The Man Who Lived & Breathed Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude

Throughout my life I have crossed paths with the name of the man whom I present to you in this blog. At one point I even found myself working for his company for a short period. But it was the books that he wrote that impacted me so much, and it is with great pleasure that I present to you the life story of the man who lived and breathed success through a positive mental attitude.

The Man Who Lived & Breathed Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude

William Clement Stone (May 4, 1902– September 3, 2002), better known as W. Clement Stone, was a businessman, philanthropist and self-help book author.

His father died when he was 3, leaving the family impoverished because of his gambling losses. At the age of 6, he began hawking newspapers on Chicago’s South Side, while his mother worked as a dressmaker. At 13, he owned his own newsstand.

At the age of 16, he went to Detroit to help his mother in the insurance agency she had opened there. He went from office to office, making cold calls (he called them gold calls) to sell casualty insurance, and he was soon making $100 a week.

One of his favorite expressions when describing his cold calling and sales abilities was that he ‘…Mowed them down’. He devoured the Horatio Alger stories, where poor boys overcome adversity to make good.

Real Life Education Begins

Dropping out of high school to concentrate on selling insurance, he eventually received a diploma from the Young Men’s Christian Association Central High School in Chicago. The remainder of his formal education consisted of a few courses at Detroit College of Law and Northwestern University.

Much of what is known about W. Clement Stone comes from his autobiography ‘The Success System That Never Fails’. In that book, he tells of his early business life which started with the selling of newspapers in restaurants. At the time, this was a very novel thing to do, which deviated dramatically from the normal practice of young boys hawking newspapers on street corners.

At first, the managers of restaurants tried to discourage him from this practice, but he gradually won them over, due in part to his politeness, charm, persistence and the fact that by and large, the patrons of the restaurants had no objection to this new way of selling his newspapers.

From there he graduated to selling insurance policies very successfully in the offices of downtown businesses. His mother was the initiator of his new career, and together they did quite well, she as the manager of the business, and he as the salesperson.

W. Clement Stone turned his $100 into millions of dollars with a strong desire to succeed and by putting into practice the principles in the book ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill. He was the living example of the proverbial rags-to-riches protagonist in Horatio Alger’s stories he loved so much.

Eventually he became an ‘angel’ to others lifting some from the gutter, to incredible heights. One of his great successes was one of my favourite authors, the famed Og Mandino, an alcoholic at the time whom Stone took under his wing. The relationship engendered a new life for Mandino who became the publisher of the monthly digest magazine founded by W. Clement Stone and Napoleon Hill called Success Unlimited.

The Building Of An Empire

In 1919, W. Clement Stone built the Combined Insurance Company of America, and by 1930 he had over a thousand agents selling insurance for him across the United States.By 1979, his insurance company exceeded $1 billion in assets. Combined Insurance later merged with the Patrick Ryan Group to form the Aon Corporation in 1987, and was sold to ACE Limited in April 2008 for $2.56 billion.

A proponent of the motivational book ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill, he associated with Hill to teach the Philosophy of Personal Achievement ‘Science of Success’ course. He also co-authored ‘Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude’ with Napoleon Hill and wrote: ‘One of the most important days in my life was the day I began to read ‘Think and Grow Rich’ in 1937′. He also added that the Bible was ‘the world’s greatest self-help book’.

In his last interview, not long before his passing, he explained the importance of PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) and said: ‘A positive mental attitude is necessary for achieving worthwhile success. We in America know what it is for us, for we have inherited the tenets of the Judeo-Christian faiths on which our Constitution, laws and customs have been based…Strive to understand and apply the Golden Rule…Believe that any goal that doesn’t violate the laws of God or the rights of your fellow men can be achieved’.

The Philanthropist

Throughout his life he gave over $275 million to charity including civic groups, mental health and Christian organizations. He was once quoted as saying, ‘All I want to do is change the world’.

Among his philanthropic activities was his long-time support of the Boys Clubs of America for over fifty years (now Boys and Girls Clubs of America). He also donated one million dollars to Rev. Dr. Robert H. Schuller to begin construction on the Crystal Cathedral. The W. Clement and Jessie V. Stone Foundation was established by him and his wife to support humanitarian, mental health, religious and community causes. In 2009 the Foundation gave $3,805,625 to worthwhile causes.

A supporter of The Napoleon Hill Foundation, which he directed for forty years, and to which his estate contributes funding, he celebrated his 100th birthday with a gift of $100,000 to the University of Illinois at Chicago.

W. Clement Stone once stated, ‘Regardless of what you are or what you have been, you can still become what you may want to be.’