There’s a lot you can say about the controversial L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology and prolific author, but there’s no denying that managed to achieve a lot during his time on this plane of existence. Here’s what you can learn from Hubbard’s life, without any of the auditing.
Don’t Be a Perfectionist: Run With Your Idea Before You Know What You’re Doing
During his formative years before Scientology, Hubbard cut his teeth writing pulp fiction, churning out countless fantasy, sci-fi and adventure stories for as little as a cent a word. As Lawrence Wright describes it in his book Going Clear, writing for Hubbard was more a physical act of endurance than it was a mental challenge. An interview obtained by Wright with a former Sea Org member (Scientology’s nautical arm) described Hubbard’s writing process as “First draft, last draft, get out the door.”
Hubbard was unquestionably prolific. He holds the 2006 Guinness World Record for the most published works by one author, at 1028. Hubbard was not a perfectionist doting upon manuscripts for years — he put words on the page and shipped. And, while the quality of Hubbard’s writing can be debated, there’s something to be said for getting to work rather than waiting around. Too much perfectionism only leads to more procrastination and stifles your productivity.
Live Like You’re the Hero of Your Own Story
If you believe the church’s version of Hubbard’s life before Scientology, he was a heroic world-traveller, fought courageously in wars, researched ancient civilizations and more. I’d certainly take life advice from such an experienced man. And he did, in fact, live quite a varied life, but Hubbard often extended his fantasy writing to his own experiences, embellishing stories around partial truths that made him look like a wise hero. He claimed, for example, to have destroyed Japanese submarines off the coast of Oregon in 1943. He did indeed drop 37 depth charges, but officials decided that there was never any evidence of submarines in the area and Hubbard was later relieved of command.
You shouldn’t make false claims about your experiences, of course, but shameless self-promotion isn’t a bad thing, and living as though you’re the hero in a story can be a fun way to motivate yourself. It’s essential to frame yourself in a positive light and take control over your image.
Lawrence Wright goes on to describe Hubbard’s burgeoning “cult of personality” that was forming as he pursued flawed filmmaking projects at sea:
We’re not saying you should go deceiving people, but if there’s one thing Hubbard knew, presenting yourself well can get you far — whether you’re simply wording your LinkedIn profile to highlight your strengths or avoiding those unflattering details on social media. In the age of Google, taking control over your own story and public persona is more important than ever.
Find Your Niche — and Monetise!
L. Ron Hubbards book Dianetics sold half a million copies in its first year and stayed on the New York Times best-seller list for 28 weeks. Obviously, Hubbard had found an audience for a certain kind of self-help (I know it probably would have piqued my interest if I were unaware of its context).
Scientology was a sort of rebranding of Dianetics after the initial enthusiasm for Dianetics had waned, and charging for lectures and lessons slowly and surely grew the coffers of Hubbard and the church. Simply put, he found a unique perspective of how to help people improve their lives — while charging for it. The exact phrasing of a notorious Hubbard quote varies upon the source, but he famously said “You don’t get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion.”
When pursuing your own work, whether you’re a freelance writer or full-time office worker, you need to identify what makes you unique, what you’re good at, and where you can add value that will actually have demand. If you’re one of a thousand doing the same thing, then people won’t seek you out. Hubbard knew he had a unique ability to spin compelling stories on the fly and and entrance people with his charm, and he ran with it — to admittedly extreme levels — but in doing so, he found a widespread audience and effectively monetized his niche. In a smaller way, we should all aim to do the same with our own work.
Controversies aside, our fascination with Scientology is a testament to L. Ron Hubbard’s odd charisma and endless ambition. You don’t have to believe his stories of space ghosts to learn from his earnest and determined work ethic.