From Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneur's Soul

Keep It Simple

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.


I used to keep saying, “Keep it simple, stupid.” But then I realized it was stupid to keep calling myself stupid. So I started saying, “Keep it simple, smarty.”

I’m not all that intelligent. A lot of people are much smarter than I am, and they lose me in their thought processes. I never could follow what all those Western philosophers were arguing about.

I’m lazy, too, when I’m honest with myself. I’ve never done mornings if at all possible, even as a child. If I have a choice between a day when I have to get up with an alarm clock and shower and shave and get to a meeting somewhere or a day when I can sleep as long as possible and then do whatever I want, I’ll take that second choice every time.

I’m also completely disorganized. My desk is chaos, my filing system nearly dysfunctional. My desk often reaches what I call “critical mess,” and things are buried and forgotten that I really should have handled weeks, even months, before.

What else? Oh yes, my memory is terrible. Don’t expect me to remember your name, or our last conversation. I call it a “highly selective” memory. I remember certain things vividly; a lot of other things just somehow neglect to get filed in my brain somewhere.

Yet I started what is now a successful business—a publishing company—the day I turned thirty. I had no capital of any kind, no business experience, no family support and very little knowledge of publishing, and yet I’ve managed to build a wonderfully successful company, New World Library, which has published some great books and audios (and a few videos) by Eckhart Tolle, Shakti Gawain, Deepak Chopra, Dan Millman and many others. How did this possibly happen? I’ll try to keep it really simple.

* * *

The day I turned thirty is the single day that changed my life. I woke up in a state of shock and realized I wasn’t a kid anymore. I spent much of the day pacing back and forth in my little slum apartment, thinking about my life—something I had done very rarely in the past.

I realized even back then that I had one great strength, something I was born with. (Now I realize everyone is born with a unique gift of some kind.) The thing I knew in my heart and soul that has served me so well over the years is something a lot of people take years and years to learn, and something some people never learn: I knew how important it was to do what I loved. I knew that if I went for my dreams, it would all work out somehow. I could never understand why so many of my friends didn’t seem to understand that, and would settle for jobs—and for lives—they didn’t really enjoy.

I had done what I loved through my twenties. I had been an actor and a musician, I’d done a “back-to-the-land” experiment and stayed at a Zen center, but when I looked back I realized I had built nothing for the present or the future. I had no direction whatsoever. I hadn’t been setting the course, or even steering the ship of my life. I had no goals! No wonder I had gone nowhere. When I turned thirty, I was unemployed, I had no savings whatsoever, and I was scrounging (a word we used often) to come up with sixty-five dollars a month rent. In other words, I was a poverty case (two other words we used often).

I asked myself a question I had rarely asked before—a simple question, an important question: What do I want to do with the rest of my life?

I thought about it for a while, pacing up and down. Then I remembered a little game I had played once in my early twenties during my back-to-the-land experiment. We were sitting around a fire one night, and one couple said, “Let’s play a little game we play at church camp. Let’s imagine five years have passed, and everything has gone as well as we can imagine. What would our lives look like?”

I have no idea what I even said when I first played the game—so obviously it had no impact on my life. But I remembered that game the day I turned thirty, and it changed my life.

On that day, I set my course in life in a way I never had before. The actual mechanics of it were quite simple. I wrote down my ideal scene on a single sheet of paper, then I listed all of the goals I could think of on another sheet of paper, then I rewrote each of those goals as an affirmation. Over time, over a few months, plans started to emerge for each major goal—and the next steps to take became obvious.

Of course, as soon as I dared think of my ideal scene and write my first goal, I was overwhelmed with doubts and fears. Dealing with those doubts and fears was probably the most important work I did. It took me about five years of constant course correction to reach the first of my goals—a profitable business supporting myself and others easily and effortlessly—and about ten years to fully realize my ideal scene, which included a beautiful home in northern California, in one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen on earth.

The Three Essentials

Over the years, I’ve come to understand that success in business is really very simple. It is not rocket science or brain surgery; it requires only the simplest of math skills. It is much simpler than being a parent, for example, because business follows certain essential rules that have been unchanged for centuries, while when you’re a parent, the rules keep changing, and endless creativity is required.

There are simply three things you need to have together to create success:

1. Your product or service. The key here is to make it the best you can—and, ideally, do what you love to do. Don’t settle for less.

2. Marketing and sales. It is essential to find some way to market your product or service. The key here is to have a multipronged strategy. Keep aware there are a huge number of different ways to sell your product or service. Never put your eggs in one basket. Try something—anything—and if that doesn’t work, try something else. Try something that has proved effective in the past, and then try something that has never been done. Keep trying, and one way or another you’ll stumble onto something that works. As the actor Bert Lahr said, “Keep on the merry-go-round long enough, and you’re bound to catch the brass ring, sooner or later.”

3. Financial controls. You have to have the same kind of controls in business that you have in your daily life. In your personal life, you have to spend less than you earn, or you head into debt. In a business, keep your expenses as low as possible, and get to the point as soon as you can where your income exceeds your expenses.

Keep watching those expenses. Break out all your expenses into different categories, and compare them with industry averages. Don’t get way out of line in any category.

With good financial controls, you can have a successful, profitable business with a relatively modest income; with bad financial controls, you can blow it on any level, even when you’re making millions (or, like Enron, billions).

The Final Word

It gets simpler and simpler for me as the years pass. I understand things more deeply; I know them in my heart and soul and in every cell of my body, somehow, rather than just in my head. And the more I understand, the more my life continues to get better and better. I’ll try to sum up what I know in a final sentence. Over the years, I came to understand this—in spite of all my weakness and shortcomings:

We have everything we need
to create the success of our dreams:
a miraculous body, a phenomenal brain,
and a vast and powerful subconscious mind.
Now it’s just a matter of focusing them
in the right direction.

We have everything we need, even if we’re lazy, unemployed, not too smart, organized, overwhelmed or whatever. We have a mind that is capable of making a plan and a body capable of taking the steps necessary to achieve that plan. Along the way, guiding us, showing us what to do at every moment, is a vast and powerful subconscious mind.

All we have to do is ask for guidance, and we find it. You’ve heard it before, many times: ask and you shall receive. Within you are all the tools you need to create the life of your dreams. I know this is true. If I can do it, you can, too.

So, go for it! You’ll never regret it.

Marc Allen

EPILOGUE: Nearly thirty years ago, in the kitchen of a small apartment in Oakland, California, Marc Allen and Shakti Gawain started a publishing firm known as Whatever Publishing to release a few books and booklets they had written. A shoestring operation with very little in capital, total sales were $800 the first year.

Today, that small publishing company—which changed its name to New World Library in the 1980s—has grown to become one of the most successful independent publishers in the country in the areas of personal growth, alternative health and prosperity. Based in Novato, California, New World Library features authors such as Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now), Deepak Chopra (The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success) and, of course, Shakti Gawain (Creative Visualization). The company releases over fifty books, audio and video projects annually and has an active backlist of over three hundred titles ( ).

An author himself, Allen is also an amazing pianist and musician, having created and recorded several instrumental albums including Breathe, Petals and Awakening. Samples can be heard on his Web site:

As cofounder, president and publisher of New World Library, Allen’s belief in himself and his dreams grew into great financial success, but more important, great personal success. He obviously loves doing what he loves, including taking every Monday off and only working afternoons the rest of the week, after sleeping in!

Dahlynn McKowen

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