The Great Library of Alexandria once held the wisdom of the ancient world. When it burned down, billions of invaluable thoughts perished. One book, however, survived. Since it wasn’t considered a valuable book, a poor man bought it for a few coppers. He was not very literate and thought the book dull. The only thing of interest to him was a thin strip of vellum. Written on it was the secret known as the “Touchstone.”
The touchstone, the writing on the vellum strip explained, was a small pebble with magical powers. The pebble could turn any common metal into pure gold. Unfortunately, this pebble looked exactly like any other on the shores of the Black Sea. But the secret was that the touchstone would feel extraordinarily warm. Ordinary pebbles, by contrast, were relatively cold.
In a matter of days after purchasing the book, the man had hastily sold his few belongings. He used the money to buy some simple supplies for his travel to the shores of the Black Sea.
He began testing pebbles on the first day he arrived. He devised a simple but effective plan to avoid picking up the same pebble over again. When he picked up a cold pebble, he would throw it into the sea.
Years passed. Every day, he picked up pebbles and threw them into the sea. He made his living by fishing and spent his nights sleeping under his torn, damp blanket on the cold beach. With each pebble that he threw into the sea, his hopes diminished. One day, one fine day, indistinguishable from the blur of other days that had passed before, he picked up a pebble, a warm pebble, an extraordinarily warm pebble—and threw it into the sea.
The Success Principle
Your mind, once filled with inspiration, can become dull and useless once you lose touch with your attention and awareness.
The Principle at Work
In the parable, after years of picking up pebbles and throwing them into the sea, his mind had become dull with conditioning, his motion of throwing automatic. Lulled into habit, his senses had become dull, his sense of discrimination tarnished. Because he had become the slave of autonomic responses, he lost what he had spent years looking for.
The poor man ended up becoming poorer still—although he had found a secret which would have made him fabulously rich. He should have succeeded because he followed numerous success principles. He took a risk when he bought the book. He focused on its most vital information. He acted on this information by gathering his resources and heading out to the scene of the action.
On the shore, he devised a simple and elegant strategy. And, with single-minded intensity, he persisted, working on his chosen task methodically, relentlessly.
He made only one single mistake: he succumbed to habit and he did not think about what he was doing. His attention had wavered, his focus lost. His loss of awareness was his undoing.
Awareness, then, is the key ingredient to making all the success principles come to life.
You can do everything right but still fail if your mind has lost its sharpness and become dulled by routine.
The hero of the story had no-one and nothing to blame but himself, and his only failing was that he had failed to be awake, alert to his golden moment. Similarly, we are all responsible for ourselves, and cannot blame others for our loss of opportunity. It is our alertness, our depth of awareness that makes for success or failure, happiness or despair.