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Socialist’s Guide to Getting Rich, Book Review: The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles

by Paul Creech on Thursday, September 1, 2016

At the turn of the twentieth century lived a devoted Christian Socialist, Wallace Delois Wattles. Naturally, he is best known for writing a book about how to get rich. Like many socialists of his day, he believed everything could be reduced to a science. Wattles claims in the preface that all the proof of this science is there if we just go back and read Haegel and Emerson. However, entourages us to trust him as an authority and apply his practical method. Which is, honestly, very similar to every other self-improvement system of the modern age.

Selling fads and fallacies in the name of science is not something that we have escaped from by a long shot. Today, pseudo-science by self-important self-promoters selling their snake oil policy prescriptions are more of a problem than ever. Billions of dollars are pocketed and millions live in a lower quality of life due to these grifters–a problem only getting worse. Wattles’ conceit was the existence of a formless substance from which all things are made. Through thinking we can move this formless substance to take form and become visible things. That’s the science part. Reading the book with blinders for this bullshit greatly improves the work.

Many of the statements, cherry picked from among the nonsense and senility, are tautological.

“A man’s way of doing things is the direct result of the way he thinks about things.”

“Every man has the natural and inherent power to think what he wants to think…”

After the pseudo-science is the Christian moral arguments for wealth sold by every big church hustler on the planet in a hundred books and a dozen times a day on the boobtube. “It is the desire of God that you should get rich. He wants you to get rich because he can express himself better through you if you have plenty of things to use in giving him expression. He can live more in you if you have unlimited command of the means of life.” Wealth in Wattles’s day was the only way a person had access to health care, education and leisure time. Without being healthy, being educated and with some leisure time, no one had time to devote themselves to realizing their full potential to express themselves. Appeals to God legitimizes Wattles pseudo-scientific system, welcome to popular Christian Socialism.

When stripped of phony religiosity and pseudo-science the practical plan for successful living is what you expect out of any modern guide to becoming successful.

Step one: Articulate specific goals. “You need not hesitate about asking largely; ‘it is your Father’s pleasure to give you the kingdom,’ said Jesus.” Clearly form your vision, then orally address the Supreme in reverent prayer and prepare to receive it.

Step Two: Keep those specific goals clearly in your mind. This reminds me of advice from entrepreneur and fitness buff Cory Gregory. Cory has a spiral notebook, like the ones you carried in middle school practicing signing your name after you married me with my last name and little hearts. At the start of every day, Cory would write down his goals on the next page. At the end of each day he would look at the notebook again. He would use this time to reflect and make changes, add new goals, set intermediate goals, and note what he had done that day to advance his goals. Repeat daily. What he wanted was never out of sight or out of mind. As a the ancient philosopher king Yogi Berra once said, “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.”

Step Three: A call to immediate efficient personal action. Wattles swats away your excuses for delay, which seek to blame your business, the state of world, the steel trust, corrupt politicians, etc. for the timing to be not quite right for action. Balderdash, “…man must act NOW upon the people and things in his present environment.” Every act that you take must be in furtherance of your goals, which Wattles calls efficient acts. Pile up acts in furtherance of your goals and you will reach them and your “…whole life MUST be a success.”

Importance of adding value to the world: Wattles’ practical advice is echoed by every charlatan claiming to be the first to reject scheming for a win-win approach. “I mean that you will not need to deal with them unfairly; you do not have to get something for nothing, but can give to every man more than you take from him.” Wattles rejects competition for opportunity, resources, sales, etc. He instructs us to become creators. He rejects one sided deals, getting the better of anyone, cheating, or underpaying. Instead Wattles instructs us to create in such a way that person you are dealing with ends up with more than they had to begin with. He wants you to add value to the world, add value to the deal, add value to the customer. And think of no one as your competitor.

“People must be taught to become rich by creation, not by competition. Every man who becomes rich by competition throws down behind him the ladder by which he rises, and keeps others down; but every man who gets rich by creation opens a way for thousands to follow him, and inspires them to do so. “

He gives instruction for motivating employees “You can so conduct your business that it will be sort of ladder, by which every employee who will take the trouble may climb to riches himself; and given the opportunity, if he will not do so it is not your fault.”

Importance of the adopting an attitude of constant Gratitude: “The more gratefully we fix our minds on the Supreme when good things come to us, the more good things we will receive, and the more rapidly they will come; and the reason simply is that the mental attitude of gratitude draws the mind into closer touch with the source from which the blessings come. “

With great Power comes Great responsibility: it is immoral to use these powers on other people to get what you want. As Nicolas Maduro would likely agree, “It is wrong to apply your will to other men and women, in order to get them to do what you wish done. It is as flagrantly wrong to coerce people by mental power as it is to coerce them by physical power. If compelling people by physical force to do things for you reduces them to slavery, compelling them by mental means accomplishes exactly the same thing; the only difference is in methods.”

Project the Image of “The Advancing Man”: Give the impression that you are a raising star and growing in wealth. Create this image of yourself in your own head. Hold it out to the world so that everyone who meets you comes away with this impression. It will attract people and they will think of you as a raising star and think of you when opportunities come up.

Wattles’ bills himself as having created a practical guide to gaining wealth, based on science and informed by appeals to Christianity. Parsing through the trade convention of presenting the showman’s wares as a scientific system a few nuggets of good wisdom can be found. State your goals, keep them on your mind, and take actions today toward those goals. Be grateful for all that you have and optimistic about tomorrow. See your life as a creative endeavor in which you are seeking to add value, not a zero sum game where you need to beat or get one over on the other guy. Adopting these principals can lead you to the riches to sustain your health, give you leisure time, and allow for the fullest expression of your being.

Having never read The Secret, and only based on third hand summaries overheard as I ran away screaming with my fingers in mine ears: The Secret is probably Wattles repackaged for twenty-first century resale, timed for when this book came into the public domain.

Paul Creech
Paul Creech is an attorney living in Houston, Texas. Paul has baccalaureate degrees in philosophy and political science from Utah State University, and a juris doctorate degree from Houston College of Law. He is a former U.S. Marine. Besides the law, Paul's interests include sports, art, and food.