The Lazy Man's Way To Riches
Joe Karbo was renting a ramshackle house in a bad neighborhood along with his wife and eight children. He was $50,000 in debt and had had to refinance his car. In such a predicament, he notes, he was willing to try anything, “…even if it seemed foolish and ridiculously easy”.
A friend told him about a system of mental conditioning that had had amazing results when tried out on corporate executives. With nothing to lose, he began implementing its principles. First, Karbo wrote out his goals, which included “I own a $75,000 house on the water”, “My bills are paid” and “I earn $100,000 a year”. Using the system, these became his reality remarkably quickly, and he resolved to write a simple book describing what he had discovered.
Self-published, The Lazy Man’s Way To Riches claimed to give readers “everything in the world you really want”, and went on to sell over three million copies, assisted by Karbo’s now-famous advertisements and sales letters. These gave some to think it was all a lot of hype, but did the book contain something of real value?
A scientific success system
Karbo spent 12 years running an advertising agency for the television industry. He did well, but lost a bundle when he tried to produce his own TV show. The failure, he says, was “…the best thing that ever happened to me. It made me desperate enough to try anything – and I found Dyna-Psyc.”
Dyna/Psyc was his made-up term (dynamic + psychology/mind) for the goal setting system he discovered. He defines it as, “…the programmed study and practice of achieving success by the planned application of important but little understood natural laws.” These laws are like electricity, a neutral force that can be used or misused, but through conscious development of the force we can usher in tremendous changes to our lives.
The first element in the system is to identify exactly what you want.
Stating your destination
You don’t go the airport, Karbo notes, and buy a ticket to ‘somewhere’. You have an exact place you need to get to.
He makes the reader ask themselves, ‘What do you want?’ When you have to answer this in the specific it can be daunting, for while it is one thing to say to yourself, ‘That would be nice to have’ or ‘I wish I could …’, it is quite another to formally sit down and write out what you want in life. This is surprising, since it has been shown that people who do have written goals tend to live up to them. Others drift.
As well as listing down specific things you both need and want, Karbo asks you to put in black and white desired personal attributes – who you would like to be as well as what you would like to have. These lists are then turned into concrete goals and ‘Super Suggestions’, using a checklist he provides.
The strange thing about goals is that, once they are written down, they immediately begin to seem more realistic. In fact, Karbo warns to make sure your goals are high enough. This is your chance not to ask for an extra $5,000 on your salary but to reach towards what would really make your life amazing. Either way, he notes, “Without clear, well-defined goals, success is impossible.”
An interesting effect of this process is that some things you thought you really wanted, in fact you don’t. It tends to isolate and highlight what really matters to you.
Most people work too hard and have no real goals, never knowing that with very clear aims, things will fall into place for them with less effort. This is the essence of the ‘Lazy Way’. But you still have to do some work. You have to ‘RSVP’ – read, study, visualize, perform, but with only some time and effort huge dividends can be reaped.
In practice, the goals you create are turned into a page of ‘Daily Declarations’ that are ideally read out loud first thing in the morning and before you go to bed each night, visualizing each goal as if it were reality. The way the goals are written is vitally important. Karbo stresses that they must be in the present tense and specific (e.g. “I have a silver Lexus LS400”).
What you read out may not seem possible right now, but through repetition you will condition yourself in into acceptance remarkably quickly. Karbo describes the unconscious as the ‘idiot mind’, accepting without question whatever you state to it as fact. Your life then begins to reflect what you believe and expect.
Creating a new self-picture
Most people suffer from an inadequate self-image, Karbo observes, and yet the way you see yourself is probably the single greatest determinant of your failure or success in life. Fear is ingrained into us from a very early age, a main ingredient in the image we form of ourselves that has a tremendous effect on our lives. But the conscious mind, because fear is unpleasant, tends to subsume fears into the subconscious mind. The result is that fear is ‘driven underground’, but in doing so it becomes even more powerful because the subconscious mind is not logical or critical, accepting whatever falls into it. Thus, fears we developed in our childhood shape our actions decades later – unless we do something to change this conditioning. A vital part of the Dyna/Psyc system is to create new beliefs about ourselves as confident, effective and energetic. Karbo shows you how to do this.
People conform to expectations about themselves. Karbo once worked at an advertising agency where he had a Ford car dealership as a client. Its manager told him that each salesman earned about he same amount in commissions from month to month, and that what they earned from year to year did not vary much either. What they earned invariably matched their expectations. The lesson: expectations drive results, but expectations can easily be changed.
How to make decisions
Karbo includes an extremely useful chapter on getting your unconscious mind to help you make important decisions.
The process, he says, works in a seemingly magical way, and has been used by many of the great minds of history. It involves three steps:
How do you know when you have the answer? You will just ‘know’; it will pop into your head while driving or gardening or when you wake up. But Karbo gives a word of warning – when you get the answer, act on it! Otherwise, you will find that the ‘Unconscious computer’ is less willing to help next time.
Creating a living
The first half of The Lazy Man’s Way To Riches covers the themes above. Then it takes a surprising direction. In the second, Karbo relates his hard won secrets for how to run a successful direct response marketing company and how to write successful advertisements. For the reader it seems like a strange transition to make, until you remember the title of the book. His ‘lazy way’ relates not just to conditioning the mind for success, but providing the reader with a practical way to make money that does not involve a regular job tied to a set wage and location. He promotes direct response marketing as a career because, “…it’s one of the last areas where a little guy can get a start, live where he pleases, work where he wants.”
A fair amount of the material in these chapters is dated, as it was written over twenty years before the Internet. Someone going into traditional mail order or direct response sales in Karbo’s day would today probably start an online store. And yet, much of what he says in relation to starting your own business and getting people to buy your products is timeless, and copywriters still pay homage to the power of Karbo’s thinking on what attracts people to your product and what doesn’t. He promises the reader:
If you’ll follow the principles I’ve outlined in this book, you’re sure to come up with an Idea. At the very least your idea will double or triple your present income. Even if your idea is nothing more than how to do what you’re doing right now – better.
In essence, his message is that to do well in business you have to solve problems for people. If you have found something annoying or difficult, chances are others have too, and you can make a lot of money by saving people time and effort.
As a strange combination of a self-development/goal-setting manual, and instruction book for how to run a mail order business and write magnetic advertisements, The Lazy Man’s Way To Riches is now a classic in two domains: prosperity/self-development but also the marketing and copywriting worlds.
As a self-published work sold through advertisements (it was never listed in Books in Print) the book looks very amateurish and can easily be dismissed as a marketing scam. It is said that Karbo wrote it only after he had received $50,000 dollars in orders. If true, what a good way to write a book! And yet, wherever it came from, and despite its laid-back, conversational style, many have found the ‘dyna/psyc’ system to be very powerful in helping them achieve their goals, financial or otherwise.
There are hundreds of books on goal-setting, but it the clarity of Karbo’s system that seems to make it work. Karbo’s assertion that “Without clear, well-defined goals, success is impossible” is hard to prove. Everyone surely knows successful people who have not had written goals – yet they have likely been a success despite not having goals, not because of the fact. Dyna/Psyc shows us that through clear goals we create certainty in the mind, and it is conviction that moves mountains.
Source: 50 Prosperity Classics: Attract It, Create It, Manage It, Share It by Tom Butler-Bowdon (London & Boston: Nicholas Brealey).
Born in 1925, Karbo grew up in California. After high school, he served for almost three years in the US armed services as a Third Class Pharmacist Mate. On discharge in 1945 he got married, and with his wife Betty had the first of their children. He had intended to enrol at the University of California but instead had to look for a job. After rejecting one making roller skates, he instead began buying unwanted cardboard boxes from department stores and reselling them to small businesses.
Karbo spent 12 years running an advertising agency in the television industry, but went into debt after a foray into television production. At 40 he was advised to declare bankruptcy, but decided to pay back all his debts. Ten years later he was a millionaire, partly from sales of his books and also from a vitamin mail order company. He died in 1980.
Other books include The Power of Money Management, Getting Good Ideas and Protecting Your Ideas.
50 CLASSICS SERIES
© COPYRIGHT TOM BUTLER-BOWDON, 2023
. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.