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Earl Nightingale’s The strangest secret in the World

Earl Nightingale on: “My Greatest Discovery!”

Earl’s father had left the family when Earl was just twelve years old. 

He was living in a government-issued tent in Long Beach, California with his mother and two brothers. It was during the Great Depression, and like many thousands of families, the Nightingales would have been homeless if not for the help of the government’s Works Progress Administration (WPA), which created 8 million jobs and redistributed food, clothing and housing to the poor.

The disparity between the lives of the haves and have-nots was vast, and it troubled Nightingale. “As a youngster, I didn’t know anything about a sense of achievement, but I was all too aware of being poor,” he says in his book Earl Nightingale’s Greatest Discovery. “It didn’t seem to bother the other kids, but it bothered me. 

What made it all the more exasperating to me, as a boy of 12, was to be poor in Southern California, where there seemed to be so many who were rich…. I decided to find out why some people were rich while so very many of us were poor.”

“What is the secret of success?”

He spent 17 long years seeking the answer. During that time, he joined the Marines, was posted to Hawaii aboard the U.S.S. Arizona, and was one of the few hundred men who survived the battleship’s bombing in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Nightingale described the chaos and tragedy of the attack: scrambling to battle stations as bombs crippled the ship, seeing friends killed amid shrapnel and flames, getting blown into the water by the concussion of a blast and finally making it safely to shore with help from a Marine officer.

His experience left him with a conviction that he was spared for a reason, says his widow, Diana Nightingale. “He was a great believer in paying the price for what you wanted—whether that was personal freedom or the freedom of your country,” she says. “He came home from the war with great expectations and went about the business of life.”

“He was a man who really did live in the present. He felt the past served as an education and we should take what was valuable from it. He said the future wasn’t promised to anyone and that you should live each day fully and to the best of your ability.”

In 1950, at the age of 29, he found the secret of success in Napoleon Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich: “We become what we think about.”

“While reading, it suddenly dawned upon me that I had been reading the same truth over and over again for many years. And all of a sudden, there they were, the words, in the proper order that I had been looking for 17 years: the astonishing truth that ‘we become what we think about.’ Those six simple words, in that order, revolutionized my life.”

Seizing new opportunities, Nightingale bought a small Franklin Life Insurance agency and gave pep talks to his salesmen every week.

The talks proved so popular that his manager asked him to record something to be played while Nightingale was away for two weeks.

“I thought about it, turning the ideas over and over in my mind. Finally, I asked myself, ‘What would you tell your children if you found you had only a short time to live? What advice could you pass on to them that would assist them in living highly productive, very successful lives?’ I awakened at 4 the next morning with the answer to that question clearly in mind.”

He got up and wrote down his ideas, and by noon the following day, had recorded the essay. “I called what I had written and recorded The Strangest Secret.” He chose the name because it seemed strange to him that such a simple truth could be secret to so many.

Word spread from insurance agents to their relatives and friends, and demand grew. “The Strangest Secret was the child that grew into the audio recording industry. With no effort on my part whatsoever, with no advertising of any kind, The Strangest Secret became a national best-seller. 

I was ill-prepared to handle the avalanche of orders for that recording. My good friend Lloyd Conant, then owner of Specialty Mail Services, stepped into the breach. He was happy and abundantly prepared to handle the business end of my sudden good fortune. 

The orders continued to pour in from every section of the country. It was astonishing how the word about that recorded message got around. And that was the beginning of what was to become—officially in 1960—the Nightingale-Conant Corporation.”

The recording sold more than 1 million copies, eventually becoming the first spoken-word recording to reach Gold Record status.

In 1959, Nightingale began a radio program called Our Changing World. The show, a five-minute uplifting message, became the largest syndicated radio show of its kind anywhere and was distributed to a worldwide audience via Nightingale-Conant. At its peak, about 1,000 radio stations carried the show.

I personally always loved listening to – and reading – the enlightening words of Earl Nightingale.

The Nightingale-Conant partnership was dubbed a “mastermind alliance” by W. Clement Stone because the skills of both men were so complementary. Between them, they built Nightingale-Conant into the premier audio self-improvement company in the country.

Although Nightingale died over a quarter century ago, his books and audio programs continue to inspire people around the world. Best-selling author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar says, “Earl Nightingale has inspired more people toward success and fortune than any other motivational speaker on the planet.”

As has been said by wiser people than me, “We all stand on the shoulders of giants.”

Just look at this list: Napoleon Hill stood on the shoulders of Andrew Carnegie and all the other titans of business and knowledge he interviewed before he wrote his book, Think and Grow Rich.

W. Clement Stone stood on the shoulders of Napoleon Hill.

Earl Nightingale stood on the shoulders of Hill and Stone.

Zig Ziglar stood on the shoulders of Earl Nightingale.

Furthermore, each of these stood on the shoulders of such giants as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson – who stood on the shoulders of such people as St. Augustine, Paul of Tarsus, and Aristotle.

Now, you and I have the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of ALL these giants.

A very important take away – in my opinion – from all of this – applied to Internet marketing – or any field of endeavor, for that matter – has nothing to do with Earl’s “words of wisdom”.

Rather think about where he came from.  All too many people today would have used…“growing up fatherless, in the middle of the Great Depression, living in a government-issued tent with his mother and two brothers,” as an excuse for a life of crime and failure.

An excuse to expect and DEMAND preferential treatment from others.

However, Earl did the exact opposite and used his youthful experience of a life of dismal reality to bootstrap himself to a place of world-wide prominence.

You could do the same – if…

IF you have the proper mindset to do so.

Back to what Napoleon Hill said,  “We become what we think about.”

What are you thinking about today?

What are you going to think about tomorrow?

You get to choose.

I hope you choose well.

Listen to his “The strangest secret in the world” (with subtitles).

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