Some people worship super heroes and have imaginative competitions between say Spiderman and Batman, or perhaps Superman and The Green Lantern (Answer: Batman and Superman – simply in coolness). I have fanboy crushes over personal development heroes like Tony Robins or Jim Rohn (Answer: Jim wins every time…).
One of my all time personal development heroes is Earl Nightingale. Earl had a voice that came from another time, and you could just imagine him puffing away on a fat cigar and wearing a fur coat from a wild boar that he killed with his bare hands (or perhaps not…).
Earl Nightingale was a personal development heavy weight and his seminal personal development classic ‘The Strangest Secret‘ is definitely one of omy all time favourite recordings (next to Lead the Field).
It’s not a long recording but it’s all meat and potatoes type stuff, big on substance, full calories and it keeps you going throughout the day. It can take a while to get used to Earl’s extremely deep voice, but I like his no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is style. The Strangest Secret is from 1988, but I found that most of the ideas are timeless and still apply today.
The “secret” is simply six words: We become what we think about.
This certainly isn’t a new idea. In fact, Earl clearly admits that he learned it from Napoleon Hill’s classic Think and Grow Rich. And it isn’t a unique idea either. There are plenty of other books that have expanded on the concept, such as Marc Allen’s The Millionaire Course or James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh (later retitled As You Think).
Nevertheless, the idea is a profound one.
Few people would argue that our thoughts control our actions and that our actions (largely) control our results. If you think about going shopping and decide to follow through on that thought, your body follows suit, and pretty soon you acquire the results of going shopping.
It all begins with a thought. But what people often fail to realize is that we have the power to consciously choose our thoughts. Instead of just letting our brains randomly cycle through the same thoughts over and over, we can start choosing to spend time thinking about different things. And if we do that consistently, we’ll shift our actions in new directions and thereby acquire new results.
Thoughts are like seeds. If you want different results in life, you have to figure out which thoughts are capable of growing those results and which aren’t. Then you have to consciously fill your mind with the correct thoughts and weed out the incorrect thoughts.
For example, if you want to start your own business, I can tell you which thoughts are the right seeds and which are the wrong ones. Among the wrong seeds, you’ll find the following thoughts:
Starting my own business is very risky. I have a family to support.
There’s a good chance I’ll go broke.
I don’t have enough money yet.
I have no idea how to start my own business.
I’ve got a safe, secure job. Why would I want to mess that up?
I’m not ready to start my own business just yet. Maybe next year.
Note that I’m not saying that these thoughts are objectively wrong… just that they’re the wrong seeds for the potential result of starting your own business. In other words, the result of starting your own business isn’t going to grow in the soil of the thoughts above. But these are the right seeds if you don’t want to start your own business; these seeds will grow the tree of being a lifelong employee. So chances are that if you harbor thoughts similar to those above, you find yourself an employee right now.
Nothing at all wrong with that if it’s what you want. On the other hand, if you’re an employee right now and would like to start your own business, but your predominant thoughts about the idea are similar to those above, then you have a problem.
Those mental seeds simply won’t grow a business. If you retain those thoughts, you’ll never run your own business, just as if you plant tomato seeds, you’ll never grow a watermelon.
So what kinds of thoughts are the right seeds for starting your own business? Here are some of them:
Sure it’s a risk, but I believe in myself, and whatever obstacles come my way, I’ll overcome them.
I’d rather spend my life working hard to build my own business than to build someone else’s. If I’m going to build a business no matter what, it might as well be my own.
The freedom of being my own boss is extremely attractive to me. Imagine being able to decide how to spend my time every minute of every day.
I can only get so far income-wise as an employee. If I want to hit it rich, I need to go into business for myself.
Now even though thoughts like those above might be the right seeds for starting your own business, that doesn’t mean that planting the right seeds is sufficient to grow the whole plant. Just as plants need water and sunshine, it takes a lot of hard work to build a business. But the right thoughts are the first step. I’m just using the starting of a new business as one example. I could have just as easily used quitting smoking, losing weight, getting married, etc.
The main point I’m trying to make is that if you find yourself in a situation where you want new results in your life (i.e. something other than what you’re currently experiencing), then the first step is to examine your dominant thoughts to see if they’re the right seeds to grow the results you want.
The odds are probably better than 95% that if you’re not making progress, then you’re probably thinking the wrong thoughts and need to replace them with new ones. For example, you won’t become a nonsmoker by thinking thoughts like, “Quitting smoking is hard.”
A key concept to understand here is that shifting your thoughts is a conscious and deliberate activity. You don’t just say to yourself, “Ok, I’ll think about starting my own business. Sounds good. Next….” You have to be a lot more proactive than that. You have to set aside an hour or so to be totally alone, sit down with pen and paper, figure out the correct thoughts/seeds you need to be thinking, and then consciously ram those new thoughts into your head, over and over again until they become dominant over the old thoughts. And if you’re trying to make a big shift in your results, then this is something you’ll need to do every single day.
You might find the above exercise really difficult at first. When you start thinking new thoughts, the most common initial reaction is that you’ll feel a great deal of doubt about them. So if you start thinking about running your own business, your initial images probably won’t seem too attractive.
Then you find yourself thinking about quitting your job, the negative reaction you’ll get from coworkers, the office politics you have to deal with on a daily basis, and you suddenly realize you’re back to thinking the wrong thoughts again. That’s normal.
But use your imagination to push past the doubt and keep working on it.
See that new reality working out beautifully, even if you have no idea how it could possibly work in the real world.
It’s going to be sloppy in the beginning, but it will get easier over time. After about 2-3 weeks of this, you’ll start to actually believe in those new thoughts. And that’s when you’ll feel the urge to start taking action. But in the beginning, you’ll still be too full of doubt to act. That’s fine — it’s important to reach the point of belief first.
Just be patient with yourself, and let your imagination guide you. As Albert Einstein said,
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
You can probably download the MP3 of the Strangest Secret somewhere on the net but here’s a Youtube video you can listen to. Below you will find the transcript to the recording and you can download the transcript as a PDF below.
Earl Nightingale The Strangest Secret
Nightingale-Conant presents Earl Nightingale The Strangest Secret Transcript
Some years ago, the late Nobel prize-winning Dr. Albert Schweitzer was asked by a reporter, “Doctor, what’s wrong with men today?” The great doctor was silent a moment, and then he said, “Men simply don’t think!”
It’s about this that I want to talk with you. We live today in a golden age. This is an era that humanity has looked forward to, dreamed of, and worked toward for thousands of years. We live in the richest era that ever existed on the face of the earth … a land of abundant opportunity for everyone.
However, if you take 100 individuals who start even at the age of 25, do you have any idea what will happen to those men and women by the time they’re 65? These 100 people believe they’re going to be successful. They are eager toward life, there is a certain sparkle in their eye, an erectness to their carriage, and life seems like a pretty interesting adventure to them.
But by the time they’re 65, only one will be rich, four will be financially independent, five will still be working, and 54 will be broke — depending on others for life’s necessities.
Only five out of 100 make the grade! Why do so many fail? What has happened to the sparkle that was there when they were 25? What has become of the dreams, the hopes, the plans … and why is there such a large disparity between what these people intended to do and what they actually accomplished?
THE DEFINITION OF SUCCESS First, we have to define success and here is the best definition I’ve ever been able to find:
“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.”
A success is the school teacher who is teaching because that’s what he or she wants to do. A success is the entrepreneur who start his own company because that was his dream — that’s what he wanted to do. A success is the salesperson who wants to become the best salesperson in his or her company and sets forth on the pursuit of that goal.
A success is anyone who is realizing a worthy predetermined ideal, because that’s what he or she decided to do … deliberately. But only one out of 20 does that! The rest are “failures.”
Rollo May, the distinguished psychiatrist, wrote a wonderful book called Man’s Search for Himself, and in this book he says: “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice … it is conformity.”
And there you have the reason for so many failures. Conformity — people acting like everyone else, without knowing why or where they are going.
We learn to read by the time we’re seven. We learn to make a living by the time we’re 30. Often by that time we’re not only making a living, we’re supporting a family. And yet by the time we’re 65, we haven’t learned how to become financially independent in the richest land that has ever been known. Why? We conform! Most of us are acting like the wrong percentage group — the 95 who don’t succeed.
Have you ever wondered why so many people work so hard and honestly without ever achieving anything in particular, and why others don’t seem to work hard, yet seem to get everything? They seem to have the “magic touch.” You’ve heard people say, “Everything he touches turns to gold.”
Have you ever noticed that a person who becomes successful tends to continue to become more successful? And, on the other hand, have you noticed how someone who’s a failure tends to continue to fail?
The difference is goals. People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going. It’s that simple. Failures, on the other hand, believe that their lives are shaped by circumstances … by things that happen to them … by exterior forces.
Think of a ship with the complete voyage mapped out and planned. The captain and crew know exactly where the ship is going and how long it will take — it has a definite goal. And 9,999 times out of 10,000, it will get there.
Now let’s take another ship — just like the first — only let’s not put a crew on it, or a captain at the helm. Let’s give it no aiming point, no goal, and no destination. We just start the engines and let it go. I think you’ll agree that if it gets out of the harbor at all, it will either sink or wind up on some deserted beach — a derelict. It can’t go anyplace because it has no destination and no guidance.
It’s the same with a human being.
However, the human race is fixed, not to prevent the strong from winning, but to prevent the weak from losing. Society today can be likened to a convoy in time of war. The entire society is slowed down to protect its weakest link, just as the naval convoy has to go at the speed that will permit its slowest vessel to remain in formation.
That’s why it’s so easy to make a living today.
It takes no particular brains or talent to make a living and support a family today. We have a plateau of so-called “security.” So, to succeed, all we must do is decide how high above this plateau we want to aim.
Throughout history, the great wise men and teachers, philosophers, and prophets have disagreed with one another on many different things. It is only on this one point that they are in complete and unanimous agreement — the key to success and the key to failure is this:
WE BECOME WHAT WE THINK ABOUT
This is The Strangest Secret! Now, why do I say it’s strange, and why do I call it a secret? Actually, it isn’t a secret at all. It was first promulgated by some of the earliest wise men, and it appears again and again throughout the Bible. But very few people have learned it or understand it. That’s why it’s strange, and why for some equally strange reason it virtually remains a secret.
Marcus Aurelius, the great Roman Emperor, said: “A man’s life is what his thoughts make of it.”
Disraeli said this: “Everything comes if a man will only wait … a human being with a settled purpose must accomplish it, and nothing can resist a will that will stake even existence for its fulfillment.”
William James said: “We need only in cold blood act as if the thing in question were real, and it will become infallibly real by growing into such a connection with our life that it will become real. It will become so knit with habit and emotion that our interests in it will be those which characterize belief.”
He continues, ” … only you must, then, really wish these things, and wish them exclusively, and not wish at the same time a hundred other incompatible things just as strongly.”
My old friend Dr. Norman Vincent Peale put it this way: “If you think in negative terms, you will get negative results. If you think in positive terms, you will achieve positive results.”
George Bernard Shaw said: “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.”
Well, it’s pretty apparent, isn’t it? We become what we think about. A person who is thinking about a concrete and worthwhile goal is going to reach it, because that’s what he’s thinking about.
Conversely, the person who has no goal, who doesn’t know where he’s going, and whose thoughts must therefore be thoughts of confusion, anxiety, fear, and worry will thereby create a life of frustration, fear, anxiety and worry. And if he thinks about nothing … he becomes nothing.
AS YE SOW — SO SHALLYE REAP
The human mind is much like a farmer’s land.
The land gives the farmer a choice. He may plant in that land whatever he chooses. The land doesn’t care what is planted. It’s up to the farmer to make the decision. The mind, like the land, will return what you plant, but it doesn’t care what you plant. If the farmer plants too seeds — one a seed of corn, the other nightshade, a deadly poison, waters and takes care of the land, what will happen?
Remember, the land doesn’t care. It will return poison in just as wonderful abundance as it will corn.
So up come the two plants — one corn, one poison as it’s written in the Bible, “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.”
The human mind is far more fertile, far more incredible and mysterious than the land, but it works the same way.
It doesn’t care what we plant … success … or failure. A concrete, worthwhile goal … or confusion, misunderstanding, fear, anxiety, and so on. But what we plant it must return to you.
The problem is that our mind comes as standard equipment at birth. It’s free. And things that are given to us for nothing, we place little value on.
Things that we pay money for, we value.The paradox is that exactly the reverse is true. Everything that’s really worthwhile in life came to us free — our minds, our souls, our bodies, our hopes, our dreams, our ambitions, our intelligence, our love of family and children and friends and country.
All these priceless possessions are free.
But the things that cost us money are actually very cheap and can be replaced at any time. A good man can be completely wiped out and make another fortune. He can do that several times. Even if our home burns down, we can rebuild it. But the things we got for nothing, we can never replace.
Our mind can do any kind of job we assign to it, but generally speaking, we use it for little jobs instead of big ones.
So decide now.
What is it you want?
Plant your goal in your mind. It’s the most important decision you’ll ever make in your entire life.
Do you want to excel at your particular job? Do you want to go places in your company … in your community? Do you want to get rich? All you have got to do is plant that seed in your mind, care for it, work steadily toward your goal, and it will become a reality.
It not only will, there’s no way that it cannot. You see, that’s a law — like the laws of Sir Isaac Newton, the laws of gravity. If you get on top of a building and jump off, you’ll always go down — you’ll never go up.
And it’s the same with all the other laws of nature. They always work. They’re inflexible. Think about your goal in a relaxed, positive way. Picture yourself in your mind’s eye as having already achieved this goal. See yourself doing the things you will be doing when you have reached your goal.
Every one of us is the sum total of our own thoughts. We are where we are because that’s exactly where we really want or feel we deserve to be — whether we’ll admit that or not. Each of us must live off the fruit of our thoughts in the future, because what you think today and tomorrow — next month and next year — will mold your life and determine your future. You’re guided by your mind.
I remember one time I was driving through eastern Arizona and I saw one of those giant earthmoving machines roaring along the road with what looked like 30 tons of dirt in it — a tremendous, incredible machine — and there was a little man perched way up on top with the wheel in his hands, guiding it.
As I drove along I was struck by the similarity of that machine to the human mind. Just suppose you’re sitting at the controls of such a vast source of energy. Are you going to sit back and fold your arms and let it run itself into a ditch?
Or are you going to keep both hands firmly on the wheel and control and direct this power to a specific, worthwhile purpose? It’s up to you. You’re in the driver’s seat. You see, the very law that gives us success is a double edged sword.
We must control our thinking. The same rule that can lead people to lives of success, wealth, happiness, and all the things they ever dreamed of — that very same law can lead them into the gutter.
It’s all in how they use it … for good or for bad. That is The Strangest Secret!
Do what the experts since the dawn of recorded history have told us to do: pay the price, by becoming the person you want to become. It’s not nearly as difficult as living unsuccessfully.
The moment you decide on a goal to work toward, you’re immediately a successful person — you are then in that rare group of people who know where they’re going.
Out of every hundred people, you belong to the top five.
Don’t concern yourself too much with how you are going to achieve your goal — leave that completely to a power greater than yourself.
All you have to do is know where you’re going. The answers will come to you of their own accord, and at the right time.
You have nothing to lose — but you have your whole life to win.
30-DAYACTION IDEAS FOR PUTTING THE STRANGEST SECRET TO WORK FOR YOU
For the next 30-days follow each of these steps every day until you have achieved your goal.
- Write on a card what it is you want more that anything else. It may be more money. Perhaps you’d like to double your income or make a specific amount of money. It may be a beautiful home. It may be success at your job. It may be a particular position in life. It could be a more harmonious family. Write down on your card specifically what it is you want. Make sure it’s a single goal and clearly defined. You needn’t show it to anyone, but carry it with you so that you can look at it several times a day. Think about it in a cheerful, relaxed, positive way each morning when you get up, and immediately you have something to work for — something to get out of bed for, something to live for. Look at it every chance you get during the day and just before going to bed at night. As you look at it, remember that you must become what you think about, and since you’re thinking about your goal, you realize that soon it will be yours. In fact, it’s really yours the moment you write it down and begin to think about it.
- Stop thinking about what it is you fear. Each time a fearful or negative thought comes into your mind, replace it with a mental picture of your positive and worthwhile goal. And there will come a time when you’ll feel like giving up. It’s easier for a human being to think negatively than positively. That’s why only five percent are successful! You must begin now to place yourself in that group.
“Act as though it were impossible to fail,” as Dorothea Brande said. No matter what your goal — if you’ve kept your goal before you every day — you’ll wonder and marvel at this new life you’ve found.
- Your success will always be measured by the quality and quantity of service you render. Most people will tell you that they want to make money, without understanding this law. The only people who make money work in a mint. The rest of us must earn money. This is what causes those who keep looking for something for nothing, or a free ride, to fail in life. Success is not the result of making money; earning money is the result of success — and success is in direct proportion to our service.
Most people have this law backwards.
It’s like the man who stands in front of the stove and says to it: “Give me heat and then I’ll add the wood.”
How many men and women do you know, or do you suppose there are today, who take the same attitude toward life? There are millions.
We’ve got to put the fuel in before we can expect heat. Likewise, we’ve got to be of service first before we can expect money. Don’t concern yourself with the money. Be of service … build … work … dream … create! Do this and you’ll find there is no limit to the prosperity and abundance that will come to you.
Don’t start your test until you’ve made up your mind to stick with it. If you should fail during your first 30 days — by that I mean suddenly find yourself overwhelmed by negative thoughts — simply start over again from that point and go 30 more days. Gradually, your new habit will form, until you find yourself one of that wonderful minority to whom virtually nothing is impossible.
Above all … don’t worry! Worry brings fear, and fear is crippling. The only thing that can cause you to worry during your test is trying to do it all yourself. Know that all you have to do is hold your goal before you; everything else will take care of itself.
Take this 30-day test, then repeat it … then repeat it again. Each time it will become more a part of you until you’ll wonder how you could have ever have lived any other way. Live this new way and the floodgates of abundance will open and pour over you more riches than you may have dreamed existed. Money? Yes, 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.
Download the Transcript as a PDF below
Have you listened to ‘The Strangest Secret’? What did you think and share your thoughts down below.