|Copyright 2013, Barbara Bentley. All rights reserved. No contents can be used without permission from the author.
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Introduction - The Little Book of Success
“I do the very best I know how –
the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.”
Each person’s story is unique, but in this shared existence called humanity we soon discover we are not alone in our personal thoughts and
desires. We may differ in the color of our skin, the religion we practice, our ethnic roots, our education, our intelligence, or our talents, but
deep down we have similar goals that define us as human. The most basic goal is survival. We come screaming into the world without an
instruction booklet and shift into survival mode, looking for our first meal as we fill our lungs with oxygen. Once our basic needs are met, we
begin to develop. With each decision we make as we chart our life's journey, we uncover a new and amazing world of opportunities and
adventures. Soon we realize we need tools to help us achieve our goals. It’s easy to understand the importance of using the right physical tools
to complete a project. It is less easy, but equally important, to understand that the right mental tools are just as important for our personal
Before I began to write my memoir A Dance with the Devil: A True Story of Marriage to a Psychopath, I scoured photo albums, calendars,
day planners, and documents, digging deeper and deeper into my experiences to understand what had happened in my life. As I dusted away
the cobwebs and organized and analyzed my data, a pattern emerged: the successes in my life occurred when I had faithfully applied four tools
I came to recognize as passion, planning, patience, and persistence. These four P's are simple and effective. And they are free.
In this little book of success I use four major endeavors in my life to illustrate how the four P’s helped me attain success, one P at a time, as I
built a home, completed my education, changed the law, and wrote a book. It is my hope that seeing the four P’s in action will inspire you to
recognize your own hopes and dreams, and know they are possible to attain. No one’s story and talents are more important than anyone
else's. What is important is what you do with your story and talents to help yourself and others. You hold the tools within you to achieve the
successes that fill your life with meaning and pleasure.
Tools are nothing more than aids. When weeds grow in our gardens, we grab a hoe, shovel, rake, garbage bags, gloves, hand trowels, spiked
weeders, knee pads, and attack. We pull, hack, rake, and dig. At the end of the day, we feel exhausted but satisfied when we can see the
beautiful weed-free garden, the path down the middle, and the pile of filled garbage sacks. We have accomplished something. We have
changed the garden for the better. In the same way, we can change our lives with the tools of passion, planning, patience, and persistence. This
little book of success is designed with mobility in mind. You can take it with you anywhere, as a paperback book or in your electronic device.
You can also write the four P’s on a Post-It or note card and stick it in a purse, in a briefcase, on a nightstand, next to a TV, on your office
desk, in your car, on your workbench, on a mirror, on the refrigerator – anywhere where the words will help you achieve your passion. And
when life seems to be getting the better of you, flip open this book or turn on your electronic reader for an extra nudge to keep you moving
forward. Let it inspire you to recognize the greatness within you.
Chapter One - Passion
“A strong passion for any object will
ensure success, for the desire of the end
will point out the means.”
The first tool for success is passion. We all have passions in our lives, and they come from many sources. What we need to do is recognize them.
In the same way that a compelling novel has an inciting incident, so do our passions. The incident could be a horrific accident, a tender moment, an
observation, an injustice, a talent, or a yearning. It may start out as a small spark, growing over time into a full flame, or it may explode into
existence like colorful Fourth of July fireworks. In our lives we will have many passions. They may include family, friends, hobbies, advocacy, or
they may be for personal improvement. The four tools apply whether you want to be the best parent, the best friend, an Olympic gold medalist, a
caring volunteer, an admirable employee, the president of the United States, an advocate for change, or a person who helps eradicate a deadly
disease. Each passion will have its own unique set of requirements.
Passion is a powerful emotion. It can be a fire in the belly that gets you out of bed every morning, ready to face the next challenge on the road to
success. It can be the idea that keeps you awake at 2 a.m. when you should be getting a sound, restful sleep. Or it can be a soft, subtle notion
nourished by zeal which urges you along to make a difference in someone else’s life, or your own.
Building a House
Sometimes one passion leads to another in a way that changes our lives. Not too long after I married my first husband, we developed an interest in
producing movies with sound. It soon became a passion for both of us. We purchased an expensive 16 mm Bolex camera and a Bell-and-Howell
sound projector, now archaic, but state of the art at the time. We generated documentaries, a short horror story, and cartoons, and soon
discovered we could collect old movies in the 16 mm sound format. Laurel and Hardy’s The Music Box was the first of many classics which filled
our collection and it, in turn, ignited a new passion. We wanted a home movie theater. Our three-bedroom, one-and-a half bath tract house didn’t
have room to expand, so we searched our area for a home with a suitable bonus room. Unfortunately, our dreams were larger than our means. We
found available homes which met our specifications but were priced far more than we could pay. Undeterred, we recognized a new passion…for a
larger home, and it started us on a seven year journey of discovery of who we were and what we could accomplish. With a sense of bravado and
the innocence and ignorance of twenty-three year olds, we decided to build a house.
Pursuing a College Degree
Passion can be a powerful force for helping us improve, especially in the workplace. Sixteen years into my career as an hourly laboratory
technician for a major chemical company, I came out of my annual job review generally satisfied with my latest promotion, but also somewhat
troubled. I realized my Associate of Arts degree and well honed work skills had taken me as far as I could go up the career ladder. I had hit a
ceiling in the lab tech job classification. Without a four year degree, I would spend the next twenty-two years of my career flat-lined as a Level Six
Lab Technician without any possibility of advancement. A new passion emerged. I made a decision to go for a Bachelors of Science degree, even
though I was thirty-five years old.
Writing a Book
Sometimes we are thrust into a life-shattering event that will change our lives forever. Once the devastation happens, there is no turning back.
Survival pushes us forward, and it is there, in this fertile field of opportunity, new passions can ignite and take us to places beyond our wildest
dreams. When I was forty-five, my second husband tried to smother me with an ether-soaked washrag. I battled for my life, and prevailed. He was
arrested for first degree attempted murder. The episode left me an emotional mess, and I immediately sought help from a psychotherapist. As I
grieved the emotional death of the person I thought I knew, I tried to figure out why I had stayed in a relationship until it almost ended my life. As
the fog cleared I gained the strength to be able to testify against him at trial, and it was then I realized there was a reason for everything. I emerged
with a passion: I would write a book to help others understand the devastating, crazy-making world of psychopaths. At the moment, the only
obstacle I saw was that I didn’t know how to write!
Changing the Law
Passions can emerge when we face an injustice. When I filed for divorce from John, the man who was convicted of trying to murder me, my
attorney first told me we would have to get legal representation for him within our county. I balked. I couldn’t afford my own attorney's fee, let
alone take on an additional one for my incarcerated spouse. Eventually I was told I would not be responsible for my husband’s attorney. But a
worse shock followed. Since California is a no-fault divorce state, I would have to pay alimony, relinquish half of my retirement fund, and pay car
and medical insurance for the man who tried to murder me, even though he was in jail! I felt as unsettled as if I had just come off a roller coaster
ride, but I acquiesced, reasoning that if it was the law, there was nothing to be done.
The war had begun. I had hoped for a speedy divorce, but my efforts got me nowhere with the devious psychopath I had married. Letters flew
back-and-forth between attorneys and between my attorney and me, while my legal bills climbed higher and higher. I protested. Most of the letters
were senseless psychobabble with puffed-up arguments against me, even though I had the facts and figures to back me up. Finally, my attorney
made me co-attorney on the case so I could deal directly with my husband’s attorney and eliminate some of the charges.
By then we were into the second year of negotiations with John, still trying to get some measure of cooperation from this man with no conscience,
when the unbelievable happened. He was granted eventual parole, but not immediate release. At his urging, both attorneys agreed we might have a
better chance of settling the divorce if he were out of prison. Six months later John was freed. He agreed to sign the divorce papers, but not the
settlement issues. Remember, I had paid car and medical insurance on him for two years, even though he was in jail. For me, the one bright spot
was that at last we would soon be divorced.
The weekend before the divorce was finalized I felt miserable, suffocating from years of legal abuse, and trapped by a law which would allow my
husband to continue to victimize me. On Monday morning, as I took my shower, a small voice deep within me told me to call Melvin Belli. Right, I
told myself, why would a famous tort lawyer want to speak to me? I shook it off, along with extra water, as I dried. Later, at my work desk, the
voice returned and would not let up until I gave in and called information for Mr. Belli’s phone number. I dialed his office, spoke to his secretary,
and talked to him when he returned my call at noon. Two days later, on Wednesday, I sat in his office, only to hear him say, “I wish I could do
something to help you, but the law is the law.”
I was stuck. I would have to pay alimony and relinquish half my retirement fund to my soon-to-be ex. My bewilderment and anger triggered a new
passion within me. I vowed to change the divorce law of California so no one else would have to suffer the indignities which enveloped me. This
new passion propelled me on an uncharted journey into the world of politics, with its formidable procedures and policies. But now I felt ready to
challenge them all.
Reality and Passion
Unwarranted passion can lead us down a slippery slope unless we are realistic about our abilities and capacity to learn. For years I fantasized about
standing on a theater stage and thrilling an audience with songs that touched everyone’s soul, like Susan Boyle in her Britain’s Got Talent
appearance. I could almost hear the thunderous applause of the audience. After all, I had sung in my church choir and done a stint in a community
theater production of Hello Dolly. There was just one catch. I didn’t and still don’t have the voice to belt out a crowd-thrilling tune, and I
understood that no amount of intensive training or vocal cord surgery was going to improve the situation. Still, I didn’t completely relinquish the
dream. It lay quietly in my subconscious until one day an event triggered by another passion would make the standing ovation part of the dream
We can’t force passion into our lives. If we try, we’re setting ourselves up for disaster and the frustration of failure. It must come naturally. As I
write this book, I know I need to lose weight, but no matter how many false starts I make to exercise or eat properly, I cannot seem to stick to the
plan. I’ve finally decided I don’t have the passion – yet. But I know one day it will come. Passion is the strong foundation of success upon which
we stack the next three tools: planning, patience, and persistence. It must be strong. If it’s built on sand or of inferior materials, it will not be able
to support the rest. Without a sustainable passion, without that burning desire to see our project through, we risk the very thing we’re seeking –
Give It Some Thought:
1. Can you name someone whose passion brought them success?
2. What passions have stirred you in the past?
3. Can you identify where they came from?
4. Which passions found success?
5. If a passion did not find success, was it really a passion?
6. What new passions have you recently discovered in your life?
Luck is the residue of
planning and hard work.
We can look at the past
in the present to gain
the information to build
the foundation for our