you is not afraid to stand alone? Who is bold, original, and resourceful? Who is ready to strike out for his own independence? Who is one of the audacious few who possesses the fortitude to venture where others have never been, to do what others have never done, in order to live life as others rarely will, by leaving his mark on the times through the power of self-reliance?

Nine out of ten men past mid-life, if asked why they are only barely earning a living, would tell you that they never had a chance - that they were kept back, and that circumstances were against them. Chances are they would say that opportunities eluded their grasp or that they didn't have access to the proper schooling. Today, millions of young blacks who are searching for a start in life seem to think they have very little to do with good opportunities except to discover them. But no matter where you go, no matter what your background or educational level, your best opportunity lies within yourself

The grandest fortunes ever accumulated on earth were and remain the fruit of endeavor that had no capital to be in with, save energy, intellect and will. From L Douglas Wilder, governor of Virginia, to John Johnson of Johnson Publishing, the story is the same, not only in the securing of wealth, but also in the seizing of greatness - those men and women who have won most relied mostly upon themselves!

The habit of depending on self, the determination to find one's resources within one's self, develops strength. Crutches were intended for the physically disabled - not the able-bodied Whoever attempts to go through life on mental crutches will not go far, nor will he be successful.

President Of Your Own Company

In the final analysis, every person is in business for himself that is, he is building his own life regardless of who signs his paycheck. Whitin a free and open society, all of us are entrepreneurs. Each of us, individually, is the president of his or her own corporation. As you assume this office, you, and you alone, are solely responsible for your firm's success or failure. You and the members of your family are stockholders in your corporation, and it is your responsibility to see that the value of your stock increases in the years ahead. Your family has displayed faith in you, and it is your responsibility to prove that their faith is justified.

While the operations of a corporation are multitudinous and complex, they can be reduced to four basic functions: finance, production, sales, and research.

Without proper financing, there would be no production; without production, your company would have nothing to sell. Without sales, your corporation would have to completely stop production. And without research, your firm could not hope to stay abreast or ahead of our rapidly changing times. Slight any one of these four vital functions and you have a crippled company - much like our individual braced on mental crutches. And if you slight one factor long enough, you'll commit corporate suicide.

For now, let's concentrate on research, production, and sales - the head, hands, and legs of your company.

What about research for your personal corporation? The research of your company should be devoted to the ways and means of improving its present products or services, present production and present sales. Future research is concerned with the ways and means of developing new products and services, new methods of production, and new methods of marketing.

Are you looking for new and improved ways to enhance you? Are you presently researching the many areas in which your personal development can be effectively increased?

Life Moves Forward

Time waits for no one. How many people have cheated themselves - thereby selling their company short - because they relinquished their desires or forfeited their dreams? Remember, your future is exactly what you make it. Five years from today you will be five years older. The question to ask is, Will you be five years wiser.?

Abraham Lincoln said, "I am a slow walker, but I never look backwards." I suggest that you never look backward. Life is a forward impulse and the past is gone. You can live only in the here and now.

Living in the past means clinging to nonproductive attitudes and remaining in situations that hinder your personal growth and development

Change Is Normal

The one constant thing in life is change. Change is everywhere in your environment in your emotions, in your beliefs, and in the way you think. How you generate change, what you do with change, and how you react to it determine whether you grow or stagnate. In spite of the concept that change is constant, there is nevertheless a strong tendency to resist it Why? Because it presents an unknown factor in our lives. Though each of us may have problems, we are often tempted to maintain the status quo rather than venture into the unknown. By sailing in supposedly "safer" waters, we isolate ourselves as much as possible from the impact of change, trying to live with problems rather than solving them. Consequently, we become experts in negative, limited thinking, almost immunizing ourselves from any possible success.

To participate in change is to grow. Nothing grows that does not change. The very act of life is to experience change and growth. To earn more, you must first learn more. Those who accept and adjust to change keep growing and learning. Those who cannot accommodate change do not grow. They stagnate by the wayside - a mental, physical, or spiritual death.

Why are all companies concerned with growth - even in a period of prosperity? It's because of the law that operates with companies as well as human beings. The law simply states: Nothing in the world stands still! Nothing in the universe stands still! A law of physics confirms that a body in motion tends to remain in motion until acted upon by an outside force. A company that is growing has a tendency to continue to grow. In other words, it is doing things right Conversely, a company that is shrinking has a tendency to shrink until acted upon by an outside force. That is, it will shrink until it (or the individual) takes in additional information (personal development), or improves production and increases sales. All responsible company officials know that unless a company is growing, it is developing the first signs of stagnation or going out of business. As the head of your personal corporation, you should realize this law applies to you as well.

It has been estimated by scientists and scholars alike that man's total body of knowledge doubled between 1775 and 1900. A period of 125 years. It doubled again between 1900 and 1950, a period of only 50 years; and again between 1950 and 1958; and it is now thought to be doubling every five years. This is a tribute to man's curiosity and relentless movement forward. Now each of us, as president of our own corporation, can decide what to do with our lives. We can either grow and move forward, or go backward. We cannot stand still, even if that was desirable.

These ideas will give you an opportunity to stand back and view yourself and your future objectively, just as an intelligent by stander might. Ask yourself, how much am I worth right now, as a corporation? If you were an outside investor, would you invest in you as a corporation?

What about productivity? A company growing at the rate of 10 percent a year will double in size in about eight years. What attention are you giving to the production of your personal corporation? Can you grow and improve as a person at least 10 percent per year? Of course you can. Achievers in all walks of life have multiplied their personal effectiveness (increased productivity) many times over.

We are constantly reminded of the energy being wasted, both corporation in general and ourselves in particular. Giving an all-out effort doesn't seem to be as popular today as it was in the past. This might explain why so few individuals rise above the ranks, and why this author believes it is so much easier to succeed today. No matter what the field, most people find it easier to stay within the warmth of the huddled masses rather than risk failure. They submerge themselves in mediocrity, ultimately suffocating at the hands of conformity. As corporate presidents, some with brilliant minds and all capable of fulfilling a specific purpose in life, they refuse to go all out forcing their companies to teeter on the verge of liquidation.

But this habit can easily be overcome. Give and it shall be given to you. This simple statement grants you the ability to advance you - your biggest asset By giving to others - of your positive attitude, your loyalty, your commitment your faith, your winning example, and the will to win - by giving your talents and energies to others, you will enhance this product called you. This is probably the greatest deed you could ever perform. If it is true that life will defeat the person who lives only for himself and his own personal satisfaction, then it is equally true that the same individual will receive strength, love, happiness, and success by giving of himself or herself.

Don't Forget Sales

And finally, what about sales? How can they be improved? Sales encompass more than just selling a product or service. This is the manner in which you sell yourself to everyone with whom you come in contact. It is the way you get along with your spouse, your children, your neighbors.

We are living in an age of cooperative effort. For centuries the pyramid structure was the way we organized and managed ourselves. Information, communications, and power, simulating the second law of thermodynamics, moved one way - from the top of the pyramid down to the bottom. However, over the years this, too, has changed. Nearly all successful companies are becoming more self-reliant. The pyramid has given way to networking - people talking to each other, at all different levels and in different directions, sharing ideas, information, and resources.

Networking exists to foster self-help, to exchange information, to change society, to improve productivity and work life, and to share resources. The important component is not the network, the finished product but the process of getting there - making contacts. Within our personal universe, demographers have estimated that each of us knows nearly 270 other individuals - some more personally than others. This indeed may be the pathway to lead to even greater self-reliance and to the attainment of your goals.

The Most Important Sale

How's your level of salesmanship? How are you marketing your most important product - you? Regardless of who you are or what your chief aim is, your success will depend on your ability to sell yourself to others.

Selling is nothing more than the personal persuasion of ideas and thoughts. You need not go back into history to realize how fundamentally necessary salesmanship is for any successful venture. People will be persuaded more by the depth of your conviction than by the height of your logic; more by your enthusiasm and your belief than by any proof. Or as the master salesman Percy Whiting wrote, "Selling, to be a great art, must involve a genuine interest in the other person's needs. Otherwise it is only a subtle, civilized way of pointing a gun and forcing one into a temporary surrender."

Self-Reliance Through Selling

In the modern world of business and commerce, the ability to generate sales is the indispensable prerequisite for success of all competitive enterprises. It is the effectiveness of the salesperson that determines whether companies, industries, and even countries decline or prosper. Regardless of your occupation or profession, you must be a master salesman. Salesmanship is the key to the attainment of whatever you desire from life as long as your goals do not violate God or the rights of your fellowman.

The major advances in all fields - science, education, industry, technology, religion - have been made, for the most part by men and women who possessed and utilized the power of persuasion. Numerous variables enter into the development program of the successful salesman. Most of these are personal in nature, having a greater bearing on the salesman himself than on the product or service he offers, or the organization he represents. There are essential qualities that you must possess if you seriously intend to become a successful person. The qualities are: persistence, planning, common sense, and showmanship.

Pay close attention to examples that follow, and observe how these particular traits were used. If you are ready to take the first step to a more productive life, perhaps you will profit from the sales strategies of America's top black salesmen.


The word "salesmanship" goes a long way toward explaining Earl Graves. In high school in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant section, Graves sold his relentess energy by working three jobs at once. At Morgan State he paid his way through college by working as a swim instructor and dorm counselor. He even ran track for his meal ticket

Graves majored in economics, and by his junior year launched a business from his dorm room - landscaping. Graves graduated from college and entered the Army in 1958. When he completed his tour, he went back to New York and tried his hand in real estate.

In his first three months he sold nine houses - enough to pay for a wedding and furnish a modest apartment in 1965, Graves went to work for the Justice Department a job that was to eventually lead to his working for Robert Kennedy, then a New York senator. Working for Kennedy introduced Graves to a world he had never seen: a world where power was a natural heritage; where the word can't did not exist and where everybody practiced salesmanship.

"Working for the senator played an enormous part in my personal development," said Graves. "Robert Kennedy was a man who was totally unfamiliar with failure."

Graves recalled an incident where he was asked by the senator to contact then Secretary of the Interior Morris Udall. At the time, Udall was vacationing in-Colorado, rafting down one of its most popular rivers. After several unsuccessful attempts to contact the secretary, Graves informed Kennedy that he was unable to reach Udall. To this the senator crisply responded, "Graves, that raft is not going down that river all day. It's going to stop somewhere, and when it does I want Udall standing there with a phone in his hand!" Those words still penetrate Graves's psyche today.

"That story is part of my personal philosophy. You would be surprised how many people quit when faced with obstacles. As every good salesman knows, everything may not be possible today but sooner or later, it is possible."

For nearly twenty years Earl Graves would apply this maxim as he and a cadre of loyal employees strove to keep BLACK ENTERPPRISE magazine at the forefront of the business-monthly circulation chart


When the annals of black business history are written, Henry Parks and the Parks Sausage Company will be listed as major contributors. Starting with every nickel he could scrape together, and with his most important asset - a knack for planning - parks was one of the first black businessmen to sell his product to the general market and convince the white banking establishment to invest in minority enterprises.

In 1951, he did just that and achieved what few black entrepreneurs managed to do: expand his company beyond the confines of the black consumer dollar and carve a niche within the general market. Since the Baltimore-based manufacturing company began grinding out sausage in a small converted dairy, 1990 sales have grown to more than $30 million.

Parks had begun his career with a blast of confidence, graduating with honors from Ohio State University. He was hired as a salesman by the Pabst Brewing Company after showing the firm a plan to market more beer among blacks. Parks's sales strategy was to reach the general market through ethnic consumers - a tactic that is practiced by Fortune 500 companies today. He succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.

By placing salesmen in supermarket parking lots and pitching Pabst to every black cook, chauffeur, and domestic who came to shop for their white employers, Parks infiltrated both black and white markets. To dislodge Budweiser as the exclusive supplier to America's railroads, he be-friended dining-car waiters and Pullman porters, convincing them to stock Pabst on trains, in nightclubs, hotels, and union halls.

In 1951, Parks threw his sales skills into high gear and launched Parks Sausage - but soon ran out of money. He saw that his survival in food retailing would depend on his going beyond the minority market so he bore straight ahead into promotion. He staged cooking demonstrations and taste tests in supermarkets - the first of its type.

Though cash was tight Parks kept quality high and poured thousands of dollars into advertising - with ads like "More Parks Sausages, Mom!" In a few short months trucks were seen rolling into some of the largest grocery chains on the East Coast stocking the shelves in white-owned food stores.

"Every market has a key," Parks claimed. "And if you turn that key, you'll undoubtedly capture that market. I've proved that with proper planning, you can sell to anybody."

Common Sense

It would seen that a man who has amassed enough wealth to be ranked among the richest men in America - a personal net wealth of more than $150 million - would know a bk about selling. How did he do it? By using common sense to pry open markets."

In 1942 John H. Johnson borrowed $500 from a small loan company on the security of his mothers furniture, and used d to start Negro Digest a black version of Reader's Digest The magazine started slowly due to the reluctance of local distributors who refused to stock his journal. To solve this problem, Johnson called on friends and relatives, who canvassed Chicago buying up the or order press run of the magazine. Ecstatic distributors who were unaware of Johnson's tactics clamored for more copies. in one issue, circulation jumped from 50,000 to 150,000 copies, and Negro Digest soared. Three years later Johnson got more ambitious and launched Ebony, a clone of Life magazine for blacks.

In 1973, Johnson used the same strategy to win support for his cosmetic line. For three decades Johnson has sponsored the Ebony Fashion Fair - the world's largest touring fashion show. When he had trouble finding cosmetic shades dark enough for black models, he tried unsuccessfully to convince Estee Lauder and Revlon to develop a product When they said no, he created his own products. But it wasn't that easy. His line was new, untested, and black. How could he break in?

After numerous proposals to department store executives, Johnson couldn't find any takers. Finally, he convinced the president of Chicago-based Marshall Field's that his cosmetics, Fashion Fair, were worth stocking. The executive purchased a small order but warned the black tycoon that his line would be yanked if didn't sell. Johnson had to produce. Once again common sense prevailed. Using the plan that had worked before, Johnson had female employees purchase various amounts of Fashion Fair products for several months. Store buyers who monitored sales were excited and quick to reorder.

Johnson was equally quick to repeat the maneuver as he stocked the shelves of some of America's most exclusive and acclaimed department stores.

"I love to sell," Johnson states emphatically." I sell even when there is no monetary advantage to be gained. The only advantage I have is a life-time of experience." John Johnson possesses a quality shared by few in his time. Common sense has its rewards, and Johnson has reaped them.


Some call him a promoter, others say he is a public relations wizard - but neither title adequately describes what he does best Wally Amos is a salesman who uses flair, hype, and showmanship to convey his message. With the help of an aunt he began baking as a hobby that he would maintain throughout his promotional career. As a teenager Amos attended a New York City trade school, with an apprenticeship at a local hotel as a cook. Disenchanted, he quit six months prior to graduation and joined the Air Force. After a four-year stint he returned to New York and joined the William Morris Agency, where he started in the mail room before becoming a top agent, handling such acts as Simon and Garfunkel, the Temptations, and the Supremes. Amos perfected his self-promotional skills well while passing out his chocolate chip cookies at concerts, auditions, and meetings. Friends and clients urged him to sell the treats, but he never gave the idea much thought

But in 1974, fate intervened. Amos's personal management business was on the rocks. In a period of depression, he turned to his first love and started baking cookies full-time. After opening his first store on a shoestring, his funds waned and his cookie business went reeling. Amos recalls his toughost moment.

"As I look back, I realize that I was grossly undercapitalized. But I was too naive to consider failure. With no money, I had to stir up my creative juices and promote my cookies the same way I promoted my clients."

Amos wrote a business plan, raised some start-up capital from his show business contacts, and took a leap of faith. A few months later, amid flowing champagne, a strolling band, valet parking, and 1,500 people, Wally Amos set his chocolate chips above all others - he called them "Famous Amos Chocolate chip cookies."

Starved for cash, he once traded a day's worth of cookies ($750) for advertising time on local radio. He had professional models distribute cookies to passersby in neighboring Beverly Hills and Hollywood. "I knew I had the best product. All I needed to do was to convince the public of something I already knew. In 1975, a star was born and I was its showman."

Carefully consider these four qualities. Question yourself about the characteristics you honestly possess and those in which you are deficient. Work at improving your persistence, planning, common sense, and showmanship. Master salesmanship is an art and a valuable tool for the development of self-reliance.

Successful commercial and financial enterprises are managed by leaders who either knowingly or unconsciously apply the ideas described in this chapter. You too can become a recognized leader in the field of your choice by utilizing these principles - finance, production, research, and sales - in your life.


There are no open doors to the temple of success. Everyone who enters must forge his own way. Grand success waits patiently for anyone who has the fortitude and determination to seize his share of the American dream. But you must remember that it is you who creates your opportunities - not not fate, luck, or chance.

Life is a lesson, and every lesson, regardless of where or when it occurs, is opportunity. Every business transaction is opportunity. Where there are people, there is opportunity.

In truth, opportunity first takes shape in your mind. It is an expression of how you perceive yourself as well as how you perceive your environment. The achievers, the innovators, and the movers and shakers are those with the courage and the insight to say, "Yes, I can! There is a way - and I'll find it!"

They are those rare individuals who accept life with its challenges and who work to turn those challenges into successes.

Opportunities abound! YOU ARE OPPORTUNITY, and you must knock on the door leading to your destiny. You create opportunity as you turn your crises and defeats into success.

Self-help is the offspring of adversity, the progeny of defeat The spirit of self-help is the root of all genuine growth in the individual. If you rely on others for help, you lose the stimulus to improve yourself, which in effect renders you comparatively helpless. Put forth the effort and practically anything you desire is yours. When opportunity is seized, self-help is simultaneously activated. The path to greatness and success is paved with self-reliance.

Don't Wait For Opportunity!

Don't wait for opportunity - make it! Make it as Thomas Burrell made his when he first conceived and created Burrell Advertising.

Born in Chicago in 1939, Tom Burrell was raised by his mother in a tough section on Chicago's South Side. Though he barely managed to stay out of trouble, he scored well on a scholastic aptitude test that would eventually give his life new meaning. With a newfound direction, his aim, attitude, and academic performance improved, leading him to college, where he majored in English and advertising.

Prior to graduation Burrell landed a job with a Chicago ad agency, working in the mail room for less than fifty dollars a week. It was here that Burrell made his opportunity! Within three months he advanced to copywriter, then on to various television and print campaigns. Burrell mastered his trade well, sharpening his skills with every new assignment. But when he launched his own agency, he wondered if he had made a serious mistake. It took six nervous months before his shaky firm secured its first account As time wore on, Burrell pushed his fear aside and performed admirably.

Today,with more than $50 million in annual billings, and clients such as Coca-Cola, Sears, Procter & Gamble, and McDonald's, Burrell Advertising is the fastest growing black-owned advertising agency in the U.S.

Make your opportunity as Percy Sutton made his, by utilizing his many talents. It was in 1964, during the Harlem riots, that Sutton quelled a hostile crowd by using a local radio talk show as a forum for peace. Impressed by his performance,the station owner offered Sutton the chance to purchase one of his New York stations. But Sutton was nearly broke. Eight years later he organized a consortium of 33 investors, some of who used their homes as collateral to obtain bank loans to purchase the $2.1 million station. Since then Sutton's company, inner City Broadcasting, has diversified into a variety of fields. The parent company, which now has more than sixty stockholders, operates a cable station, New York's Apollo Theatre, and a number of profitable radio stations nationwide.

Make your opportunity as, Alice Walker made hers. As the youngest of eight children, Alice experienced a childhood in rural Georgia punctuated by poverty. Her parent annual income - her father was a sharecropper, her mother a maid - never exceeded $5,000. Nevertheless, she still unearthed the secret to success by clinching a rare place in if literary history. In 1983, she became the first black female novelist to win the coveted Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her masterpiece The Color Purple.

Make your opportunity as Carl Rowan made his. Cad Rowan and his family knew the kind of poverty that is thankfully rare today. He was raised in a rat-infested home in rural Tennessee that had neither a clock, electricity, running water, telephone, or radio. His family survived on blackeyed peas and navy beans. But out of this milieu emerged a black child who would go on to become a naval officer, a member of the Foreign Service during the Kennedy administration, and, arguably, Black America's most successful syndicated columnist At every step along the way he challenged mediocrity and complacency. Though racism and poverty tried desperately to put him on his knees, neither succeeded.

And make your opportunity as Ron Brown, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, made his. Brown discovered the genius that slept dormant within. As a freshman at Middlebury College, he confronted the racial restrictions of an all-white fraternity. Poised, talented, and competent he refused to offer the organization any reason to deny his acceptance except skin color - something the fraternity was unwilling to do. Thirty years later he placed the Democratic party leadership in the same position.

The achievement of Ron Brown, as well as those mentioned above, is due, in large measure, to their ability to digest and apply the central rule of success: Don't wait for opportunity - make it!

The call of the twentieth century is for those who will climb into the rare air described by all who have ascended to a greater self-reliance. There is no corner of the market that is not seeking young men and women of ability, who will help themselves by relying on their own splendid talents.

There is some one thing you can do better than anyone else. What is it? Search until you find your area of excellence, and organize all of your forces and attack it with the belief that you are going to excel. Keep in mind, the man who complains he never had a chance probably hasn't the courage to take a chance. And the man who says it can't be done is busy getting out of the way of the man doing it. He who attempts the impossible has little competition. Make your opportunity as all who've embraced riches have done - by seizing it!

Self-reliance is not a question of what someone can do on your behalf, but what you can do for yourself. And you can do whatever you decide to do. You don't have to work, pay taxes, have children, or even get out of bed in the morning - millions don't. You decide to do whatever you wish because it is profitable to you, and whatever you choose to do is the best choice among the alternatives available to aid you in reaching your goals. Though choice includes the right to do or not to do, it is equipped with the added requirement of responsibility. Tough words? I agree, but totally necessary if you are to experience the true riches of life.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:excerpt from book 'Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice'
Author:Hill, Napoleon
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Excerpt
Date:Nov 1, 1992
Previous Article:Resurrecting the city of angels.
Next Article:Stately elegance.

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