Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Success: A Non-Fiction Writing Prompt on Douglass' 12 Principles of Success



A Study of the Twelve Principles for Success Mentioned in Writings by Frederick Douglass


1. Understanding that the Proper Use of Power is to Help Others.


Today I came upon Frederick Douglass’ famous speech “What to the Slave is the 4th of July?”, given at Rochester, New York in 1852.  At the bottom of the page I found a link to another interesting digression, “12 Principles For Success Mentioned in Writings by Frederick Douglass” , written by Fred Morsell. 


A professional theater actor, Morsell has portrayed the infamous Douglass for more than 38 years on stage and events. He developed these 12 principles mentioned in writings by Frederick Douglass, and called it just that.


Being the middle of December, with half the country snowbound in the “Lake-Effect”, I noted this as having many possibilities for an interesting issue to revisit after the New Year for a mid-summer article, relevant to “Juneteenth”.


But the 12 Principles of Success stayed with me like a flea on a cat.  First, Douglass didn’t write a specific work on the principles of success (that I have yet to find.) Second, it is doubtful that Douglass, a former slave and abolitionist, was concerned about personal success as defined by twentieth century philosophers, theologians, and capitalists. Third, they were mined from the many works of Douglass by a third person, more than 100 years after their inception.  Fourth, his works have inspired generations of Americans of all races; and although his style is 19th century, it continues to be engaging and relevant. 

The list of “Success by the numbers” advice books is long, to name a few:  “Seventeen Principles of Personal Achievement; Seven Principles of Positive Psychology…”; "Success in 16 Lessons…”; “The Kobe Code: Eight Principles for Success…”; “Twelve Principles for Success…” ; “Seven Spiritual Laws of Success:…”; “The 48 Laws of Power…” and, the number one book of numbered success principles bestseller: “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey. I read that one; I think it became a religion.


Easily found, my mind reeled at the running total of the number of steps it takes to become successful through these books, mostly written by someone who becomes successful after writing a book on becoming successful...hmmmm...which begs the question, what is success? How do we define success?   


Such is the premise of this inquiry into Douglass’ 12 steps to success as interpreted by Morsell.  Before any claim of steps to success can be made, we must first know how the author defines success. 


The FIRST step to success, as mentioned in the writings of Frederick Douglass is:


  1. Understanding that the proper use of power is to help others.


WRITING CHALLENGE and PROMPTS:  Explicate the first step.  Define it.  Is this a valid paradigm?  (<1000 words)


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