Author believes prosperity requires taking a 'leap into the dark'

Bruce Rosenstein, USA TODAY business book critic, interviewed Tom Butler-Bowdon, author of a series of books on self-help, success, psychology and spirituality. Butler-Bowdon's latest book is 50 Prosperity Classics: Attract It, Create It, Manage It, Share It; Wisdom From the Best Books on Wealth Creation and Abundance.

Rosenstein: In the introduction, you write: … "wealth is about money but prosperity is about life, taking in the wider ideas of good fortune, abundance and well being." Do you find the advice and insights in your previous books (especially on psychology and self-help) dovetail well with the kind of thinking skills and belief systems required for attaining prosperity?

Butler-Bowdon: Yes, because every great legally gotten fortune is built upon one person's willingness to take a leap into the dark, creating something that most other people thought was too difficult or impossible. The point made in 50 Prosperity Classics is that the foundation of all wealth, beyond any technological know-how or access to finance, is character. You must have a very strong belief in yourself, and that what you are doing will benefit the world, in order to see past the inevitable obstacles.

Rosenstein:The Secret by Rhonda Byrne has been hugely successful, but also controversial. You don't sidestep controversies in your books, but do you have a sense of whether people are making sustainable changes in their lives as a consequence of reading The Secret and/or watching the DVD? Also, did its popularity help raise the profile for the books you've written?

Butler-Bowdon: No one has told me they have 'manifested' a million dollars after reading The Secret, but I don't think that's the point. It is not just a tool for making money but a new way of seeing things, one that is about making things happen by going with the grain of the universe instead of against it. For me, the key point of the book is gratitude. Appreciating the riches already in our lives seems to make us richer in every sense. This is metaphysical concept, but also profoundly practical.

The genius of Rhonda Byrne's book and DVD was to distill over a century of great writings in the prosperity field that people didn't know about. Thanks to her, previously obscure figures like Charles Fillmore and Genevieve Behrend have become popular again.

Rosenstein: Do you meet people whose lives have been changed by specific books you've written about in your own series of books? What are some of the most life-changing books, based on evidence of other people's lives?

Butler-Bowdon: Someone recently told me how much Joseph Murphy's self-growth classic The Power of Your Subconscious Mind changed his life. Never before had he considered that most of our perceived limitations are imaginary, and this was a revelation. Many people have told me that Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich (1936) altered their course in life. Hill was perhaps the first to identify generic laws of success that anyone could follow, and the discovery of these has made many people really believe in their own powers. People also get a religious quaver in their voice when talking about Ayn Rand. For many tastes she is too extreme, but Atlas Shrugged, her 1,000 page novel, is about as powerful a read you can get about the individual's ability to create and achieve. For this reason I include her in the self-development pantheon.

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