One of my very first mentors was Earl Nightingale. No, I never had the pleasure of meeting him but I did listen to him nearly every day for nearly a decade. When I was 18 years old, my uncle gave me two gifts. One was a book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and the other was a six piece set of tapes of Lead the Field by Earl Nightingale. Since, by age 18, I hadn’t yet found my propensity for reading, I chose to focus on the tapes. I would listen to these tapes as I went to sleep, during the day on my Walkman (yes, I know that dates me), and I would attend class each day I drove at Automobile University. Needless to say, Earl became a part of my DNA.
I truly believed I was listening to some secret society information that only a chosen few had been offered the privilege of knowing about. And why wouldn’t I? No one else I knew had ever heard of Earl Nightingale or anyone like him. No one I knew was listening to tapes like these and so I figured this was the secret I had been searching for my entire, albeit short lived, adult life. And I believed every word he said as gospel truth.
I can remember a time, about two years after receiving the gift of those cassette tapes when I was broke. I was living with friends, ‘taking a break’ from school and working odd jobs to make ends meet while I build my insurance business. I was lucky to eat one meal a day, usually, Raman Noodles and an ear of corn or if we had extra money we’d buy a cheap can of tuna and mix it with the generic mac and cheese, and viola, tuna casserole. On this one particular day, when I was working as an add collections agent for a monthly rag called the Pennsylvania Athlete. They gave me a contract to pick up in Carbondale. Now, that was about 20 miles from the office. If I made the collection, I would make about $15, that was a lot of money to me. The thing was, I only had about two bucks in my pocket and my gas tank was on ‘E’. Good thing gas cost only about $1 a gallon then and two gallons would get me about 60 miles. Just enough to make it there and back, but little further. So, I took the risk and I went. Now sometimes these collections went very smoothly. The sales person did a great job of setting expectations and when I arrived, a check would be waiting. But other times, the sales person gave me a ‘soft lead’ which meant I had to close the deal upon arrival. I was told this particular sale was solid. Naturally, when arriving at my destination, the proprietor had no idea why I was there. So I moved right into my normal pitch. They didn’t budge. Now, I was 20, and I was a smart-mouthed punk, who was hungry and had just risked the last of his money on this collection and I made a crucial mistake. I got smart with him. Apparently I caught him on a bad day and he literally tossed me out of his office, called my manager and I got canned. So, now here I am, nearly out of gas, out of money and out of a job. My pride was hurt as was my tail bone where I landed on the sidewalk. Oh, yeah and I was starving. It’s after lunch and I didn’t have breakfast. I got in my car and turned on the radio where the reassuring voice of Earl Nightingale was playing. When just then, he said something I hadn’t heard before. I’d listened to the tapes a ton of times by this time but it was if I had just heard this for the first time. He said what the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve and that the mind was so powerful nothing was impossible. He said all we needed to do was see with crystal clarity what we wanted to achieve and we’d be able to achieve it. So, I decided it was time to get rid of my hunger and to make myself lunch, in my head. I pulled over to the side of the road and imagined my favorite sandwich in the world at that time. I made myself a white Albacore tuna sandwich on white toast, mixed with mayonnaise, chopped onion and celery. Then I ate it, right there in my car. I even imagined wiping my mouth and washing it down with grandma’s homemade ice tea. Now some of you this might seem utterly ridiculous but to me, it was a turning point. You know why? Because it worked. I wasn’t hungry any longer and I actually felt better. But most importantly, now I believed. I believed if I could do this with a sandwich I could do this with anything and I took what were only thoughts and turned them into reality. I then took that belief and applied it to every facet of my life.
So many people miss this point. They ask me how I know what I know? How did I become the man I am today? Why am I filled with such conviction? They believe there is one single action I took or for the fatalists in the world they think I was born like this or my family honed me into the person I am today. Far from it! I didn’t take a single action. I’ve taken hundreds and thousands of actions over the past 20 years. I read a book a week on purpose. I still attend Automobile University every day. And most importantly, I took action on the things I learned. Always tinkering, till I found the right formula.
As far as being born this way. Phooey. I’m not a fan of pre-destination. I believe you are given talents and it’s your job to use them to the fullest. I am man of faith and I believe God will come alongside you and if necessary carry you during the difficult times but it’s up to you to get up and walk into that ring every day.
The thought that I was born into this life is also absurd. I was born into very modest lower middle class way of life. My mother raised me as a single mom till I was 10. After she remarried and had more children, money got tight and I can remember us using the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program. My mom did a great job and the man she married had the guts to raise someone else’s seed like it was his own. I think that makes him a hero. However, rich people were often talked about in the context of the ‘evil empire’ and money was thought to be in limited supply. I can remember regular conversations from my grandfather regarding his prejudices about those who have as compared to those who have not. In many ways my family thought of themselves as a victim of society and they oftentimes did not take personal responsibility for the result of their life. Don’t get me wrong, they were good, hardworking, church-going Catholics who acted with honesty and integrity. They love me and I love them. But, they didn’t raise me to think the way I do today. I sought this information and once I knew it existed I kept searching and I imagine will forever devour this brain food till the day I die. Had the gift of Earl Nightingale not been given to me at age 18, I very well may still be one of the many, rather than one of the few.
I tell you this not to impress you with my discipline for self education but rather to impress upon you the importance of it. I believe that if you wish to be a better you, you must be better. I believe when you look in the mirror in the morning you should be able to confidently say, “This is all my fault”, and mean it. I believe that you can affect the outcome of your life. And I believe it’s not what happens to you that matters, it’s what you do about what happens to you that matters. Most of all, I believe what the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.