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My Favorites Quotes from Sam Walton, Founder of Walmart and Richest Man in the U.S.

Sam Walton may have been the richest person to ever exist. It is hard to get a number for his net worth when he was alive. But the inheritance he left his four children kept them consistently at the top ten richest people in the world. And he was declared the richest man in the United States when he was alive.

I just had to read his book Made in America to discover his secrets to success and learn more about him as a person. And man, was I shocked.

Sam is the complete opposite of the stereotypical show-off, jet-setting millionaire CEO who parties with models. In fact, he was humble, frugal, and cared about the lowest level employee. He was also charismatic, hard-working (sometimes to a fault), and a family man.

Lately, I’ve been noticing this trend of an “old-fashioned, humble guy” among the billionaires I’ve studied, including Warren Buffett and Phil Knight. Perhaps, these show-off millionaires on Instagram can learn a thing or two from them.

I wanted to share with you some of my favorite Sam Walton quotes and why they’re so awesome:

“I don’t subscribe to any of these fancy investment theories and most people would be surprised to know that I haven’t done much investing in anything but Walmart. I believe the folks who have done the best with Walmart stock are those who have studied the company and understood our strengths and our management approach and who, like me, have decided to invest with us for the long run.”

-Sam Walton, from the book Made in America

Sometimes, the best investment for a CEO is to reinvest in what they already understand and what’s already working really well. Having studied a lot of investing myself, I realize investing is a different skillset than running a company. Although Warren Buffett says they’re complimentary, it doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to be good at one if you’re good at another.

Eerily similar to Warren Buffett’s investing method, Sam argues that the investment firms and individual stockholders who have done the best with Walmart stock were not looking for technical chart patterns or short-term profits. They were not people who saw Walmart as nothing more than a ticker symbol and didn’t know much about the actual company.

They were people who studied the company until they fully understood its strengths and management approach. And they were willing to hold the stock for a long time, if not, forever. According to the book Reminiscences of a Stock Operator, the real money is to be made in the long term, not the short-term jumping in and out.

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”


“I have always been driven to buck the system, to innovate, to take things beyond where they’ve been.”


“High expectations are the key to everything.”


“I had to pick myself up and get on with it, do it all over again, only even better this time.” (And he did)


“What we guard against around here is people saying, ‘Let’s think about it.’ We make a decision. Then we act on it.”


“Everything I’ve done I’ve copied from somebody else.”

Like quite a few others I’ve met, I used to think it’s unethical to copy from someone else. While in some creative arenas, like art, music, or fiction, it is, that’s not the case for business. It’s not so black and white.

As long as its legal, you’d be a fool to not copy another who has found a much better way. According to Warren Buffett, a core part of any business industry involves building a durable competitive advantage so others can’t copy you and accepting copying as natural by realizing competitors will copy your good ideas.

A few years ago, I saw a popular thread on Reddit. The creator of the thread was complaining about how his own cousin stole his business idea and sold the same product behind his back. While I did think it was a dick move that his cousin shouldn’t have done, I also realize how small-sighted his thinking was.

If it’s a good product, tons of people will copy it. If it wasn’t his cousin, a stranger would have. In fact, it wouldn’t just be one person — but many. It’s legal to copy product designs if you don’t have a patent. So instead of whining, be like Sam Walton and learn from others, while strengthening your advantage so it can’t be copied.

“Great ideas come from everywhere if you just listen and look for them. You never know who’s going to have a great idea.”


“For my whole career in retail, I have stuck by one guiding principle. It’s a simple one, and I have repeated it over and over and over in this book until I’m sure you’re sick to death of it. But I’m going to say it again anyway: the secret of successful retailing is to give your customers what they want.”


“The small stores were just destined to disappear, at least in the numbers they once existed, because the whole thing is driven by the customers, who are free to choose where to shop.

This quote is so insightful. Sam was never one to be stuck with the old. You might think he is because he’s old and speaks in Old English. But he saw reality as it was and changed with the times. Sam knew that the penny-and-dime business model was coming to an end, so he started building discount retail stores instead. Others would have clung on to what they were comfortable and familiar with.

Another huge point is understanding that everything is driven by whatever the customers want. They are free to go wherever they want.

I’ve noticed a lot of small business owners who express feelings of outrage and injustice when their loyal customers leave them for a new competitor. First off, that implies that the loyalty they thought they had wasn’t as deep as they thought; they need to work on being better at building that. But more importantly, it means the customer will go where there is the most value.

At some point, every customer has a price. No matter how loyal a customer is to one company based on past history, some degree of higher value (in the form of cheaper price, higher quality, or something else) is able to steal that customer away. At least, that’s the theory I have come up with based on my studies.

“And this is a very important point: without the computer, Sam Walton could not have done what he’s done.”

Some context might help here. Sam said this — about himself. Also, he was the first of his competitors to adopt computer and satellite technology, which put him ten years ahead of everyone else. Don’t be confused by how traditional and non-tech Walmart seems, Sam constantly embraced change and innovation.

“I don’t think any other retail company in the world could do what I’m going to propose to you. It’s simple. It won’t cost us anything. And I believe it would just work magic, absolute magic on our customers, and our sales would escalate, and I think we’d just shoot past our Kmart friends in a year or two and probably Sears as well. I want you to take a pledge with me. I want you to promise that whenever you come within ten feet of a customer, you will look him in the eye, greet him, and ask him if you can help him. Now I know some of you are just naturally shy, and maybe don’t want to bother folks. But if you’ll go along with me on this, it would, I’m sure, help you become a leader. It would help your personality develop, you would become more outgoing, and in time you might become manager of that store, you might become a department manager, you might become a district manager, or whatever you choose to be in the company. It will do wonders for you. I guarantee it. Now, I want you to raise your right hand—and remember what we say at Wal-Mart, that a promise we make is a promise we keep—and I want you to repeat after me: From this day forward, I solemnly promise and declare that every time a customer comes within ten feet of me, I will smile, look him in the eye, and greet him. So help me Sam.”


“What’s really worried me over the years is not our stock price, but that we might someday fail to take care of our customers, or that our managers might fail to motivate and take care of our associates. I also was worried that we might lose the team concept, or fail to keep the family concept viable and realistic and meaningful to our folks as we grow. Those challenges are more real than somebody’s theory that we’re headed down the wrong path.”


“As an old-time small-town merchant, I can tell you that nobody has more love for the heyday of the smalltown retailing era than I do. That’s one of the reasons we chose to put our little Wal-Mart museum on the square in Bentonville. It’s in the old Walton’s Five and Dime building, and it tries to capture a little bit of the old dime store feel. But I can also tell you this: if we had gotten smug about our early success, and said, “Well, we’re the best merchant in town,” and just kept doing everything exactly the way we were doing it, somebody else would have come along and given our customers what they wanted, and we would be out of business today.”


“The two most important words I ever wrote were on that first Wal-Mart sign: “Satisfaction Guaranteed.” They’re still up there, and they have made all the difference.”

One of the best parts of Sam Walton is his ability to keep it so simple. How many businesses are failing at satisfying their customers every time? You don’t have to over-complicate it.

“Well, now, Sam, how big do you really want this company to be? What is your plan?” —FEROLD AREND, shortly after coming to work at Wal-Mart “Ferold, we’re going to take it as it comes, and if we can grow with our own money, we’ll maybe add a store or two.”


“Watson, Sr., was running IBM, he decided they would never have more than four layers from the chairman of the board to the lowest level in the company. That may have been one of the greatest single reasons why IBM was successful.”


“I’m asked why today, when Wal-Mart has been so successful, when we’re a $50 billion-plus company, should we stay so cheap? That’s simple: because we believe in the value of the dollar. We exist to provide value to our customers, which means that in addition to quality and service, we have to save them money. Every time Wal-Mart spends one dollar foolishly, it comes right out of our customers’ pockets. Every time we save them a dollar, that puts us one more step ahead of the competition—which is where we always plan to be.”


“Rogers had been open about a year, and everything was just piled up on tables, with no rhyme or reason whatsoever. Sam asked me to kind of group the stuff by category or department, and that’s when we began our department system. The thing I remember most, though, was the way we priced goods. Merchandise would come in and we would just lay it down on the floor and get out the invoice. Sam wouldn’t let us hedge on a price at all. Say the list price was $1.98, but we had only paid 50 cents. Initially, I would say, ‘Well, it’s originally $1.98, so why don’t we sell it for $1.25?’ And he’d say, ‘No. We paid 50 cents for it. Mark it up 30 percent, and that’s it. No matter what you pay for it, if we get a great deal, pass it on to the customer.’ And of course that’s what we did.”


“The basic discounter’s idea was to attract customers into the store by pricing these items—toothpaste, mouthwash, headache remedies, soap, shampoo—right down at cost. Those were what the early discounters called your “image” items. That’s what you pushed in your newspaper advertising—like the twenty-seven-cent Crest at Springdale—and you stacked it high in the stores to call attention to what a great deal it was. Word would get around that you had really low prices. Everything else in the store was priced low too, but it had a 30 percent margin. Health and beauty aids were priced to give away.”


“When you move like we did from town to town in these mostly rural areas, word of mouth gets your message out to customers pretty quickly without much advertising.”

“The first one is could a Wal-Mart-type story still occur in this day and age? My answer is of course it could happen again. Somewhere out there right now there’s someone—probably hundreds of thousands of someones—with good enough ideas to go all the way. It will be done again, over and over, providing that someone wants it badly enough to do what it takes to get there. It’s all a matter of attitude and the capacity to constantly study and question the management of the business.”

This is probably one of the most inspirational quotes in his whole book. The fact that Sam had enough faith to believe that there are hundreds of thousands of people out there with the right idea that can take them all the way is amazing.

It made me excited for what other amazing businesses will arise and other incredible game-changers will show up. It also ends with some useful advice:

  • It’s about attitude.
  • You have to want it badly enough to do what it takes.
  • It’s about constantly studying, examining, and questioning the management of your business.

“A lot of what goes on these days with high-flying companies and these overpaid CEO’s, who’re really just looting from the top and aren’t watching out for anybody but themselves, really upsets me. It’s one of the main things wrong with American business today.”


“If American business is going to prevail, and be competitive, we’re going to have to get accustomed to the idea that business conditions change, and that survivors have to adapt to those changing conditions. Business is a competitive endeavor, and job security lasts only as long as the customer is satisfied. Nobody owes anybody else a living.”


“A little later on, Phil ran what became one of the most famous item promotions in our history. We sent him down to open store number 52 in Hot Springs, Arkansas—the first store we ever opened in a town that already had a Kmart. Phil got there and decided Kmart had been getting away with some pretty high prices in the absence of any discounting competition. So he worked up a detergent promotion that turned into the world’s largest display ever of Tide, or maybe Cheer—some detergent. He worked out a deal to get about $1.00 off a case if he would buy some absolutely ridiculous amount of detergent, something like 3,500 cases of the giant-sized box. Then he ran it as an ad promotion for, say, $1.99 a box, off from the usual $3.97. Well, when all of us in the Bentonville office saw how much he’d bought, we really thought old Phil had completely gone over the dam. This was an unbelievable amount of soap. It made up a pyramid of detergent boxes that ran twelve to eighteen cases high—all the way to the ceiling, and it was 75 or 100 feet long, which took up the whole aisle across the back of the store, and then it was about 12 feet wide so you could hardly get past it. I think a lot of companies would have fired Phil for that one, but we always felt we had to try some of this crazy stuff.

PHIL GREEN: “Mr. Sam usually let me do whatever I wanted on these promotions because he figured I wasn’t going to screw it up, but on this one he came down and said, ‘Why did you buy so much? You can’t sell all of this!’ But the thing was so big it made the news, and everybody came to look at it, and it was all gone in a week. I had another one that scared them up in Bentonville too. This guy from Murray of Ohio called one day and said he had 200 Murray 8 horsepower riding mowers available at the end of the season, and he could let us have them for $175. Did we want any? And I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll take 200.’ And he said, ‘Two hundred!’ We’d been selling them for $447, I think. So when they came in we unpacked every one of them and lined them all up out in front of the store, twenty-five in a row, eight rows deep. Ran a chain through them and put a big sign up that said: ‘8 h.p. Murray Tractors, $199.’ Sold every one of them. I guess I was just always a promoter, and being an early Wal-Mart manager was as good a place to promote as there ever was.”

Two big points here:

First, Sam was willing to try crazy out-of-the-box initiatives. This helped him find better ways of doing things, and stand out from the competition. Other CEOs may be too conservative, which prevents them from finding more efficient and profitable strategies, like Phil Green did.

Second, it’s important to hire people fit for the job and get out of their way. Sam identified Phil as a natural-born promoter and trusted him not to screw it up. When it seemed like he might, he waited until the results took place before he did anything. As noted, other companies would have immediately fired Phil for trying something so bold.

Views – 223

Billionaire Kevin Plank advice

Why Studies Show Speed of Decision-Making Is the Secret To Setting Goals Following Through With Them

So this is a crazy, yet short and sweet piece of advice.

Napoleon Hill spent his life studying 500+ of the richest people in the world in person thanks to his access with Andrew Carnegie. He wrote books telling us how they did it and how you can do the same.

One of the things that he said was that he and Carnegie found that if you are unable to make a quick decision even when you have enough information you need, you will not follow through on your goals or be successful.

Now, this is important for two reasons:

First, note that he says you need enough resources. This means that making decisions without enough information is foolish and it doesn’t matter how slow or fast you make them.

Second, once you have the necessary info, you have to make your decision quickly. Hill went on to say that successful people make decisions quickly and are slow to change. Unsuccessful people make their decisions slowly and are quick to change. 

Examples of History

Henry Ford was so stubborn with his decision about the Model T car even when every one of his colleagues told him to give up.

Yet he eventually succeeded.

I’ve put this concept on the side for a while. I was a partial skeptic because I wanted to make sure if this is really an end-all be-all rule. What if you make too quick a decision and make the wrong decision? What if that screw up hurts you badly and you could’ve have succeeded by just taking more time to think it over?

It makes sense, right? Some decisions become very clear which one is better if you are given a lot more time to do the research. Common examples are mathematical, logical games like chess or poker.

Perhaps what Napoleon means is that life is not like chess. There are too many unknowns, and you’re playing with incomplete data.

Perhaps Napoleon means that most of us fail because we spend way too much time delaying action by analysis paralysis. We could spend months or even years delaying a decision and gaining marginal or no benefit from doing so.

Maybe that’s what we should truly avoid.

What I do know is that recently I watched a speech by billionaire Kevin Plank of Under Armour. His speech, similar to billionaire John Paul DeJoria’s who came from homelessness, really pushed out any type of excuses or limiting beliefs I had about my situation, education, geographic location, or anything else.

What I liked most was his point about how you should make a decision quit. In his words:

“Get off the fence. Commit. Pick your poison. If you’re in it, get in it. If you’re at Company A, don’t spend all your time thinking about whether or not you should be here or not. Pour everything you have into it. If you make a different decision, make it full speed and move on. And never look back.”

His message is simple. Commit and put 150% into it.

He’s a guy who is very quick to commit and go full speed at something.

With this additional evidence, I think it’s clear for me that the best move for me or you at this moment is to just go full force 3000% at something. Decide quickly and move. If you make a mistake, at least you learn something and can pivot.

You can’t sit in a cave or isolate yourself with books and expect to be able to prepare everything perfectly in life ahead of time. Just go for it.

Kevin says that he meets a lot of young people who can’t decide between 2 companies. He tells them to quickly make a decision and put your heart and soul into it. He’s definitely not one to spend hours a day living in regret at the wrong decision he made or mulling over if he made a mistake.

Perhaps you shouldn’t either.

Maybe there is some benefit from talking to others in a field beforehand. You can definitely get valuable information from other people, alumni, friends, LinkedIn, or your network over coffee meetings or interviews. And that can save you a few weeks or few months of heartache from finding out a job or industry is not what you imagined it to be.

But there is a threshold of marginal returns from overanalyzing and overthinking.

Morale of the story: 

Commit. Decide what you want to do. Get specific. Do it.

If you decide you want to get a job in fitness, for example, commit. Get a job in that field immediately. Try it out. Put your heart into it.

Views – 292

Billionaire Oprah Winfrey on Success Habits, Principles and Peak Performance

18 Success Tips from Billionaire Oprah Winfrey on Principles, Mindset, & Career

Oprah Winfrey is one of my favorite billionaires because she’s unique. Unlike most of the others, she overcame two discriminating obstacles (being black and female) to become a billionaire in an unconventional field to make a billion in: entertainment. On top of that, she had a tough early life of sexual and physical abuse, and a miscarriage of a child as a teen.

On top of that, she’s did it without sacrificing happiness or destroying relationships. And started her own company and TV network as a entrepreneur-extraordinare.

After spending a lot of time studying her (reading her book What I Know For Sure, watching Stanford Q&A by her, listening to amazing NPR special on her, etc.), I wanted to share with you 18 of her secrets to success.

If you prefer listening to reading, you can click play on the player right (or Subscribe on iTunes) below to listen to the podcast version of this article:

Billionaire Oprah Winfrey on Success Habits, Principles and Peak Performance
Image Credit: Flickr

1. Be Enthusiastic

Oprah was always bursting with energy and emotion. She talked about topics she was deeply interested in, like female dating problems. That enthusiasm transferred over to her audience and made her magnetic. When she announced what was the next book in her book club, she said it like she was announcing something incredible.

2. Keep Your Blinders On And Just Run Your Own Race

There will always be copycats, so be okay with it. During her long TV host career, Oprah told all her staff to just focus on what you’re doing and not what any other talk show host was doing. You can’t win the race by looking over your shoulder. Over two hundred talk shows competed (and went away) during Oprah’s time as a host.

None of her team ever went out to do any research on what other hosts were doing or try to copy it. When Oprah started getting successful, big TV executives tried copy her format by hiring black, female hosts and show format, but it didn’t work.

3. There Are Only Two Emotions: Love And Fear

You can only experience love or fear, but not both at once. This was a mantra that Oprah internalized in her team. It helped out when they went to Georgia after the biggest riot and lynching in the 80’s to interview people. Racism was rampant and it was a dangerous time. They sent death threats to leave but the team was not scared because they followed Oprah’s mantra to only live by love.

4. Be Fearless of What You Want To Do and Take the Leap

Take risks. Discover what you want to do with your life over time and commit to it. For decades, the content of Oprah’s show was trashy because they featured a lot of controversial, scandalous topics (think Jerry Springer). But it was the #1 show in the world and had viewership 12 to 13 million a day.

She had spent years finding her “message and mission” and finally decided it was to raise the consciousness of others. When she told her team she wanted to change the show to be a force for good, they didn’t want to because they were scared it would ruin their success. But she persisted and they did. Oprah’s viewership initially dropped to 9 million for a while, but it slowly climbed back up as they tested new ways to add positivity into what they did.

After a lot of thinking, she also decided she wanted to launch a book club on her show, which was dangerous, because people were reading less and less. It seemed like a dying market. Her book club eventually became the largest in the world and was responsible for selling over 100 million books.

Oprah Never Feared Losing Her Following

Oprah never feared losing her followers by trying something different on her show. This is because from the beginning, her audience was “following her as a person and her instincts to discover what was true and share that.” And as long as she kept being true to herself, at least one person out there would be interested in what she had to say.

4. Think of the Person on the Other End and What They Want (to a Specific Degree)

Oprah had a very specific persona she wanted to deliver her content too (it’s funny, Ellen said a similar thing in her books). She called the persona Suzy. The persona was a middle-aged housewife, which was the demographic of most of her viewers. She always asked whether Suzy would like something before she did it on her show.

Oprah also said that she never cared about her guests’ personal and dating lives. She thought it was private to them. But she knew her audience did so she made sure to ask questions about it to her celebrity guests. I found this a little hypocritical, but I guess this was at a time when it wasn’t against her values to invade privacy for her guests and to make a living.

Later on, when she started her book club, she found out that roughly 10% of her audience would always respond and buy the book she recommended every time. Therefore, 1 million people would buy her books each time. So she always asked whether or not the book she chose would be interesting to at least 1 million people before she recommended it on her show.

5. Always Have A Good Reason For Your Actions

Oprah always told her team to ask what the intention of each of their plans, goals, and tasks were. This helped eliminate a lot of projects put forth that would not have aligned or advanced the values they stood for.

Specifically, she said she only did things that aligned with her intention or it wouldn’t work. When the show was given an excess of cars to give away, Oprah made them ask why. She wouldn’t just let them give away cars.

It had to align with their intention and values for the show. Oprah only allowed it to happen if she chose people who really needed cars because her intention behind the show was around helping others who needed it. To this day, Oprah’s retirement finale episode where she gives away the cars is still parodied and mentioned in popular culture.

6. The Packaging Is Just As Important As the Gift

On the day of the car giveaway, Oprah made them redo everything because the bow was too small. It only covered a portion of the car but she wanted it to wrap around the entire car. This trivial thing seemed to be peculiar to me.

But when I thought about it, I considered if it may be a hidden secret to Oprah’s success. Delivery, service, and packaging are really important in giving gifts and the entertainment industry. Oprah’s delivery and setup of the car giveaway was just as important for the TV audience as the car itself.

7. Don’t Let False Words From Others Affect You. Keep Calm and Check The Truth

At one point during the show, cattlemen sued Oprah for millions of dollars because they claimed she used her massive audience to depress beef sales by talking badly about beef. They called her a manipulator.

Oprah kept calm, assessed the situation, knew she did not do it to manipulate or depress sales, and realized what was actually true. She was ultimately found not guilty.

8. Be Patient And Use Progressive Trial and Error To Find Your Purpose

It took Oprah decades to finally figure out the message and purpose of her show. Towards the end, she made her final tweak. She changed her show slogan from “Change Your Life” to “Live Your Best Life” because she wanted to make it less about spirituality and rapid change.

9. Start Scrappy

When Oprah began her talk show career, her team consisted of three other female producers sitting in a tiny room. It was so informal that they borrowed jewelry from each other and passed around notes.

10. Work Hard

Cliche but true. All of Oprah’s core team from the start of her talk show made the show their life. It was all they did from when they got up to when they went to bed.

11. Be Strategic

Oprah decided on Chicago as her ideal city to make her big break by a process of elimination. D.C. was too competitive and every radio station was already occupied by a black host. She was already living in and ready to move on from Baltimore. New York was too busy and movement-centric; she needed one place to settle down. Therefore, she made Chicago her goal for many years and strived to move towards that goal.

12. Be Relatable By Sharing Vulnerabilities

I believe this is more of a secret to success for people who have jobs or work in industries where they need to win people over by getting them to relate, like film, television, or selling.

The secret of television is to be yourself because people connect with people they relate with. Revealing vulnerabilities is a great way to be relatable.

In her first episode, she said she was so nervous there were hives under her armpits. This was unheard of because at the time, no one revealed anything personal on television, let alone their insecurities.

13. Do Something That Will Never Happen Again & Celebrate It

Oprah launched a TV show in an era where there were only a dozen TV channels out there, which meant you could capture up to 13 million women daily with her show if you’re good. This would never happen again as hundreds of TV channels have now popped up and tens of thousands of entertainment channels on the Internet.

14. Stand Out From The Crowd And Be Different

On a similar note, Oprah did things very differently from other hosts when she started. As mentioned, she revealed insecurities and showed her flaws, which was unheard of for TV hosts. She also pioneered something new on television by bringing on a lot of the most controversial guests, people who were openly racist, gay, or cheated on their wife.

Of course, this success principle is applicable to many areas of life. In business and career, it’s a competitive world. Being different from everyone else (who all look the same to the consumer or employer) can give you the advantage to get ahead.

15. Make The Experience Personal

The technical aspects of the show were built so that the viewer felt like she was sitting right next to Oprah. Most other talk shows set up their microphones so that the sounds felt like you were in a big room. But the microphones for Oprah’s show were hidden everywhere close to her, like inside couches, so that it felt like you conversing with Oprah.

I’m not sure if this tip is actually going to work for you. Maybe the core principle behind this tip is to “stand out.” Maybe this different way of wiring microphones only worked because it was different from everyone else.

16. Be Yourself

Oprah was genuinely herself on and off the show. She calls it one of her greatest talents. It was this unique ability that probably propelled her to success in a competitive television industry.

Again, this may also be an offshoot of Oprah’s main principle to stand out and be different from others.

17. Make Your Show A Scheduled Habit — At The Same Time Every Day

When she retired, Oprah thought her twenty million loyal fans would transfer over to her TV network but only a small fraction did. It turns out that they were not as loyal as she thought. She realized that it was the habit of watching her everyday at 4pm that she had programmed in them. And she lost that 4pm slot when she retired.

18. Be Blind To Race

Oprah is truly a one-of-a-kind billionaire. She said in her Stanford Q&A that she still finds herself in rooms of rich, white men. She’s often the only black female. But she said she never got to where she is by looking at someone and seeing their color. 


Like I said, I am blown away by Oprah’s story. I marvel at how she has overcome so many stereotype barriers to achieve her success in the form of wealth and impact.

Her story is also one of alignment. Everything worked together, and I noted how she was in the right place at the right time. She worked really hard, but also she had genetic talents that were useful in the era she was born. You always have to give credit to luck, no one is truly 100% self-made.

Small things she has said, like how she doesn’t look at someone by their race, has helped me through tough times and changed how I behave.

I hope you learned something from her as well. If there’s something impactful she said that I missed, let me know in the comments. I’d love to know.


Views – 125

how to be more creative

How To Be More Creative: Advice From Titans

I was watching a speech by the billionaire David Rubenstein, the founder of the largest private equity firm in the world. He said something really profound and useful that I would like to share.

He said that you cannot succeed in business by just copying other people because you will just be an echo or reflection. You have to stand out by doing something completely differently. Now, I’m not saying that you should never copy. Other successful people, like the founder of Costco, Sam Walton, and Steve Jobs, have emphasized the importance of copying when it’s a no-brainer better way of doing things. I am saying that there is a lot of value to coming up with new ideas on how to do what’s been done before in a different, better way.

That’s why I want to talk about how to be more creative and imaginative. I have compiled some of the best advice out there from titans of creativity. And  I want to share what I learned with you right now. Enjoy.

Respect Ideas That Aren’t Groundbreaking

Successful creativity does not require you to come up with something incredibly ground-breaking or unconventional.

An example would be the billionaires Fred Smith of FedEx or Jeff Bezos of Amazon. Warren Buffett said in a CNBC interview that they didn’t do anything crazy like discover a new molecule or come up with a great invention. Instead, they took ordinary things and combined them in imaginative ways.

Fred Smith took the airplane, delivery truck, and postal service and just put it together around a central hub and came up with a whole new industry. He made delivery a lot more efficient and with greater reach.

In the same sense, Jeff Bezos did the same thing with Amazon by combining big distribution centers and new technology with products (like books) that we already bought before the Internet was around.

The list goes on. Dominoes Pizza was built around a simple idea: selling a food we already love to buy (pizza) and promising efficient widespread delivery in 30 minutes or your money back.

I wanted to share with you my summary of a book written by the President of one of the most creative companies in the world, Ed Catmull of Pixar.

Have An Environment that Encourages Creativity

According to the book Creativity Inc., Pixar’s campus was designed by Steve Jobs so that employees were forced to walk around and meet new people to go to the bathroom. He did so that people would mingle from different departments and for cool new ideas to be formed.

Google has a campus that allows people to live there. They provide gourmet food, coffee, gyms, massage parlors, trains, and everything else. This allows employees to mingle, stay later, sleep overnight, and spur creative ideas.

I wanted to make this article about more than just a book summary of Creativity Inc. so here are 2 great videos on how to be more creative as a person:

Alone Time Is Useful

Although Pixar and Google seem to love to have campuses that encourage collaboration, sometimes this may not always be the best thing. Alone time is useful as well according to Seth Godin’s book Free Prize Inside!

He brings up a psychologist who has worked over 12+ years in creativity. He found that 4 people came up with twice the output of ideas when working alone rather than brainstorming together.

Embrace Restrictions and Deadlines

I have found that a lot of really creative people have used limited options to breed more creativity. There’s a successful Youtube channel with hundreds of thousands of subscribers. What he does is he films his son imagining these incredible scenes and playing in them. He then adds in visual effects to make it look real.

The point is that in an interview, he said that he purposefully limits the amount of exposure to media and entertainment (TV, Youtube, etc.) that his son gets because it makes him much more creative. The overexposure isn’t always a good thing.

There’s a great Ted Talk called talking about the paradox of choice that explains part of this. The more choices we have, the less happy we feel with our decision and the more paralyzed we are to decide.

I recently saw another Youtube channel express the same thoughts. The channel is called Brother Green Eats. They are semi-professional chefs and have a large budget to buy whatever they want. However, when they did a challenge of living off $3 a day recipes, they said that they created the most amazing, creative dishes they ever have because of the limited ingredients.

Embrace Failure

Embrace failure – it’s part of the process. Rejection only helps you if you can measure your work if it’s true and improve. Ask yourself if it’s true. Did you get the same feedback from multiple people. So that when you know it’s good, you keep going despite rejections. (When the illusionist was rejected by everybody, he had no doubt it was a hit and kept going)

Let your Subconscious Mind Work on the Problem

The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is never write too much at a time… Never pump yourself dry. Leave a little for the next day. The main thing is to know when to stop. Don’t wait till you’ve written yourself out. When you’re still going good and you come to an interesting place and you know what’s going to happen next, that’s the time to stop. Then leave it alone and don’t think about it; let your subconscious mind do the work. -Earnest Hemingway

Leave a little bit for your subconscious to work on it overnight. Let me show you how.

How the Subconscious Works and Why You Are Not As Creative As You Think

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, he cites a study that unearths how your subconscious works:

They had people try and figure out three ways to get ropes to connect that were hung a distance apart. The first two were obvious. The third required creativity. You had to swing one of the ropes to get it to touch another.

They found that people only discovered the solution when the experimenter would come by and “accidentally” brush a rope and get it to gently swing. But here’s where it gets interesting…

When they asked people how they came up with the third solution, the vast majority said they had come up with it themselves. They had all sorts of random reasons on how they were inspired. But that didn’t make sense because it was clearly the experimenter who inspired them.

Were they being egotistical? Were they trying to claim credit? Were they lying? Well, it turns out that they were so focused on solving the problem that they did not consciously notice the experimenter brush the rope. It was the subconscious, which is always on the lookout for ways of solving the problem, that picked up on it.

Since it wasn’t conscious, they really did not know what inspired them and backwards rationalized how they figured it out with their own reasons. The next time an artist tells you who or what inspired them, you might be reminded of this study because they could be wrong.

It also just goes to show you what a waste of potential it is when you do not set a problem for the subconscious mind to solve (which is what most average do). By having a definitive goal, you can set your subconscious on autopilot.

There are plenty of successful people other than Ernest Hemingway and Napoleon Hill who have stumbled on the power of the subconscious. Here is a video of Brian Koppelman, filmmaker to big movies like Ocean’s Eleven, talking about it.

Use Sensory Stimulation

In Robert Greene’s book Mastery, he highlights many masters of different fields from physics to music who used sensory stimulation to increase creativity.

In fact, some relied on it.

This included sniffing fresh apples, stroking a cat, and seeing nature.

A spouse or partner who gets you can help you find sensory stimulation that works for you. It was the wife of the master who realized he was most creative with fresh apples nearby and laid it out for him daily.

Usually, the stimulation is from a sense that’s different than the one you are trying to get creative in. Try using a different sense when you are trying to get creative in another.

For example, try to inspire your sense of smell, taste, or touch when you are trying to improve your auditory sense of music.

I read an article by the billionaire Richard Branson of Virgin that supported this. He said that he had walking meetings around nature and running water because it made him more creative.

Use Deadlines

In Greene’s book, he mentioned a mathematics expert who was challenged to a duel. This spelled sure death for him if he lost the duel.

The night before the duel, he wrote down all the mathematics theories he never was able to solve. That night, he was the most creative he had ever been and came up with things that were way ahead of his time.

The next day, he did lose the duel and die.

But his writings for that night revolutionized mathematics for years to come and people still wonder how he was able to come up with some of his ideas he wrote down.

Ben Franklin did something similar. He announced his ideas to the public and press before they had come to fruition or even gotten started.

This put some pressure for him to get going to start creating things.

Embrace restrictions – it helps you focus.


Meditation creates an equanimity that opens up the creative area of your mind. It opens up that area and helps separate the practical from the emotional area.

Watch this video of Ray Dalio explaining the science of meditation and how it helps your creativity:

Napoleon Hill’s Advice on Creativity

Napoleon Hill spend his entire life studying the world’s richest people thanks to his connections with billionaire Andrew Carnegie. Here’s what he had to say about improving creativity and imagination.

There are only two ways to be come up with a new idea.

The first way is through synthesis. This is when you combine old ideas and concepts in new ways.

The second way is through actually coming up with new ideas and concepts never thought of before. This is harder, but possible.

There are a few key techniques to stimulate creativity. Here they are:

  1. Hang out and talk to other creative people to get ideas.
  2. Travel. You will be inspired by new landscapes, people, and culture.
  3. Take notes. Write down any events or things that inspire awe or emotion.
  4. Read as much as you can. New stories and ideas will be revealed.
  5. Expand your interests. Many people discover new interests that they work into ideas that make them money.

Use Your Subconscious

Great writers, such as Ernest Hemingway, have emphasized the importance of the subconscious mind. This is not some woo-woo spiritual, unprovable stuff. It can be as simple as taking a break for a few days from a problem and coming back to it. In that time, you are giving your subconscious, which is similar to a computer’s background programming, time to work on the problem in the background. Hemingway did this often with his writing.

Napoleon Hill emphasizes this often and has many stories in his books about wealthy people successfully using this.

Creativity Is About Patience, Writing Things Down, Walking Away, and Coming Back

Will Smith said in an interview for the Nearly Everything Storytelling convention that a major aspect of creativity is endurance. One of his most successful movies, I Am Legend, took ten years to create. Another one of his films is also projected to be ten years in the making and he’s in year seven. Similarly, I’ve noticed other film successes, like Avatar and Inception have taken ten years to make.

You have one thing you’re working. Keep yourself inspired at all costs. Writing something down is a valuable part of the creative process. Walking away from it for a period is part of the process too. Do something else, like going to see a play. At some point, you have to come back to it though to work on it.

Ask Yourself, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice If?”

Garry Kasparov is widely regarded as the best chess player of all time. Chess requires a good deal of creativity because there are more possible moves in a game than atoms in the universe or seconds since the Big Bang.

In his book How Life Imitatest Chess, Garry says that you sometimes should ask yourself, “Wouldn’t be nice if this were possible?”

One time, Garry playing an important match. His standard responses to his opponent’s pressure on his Queen would have revolved around making the queen escape. But then, he wondered if he could achieve the same result without moving his queen? He ended up moving the weakest piece on the board, the King, forward instead. It turned out to be a move that completely threw his opponent off guard and put him into a stronger position that won him the game.

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productivity and time management apps

Top 10 Productivity Tools For The Millennial Based on Extensive Testing

A huge trend in the productivity community these days is finding the best apps, tools, and extensions. 

Having tried out most of them, I can safely say that I spit on most of them in disgust; they’re more unproductive than helpful. It’s counter-intuitive but they take up more time than they are worth and the extra results are minimal. I have noticed that most billionaires and top achievers do not use any fancy tools. Some do not even use email.

I am definitely in the minority on this. Most of the crowd believe these tools are everything. Yet it’s funny to see them running around like chickens with their heads cut off with all these “tools” and still not that successful.

Most  people are always looking for a magic solution. They are not willing to put in hard work. Having said that, there are some good productivity tools out there and there are some highly useful timeless time management fundamentals.

Although I have thrown away 95% of the productivity software and apps I have tested, there are some that do past the test. Here they are:

1. AdBlock Plus

This free browser extension has saved me hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of time. It blocks all the ads on YouTube videos and websites. I have watched tens of thousands of videos over the years, so do the math.

There are many similar browser extensions. I just choose the one that has the most reviews and highest average rating. They are all more or less the same.

2. timeStats

timestats chrome extension

This browser extension is a task tracker. It logs every website you go to on the Internet and how long you stay there for. It tallies this up and gives you your stats for different periods, like the day, month, or all your time. There are plenty of other extensions like this, each with their own features, graphics, and custom settings.

I have used many that all work similarly. I do not think this extension is any better than the others so choose whichever one you like best. The main benefit of apps like these is the ability to quickly see exactly how you spent your time and identify big time wasters.

It may seem like you only spent 5 minutes on social media, but the numbers do not lie. Sometimes, I am surprised by how much time I spend on there (up to 2 hours).

timestats - free productivity tools
The extension breaks down how I spend my time. It is mainly in Google Docs writing blog posts but some of the results are a good wake-up call. 6% could mean 35 minutes spent needlessly on Facebook. Little amounts here and there add up.

Some people are scared of using this because they do not want to see how much time they waste. If you are fine with knowing that you waste a lot of time and do not care to change it, by all means.

But for an ambitious person like you, it is time to suck it up and see mathematically how you are doing. It does not have to be torture cutting out unproductive periods; you can slowly replace them with productive, fun activities.

3. Momentum

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both said that focus was the #1 trait that made them successful. That’s where Momentum comes in.

The default new tab for browsers shows distracting and tempting previously visited sites. Momentum creates a beautiful scenic picture from its library of premium photos. It greets you by first name and then asks you for your #1 focus for the day. You type it in and it displays it there for the rest of the day (until you check it off and complete it).

This reminds me to stay on track and prevents me from getting distracted.

Momentum: free time management tools

4. Forest

The concept is simple:

You set a time and click the button. It shows a graphic of a seed growing into a tree, which finishes when the timer finishes. While the tree is growing, it blocks certain sites you specify so you cannot get on them (I choose social media sites).

Forest - productivity chrome extensions

This uses the concept of “gamification.” This is when you make a task fun by turning it into a game.

I set the time for 25 minutes because I want it to follow the Pomodoro Technique, a well-known productivity process where you focus on one task for 25 minutes and then take a five minute forced break – then repeat. After four 25-minute sessions, you get a long break (at least 25 minutes). 

There are plenty of apps like Forest but they simply block sites and there is no animation to make it fun. One thing I do not like about Forest is that it is a freemium model. There are many other tree animations, but it requires you to spend real money to use them. I do not want to spend money on this so I will just use the free tree animation (which gets boring after awhile).

Another drawback is that it is easy to disable blocked sites if you are tempted. You just click  the Settings and delete the site you block.

Also, when you go to a site, it says the site is blocked but it leaves a gray see-through background that allows you to still see the site, which tempts you. And when the timer goes off, the site is free to view. This leads to you just waiting for the timer to end and spending tons of time on unproductive sites.  

5. Block Site

This free chrome extension somewhat solves the problems of Forest. It straight up blocks a site forever. It also puts up a blank white page so you do not even see the site.

Sometimes, having an extension like Forest is not good enough because you get sucked into spending hours of time on a social media site as soon as the timer ends.

There are plenty of extensions just like Block Site with different names. Block Site is not better than any of them so take your pick.

One thing I do like about Block Site that others may not do is that it tells you how many times (since it was installed) that you attempted to go to a blocked website.

I discovered that I already tried to go onto Facebook 121 times in 3 weeks. I realized I have a muscle reflex to go there when I get bored. I literally typed  in “fa” then hit enter before I can help myself.

6. F.lux software

Did you know that blue light makes your body think it is day time? And guess what emits blue light? Practically everything electronic with a screen.

Ever since the invention of lightbulbs, our bodies have been out of whack. Our ancestors used to go to sleep after the sun went down, but now, our bodies think it is daytime in the black of night thanks to lights. This causes our body to not emit essential hormones like Serotonin that help you get to sleep.

My sleep schedule has been out of whack for years because I am a genetic night owl (it’s easier for me to stay up late). It has caused me to be late for important events and look unprofessional. Therefore, I really value going to sleep early.

Fortunately, there is software that cuts out blue light production from screens. The best part? It’s free. It’s called F.lux. When you first try this out, you might be put off by the orange-ish color of the screen. I got used to it pretty quickly and hopefully you will too.

To get to sleep faster and have a proper amount of sleep:

  • Try to avoid all electronics two hours before bed (I am not always successful but I try).
  • Turn on “Night Shift” for iPhone (under Settings -> Display & Brightness) and set to activate at sunset. This reduces the blue light emission on my screen automatically at that time. Other phones usually have this too.
  • Have F.lux turned on, which reduces blue light emission on my computer monitor. I set it to turn on at sunset as well.

Or you might be scared others will see it on your screen and consider you “uncool.” I have only had one person notice over many months of use. And I simply proudly and honestly responded with why I did it and he got interested to the point of saying he might do it himself.

7. Insight Timer App

This is the best guided meditation in the world hands down. Nothing else I have tried (Headspace, Calm, etc.) comes close. The best part is it is 100% free. There are no hidden, freemium purchases or monthly fees (unlike everything else).

It’s a massive library of free guided meditations sorted by categories (everything from sleep to relaxation to self-love to mindfulness). There are thousands of meditations to choose from, including some by famous practitioners like Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra.

Insight Timer Free Guided Meditation App

What makes it even better is that each guided meditation has a beautiful graphic and hundreds of reviews to give you a sense of how good it is.

I have seen other meditation paid apps being promoted on big podcasts (like Headspace) and they suck. You have to pay a hefty monthly fee for a handful of meditations from one person you have never heard of.

The whole process is ridiculous and I found through my research that these paid apps are venture-backed “tech businesses” by big actors and actresses. It’s currently a “tech investor craze” and everyone’s lost their minds, pouring money into bad ideas. Why pay monthly for something you can get for free with 100 times more variety?

I do not know how Insight Timer does it, but I think it is crowd sourced like Wikipedia. Every day, new guided meditations are added to a free library. They even have fairly active groups and communities of hundreds of thousands on the app where you can talk to others or message people directly.

8. Google Keep App

Over the years, I have heard from a lot of great writers, musicians, marketers, bloggers and entrepreneurs who stress the importance of writing down your ideas as soon as you get them so you do not forget them. This includes Taylor Swift, Seth Godin, Ramit Sethi, Mark Manson, Ernest Hemingway, and Neville Medhora.

I finally decided to give it a try using Google Keep, Google’s note-taking platform. I was shocked by how many ideas I had on a daily basis. Within a few week, I had hundreds of notes. I can only imagine how many ideas I forgot about because I did not write them down.

Google Keep is one of the best tools I have encountered to organize, store, and find your ideas. It is intentionally minimalistic. You cannot format your text with font styles or size. You just open a note and start typing. The only options you have are:

  • Remind me about the note.
  • Change the color of the note.
  • Share the note with a friend.
  • Add an image to the note.

It’s a great way to brain-dump your ideas. I use it a lot for blog post or story ideas.

You can go to to use it on your desktop or download the free Google Keep app for iTunes or Google Play. I use both but the app gives you extra options. It allows you to record and add audio to a note. If you are a musician or just want to record your thoughts, the app is what you should use because of the audio feature.

It’s not perfect and there is room for improvement (it would be nice to have some formatting options like italics, bolding, and indenting), but I like the central theme of simplicity. I believe the enemy of success is unnecessary complexity.

Arguably, you can use your phone’s Voice Memo and Notepad function but this gives you more customization and acts as a backup in case you accidentally delete or forget something. It autosaves and lets you access it from any device. Its search function is handy if you want to find a specific note.

9. Evernote

Ah, Evernote.

I consider this the 800-pound gorilla because most people in the productivity community already know about it. There are even massive manuals people buy to learn how to use it better.

My warning is not to over-use Evernote. I have observed that simplicity is the key, not complicated productivity apps. For example, Warren Buffett keeps his work calendar very simple and the billionaire John Paul DeJoria only communicated by phone – no email.

I occasionally use Evernote to store long-form notes, personal journal entries, or important documents and photos. The cloud storage acts as an extra safety net in case I accidentally forget to save something or delete it.

There are a few features it has that give it an edge over competitors: 

  • When it takes a photo of a document or notes you make on paper, its software makes the writing really sharp and clear when it saves the picture. Most hand-written notes are barely readable when you take a picture of them, but Evernote’s software makes them crystal clear.  
  • It has incredible text recognition software. You can use its search feature to search for words you wrote on paper that you took a picture of. And it’s fairly accurate.
  • Evernote organizes and displays all these file formats more smoothly and cleanly for me.
  • You can access it from the website or your phone, and it’s backed up online.

The free version of Evernote is enough storage for me to do what I need.

If I had to move from Evernote to something else, it would not be the end of the world. It would probably be to Google Docs. or Google Drive and Keep since they have similar functions. But some form of digital text storage with a search feature is almost a must. 

10. Podcast App

Yes, this is the default app that comes with the iPhone. Other phones have this too. I mention it because podcasts are really useful. Whenever I am sick of listening to an audiobook, I pop open a podcast.

You may be wondering what you can get from podcasts that you cannot from books. You can get:

  • Up-to-date information more geared towards modern times.
  • Direct advice from experts that you cannot find online or in books (a lot of podcasts have enough weight to get high-profile scientists, entrepreneurs, or celebrities).
  • Answers to questions more tailored to your needs than the from the structure of a book. The feel of a real person talking and making mistakes.

The best part is that it is also free.

Some of my favorite personal development podcasts are Eventual Millionaire, The Mating Grounds, The Tim Ferriss Show, Addicted 2 Success, The Investors Podcast, The My Wife Quit  Her Job Podcast, I Love Marketing, Marketing In Your Car, The T. Boone Pickens Channel (the host was a billionaire), Self Made Man, Knowledge For Men, Entrepreneur on Fire, Smart Passive Income, and 10x Talk.

I have my own podcast you can listen to as well called Will’s Personal Development Podcast.


You do not have to use all of these suggestions. In fact, that is against the message I am trying to get across.

Get over the idea that “more is always better” because it is not true. Sometimes, simplicity and low numbers increase efficiency and results. Pick out what you think will have the highest impact for you.

All of the tools mentioned are free not because I chose to only mention free tools. It’s because they are the best productivity tools I have found out there and they just so happen to be free.

If I had to pick my top three, it would be:

  1. Momentum.
  2. Block Site.
  3. Insight Timer.

But remember, tools alone are just 10% of the battle. Harvard Business Review says, “Until you have productivity skills, productivity tools are useless.” Therefore, check out my article on time management mindsets and behaviors.

Now, I want to hear from you. Let me know in the comments below why you struggle with time management and which of these tools you will try.

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