What is the Strangest Secret?

In 1956, Earl Nightingale produced an audiobook (if we can call that) by the name of The Strangest Secret, which has been widely recognized as one of the greatest motivational books of all time. According to him,

Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.

He argued that in his age, the opposite to courage is not cowardice: it is conformity. And it surprises me that today 70 years after his discovery and the most remarkable proliferation of information through technology and Internet, his statement is still true.

The secret is the difference between 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.


One example Nightingale effectively uses is that of a typical voyage. 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 any place because it has no destination and no guidance.

The key lesson is that we become what we think about.

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 us.

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.

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.

Success is not the result of making money; earning money is the result of success — and success is in direct proportion to our service. No man can ever get rich without enriching others.

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