W. Clement Stone: Riches From the Land of Dreams

Times Staff Writer

Want to change the world? Make a fortune? Sell insurance?

Take a nap.

Matter of fact, take lots of naps--in the limousine, on the plane, during lunch hour, before dinner.

Put the subconscious to work on that problem, that goal, that dream.

Now that you're wide awake, stay up until 2 or 3 a.m.

Find a well-lighted room. Get a note pad. Write your big--better yet, impossible--idea at the top (corner the silver market, create a television ministry, supply the contras , win the White House, stage a coup in Fiji).

Draw a line down the middle of the page. Sit there for 45 minutes and write down all the positives and negatives you can think of related to the goal. Positives on the right, negatives on the left, naturally.

Get up at 5:45 a.m. and get back to work.

Persistence and Devotion

Do these things with the persistence and devotion of a grizzly during salmon season and nothing on Earth can stop you.

So says W. Clement Stone, megarich Chicago insurance magnate, big political spender and 85-year-old bundle of pep, who this very minute is out there somewhere trying to change the world.

Or grabbing 40 winks.

Wherever he is now, Stone most certainly was in Los Angeles last week--having dinner with entertainer Michael Jackson, slipping down to Orange County's Crystal Cathedral for a photo session with the Rev. Robert H. Schuller and generally spreading the word about his brand of success through single-mindedness, optimism and faith in self.

Specifically, Stone--whose personal fortune is estimated at $500 million--was singing the praises of "Think and Grow Rich," a Depression-era self-help book by the late inspirational writer Napoleon Hill and published by the Stone-backed Napoleon Hill Foundation of Northbrook, Ill. The book is 50 years old this year and for Stone, who says he owes much of his wealth to the book's wisdom, that is an event to celebrate.

In an interview Stone did exactly that, punctuating his comments with enthusiastic shouts that underscored his decades of dedication as a disciple of Hill.

When he discovered "Think and Grow Rich," Stone recalled, " . . . I had an insurance agency. I had a thousand agents and the book so corresponded with my own philosophy that I sent a copy to each of the salesmen. Bingo! We hit the jackpot and I knew I had a method of motivating people."

To be perfectly honest, Stone conceded that the book's title is a come-on. While one indeed might use its precepts to get rich, the book is larded with chapters on moral self-improvement and sublimation of sexual urges.

"This came out 50 years ago and times were pretty tough and the title was the bait," Stone said.

Born into poverty as the son of a dressmaker, Stone started work at age 6 as a newspaper boy and through pluck, hard work and avid reading of Horatio Alger stories, founded what became Combined International Corp., a $3-billion business. He has since, he claims, donated $400 million to charity, largely to youth groups such as boys clubs.

Political Contributions

However, Stone is probably best known for his political campaign contributions, not his business acumen.

"I decided in the days of Richard Nixon that no power on Earth could prevent Nixon from being nominated and no power on Earth would prevent him from being elected if all it took was money," Stone said. "Today you elect a President by having lots of money for TV. Well, we spent millions. In his two campaigns (for President) combined I gave over $2 million. When (chief Nixon fund-raiser) Maurice Stans came to me, I said, 'Maury, you're not aiming high enough. Ask for $50,000, $100,000, $250,000.' Of course then they changed the law (to limit campaign contributions) and I couldn't do it any more."

However, that was long ago and faraway. This day Stone is intent on the future. His appearance and cheerfulness suggest a salesman with a mission. He is wearing a cream-colored suit, a large striped bow tie and a monogrammed shirt with gold cuff links larger than quarters. He is also sporting his trademark thin mustache that seems engraved on his upper lip and a cigar the size of a stick of dynamite.

With little prompting he launched into his message about Hill and success.

"You get a diploma at any elementary school or high school merely by using your memory," said Stone, a high school dropout. "You get a degree at any university or seminary in the behavioral sciences by using your memory. Knowledge is not power; it's potential power. You may have the knowledge, you may know what to do, you may know how to do it but you may not know how to motivate yourself to do it. So this particular book is the baby, the root, of all the outstanding, successful motivational books written in the last 50 years."

Since 1937, the Hill Foundation claims, 10-million copies of "Think and Grow Rich" have been sold. Stone, who estimates he's read the book at least 20 times, said that Nixon and President Reagan have been among its readers and that he saw Reagan's copy in the White House library. While Hill's book, subtitled "The 13 Ways to Riches," stretches on for 253 pages of fairly small type, Stone said he has boiled down its homiletic content to a few simple points. Namely naps, persistence and a positive mental attitude. (Stone co-wrote a book with Hill, "Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude.")

In fact, Stone attributes part of his philosophy to someone other than Hill--French psychotherapist Emile Coue, often credited with creating the platitude, "every day in every way I'm getting better and better."

Stone has expanded this concept to mean constant repetition of a goal. Lest Stone's philosophy lose something in translation here's a sample:

"When parents have a child they feel is ready to walk, one parent may hold the child up in a standing position. The goal is to walk. The other parent may stand two or three feet away and coax the child. The goal is to walk. The child tries it and falls. But through repetition, repetition, repetition, the child walks and runs, etc.

Stone then explained that Thomas Edison found the solution to perfecting the electric light bulb in a dream--after failing thousands of times while awake.

Edison "would take one or more naps each day, keep the goal before him," Stone said. ". . . Now the moral of it is, that if it is true--and it is true that the great, great achievers and that applies to Presidents of the United States that I know of--find it pays to keep your mind on you goal as you're going to sleep and to take naps, then it means you and I can do the same thing."

" . . . Every night before I go to bed (Stones does indeed sleep from about 2 to 5:45 a.m.) I kneel down and pray and I pray that I have a deep, deep, wholesome sleep and wake up in the morning full of vim and life and vitality and that if I dream, I have a beautiful dream and a helpful dream toward my goal. You see, it gets back to the setup of repetition, repetition, repetition. . . . The powers of the subconscious are so fantastic that I intend to live beyond 110."

Devotees of Hill in Southern California include entertainer Michael Jackson and the Rev. Robert Schuller, Stone said.

Stone, no stranger to opulence, was clearly floored by what he saw at Jackson's home, renowned for its fantasy atmosphere.

"There's no place in the world like that establishment," he said. "What a personality, you just can't help but admire him, such a pleasing personality. You can't say a word in between although he will answer questions. But that establishment is hard to describe. There's everything from dolls to games to live animals and one room after another and a fortune in statues and furnishings."

With that comment, Stone was off and running. As he waited for an elevator, a reporter asked him for a more exact accounting of his personal wealth. Stone answered with a wide grin and a cheery evasion.

"I tell people I have a billion-dollar personality," he said, a second before the elevator whisked him back to the land of dreams.

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