If you could only read 10 books for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Today, I took a stab at answering this tough question. I thought it’s a great one because the limitation it places on you really forces you to cut the fat.
Obviously, this list will differ if your goals are different. I tried to answer the question by targeting books that will make you wiser, happier, richer, healthier, and more fulfilled when you die. Therefore, these books are not the best for solving niche goals, like becoming a top athlete, famous musician, or self-actualized individual.
As far as why you should listen to me, I’ve gone through hundreds of books and have a much more thorough knowledge of the self-help book universe than 99% of people alive.
There were plenty of books I wanted to add to this list that unfortunately didn’t make the cut. But if you’re strapped for time, this list will do you good. Click play on the player below to listen to my podcast episode and which books I chose:
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 in coming up with new ideas and doing 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 the world’s most successful creative people.
A year ago, I stumbled on an article on how to be mentally strong that got a ton of comments and shares. It confused me. Why do all these people care about this?
I didn’t care about mental toughness. I wanted money and happiness. And I didn’t see how mental toughness would help me with that unless I wanted to change my goals to becoming a Navy SEAL. But everything’s changed since then.
Now, I understand how important mental toughness is to your peak performance.
Today, I’m going to share with you everything you need to know on a critical skill you may be overlooking. I’ll share with you why mental toughness matters and how to improve it. And if you’re wondering why you should trust me, it’s because all my advice comes from people you can trust: the world’s top performers.
If you prefer listening to audio, listen to the podcast version of this article, where I give not-mentioned secret tips:
You can subscribe to the podcasts on iTunes and Stitcher below to get access to all my podcast episodes. Please leave a review on iTunes if you like it.
What is Mental Toughness?
Mental toughness is the strength of mind to keep pushing through when your body and other psychological factors tells you to quit.
The scientific definition is:
“Mental toughness is defined as an unshakeable perseverance and conviction towards some goal despite pressure or adversity.”
Based on a study of ten international performers, classified mental toughness as something that can be measured by the following dimensions:
Pain and Hardships
Desire and Motivation
Dealing with Pressure and Anxiety
Here are some examples of mental toughness in action:
When you are broke and homeless, it feels like there is no hope, especially when you have tried hard for years to improve your situation and failed. This was Sylvester Stallone’s situation before he made it as an actor. There was significant psychological pressure telling him to give up, but he didn’t.
Another example would be when you’re competing at the Olympics. A slight difference of who can push further a bit further can decide who takes the Gold or Silver medal. At a crucial point like this, you have physical factors (your body screaming at you to quit) and mental factors (screaming crowds distracting you and your body screaming at you through your nerves) that are competing against your mental strength.
Or let’s say your parents and siblings all died from illnesses or unexpected accidents. You need to be strong to stay positive and keep moving on.
Sylvester Stallone defines it the best. Here’s a clip from the film “Rocky Balboa:
This video made an impression on my beyond anything else. I almost cried after seeing it for the first time. This was because I was really in a bad place at the time in almost every area of my life, and it was like he was speaking right to me.
It explains mental toughness fairly well and gives a great tip on improving it. It’s not about how great you are, it’s about how many times you can get back up after life beats you down.
Imagine being able to push a little bit farther each time when you’re at the gym and on the last rep. Imagine being able to work harder than your coworkers and get more done. Imagine having that extra push in that make-or-break moment that could define your future and crown you as a champion.
What would that mean to you? How much more money would you make? How much longer would you live? How much better would you look?
Mental toughness lets you down that. It gives you the self-discipline to keep pushing when you want to quit.
As I hinted, it’s incredibly important in the realms of sports and other competition, when you need to push to the next level when your body wants to be lazy or tells you to quit. But don’t just take my word for it.
Here’s what some top athletes have to say about it:
Arnold needs no introduction. But here’s a quick bio anyways: He won Mr. Olympia seven times. He went onto become a real estate millionaire. Then, he became the highest paid actor in the world and governor of California.
Arnold has stated in interviews that there will always be people in competitions who have just as good a body as you. What puts you over the top is your mind.
Michael Jordan: Mental Toughness Matters More Than Genetic Talent
Michael is widely regarded as the best basketball player of all time. According to the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, Michael said:
“The mental toughness and the heart are a lot stronger than some of the physical advantages you might have. I’ve always said that and I’ve always believed that.”
She is widely regarded as the best female soccer player to play the game. She is often asked, “What the most important thing for a soccer player to have? Mia always responds with no hesitation, “mental toughness.” She went on to say:
“It is one of the most difficult aspects of soccer and the one I struggle with every game and every practice.”
Rich Froning (from his book First: What It Takes To Win )
Who is Rich? He is widely regarded as the best Crossfitter of all time in the decade or so of the sport’s existence. He won back-to-back three years in a row and came in 2nd place the first time he competed, a feat no one has come close to. He’s also won numerous times with his team, Crossfit Mayhem, for the Team division.
According to his book First: What It Takes To Win, mental toughness is a key to success in Crossfit because it helps you push farther. He says roughly 80% of Crossfit success is mental, and only 20% is physical. When you think about it, it makes sense. A large part of any physical activity is about mentally tolerating pain in your brain; it’s internal, not external.
Rich has trained a lot of different people. He found the difference between the people who succeed and those who give upon the sport doesn’t have to do with genetic talent. It’s about their mental strength.
Here’s what science has to say about it:
Being Mentally Strong Improves Physical Endurance
This seems like common sense, but it’s important to verify any assumption with rigorous science. A 2005 study by Lee found a significant correlation between mental strength and endurance.
We will start with what science has to say about improving your mental toughness, and then go to what the world’s best have to give as advice.
What Science Has To Say
According to the books The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor and Social by Matthew Lieberman, studies show that having strong friendships increases your resilience to negative events.
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. When you lose your job or have an unexpected illness, your friends are a great support network to catch you, keep you going, and get you back on your feet.
A 2007 study by Jones examined eight athletes who were world champions or Olympic medalists and found that there were four dimensions that made up mental toughness:
attitude and mindset
These could be areas worth looking to improve.
A similar study was done on 33 elite athletes and coaches, including 25 who were Olympic athletes or world champions. They found twelve dimensions: elf-efficacy, potential, mental self concept, task familiarity, value, personal bests, goal commitment, perseverance, task focus, positivity, stress minimization, and positive comparisons.
Dr. Rob Bell is a sports psychologist and has worked with professional athletes, like PGA golfers, to improve their mental toughness. I couldn’t help but be a little skeptical about this guy because he didn’t mention any results of his clients; maybe he’s just a good salesman. Having said that, he does have a scientific background and he does mention some really good stories from top athletes in this video guide on mental toughness:
In the video, he lays out an acronym for improving mental toughness: No Fear. It stands for:
Never Give Up
Obstacles Into Opportunities
rE-focus (refocus when you lose track)
Attitude (e.g. being excited rather than nervous)
Respond, don’t react
According to his book:
If he had to answer the question, he thinks it comes down to your upbringing and practicing pushing your comfort zone. There have been moments during the Crossfit Games where he thought, “I don’t feel like doing this. I want to quit. Why am I doing it?”
And that’s when his upbringing kicked in. His parents made him do a lot of chores, including meaningless tasks like pulling nails off a board, to instill in him a strong work ethic. His work ethic kicked in automatically when he wanted to give up.
As far as practicing pushing your comfort zone, make sure you remember that you can’t rely on your genetic gifts. He has observed many successful athletes rely on their talents to get them through high school. But when they hit college, they fail because they meet people who have the same genetic skill and highlyhoned high mental toughness from practice.
Therefore, always push yourself farther than you can go — even when you can get away with not doing so. Otherwise, it might bite you in the butt later in life.
Rich Froning’s Secrets to Mental Toughness: Practice, Have A Higher Purpose, and Have Fun
According to Rich’s video:
The elite Crossfitter’s ability to dig deep and push through comes from genes and practice. So don’t make the excuse that you just don’t have the genetics. For Rich, he uses a higher purpose (rather than his own selfish reasons) to push through when he wants to give up. His higher purpose is promoting his faith, Christianity.
He also said that not putting too much pressure in yourself and finding a way to have fun also helps push through.
Advice from Navy Seal Commander Mark Divine
Mark Divine is the founder of SealFit and a retired Navy Seal commander. He had trained thousands of Navy SEAL 20x their performance. See the video below for a quick tip:
Too long? Didn’t have time to watch the whole thing? Here’s the summary:
The body is an amazing thing. You can actually get stronger mentally, physically, and emotionally over time.
You can do a lot more than you think you can before you get exhausted.
Mark gives the example of going through the SEAL’s “hell week.” It’s a week of non-stop training with no sleep and considered the hardest military training for any special ops. Half way through the week, half the people had given up. But mark felt better in every way; he felt more alert and he felt like his muscles were growing.
Ramit Sethi, the entrepreneur interviewing him, responds by saying how one time, he was doing a workout and thought he couldn’t finish it because it was too heavy. His trainer put on more weight and he ended up finishing. In that moment, he realized he could do much more than he thought he could.
Now, did Mark actually get more alert and muscular in just half a week of training with no sleep? Probably not. I have studied the science of sleep and muscle recovery, and experiments show the opposite. Your focus drops when you need more sleep. And you don’t gain muscle that fast even if you get enough protein and rest.
But that’s not the point. Even Mark admits it was probably his mind playing tricks on him. The point is that you can push much farther than your body tells you it can.
In the book Willpower Instinct, the author cites a study that discovered that your brain sends signals of exhaustion far before your body actually gets exhausted as a fail-safe. Now, it’s there for a reason: to act as a prevention tool for complete exhaustion and danger.
However, your body doesn’t know it lives in the modern world. It’s still wired for Savannah times where there were real physical threats. Nowadays, there are safe environments to protect you from any downsides if you get exhausted and the benefits of pushing past exhaustion (in competition or to build muscle) are huge.
What I Learned From the Book, “The Ultimate Guide to Mental Toughness”
I read a great book on the subject called Ultimate Guide to Mental Toughness: How to Raise Your Motivation, Focus and Confidence Like Pushing a Button by Daniel Teitelbaum. Daniel used to work as a salesman. He used Napoleon Hill’s visualization techniques to become one of the top salesman for his company. Then, he transitioned to coaching everyone from Olympians to office workers to improve their performance, confidence, motivation, and wealth through live workshops.
He reveals his secrets in this book and expands upon Hill’s techniques with his own improved versions. I was recommended the book by a friend, and at first, I was skeptical. But once I finished it, I was much more convinced because some of the techniques are backed up by experiments.
The main thing I loved about the book were all the techniques around using classical conditioning. This is a classic, psychological discovery. Psychologists found that a dog would drool after a bell sound after sounding the bell before feeding the dog numerous times. Eventually, the dog would drool even if no food was given after the bell sounded. Later on, they found that they could use anything to do this; it didn’t have to be a bell.
Using classical conditioning, Dan’s techniques tied various triggers to ordinary events to get you motivated to accomplish your goals whenever you wanted. These included:
Listing out and identifying the goals that give you the biggest emotions.
Visualizing in detail the day before you achieve your goal.
Visualizing in detail 15 minutes before you achieve your goal.
Visualizing in detail the day after you achieve your goal.
Visualizing in detail the moment you achieved your goals (who was there, what’s happening around you, how you feel, what you’re holding and wearing, etc.).
Screaming a sentence that summarizes you achieving your biggest goal as load as you can fifteen times in a row.
Beating your chest with your hand while doing the visualization exercise. Then, slowly condensing the movement so that you can get the same emotional trigger by just tapping your finger or toe.
Playing a song that really energizes you while you’re visualizing so that you can eventually play the song to trigger the emotions without having to do the visualization exercise.
You don’t have to do all of these techniques. He has so many for different situations and personalities. And a number of these are not science-backed. Having said that, if all else fails, this is something you can test. It couldn’t hurt.
How To Summon Any Emotion or State You Want Instantly
What’s interesting is that I read the book The Art of Learning, and the author, Josh Waitzkin, stumbled across a very similar triggering method on his own. For some context, Josh was a chess prodigy who became a teen world champion and basis for one of the most famous chess movies, Searching for Bobby Fischer. He went on to become the world champion of the competitive martial arts, Tai Chi Chuan Push Hands, all by his early thirties.
Josh uses a similar “condensing” technique for triggering other emotions, like calmness. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t have to be for energizing emotions, like Dan has done. In his book he gives a great example.
A man always gets too nervous before presentations at works and blows it. He comes to Josh for help. Josh tells him to identify the moment when he is most calm. It was playing ball with his son.
He then asked him to conduct an hour-long routine each time before he played ball with his son. It happened to a number of random things, like stretching, listening to music, and washing the dishes. Gradually and slowly, Josh told him to condense the routine so it got shorter and shorter.
Eventually, the routine was less than five minutes. Then, Josh told him to perform this routine before the presentation, and he felt calm. Was it magic? No. He had simply conditioned a set of random activities to the feeling of calmness, so he could summon it on command.
Tim Ferriss is an entrepreneur and host of a self help podcast with over 100 million downloads titled The Tim Ferriss Show. Thanks to his hard work, large blog, and network as a Silicon Valley tech investor, he has been able to interview many of the world’s top athletes and game changers. He’s learned a lot about mental toughness from them:
I have been a super fan of both of these billionaires for a few years now. I have consumed almost everything out there about them. One thing most people don’t know about them is that they’ve been through tough times as well and they keep going.
Charlie saw his own child get ill and pass away. Warren has lost loved ones and has been hurt by people he’s loved.
But Charlie describes it best in the document Becoming Warren Buffett. He said, “Warren soldiers on.” They keep pushing forward, like a soldier.
Now, no need to pity them, as they’ve both generally had incredibly awesome lives for the most part. But if you have want to change your negative attitude and outlook, there’s nowhere better than the book Poor Charlie’s Almanack.
Charlie Munger’s philosophy on dealing with life, which you can find in that book and in free interviews online, is the best I’ve come across in dealing with life. Hundreds of thousands of Tim Ferriss fans love to harp on his teachings of stoicism (If you’re not familiar, I’d describe it as minimalism for happiness). But Charlie’s stuff is better.
He explains in such logical terms why you should avoid all self-pity and jealousy because it only hurts yourself and prevents you from progressing. He talks about how to effectively deal with the dread of aging and dying. And he talks about why and how you should come to accept and move on from unexpected bad events that life hands you — and to even do it in a positive way.
One of Charlie’s biggest inspirations is Ben Franklin, so I suggest reading Ben’s autobiography too if you want to dive even deeper.
Did I miss any valuable advice from a top athlete or scientist? Let me know in the comments below. I’d be eager to learn more.
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.
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.
“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.