The Strangest Secret

Today, I again watched the Earl Nightingale video The Strangest Secret. It is something that is well worth watching when you feel as if you need a little motivation or if you are beginning to wonder if the direction you are moving in is the right one.

Of course, he does reveal his secret (the strangest secret) right at the end of his talk, but he makes some excellent points in the process. The main theme of this talk is that most people are simply engaged in doing the wrong things with their lives and so, amongst other lessons you might derive from this simple fact, one of them is to be very choosy about who you decide to follow.

The vast majority of people – he says 19 out of 20 (or 95%) – simply do not have real clarity about why they are going to work, for example. Of course, he was talking about life back in the fifties, but in my own experience, things have not significantly changed. Of course, we work for money – that’s the essential arrangement, but, is that the only reason you are going to work?

Personally, I think that if you were to answer ‘yes’ to that question, you might still be better off than the majority. Why? Because you have that clarity that 19 out of 20 don’t possess. He says that the vast majority of people didn’t know why they got up and went to work and, when pressed, they said it was because ‘everybody works’.

But, if everybody works, it would be a very good reason to question the wisdom of doing so, he says, because 95% of people do not know where they are going – I remember exactly the same point being made in James Caan’s book. Like James, he suggests you should actually consider doing the exact opposite of the 95% and adds that you probably won’t go far wrong if you were to do that. As he puts it, most people are playing ‘follow the follower’.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with working 40 hours per week doing whatever it is that you may be doing and then going home and watching TV until it’s time to do it all over again – especially if you enjoy what you are doing. Really, he is not talking to those people who enjoy their daily routine whatever it is; he is speaking with those people who want something different, something better.

Here’s his little checklist:

  • Goal – Don’t be like a ship without a rudder
  • Attitude – We get what we give out
  • Think – Deliberately and with purpose
  • Cause and Effect – Rewards are in proportion to service
  • Truth – Build on sound principles
  • Research and Development – Reinvest time & money

The strangest secret, according to Earl Nightingale is that we “become what we think about most of the time.” Like many people before me, I can say that there is a great deal of truth in those words, but perhaps we need to prove the truth of them ourselves.

It all begins with a goal: something that is inspiring, challenging and that you can commit yourself to achieving. It needs to be something that you know you can reach via your own efforts combined with the efforts of those you can influence and not something that depends upon luck. When you have set the right goal, then things can begin to change because you can think about that goal regularly.

What will happen if you engage in regular, sustained thinking about your challenging and inspiring goal is that the way will begin to open up. You will begin to get ideas about what you could do to get a step closer and, of course, you need to take those steps as they occur to you. You will make mistakes – that’s inevitable – but if you are committed, you are going to get there eventually.

Without wishing to be offensive, the majority of people will continue to run around on that treadmill until they are too old to do it anymore and, hopefully, by that time, they will have accumulated enough to get by in their retirement.

But remember too that it does not have to be that way for you. Just because the vast majority live their lives in that way does not mean that you need to do so too. You can be an exception. You can decide where your life is going and then you can make it happen if you are prepared to work at getting there. This is the process by which your whole life can change.

Sure, it may be true that 95% of people will simply not use that process, but that does not need to include you. You can become one of the 5% if you work on yourself and you can use that little checklist above to get you started.

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