Self-help books are the most widely read type of book in the world. Humans have been writing self-help books since they began writing words on papyrus (seriously, look it up). No matter what problem you might have, chances are good there’s something out there that can help you move your cheese. There’s a reason they’re the best-selling books in the world.

Finding fulfilling employment when leaving the military can be a tough task, especially at a time when the U.S. economy feels like it’s on shaky ground amid a global pandemic. A critical element of the job search is keeping a positive attitude toward the work, even in the face of rejection — or worse, no reply at all.

In 1937, writer Napoleon Hill published “Think and Grow Rich,” a book he spent 20 years researching at the suggestion of robber-baron industrialist Andrew Carnegie. The book was published in the years before World War II, but Hill began researching in the days after the end of World War I, the 1918 influenza pandemic and the Great Depression.

The focus of “Think and Grow Rich” was the mindset and habits of America’s most successful people at the time. Hill studied the way they think even during some of the country’s most troubled times. It has since become one of the best-selling self-help books of all time, and echoes of Hill’s book can be found in many of the more recent books of the genre.

Industrialist Andrew Carnegie with author Napoleon Hill.

One of the book’s chapters is focused on persistence in any great undertaking. According to Hill, that trait requires no great amount of intelligence or education and just the time spent in effort toward your goal.

1. A Definite Purpose

A fundamental principle of “Think and Grow Rich” is the purpose of your pursuit and the “burning desire” to see it fulfilled. As Hill points out repeatedly, “Riches don’t respond to wishes.” They respond to action, and only through action will you take the steps toward your goals. Accordingly, you only will take the steps if you have a true desire for the goal at hand.

So ask yourself if you truly have set goals for yourself that reflect the “burning desire” of your post-military life. Is the job, degree or whatever goal you’ve set enough to make you take the steps necessary to achieve them every day? Once you have what you want, will it fulfill your needs?

This first attribute will be the engine that drives your job search.

2. A Definite Plan

This is the roadmap to your success. How will you understand what actions to take toward your goals without an understanding of how to get to them? Taking direct action toward achievement won’t do much good for you without a coordinated effort, and all your actions may not lead anywhere.

In the world of the modern job search, an unplanned or poorly executed plan may at best lead you nowhere and, at worst, hold you back. Chart each milestone on the way toward your objective, know how to reach the next and understand how each one will lead to the ultimate goal.

3. Shut Out Negative Influences

When you’re aiming high, shooting for something that you will find truly fulfilling, you may come across naysayers who will tell you that you might be aiming a little too high. If the goal you’ve chosen is truly fulfilling and the route you’ve decided to take is realistic and achievable, you don’t need anyone telling you the objective is impossible.

Hill says relatives, friends and acquaintances will try to tell you to manage your expectations. If you’ve made a real plan of action, have the desire to fulfill it and take steps to achieve the plan, then you don’t need the negative input of others, which brings us to the fourth Cause of Persistence …

4. Surround Yourself With Encouragement

Hill calls this group of friendly influences many things throughout his book, from a “friendly alliance” to a “mastermind group.” The crux of his point here is that you surround yourself with positive people who will influence you to stay the course or make corrections when necessary.

When working toward the objective you truly desire, you need people who will encourage you through good times and bad, to help you stick to your plan and follow it through with the resolve you had when you first wrote the plan. If something goes wrong along the way, rely on this group to help you change the plan rather than give up entirely.

Anyone can give you a thousand reasons not to do something. This group will give you the purpose to press on.

— Blake Stilwell can be reached at He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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