Rohn was one of a long line of American entrepreneurs who sold plans and strategies for success and achievement and leadership in one’s field, whatever that may be. If you are a fan of Tony Robbins, you are a fan of Jim Rohn by extension. According to Robbins, Rohn was one of his mentors, and he got his start selling plans like the ones cited above. (I am agnostic on the topic of self-betterment entrepreneurs, but I am a believer in the grace and beauty of getting to know oneself, which is something that all successfulness sellers sell.)
Rohn died in 2009 at age 79 and left behind a self-improvement business empire. He also left us with many quotes, such as, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” And, “Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems; wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenges; wish for more wisdom.” And, “Don’t join an easy crowd. You won’t grow. Go where the expectations and the demands to perform and achieve are high.” And, “Success is what you attract by the person you become.” And last, “The ultimate expression of life is not a paycheck. The ultimate expression of life is not a Mercedes. The ultimate expression of life is not a million dollars or a bank account or a home. The ultimate expression of life is living a good life.” (Apparently Rohn was a big believer in the rule of three.)
Not many of the self-betterment entrepreneurs found success in traditional business settings; none of them, or not many, climbed the corporate ladder and found themselves at the chief executive level and then decided to turn around and share their successes with those following them up the ladder. The icons of self-betterment all sell an idea: that they were once “stuck” and now they are unstuck and if they could figure it out, you can, too. The idea is free; a plan or strategy tailored for your life may run you $500.
All of them, from Dale Carnegie to Bill Wilson (another salesman who failed in the traditional business setting but found enormous success selling an idea: sobriety) to Jim Rohn to Zig Ziglar to Tony Robbins to whoever is the new “Success Coach” around today, found nontraditional success away from the board room or sales floor by selling the simple idea that success is not what society tells itself that it is, and that one needs to know oneself in order to achieve anything, while achieving anything. (Sarcasm Break: That idealistic idea is idyllic in its idealism, but most of these betterment teachers have lived in some pretty sweet houses and purchased a Mercedes or two.)
What they all have to teach is aspirational in the best sense. If one loves how one’s life is going, that is great, but maintaining even that takes work. Whether one spends money attending seminars or picks up some ideas through osmosis, the core principles of success seem to be universal. First, define “success” for oneself. Rohn’s definition is a pretty good one. Also, get to know oneself—that is the difficult one. That is a lifetime of work, and a weekend seminar can be fun to attend, but there is always Monday. Stride up to one’s fears and one’s passions and “do them.” (For me, that includes a fear of public speaking. I speak in public almost every day, blushing each time for the entire time.) Those who claim to not have a passion or a fear in life are discounting themselves, selling themselves short. They do in fact have passions or fears, but they think society does not share them. Also, get out of one’s own way. Life does not need to be lived on a razor’s edge to be exciting; at the end, we will not be awarded bonus points for degree of difficulty. Also, every Life Coach suggests that one ought to surround oneself with teachers. We use each other as teachers every day; we train each other in how to act and how to not act in the world. If one wants to be a great pickpocket, hang out with pickpockets. If one wants to be a great salesman, hang out with pickpockets. (No! Sorry, sarcasm again.)
When I wanted to perfect my drinking, I hung out in bars. I did not want anyone to think I was passionate about my drinking, and I even denied it time and again, but I worked at it studiously. I became so expert at working on this passion that it almost killed me. Success! The same principles of study and work but applied in the opposite direction are worth pursuing. (I changed careers from this pursuit several years ago.)
There is no such thing as an overnight success, except for the rare ones. Some people are born meeting their era’s arbitrary standards for beauty, and that is a wonderful bit of luck for them. I could hang out with handsome people all day, and their good looks will not rub off on me, but perhaps their unearned self-confidence might. Most everyone works at it, whatever “it” is. “I was an overnight success after seven years” of work, Elvis Costello recounted once. “Hang out with good salesmen” does not mean that after one day on the payroll at one’s local Best Purchase or after attending a weekend Zig Ziglar seminar one is going to find a bank account that is the envy of wealthy people everywhere. Work takes work.
I have no clue if some form of writing success (read: publishing deal) is heading in my direction, but I have successfully published about 250 items on this web site. I am surrounded by good examples of good writers here in WordPressLand, and they push me to keep at it. At least five of them (really, more than only five) should count that as a success.
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The WordPress Daily Prompt for March 2 asks, “A writer once said, ‘You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.’ If this is true, which five people would you like to spend your time with?”