How would you define success? Is it being rich, happy, or living a long and healthy life? Whichever the case, have you ever wondered, what is the key to success? Or perhaps what makes one man a success and another a failure?
If you seek answers to these questions, you are not alone. For many years now, hundreds of thousands of humans have searched for the answers to these questions. But only a few have been intentional about their search. Since you are reading this today, you are one of them and you are in the right place.
Let me start by telling you about a boy; a boy who in his diligent search for answers to these questions, discovered a secret; a boy who became a man of repute in the entire Personal Development Industry. His name was Earl Nightingale.
Born sometime in March 1921, at a time when the world was suffering an economic depression, Earl Nightingale knew what it meant to be poor. From a young age, he began to wonder why many were poor, like his family, while a few others were rich. Spurred on by this desire for answers and his inability to find them from the adults around him, Nightingale read everything he could find.
In time, Nightingale found the answers he sought. At age 35, he recorded and shared his discovery with the rest of the world. He titled it ‘’The Strangest Secret in the World.” What is this secret and why is it strange?
You’re probably eager to know the answers to these questions. But first, let us answer another question that is crucial to understanding Nightingale’s discovery (full-length video below – 40min.)
WHAT IS SUCCESS?
If you call a hundred men and ask them if they want to be successful, with a sparkle in their eyes and fire in their bones they’ll all reply with a resounding “Yes”. However, only about five of them would be able to define what it means to be and actually become successful.
Earl Nightingale defined success as the progressive realization of a worthy ideal. In other words, if a man knows where he is going, having set a predetermined goal and works towards it, that man is a success.
In plain terms, a successful person is one who decides on what to do or whom to be and works steadily towards doing or being just that. Hence, in Nightingale’s words: “A success is the school teacher who is teaching school because that’s what she wanted to do… a success is the successful salesman who wants to become a top-notch salesman and grow and build with his organization.”
Now, what is Earl Nightingale’s strangest secret?
THE STRANGEST SECRET IN THE WORLD
What if I told you that the strangest secret in the world isn’t a secret at all? What if I told you that the key to success is in your head? Perhaps you would think me crazy or maybe not. But that’s exactly what Earl Nightingale tells us.
Earl Nightingale’s strangest secret in the world is that WE BECOME WHAT WE THINK ABOUT. Surprisingly, this is nothing new. You probably have seen something similar in Proverbs 23:7; “As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is.”
It turns out that many other great men also knew and have revealed this secret, with each thinking they were the first. The likes of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, and Williams Shakespeare put it in different ways. The long and short of it however is that what we think about ultimately decides whether or not we’ll be successful.
Now, let’s go back to Nightingale’s definition of success: the progressive realization of a worthy ideal. Setting a predetermined goal and working towards it. In light of the revelation of Nightingale’s secret, it stands to reason that a person who is thinking about a concrete and worthwhile goal is going to reach it because that’s what he is thinking about and we become what we think about. This is the case for the 5% who become successful.
On the hand, the man with no goal has no destination. His thoughts must therefore be of confusion and anxiety and fear and worry because that is what he thinks about. As a result, his life becomes one of frustration, fear, anxiety, and worry. And because he thinks about nothing concrete or worthwhile, he becomes nothing worthwhile.
This secret is strange, not because people don’t know it but because those who know it, don’t understand it. Only a minute few who’ve learned it, truly understand it. And now that you know the secret too, you are armed and dangerous, poised for success. But only just. What you have right now, at best, is a loaded gun. To fire that gun, you need something more. Here are some tips from Nightingale himself.
TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR MIND
Nightingale described the human mind as a land of sorts where things grow. The land does not decide what is to be planted. The farmer does. Now, suppose the farmer has two seeds; one a corn seedling and the other a poison seedling. He plants both in the land and waters them for a time. Eventually, what happens? The land does not return a berry nor does it return a cherry. It returns the corn and the poison that was planted!
Your mind is that land and more. It doesn’t just return that which you put in it, it multiplies it. In the same vein, you are that farmer. You decide what gets planted in your mind. Good thoughts or bad? Great goals or confusion? The choice is yours really. If you wish to be successful, you must train your brain for positive thinking; you must constantly control your thoughts because just as it is written in the good book, “as you sow, so shall you reap.”
USE YOUR IMAGINATION
In the words of Arthur Ward, an American motivational writer and poet, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it.” His words attest to how powerful your imagination is and why it is crucial if you hope to be successful at whatever goal you set out to accomplish.
To harness the power of your imagination in your quest for success, Nightingale advises that you think about your goal in a relaxed, positive way. You must picture yourself in your mind’s eye as having already achieved your goals and then see yourself doing the things that you will be doing when you have reached these goals. This will permanently affix to your mind the thought of where you want to be and spur you on, even on your worst days.
Therefore, always imagine the positive. Cutaway all the fetters from your mind and permit it to soar as it was designed to do. In Nightingale’s own words “[realize] that your limitations are self-imposed and that the opportunities for you today are enormous beyond belief.” For a fact, with your imagination, you can rise above the narrow-minded pettiness and prejudice both inside and around you.
COURAGE- A MUST-HAVE
In a world of what-ifs, could-haves, and should-haves, it is easy to see many paths to failure. It takes courage to ignore the noise and focus on your goals. Oftentimes, your brain’s negativity bias will kick in. Don’t let it. If you do, the results may be catastrophic. Indeed, it takes courage to keep a tight rein on this innate anomaly.
In Earl Nightingale’s the strangest secret, he outlines four things that you will require courage to do in your quest for success:
- To set a definite and clearly defined goal for yourself
- To let your marvelous mind think about your goals from all possible angles
- To let your imagination speculate freely upon many different possible solutions
- To refuse to believe that there are any circumstances sufficiently strong enough to defeat you in the accomplishment of your purpose.
There’s one universal fact of life: each of us wants something and each of us fears something. Now, there’s a tendency to focus on your fears such that your goal becomes fuzzy. Our fear could be a result of past experiences or feelings of inadequacy. Regardless, take courage. Fight those fears. Learn to let go of the past. You must focus on that which you want, write it down if you must, and keep thinking about it. Remember, positive thoughts bring positive results whereas negative thoughts breed negative results. This is the law of attraction. So, take courage and get rid of negative thoughts.
It was Peter Marshall who said that “small deeds done are better than great deeds planned.” It makes sense that for your thoughts to materialize, you have to work towards them. As you think more about your goals, at some point you must act in accordance with those thoughts.
Illustrating the importance of actions, Nightingale said: To be a doctor, you must pay the price of long years of difficult study. To be successful in selling… you must be willing to pay the price.” Action is the price that we pay in realizing those beautiful imaginations that tell us where we want to be. They are the bridge between the goals that we think about and the actual realization of them.
As earlier mentioned, start by writing down your goals. You don’t have to show it to anyone but take it with you wherever you go. Read it to yourself many times a day. And as you do this, look around you and satisfy yourself that you have everything you could possibly need to accomplish your goal. All that’s left is to ask for it. And don’t be scared to ask for what you need from whomever. For as the good book so aptly puts it: “Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and ye shall find… For every one that asketh, receiveth, and he that seeketh, findeth…”
True, every once in a while you will feel like giving up because of anxieties. Usually, this comes from overthinking things. You must learn to stop overthinking and take action, even if they are baby steps at first. Don’t worry too much about “how,” focus on “where”. Remember that the very moment you began to think deeply about your goals, the universe conspires to help you attain them. Nightingale advises that you read inspirational books. You can also read articles and posts such as those that can help you deal with anxiety (visit our positive thinking center for other helpful tips from leading scientists.) This is you taking action.
There, you have it, the strangest secret in the world is something you already know; it’s the key to success; it’s why a few are successful and many others are not- YOU BECOME WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT. It all begins in your mind. What you decide to plant in that fertile land-like space matters a lot; take control of it, get rid of negative thoughts and hold on to positive ones; allow your mind to imagine what your life will look like once you’ve achieved your goals; there are many qualities you might need on this journey, but courage is paramount; and whatever you do, act. Act like it is impossible to fail.
Now, as you strive to follow the various tips outlined throughout this article, I’ll leave you with these words by Earl Nightingale:
“Do what all the experts since the dawn of recorded history have told you, you must do- pay the price by becoming the person you want to become. It’s not nearly as difficult as living unsuccessfully… Live this new way and the flood gates of abundance will open and pour over you more riches than you may have dreamed existed. Money [or whatever it is that you want], lots of it, but what’s more important, you’ll have peace. You’ll be in that wonderful minority who lead calm, cheerful successful lives. Start today. You have nothing to lose. But you have a life to win.”