“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.” ~ George Bernard Shaw (1893)
At more than any other period in history, we are living in times of abundance. I know that may seem like an odd statement at this point in time but I believe it to be true. We really are living in an era in which people are able to choose what they want to do…and do it. Not to mention make a living doing so. Now it may require a shift in thinking towards success, a change in what we believe to be valuable, and perhaps it will even require many of us to dabble on the edge of non-conformity. God forbid.
Many of us have seen the Gary Vaynerchuk video where he insists that people shouldn’t do what they hate, in 2008. If you haven’t seen it check it out here. He makes a very valid point.
I recently came across another very powerful message by Earl Nightingale titled, “The Strangest Secret.” If you’ve never heard it I posted a video at the top of this page. It was written and recorded in 1956 and the basic tenet is that we become what we think about. Even though this was published over 50 years ago it still carries a very relevant message today; possibly more so now than ever. I’ve outlined some of Nightingale’s basic philosophies/concepts below. It’s interesting to see how they build on each other. Think about these and how they apply to your life.
1. The Most Imporant Decision You’ll Ever Make
“Decide now. ‘What is it you want?’ Plant your goal in your mind. Give yourself direction and a destination. It’s the most important decision you’ll ever make…in your life”. ~ Earl Nightingale
Although it may not seem like it on the surface, there are so many options and opportunities available to us right now. The hardest part is oftentimes choosing which path to take. Along with these opportunities come distractions, too. That’s why it is so critical to create a destination and direction for yourself. Have goals. Hey, nobody says your direction and goals can’t change along the way, but in the words of Laurence Peter, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.”
2. Don’t Conform for the Sake of Conformity
“The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardess, it’s conformity.” ~ Rollo May
Many people wake up every day and go to work for someone they don’t like, doing things that don’t excite them, at a place that’s far from home. Why? Well, for the most part it’s conformity. Everyone else is doing it, right? Sometimes we never stop or slow down to observe our own direction or understand our ultimate destination; we just keep going to that workplace because everyone else does or we buy a house because everyone else did, and so it goes.
3. Success is the Progressive Realization of a Worthy Ideal
To me, this is one of the most profound concepts of the entire piece. Nightingale doesn’t define success in terms of wealth or material possessions as many people do, he describes it as the concept of progressively realizing a worthy ideal – or goal. In other words, success is the continual advancement in a specific direction towards a predefined destination. He goes on to expound that many or most people are not successful because they do not create their own direction and destination, in fact they do quite the opposite by conforming to someone else’s.
Anyone can be successful so long as they are achieving their goals. Whether you are a teacher, a doctor, a mother or father, a salesperson- it doesn’t matter. If you are doing what you want to do and advancing toward your destination because it’s what you want to do, then you are successful.
4. Instead of Competing… Create
Nightingale references a survey that was conducted among working men. When asked the question, “Why do you get out of bed to go to work in the morning?” – 19 out of 20 men responded, ‘Because everyone else does.” Nightingale claims that this conformity of men (and women) leads to being unsuccessful simply because their is no direction or progression toward any type of goal. He goes on to say that because of this there really is no competition or need to compete… we must simply create. In other words, just by getting off our asses, developing long- and short-term goals, and then working towards them will put us in the top 5%. Interesting thought, huh?
5. The Paradox of Free
The point here is that as a society we tend to take things for granted and place little value on those things which we receive for free. We often place an increasingly higher value on material items in proportion to their cost. Let’s examine those things which we receive for free: our minds, souls, hopes, dreams, ambitions, family, love, intelligence, and friends to name a few. The things that cost us money are actually very cheap and replaceable: our homes, cars, businesses, iphones, ipods, laptops, our fortunes, you get the picture. The paradox is that those things which we receive for free are actually more valuable than anything else, not to mention irreplaceable, and the things which cost us the most money can be replaced and are least valuable.
Again, we do live in a time of great abundance particularly when it comes to being able to do what we want, being happy and successful, and earning a living at it. However, as I mentioned, to do this will most certainly require us to shift our thinking. It will require us to re-evaluate those things which we hold dear and deem to be the most valuable; which is uncomfortable for many of us because it may just reveal that all those material possessions we’re chasing are far less valuable than that which we’ve already received for free. And last but not least, these times that we’re living in will force us all to contemplate conformity (or more importantly non-conformity) and perhaps redefine them.
I hope you enjoy Mr. Nightingale’s “The Strangest Secret” as much as I did.