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Book Excerpt: The Force of Habit

Practices do become habits — and the force of those habits can, indeed, be mighty. However, human beings have a considerable degree of latitude. They are, after all, endowed with the ability to form their own habits and to break or discard those which they find undesirable.
 
Nowhere do habit patterns count for as much, and nowhere does the force of habit demonstrate its might more emphatically than in the business world. A businessman’s habits are among the most important factors that determine whether he will be a success—or failure.
 
Be Optimistic and Enthusiastic: It is a helpful habit for a businessman to be optimistic and enthusiastic. It will make his own work better and easier and will also serve to hearten and inspire his associates and subordinates. However, habitual optimism and enthusiasm can be carried to dangerousm— and even disastrous — extremes of overestimation and overzealousness.
 
Promptness: Habitual promptness is an especially valuable asset for any businessman. That ancient adage “Time is money” has always been valid and it is more valid today than ever before. The pace and complexity of contemporary business place a premium on every hour and minute. Businessmen and executives must run their workdays on the tightest of schedules. They cannot afford to waste their productive time any more than they can afford to have needless stoppages on the production line.
 
The need for promptness extends to every phase of business. The businessmen and firms most likely to succeed are those that fill their orders, deliver their merchandise, provide their services, pay their bills and meet their notes and other obligations on time.
 
Thrift: The habitually thrifty person will be able to immediately recognize opportunities for lowering overhead and production costs — and in present-day, highly competitive markets even minor savings can mean a great deal and even represent the difference between a net profit and a net loss.
 
Beyond this, the person who has formed thrifty habits will always have a fluid reserve to meet contingencies, carry him through slack periods or make it possible for him to expand or make improvements without resorting to borrowing.
 
Final Check-Out: One of the most valuable habits any tyro businessman or executive can form is that of taking a last-minute pause to rapidly review his reasoning before he makes a decision. 
 
This final check-out may require only a few minutes or even a few seconds, but it pays large dividends. It provides the individual with one final—and priceless—opportunity to arrange his thoughts in logical order and to refresh his memory as to why and how he arrived at his decision.
 
This simple procedure greatly increases the individual’s ability to instantly and convincingly counter any objections that may arise. It is, in a way, analogous to the habit formed by many of the world’s finest actors who, although they may know their part in a play thoroughly, will nonetheless give the script or at least their lines a quick skimming over before the curtain goes up for a performance.
 
Be Relaxed: The successful businessman is usually the one who is always relaxed — even in the face of adversity. He keeps his mind receptive and responsive — always ready to grasp and exploit new opportunities and to understand and cope with new problems. He is poised, but never rigid and unyielding, in the face of changing situations.
 
Determine Which Habits Are Beneficial and Which Are Harmful: Executives and businessmen would do well to periodically make a careful inventory of the things they do in connection with their work with sufficient regularity for them to assume the character of habits. It is a good idea to list these on a piece of paper. Then it is up to the individual to make his own evaluations of the habits he has listed. If he is honest with himself, he will readily recognize some of them as being bad. These he will do his energetic best to discard with a minimum of delay.
 
The individual who wants to reach the top in business must appreciate the might of the force of habit—and must understand that practices are what create habits. He must be quick to break those habits that can break him—and hasten to adopt those practices that will become the habits that help him achieve the success he desires.
 
(Source: How to Be Rich by J. Paul Getty)

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