The Number One

Secret of Success, 1



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By Bob

On Becoming Successful

As a commercial, freelance writer, I often get asked how I became relatively successful in this field. So I’ll tell you what I tell them (and this applies to any endeavor).

Pentti Haanpää

Let me begin by telling the story the Finnish writer Pentti Haanpää. Born in 1905, by the age of 20, Pentii already had several short stories published.

He was said to know how to capture the true spirit of the Finnish people in his books.

But everything changed when Field and Barracks was published in1928. His description of military training as grueling and harsh drew lots of public backlash. Copies of the book were quickly confiscated from bookstores.

Pentii became a literary outcast.

The Comeback

He would have to wait until 1928 before signing another publishing deal.

But the wait was worth it: his new book War in the White Desert managed to recapture the hearts of his Finnish countrymen.

From then on, Pentii was described as one of Finland’s most “brutally powerful writers.”

The Reality

When people read Pentii works, they automatically assume he was an “inborn genius”.

But the truth is, it takes more than raw, natural talent to become great at writing, or anything else for that matter.

It takes study . . . practice . . . dedication . . . commitment . . . perseverance — and outside help. You see, even Pentti used other writers as role models and sources of ideas.

D. H. Lawrence

One of Pantii’s favorite was D. H. Lawrence, an English poet, novelist, and short story writer. Lawrence is most known for Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928) a book that shocked the public and was initially banned from publication.

But the dust eventually settled. Since then Lawrence has been considered “England’s greatest writer” and “one of the most influential writers of the 20th century.”

Of course, there are more examples of successful people relying on other successful people for ideas, guidance, and help.


For instance, when a young Bob Dylan moved to New York City, he became friends with the folk singer Woody Guthrie, and spent time playing music with him. Woody, who had written the national song “This Land is Your Land”, mentored and inspired Dylan during the early years of his music career.


Steve Jobs, Co-Founder of Apple got tremendous help from Mike Markkula to get the company started: Mike invested $250,000 in the company’s early days.

In his biography, Jobs wrote of Markkula: “Mike really took me under his wing. His values were much aligned with mine. He emphasized that you should never start a company with the goal of getting rich. Your goal should be making something you believe in and making a company that will last.”

I could go on and on . . . but you get the point: Success breeds success. Having a mentor helping you is like leapfrogging to the head of the line. You’re able to reach your goals much faster.


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1. People ask the writer for money. True or false?

2. Did he tell his secret for success directly in the beginning?

3. Has Pentti Haanpää’s literary career been a smooth, linear progression? Describe him as a writer and his career.

4. Pentii and other very successful people accomplish a lot because they are naturally gifted and talented. Is this entirely correct, mostly correct, partially correct, yes and no, largely false or entirely false?

5. What is the secret ingredient, according to the writer?

6. How many examples did he give? Were they all in the field of literature?

7. In any enterprise, business or career, people should focus on making money. Is this right or wrong?


A. There are many books, articles, CDs, coaches and experts on how to be successful. Yes or no? Are they very popular?

B. What are some “secrets” of success?

C. I have mentor. True or false? Whom do you admire and serves as your role model? What is their secret to success?

D. Is mentoring new or is it as old as humanity? Give some examples.

E. What will happen in the future?

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