Leo Gura of Actualized.Org

Top 30 Personal Development Influencers on the Web in 2017

Most people aren’t as plugged into the personal development space as I am. Therefore, I thought it would be useful to create a comprehensive list of all the top active personal development influencers across the web. The list covers the most impactful leaders for all content platforms, including social, podcasts, and blogging.

As a note, these are modern leaders that are currently active, who have a face and have the largest influence on a raving fanbase.

Evan Carmichael

Evan has one of the top Youtube channels to help people achieve success. Evan is most well known for his “_______’s Top 10 Rules of Success”, which are video montages of a successful people giving success advice. He covers successful people of every domain and skillset, including entrepreneurs, talk show hosts, actors, athletes, world peace leaders, marketers, motivational speakers, philosophers, and martial artists. Here’s an example of one of his videos:

Evan has over half a million YouTube subscribers and posts numerous videos on a daily basis.

There are two qualities I like most about Evan’s videos. First, he spends a lot of time to create curated content in a form I appreciate most: video interviews of top achievers. Second, some of his videos are really well curated and obviously require a lot of digging to find each clip. The video below is the best example I could find. He made a montage of dozens of billionaires and other successful people talking about why you should follow your passion.

I was flabbergasted after watching this. His team probably had to manually watch and dig through a hundred hours of lectures to find the one moment when they talk about the topic.

Joel Brown of Addicted2Success.com

Joel started his site addicted2success.com on the side while working a full-time office job. At first, the ads on the site barely paid for lunch. Slowly but surely, his site became one of the most visited self development sites in the world. He was even offered $1 million for it, which he declined.

Joel runs a podcast with the same name. He has many high-hitting guests on his podcast, including millionaire entrepreneurs and meditation gurus. Joel’s content has a flavor of general self-development advice, covering everything from habits to vision boards. There is an entrepreneurial flair to this content, as most of the role models and podcast guests are successful businessmen (Steve Jobs, Grant Cardone, etc.), though he does occasionally add in other big figures, like Gandhi.

Andrew Ferebee of Knowledge for Men

Andrew started with humble beginnings. He was completely broke and emotionally affected from a breakup with his girlfriend. The podcast he ran on the side, Knowledge For Men, saved him from homelessness. He grew a large audience and leveraged that into a business to help men become the best, masculine versions of themselves.

His podcast is one of the top podcasts in the world for this market. Every episode, he interviews an expert in the men’s dating or self improvement industry. Andrew’s flavor of personal development has a clear focus on a dating, relationships, and returning to your masculine, ancestral self.

andrew ferebee knowledge for men

James Clear of Jamesclear.com

James Clear runs a high traffic self development blog that gets over 1 million visits per month at jamesclear.com. His articles have a focus on habit and behavior change with scientific evidence. Therefore, he covers topics like dealing with procrastination, habit formation, breaking bad habits, focus, and creativity. He is well known for his writing ability. He often adds scientific and historical evidence in the footnotes of his articles.

Jaime Masters of Eventual Millionaire

Jaime runs an audio and video podcast called Eventual Millionaire where she interviews millionaires. She has already interviewed over a hundred millionaires and is still going strong. You can learn a lot about how to make money from these interviews, but that is not all you will learn. The millionaires interviewed often talk about other tips, like productivity, mindsets, goal-setting, happiness, purpose, fulfillment, and setting up automated systems.

Jaime started from scratch with no connections to any millionaires. Over time, she grew great networking skills and created a rolodex network of influencers and entrepreneurs. She’s often mentioned by other top influencers.

One thing you should know is that her podcast had a clear entrepreneurial focus. The advice is geared towards other entrepreneurs. This is the one of the only unfortunate things about her content, since not all of us want to become millionaires by starting a business. However, it seems like that’s how a majority of her guests made their money.

Steven Aitchison

Steven boasts a following of over 3.2 million on his Facebook page. He runs a counterpart blog at stevenaitchison.co.uk/blog. His topics cover a broad range of self-help, including psychology, health, relationships, and business. His motto is “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life.”

steven aitchison personal development

Todd Herman of 90 Day Year and Grit ‘N’ Hustle

In terms of brand exposure and traffic, Todd Herman is not well known. However, behind the scenes, he is a superstar. Todd works directly with many top influencers and entrepreneurs on the web, including Kimra Luna, Pat Flynn, Ryan Lee, Amy Porterfield, and Jeff Walker. He is well known to the audience of these influencers since he coaches them as well.

Todd started his journey as a mentor to the well known motivational speaker Jim Rohn. From there, he started and grew his coaching program for athletes. He has helped Olympians and billionaires reach higher levels of mental toughness and performance.

Todd has a podcast called the Grit ‘N’ Hustle Show where he brings on successful people to interview. You can find more content from him on his blog http://toddherman.me/blog/. Todd’s current focus is on helping entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs improve their goal-achieving ability, productivity and mindsets. He has a flagship program called the 90 Day Year.

Jordan and AJ Harbinger of the Art of Charm

Jordan is a cofounder to one of the oldest personal development podcasts in existence, The Art of Charm. This podcast is over a decade old and still running strong. It’s now one of the top podcasts of all time in iTunes. It gets over a million downloads a month. It started out as a dating and pick-up artist podcast, which slowly morphed into a comprehensive men’s improvement podcast. The flavor of Art of Charm development is all-encompassing, though there is a focus on men’s networking, communication, body language, and dating skills.

Their network of contacts in Silicon Valley has allowed them to get some high-hitting guests, from top entrepreneurs to scientists. You can get advice from everything from how to build a network to how to improve your emotional intelligence to how to get matches on Tinder.

Pay special attention to advice they give on networking, social skills, and emotional intelligence because that is their specialty and what they leveraged to achieve their success.

Mark Manson

Other than James Clear, Mark is one of the only top self help bloggers who writes longer form, personal articles. He has one of the world’s top read blogs at Markmanson.net which gets at least a million readers a month. Mark started out blogging about dating advice as a pick up artist. He soon transitioned to general men’s dating, and then, to self development in general.

He calls his material “life advice that doesn’t suck” and has positioned himself as the “anti-B.S.” self development guy. His flavor of topics focuses on:

  • Not caring what other people think.
  • Happiness.
  • Habits.
  • Confidence.
  • Goal-setting.
  • Mid to long-term relationships.
  • Life skills and knowing yourself.

Lately, Mark has lately been expanding outside of these topics and writing on what he pleases, which often includes politics. He also offers a subscription service for his premium articles and authored a book called The Subtle Art to Not Giving A Fuck, after the success of his blog post with the same name.

Charisma on Command

Ben and Charlie started Charisma on Command as a blog. They were self-help junkies and gravitated towards social skills topics, like making friends and confidence. Over time, they experimented with different types of content, like LinkedIn articles and YouTube.

YouTube worked really well for them. They skyrocketed to over 800,000 subscribers in a very short time. Today, Charisma on Command focuses on helping men become more charismatic and magnetic to help their relationships. They post consistently on their own blog and their YouTube channel.

Charisma on Command Top Personal Development Influencer
They are without a doubt one of the top YouTube influencers in the social skills self help industry.

Mike Dillard of Self Made Man 

Mike walked into work one day and told his boss he wanted to quit to start his company. Although his boss doubted him, he became a wealthy entrepreneur. Mike runs a podcast called The Self Made Man, which interviews some of the world’s top CEOs. His mission is to empower men who can change the world. The podcast is business-focused, but any man can benefit from the general lessons of mindset, happiness, and goal-setting that are also discussed. I like how the show often dives into Mike’s personal life, mistakes, and struggles because you learn how money does not guarantee happiness and what healthy mindsets you should have to stay resilient no matter where you are in life. You can find more at http://selfmademan.com/.

Mensutra

Menstrua is a Youtube channel run by Shwetabh Gangwar. It boasts over 400,000 subscribers. The channel covers a variety of higher-level self help topics, specifically around living the best life possible, social skills, dating, doing well in school, choosing the right job, and motivation. Here’s one of his videos:

James Swanwick of The James Swanwick Show

James runs a personal development podcast that focuses on more broader range topics including health, wealth, love, and happiness.

Thanks to his background in sports reporting and interviewing celebrities, he has gotten interviewees including doctors, retirement experts, relationship coaches, nutritionists, fitness experts, New York Times best selling authors, and millionaires.

Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You To Be Rich 

Ramit is the best-selling author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich and a blog of the same name. He built a multi-million dollar business of his blog. Ramit’s blog started out as a personal finance passion project. It has evolved into a blog and business to help people in their 20s to 40s with earning more and becoming successful CEO’s.

Ramit’s flavor of personal development blog posts are hyper focused on getting raises, freelancing on the side, automating budgets, networking, and starting online businesses. The techniques he teaches has an undertone of “mastering your psychology.” He has a distinct, outspoken style to his writing.

Fight Mediocrity

There are a lot of animated self-help book summary YouTube channels out there. But the biggest has to Fight Mediocrity (also sometimes known as Phuck Mediocrity). What he does is simple: He creates animated book summaries of top self-development books that last around 5 minutes long. And he will inject his own review of the book at the end (and sometimes sprinkled throughout the summary).

There is a definite focus on quality over quantity. Unlike most other YouTube channels, he will not upload a new video for 1 to 4 weeks. Here is one of his videos to give you an idea:

You can find him at youtube.com/phuckmediocrity

He covers a lot of the most well known self help books, so they get a lot of popularity on YouTube. There are a few up-and-coming YouTube channels that do something very similar, like Obtain Eudamonia (same thing, more colors).

Practical Psychology 

Practical Psychology is very similar to Fight Mediocrity except his animated videos focus on scientific studies rather than book summaries, though he does the occasional book summary as well.

Mimi and Alex Ikonn

Mimi and Alex were self-help junkies even before they became 7-figure entrepreneurs. Back when they were broke, they practiced visualization. After they got married, they started a hair extension to solve a need of their own. By effectively using YouTube and Instagram, they grew their following to millions of fans. In the process, they effectively marketed their business, Luxy Hair.

Unlike many other CEO’s who claim to have 7-figure businesses, Mimi and Alex actually pocket 7 figures after all expenses are paid. They both have personal YouTube channels where they release vlogs and occasional personal development advice themed around self-love, starting a business, earning money, visualization, and social media marketing.

Marc and Angel of Marc and Angel Hack Life

Marc and Angel are a couple. They run the blog Marc and Angel Hack Life. They have a large audience of 130,000 email subscribers and over a million monthly readers. They have been blogging for many years and are well known in their space. Their topics cover a broader range of self development. Their articles are more generalized and list-based, with a focus on improving happiness, relationships, motivation, and dealing with overwhelm.

You will like them if you prefer “listicles” and a conversational tone. They tend to bounce around many general self help topics and give advice from the heart, like Zen Habits, rather than focus on data or scientific evidence.

I would prefer if they gave more evidence for most of their posts rather than just give me 10 tips on how to be happier. I get skeptical when they do that since it could just be their opinion on what makes you happy. Nonetheless, they have achieved quite a large blog following.

James Altucher

James run his blog Jamesaltucher.com and his podcast The James Altucher Show. Both are wildly popular. His blog attracted hundreds of thousands of readers a month and his podcast attracts millions of listeners a month, rivaling the audience of a lower quality HBO TV Show.

James’s writing is unique. Every article pulls you in with shocking, and sometimes offensive, curiosity. He reveals embarrassing and evoking stories and feelings from his past. And occasionally, he gives you some advice. The topics he writes about can range quite a bit, but often, the advice is a small tip based on daily life, like how to persuade better.

His podcast has a format where he brings a successful guest on to be interviewed. His guests range from successful entrepreneurs to authors to spiritual teachers (kind of like Addicted 2 Success). What makes it unique is that James sometimes spends weeks preparing for his guests. He reads all of his guests’ books at least once.

John Lee Dumas and Kate Erickson of Entrepreneur on Fire

John, and his wife Kate, erupted onto the podcast scene a few years ago with a new style of podcast: a daily interview series of top entrepreneurs. With thousands of episodes already releasaed, they forged one of the largest beginning entrepreneur tribes online. Their podcast is a great free resource for you to learn from wealthy, happy CEO’s. 

Their personal development content has a focus on male 9-to-5 employees who want to start a business. While there is a lot of business strategies, Entrepreneur on Fire also has a lot of general self help advice as well, including goal-setting journals like The Freedom Journal and advice on building habits.

John Lee and Kate Dumas of Entrepreneur on Fire

Leo Babauta of Zenhabits.net

Top blogging experts like Pat Flynn and Corbett Barr have claimed zenhabits.net as the most popular personal blog of all time. Still run by just one person, Zen Habits attracts over two million readers a month.

If you start reading the blog, you will quickly realize it has a focus on minimalism, simplicity, meditation, and building good habits. His articles (and entire site) has a minimal design and only features text — no images, social media, or graphics. Similarly, his writing style follows this theme. 

I personally would prefer if he gave more evidence for some of his advice. But pay particular attention to his advice on writing, blogging, simplicity, minimalism, or meditation. He has quite a lot of experience and success in those areas, as you can tell by the popularity of his site.

Andrew Warner of Mixergy

Andrew is a successful entrepreneur who sold his company for millions of dollars after the Dot Com Bubble of 2000. After getting tired of retirement, he returned to the scene with his interview site Mixergy.com.

Thanks to his network, he has interviewed over 1,000 entrepreneurs, ranging from startup founders to CEOs of billion dollar companies like AirBnB. Andrew offers some of his interviews as free videos or audio podcast episodes; he sells some of the as premium content for a monthly fee. He has covered interviews on nearly every topic related to entrepreneurship, from copywriting to scaling a business. 

Although his content has a clear entrepreneurial focus, there is plenty to learn about general self-improvement, earning more, mindset, habits, productivity, or goal-setting.

Brendon Burchard

Brendon has a large presence on YouTube, his Facebook page, and his blog Brendon.com. He runs a multi-million dollar training company and the site Growth.com as well. Brendon covers a wide range of general personal development principles, including leadership, peak performance, goal-setting, meditation, staying positive, and productivity. 

If you want to learn from him, his YouTube should be your first stop. He gets tens of thousands of views for each of his weekly videos. The next stop would be his Facebook page, which has millions of fans. He posts tons of Quote cards and other inspirational content on there frequently.

Leo Gura of Actualized.org

Leo has one of the largest personal development presences on YouTube. Leo’s flavor of content has a meditation and spiritual-focus, though he keeps it objective enough so that you can learn from him even if you are not religious.

Leo Gura of Actualized.Org

Leo draws from the large amount of books he has read and the science he has learned to back up his points. Here’s one of his videos:

Most of Leo’s content has an undertone of “becoming the best actualized, higher level spiritual version of yourself.” There is a clear focus on moving towards enlightenment.

top modern personal development influencers
Image by Luc Galoppin

Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach and 10x Talk 

Dan has coached coaches of successful entrepreneurs through his program Strategic Coach. He runs a podcast called 10x Talk. Although his target audience are ambitious entrepreneurs, many of his podcast episodes focus on habit practices, techniques, and mindsets that are beneficial to everyone. He has very specific strategies with coined names from his program that he teaches you to help you feel more fulfilled, happy, and defeat procrastination.

Michael Hyatt

Michael Hyatt is a well known player in the online space. He runs a podcast and blog at michaelhyatt.com and calls himself, “Your Virtual Mentor.” Michael has authored best-selling books like Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want and Platform University: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.

There is a definite focus on helping people stop drifting through life, discover their passion, and turn it into an online business by building an audience. If that is not for you, he also touches on how to shift your mindset for success, productivity, and leadership.

Tony Robbins

Tony got his start apprenticing under an old self development and motivation legend, Jim Rohn. Starting out as a broke janitor, Tony rose through the ranks. Decades later, he runs a billion dollar set of training companies. Tony started out in the infomercial business but has sinced transitioned to in-person live events for thousands of people.

He is still mainly an offline guy. He is well known for his book Awaken the Giant Within and live events Unleash the Power Within and Date with Destiny. He is the most well known self development man to the mainstream market.Top celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Hugh Jackman, Maria Menounous, and Usher have attended his events. Tony’s content is focused on general personal development principles, such as unleashing your full potential, discovering motivation, rekindling relationships, improving your energy levels, and becoming wealthy.  

Steve Pavlina

Steve is known as one of the first personal development blogs to ever be created on the Internet. He is still around to this day. His articles focus on a more general, non-spiritual, daily-life style form of personal development. Steve blogs at stevepavlina.com.

Maria Popova of Brain Pickings

Maria started her blog for fun. Originally, only her friends read it. Over time, it grew to be one of the largest personal blogs in the world. Brain Pickings is borderline not personal development. I would not recommend it for a beginner.

The topics Maria writes about are often philosophical, esoteric, and intended to make you think. Occasionally, she will profile a recognizable successful person. But usually, she just picks interesting people. Her topics are all over the place. They include storytelling, history, love, powerlessness, courage, crisis, self-pity, and creativity.  

Her articles usually are not “How to” or intended to specifically teach you a specific way of doing something. The beautiful images she chooses for her articles make them really stand out.

Marie Forleo

Marie worked as a bartender, fitness instructor, and for NASDAQ, but never felt fully fulfilled. She started a fitness event-based business online, which grew into a seven figure business. She chose to shut down the business completely because she still didn’t feel passionate enough about it. Her next venture, a life coaching business, slowly grew into a multi-million dollar business that teaches beginners how to succeed in life and start their own online businesses.

Marie is one of the longest enduring influencers on the web. She started making weekly Youtube videos in 2011 and has never stopped. As she’s gotten better, her production technology has increased. 

She calls her content, Marie TV, and she releases a blog version and a version on her Youtube channel every week. The topics she talks about focus on general self-development tips that her female-dominated audience struggle with, which are usually psychological shifts. These shifts include dealing with imposter syndrome, feeling overwhelmed, getting over perfectionism, why you should embrace gratitude, and adopting an abundance mindset.

She often interviews top experts (scientists, speakers, authors, and entrepreneurs) on Marie TV

Marie Forleo Personal Development Influencer
Marie Forleo is one of the top self help influencers on YouTube. Look how many views she gets.

You will not get any technical tactics on starting a business for her content because she is more focused on overarching beginner strategies. She has two taglines, which she says in every episode of her videos. These are, “The place to be to create a business and life you love.” and “The world needs that special gift that only you have.”

Tim Ferriss

Tim is the undisputed heavyweight. His name and his 4-Hour Work Week brand is the most well known in the self development and tech entrepreneur communities. Tim’s book The Four Hour Work Week launched him into the scene from nowhere. Its focus is on optimizing your life and business to get the most return in the least time possible. An interesting fact is that Tim’s book was not an instant success. It was turned down by a dozen publishers and it required a lot of smart networking to spread the word.

Tim is known as the “human guinea pig.” He tests weird techniques, supplements, pills, and drugs to optimize his sleep, performance, energy, and fitness so his audience knows what’s best. Tim’s style of personal development content is more focused on lifestyle design, outsourcing a business, medicines, and weird techniques.

Tim’s podcast is one of the most downloaded of all time, hitting over 100 million downloads. His podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, started as a fun experiment to document the conversations he was having with top performers, thanks to his connections as a tech investor. Over time, his guests have gotten increasingly interesting, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Foxx. His podcast is focused on deconstructing the performance of high achievers so you can optimize your life. Each episode is usually a long form (one hour) interview or question-and-answer session.

Brian Tracy

Brian Tracy is a motivation, sales, and self help legend. He is spoke of on the same line as other legends like Zig Ziglar, Wayne Dyer, and Jim Rohn. Brian started as a high school dropout working odd jobs. In his early 30’s, he discovered self development and sales, which transformed his life. In the next couple decades, he became a top salesperson and motivational speaker in the nation.

Brian creates content every week on his Youtube channel, Facebook page, and blog http://www.briantracy.com/blog/. The content is high quality, high production, and actionable. It may be too high production and cookie-cutter for some people though. Brian is a great person to follow because he has decades of actual experience negotiating, selling, and improving productivity in business to back up what he says. His content focuses on time management, earning more money, improving as a salesperson, public speaking, and running a business.

Brian is most well known for his “Eat That Frog” productivity concept, which pushes you to finish the task you dread the most first.

Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary burst onto the Internet scene a few years ago and has become one of the most followed social media influencers with the most engagement. He mainly gives entrepreneurial-themed advice and his main topic of interest is emerging social media platforms. Topics cover everything from staying motivated, productivity, growing a business, and growing a following.

He primarily operates on YouTube, Facebook, and Snapchat. But his team creates offshoots of his content on Instagram, Tumblr, podcasts, and every other social media or blogging platform.

Lewis Howes of The School of Greatness  

Lewis has been in the online business space for several years. He became a millionaire by teaching other entrepreneurs how to sell more products by leveraging webinars. Lewis started his podcast The School of Greatness early on to help listeners become the best at what they do. It’s now grown to be one of the top self-help podcasts in iTunes. Although his business is for entrepreneurs, his podcast, and the book with the same name, covers topics that can help anyone succeed. 

The show interviews everyone from successful entrepreneurs to billionaires to Youtube stars to scientists to coaches. There are also episodes with just Lewis talking on his own on self improvement concepts.

Topics you will hear about in the show include earning more, motivation, generosity, self-belief, taking time for yourself, burning out, mental shifts, persistence, and standing out. There is a focus on more psychological and “internal game” topics.

Pay attention to Lewis’s advice on networking and digital marketing because that is his specialty.

Lewis Howes School of Greatness

Will’s Personal Development Blog

This is me. I’m an up and coming blogger, podcaster, and YouTube on personal development. My unique spin is that I filter all my advice through two filters: is it science-backed and/or is it coming from someone who has achieved massive success in the field? A lot of the content nowadays isn’t backed up with evidence. For more info on what I have to offer, check out my About page.

Conclusion

As you can see, personal development comes in many flavors. Differing interests, personalities, and delivery create different content. Choose who you think will help you and suits you best.

Did I miss anyone? If you know of a huge personal development influencer that is not mentioned, leave a comment to let me know.

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Less Things, More Happiness Challenge Day 5

It is Day 5 of my “Less things, more happiness” challenge.

As mentioned in previous days, I wanted to volunteer to experiment with this science-backed happiness-boosting practice. After many weeks looking for something I’d like, I finally went through with it.

I spent a good portion of a day volunteering my time for a beer festival. The festival was not charitable. If it was, they did not make it the main selling point. This was a good fit for me because I am selfish person.

Although I would like to think I am kind and selfless at times, I rarely do things outside of my own interest. I learned this by being brutally honest with myself and examining my behavior. Therefore, other volunteering events would have been too much of a stretch for me.

Serving food to the homeless just would feel like too much of a chore. I wish I was a bit more kind, but that is just how it is. Maybe in the future, I will try a volunteer event that is more selfless.

As for my experience during the event, I had a decent amount of fun. I was assigned to pour beer into people’s cups. There was a large truck parked behind me and around twelve taps of different types of beer built into the side of the truck. I enjoyed the process of seeing tangible progress. I probably poured over three hundreds glasses of beer that day. And as the day progressed, I got faster at pouring.

Looking back on the event, I am not sure if I felt happier after it. There may have been a slight increase in happiness, but I was definitely not overflowing with joy.

It may be because I knew the event was commercial and so the benefit I was giving people did not really seem like much. They had already paid for the event. Having said that, I did meet a nice elderly couple who volunteered with me. They said they had done this every year for years because they liked the community and wanted to give back. So maybe there is some value to volunteering for a corporate event.

The other volunteers I worked with were all friendly and upbeat. It was a cool little community. And it was fun seeing so many young guys so excited to drink endless beer, especially since I was the one who could give it to them.

In the future, I would like to try a purely selfless volunteer event like helping homeless people to see if there is a greater impact on happiness. I will have to work my way up to it though. I have done it before though and suspect there not to be a huge difference (at least in the short term). I did spend time with old people in a retirement home when I was young and I do not remember being that much happier having done it. I remember getting a bored after listening to one person talk for a reaaallly long time. Some of the old folk there really are bored.

When I get to that age, I want to make sure to be like Warren Buffett and other old entrepreneurs. They have a career, lifestyle, and network of friends that they love and love them back. They have so much fun, even in old age. They do not have to wait for someone to come visit them every few weeks.

The final notable was the mean lady. Towards the start of the day, I did not know you had to pour beer in a special way. You have to tilt the bottle almost sideways to let the foam pour out or 80% of the cup will be foam. I did not know this so I handed this lady a glass of foam. She gave me a nasty look and said something like, “You obviously do not know what you are doing.”

One of the volunteers kindly explained the process to me and the lady demanded that someone else pour for her. I would have felt a lot worse a couple years ago, but meditation, improving empathy, and studying successful people has helped. I understand how she might feel about poor service after paying real money for an event. I also realized this was a minor incident and I was still healthy. Nothing had actually hurt me unless I let the words affect me. I put my ego aside because logically, I was a beginner. Quickly, I moved on from it.

Hours later, I had gotten the hang of pouring to the point where one person told me I was the fastest beer pourer out of several volunteers. Another volunteer who just arrived thought I had been doing this for ages. The same lady came up in line and I tried to help her. She did not give me eye contact and told me she wanted someone else to pour for her.

This did not affect me that much (though it did affect me slightly). I am still not to the point of perfection where it does not affect me at all. I do not know if that is humanly possible, but it does seem like I am moving in the right direction and can improve even more.

After my reflection, here are the key takeaways (which might help you on your happiness journey):

  • A change of attitude to enjoy and appreciate the mundane things in life more. After reflecting on my childhood visit to a retirement home, I was reminded of Dan Sullivan. He is a successful entrepreneur and podcaster. When he was young, he had a lot of time to develop his conversation skills with people who were over sixty years old. Rather than be the guy who clearly does not want to be there, I believe I can have more fun and improve myself even in boring situations. Don’t disregard elderly women, for example. Many of them used to be pretty girls at one point.
  • Loosen your expectations. I think going into an event thinking it will be lots of fun or guarantee you lots of happiness can lead to disappointments. Unless you can consistently find stuff that tickles your fancy.
  • Don’t let small things get you down.
  • Feel out what is fun for you and move towards it. This event helped me feel out what I enjoy most and it taught me that I am probably not going to have the most fun in the world getting drunk based on my personality and interests. Nonetheless, I did have some fun and it was a lot more interesting than sitting at home bored.
  • Selfless volunteering (that is charity based rather than commercial) may lead to more happiness?
  • You may not see short-term results of happiness exercises, but they may come over the long term (months out)?

Fun facts of the day:

  1. I cut my fingers twice (on the outside) and hand them bandaged. I am not sure what cut me. The glasses I were handed were smooth with no sharp edges. It may have been from a ring someone was wearing since they were tiny cuts. It still remains a mystery.
  2. One guy kept calling me “THE MAN” because I was the one hooking him up with all his drinks (by default – since I am the beer pourer). Another guy told me I made a friend. A small confidence boost. I never saw him again after the event so it was more like a friendly acquaintance. Nonetheless, happy times.
  3. Another guy asked me if I would pour him a second round if he immediately shotgunned the first cup I poured him. I was not told I could not allow this so I did. And he chugged the whole thing like promised. He returned to the line numerous times and did the same thing. Some of these people really could drink. Surprisingly, I did not see any violence or really stupid behavior during the event despite there being at least 200 people there. Most of them seemed to be able to control how much they should drink.
  4. If you are wondering, the volunteers were not allowed to drink at the event. This does not bother me since I am not into alcohol that much (though I do respect the craft and all the thousands of variations there are).

Did Volunteering Help With My Happiness?

Yes and no. I think it did feel good helping out so many people in such a high volume, high turnover place. Overall, I was surprised that no fights or really rude people came about (except for that one lady) given such large numbers. I felt proud that I was able to re-adjust my emotional state when that lady got me. It’s an important part of happiness to celebrate your wins.

The reason I say this was so-so was because it was a “fun” event. I didn’t really feel like I was helping someone in need or in a worse off situation from me. The value I gave was low to medium. The amount of fun I had was also low to medium. I don’t drink much, though I did appreciate all the different varieties of alcohol that was there.

Ultimately, my experience was maybe a 6.8 out of 10 because I didn’t have that fun of a time or feel like I was helping someone worse off (which I feel may improve my happiness more). Though the studies that I found support this assertion say a simple thing like giving five dollars to a stranger has an effect. An arguably, volunteering my time for a few hours is worth more than that.

Maybe my attitude or outlook on the whole thing is the problem. Or maybe I need to just give a few strangers five dollars, preferably people who really need it. This was a fun experiment to run and maybe I’ll run these other experiments in the future.

Stay tuned for Day 6…

Views – 71

Are your 20s really the best time of your life?

Myth Debunked: Are your twenties really the best years of your life?

For the last few years of my life, I was constantly in a state of frustration and haste. Why? Because I thought I had wasted the best years of my life.

I was told by media, Hollywood, peers, and adults that your twenties are the best years of your life. I even asked one of my friends to confirm if it was true, “Once I get a job, is it all downhill from here?”

“Yes, it is,” he replied. He had bought into the idea as well.

Despite all my hurried attempts to seize that time, it just wasn’t happening. I didn’t have the money, status, or extroversion to party it up with beautiful supermodels.

And then, something happened. I realized the whole thing was a lie.

Are your twenties really the best years of your life?

No matter what age you are in life, you may have had this idea pop-up. Death is coming. It’s over from here. It’s only going to get worse. Even being the positive self-help enthusiast I am, I couldn’t help but to buy into this and fall into a quarter-life crisis. Where was the proof this wasn’t true?

Then, I stumbled into this beautiful mid-life crisis story by Alice Schroeder, the author of Warren Buffett’s biography The Snowball. This is from her Reddit Ask Me Anything:

warren buffett mid life crisis story

Your twenties aren’t the end. They’re just the beginning. But as Alice mentioned, it’s worth it if you can invest in your experiences so that they compound into an avalanche of unexpected positive events later on in life.

In this podcast episode, I will share with you:

  • studies from the science of happiness on what really matters.
  • new evolutionary science on how your biological clock relates to this.
  • experiences and shocking lessons learned from men who are highly successful with women (some of who started as losers).

Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher so you can get access to all the episodes whenever you want:

Will's Personal Development Podcast

Will's Personal Development Podcast

Show Notes: Other Helpful Resources

Check out the previous podcast episode I did on being rich but happy. There are some great resources in the Show Notes, especially Dan Bilzerian’s interview, which are relevant to this discussion.

Views – 137

less things more happiness challenge day 4

The Less Things, More Happiness Challenge – Day 4 (Most Important Day)

This is probably the most important day of my Less Things, More Happiness challenge

Why? Because I have discovered some deep, profound insights on happiness that will help me and help you. You may be wondering how I was able to do that in such a short time, but these days are not happening sequentially in the challenge. I do it when I have time.

And therefore, I have had a ton of time in between each day to reflect on my experiences and on life.

Let’s get started.

I need to remove resentment from my life (and maybe you do too)

I realized I hold resentment and frustration when I am not moving towards my goals, feel delayed by others or life, or especially f there is no sign that I will never achieve them. Despite consuming so much content from successful people on the power of persistence, that’s how I was still behaving. It took a while to figure this out. 

After a lot of reflecting on my behavior over the years, it was clear. Any type of unexpected family event that I was forced to go to created resentment and frustration because I felt “my biological clock” was ticking and the activity was a waste of time. Because of this, I get into fights and was in a noticeably worse mood. Since my realization, I have corrected and have noticed, slowly but surely, a sense of patience and feeling of ease. 

How did I achieve this state of being okay with everything and non-urgency? More on this later, but here’s a hint: a lot of reflecting on my hypocrisy, logic, and meditation.

Talking with people my age and younger can be a bit of shock. You jump out of your bubble and realize that most other people waste a ton of time and are much easier going in life; it’s a reminder to chill. I had gone overboard with the personal development techniques and my life was a calendar of productivity and bigger goals.

Our cultures and society (especially Asian ones) unfortunately reinforce these beliefs. Your parents and relatives go crazy if you do not marry by a certain age or achieve a certain job title. And like with most false beliefs, there is a grain of truth that makes them believable. Especially for women, there is a real biological time limit before your youth and beauty start to fade and dating gets harder.

I have identified the issue and want to eliminate it. It’s not healthy or productive towards my happiness (or other people’s happiness) because it creates negative emotions, deep anger, resentment, and frustration.

Learn To Be Okay With Not Achieving Your Goals. Here’s Why

I have to learn to be okay and happy with the idea of not achieving my goals, knowing that I can be as happy as possible right now even if I do not achieve them. This will:

  • help me stop taking life so seriously, beating myself up, and spreading frustrated, negative energy to others.
  • help me enjoy the journey, and not just the end destination. It’s a flawed belief that you have to “suffer in pain for 50 years to enjoy happiness from the money you earned.”

The Dalai Lama is a great example of this in action. He has spent his whole life meditating, laughing, and eating minimal food. Yet you can tell he is so happy and has made such an impact on the world in any of his interviews.

So why exactly should you act like the world is over if you do not get the mansion, girlfriend, or tropical resort you are after? Is it really necessary for your happiness to the point of getting into a tantrum if something delays you from achieving it?

There are people who naturally do not take life too seriously. Maybe it’s genetics or how they were raised. For whatever reason, I am definitely more in the group of people who take their life too seriously at times to the point of causing damage. I have noticed this over the years and ask if you fall into this camp as well. If so, take action on fixing this. 

You Don’t Have To Stop Working Towards Your Goals. It Just Means You Can Be Happy Right Now.

Being okay with not achieving your goals is different from not trying your best to achieve them. You can still be ambitious. You can still work as hard as you can. You can still push your limits.

It just means having a healthier perspective so that you do not lash out in anger or frustration if unexpected events or people come up. You can still work just as hard as Michael Jordan or Will Smith, but you do not have to be the whiny baby when events out of your control delay your progress.

If I had to guess, Michael and Will probably have this healthy mindset too.

Successful People Follow This Rule of “Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously”

I recently was watching this video interview of an Indian billionaire and he said, “We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we do take the business seriously.” I realized that a lot of successful people are like that: Richard Branson, Warren Buffett, etc.

Why get so uptight and mad when life gets in your way? The fact is that you are often still healthy and your loved ones are still alive. We need to stop fussing over the small obstacles in our life (a rude stranger you meet, a unexpected two week set back, losing a business deal, etc.) and appreciate more the bigger picture (impacting others, enjoying life, appreciating our youth and healthy body).

Richard Branson is always doing fun crazy activities (kite surfing, dancing on tables, jumping in pools in a suit). He has the mindset that will let him laugh it off when he gets sued for millions of dollars unexpectedly. That keeps him resilient.

Have More Fun When You Work

The issue was I had failed a key part of success, which I knew about because other entrepreneurs like Gary Vaynerchuk have mentioned this: You need to find work that is truly fun for yourself or you will burn yourself out. 

I have been writing a ton of exciting blog posts (and YouTube videos) for you (that you will see in the near future). But it’s gotten a lot less fun as I put more and more scheduled time into it.

I realized that I was not enjoying myself. I felt burned out. And I was reminded that other people my age were relaxing, watching Netflix, going to sports games, drinking, and fooling around. Yes, it’s unproductive. Yes, they are probably unaware of how much time they waste. Yes, I can get ahead in the long run if I work during that time. But they are having tons of fun and I am not. 

Working yourself to death isn’t always the right answer. Even if it means making a lot more money than everyone else.

It’s not like I have not tried to have fun. I spent the last couple days watching tons of cool magic tricks on YouTube by David Blaine. I spent some good time outside playing Pokemon Go. But after overhearing another conversation of how others my age live their weekends, I realized something was not right. I wanted more fun in my life. 

And it’s not like I do not have fun writing these articles or making these videos. But it seems like it’s not 100% fun and the percentage that is not fun slowly burns me out the more time I spend on it. I am slowly learning what types of articles and videos I enjoy making most.

I was watching an Oprah Winfrey speak at the Stanford Business School on YouTube, and she said that it took time to find her passion. She spent years as a radio reader, moved to be a news reporter, and eventually found her way to talk show host (which felt right when she tried it out). So be patient.

Oprah said she listened to her instinct and kept adjusting. There were parts of her job that she liked, but she kept listening to her gut when it told her that it “wasn’t quite right yet.”

The entrepeneur Gary Vaynerchuk has said this as well. He went so far as to say that he changed his whole business and life around when he found that there was 1% of his life that was not fun enough. Now, that may be an extreme approach, but there is some truth to that small percent of your life you don’t enjoy burning you out over time as you work harder.

A lot of us may feel overwhelmed by that extreme approach. We are still struggling with changing that 45% that’s not fun. But we can slowly and steadily improve.

Ideally, it would be great if there was something that made tons of money that was pure fun for me, but if it was that easy to find, everyone would be millionaires. I will probably do an article solely on the topic of how to have more fun because that is another obstacle. Stay tuned for that because I will need to do some research on it.

Here’s the takeaway: Have more fun today. I did this by getting on a table and dancing for a half second. It was awkward and no one was around. I did kind of have fun but I will have to work on “not caring what others think” more. Find out what you enjoy most and do more of that. What actually makes you have more fun? For me, I realized I like singing to crazy pop songs out loud when no one is around.

For me, I realized that I often care about having fun more than being more happy. I cannot say if that everyone is like this but maybe we are looking for “fun” more than “happiness.”

Everyone Needs Some Voluntary Deprivation. Here’s What It Is And Why You Need It

Have you ever wished for something so badly? But when you got it, within months (sometimes weeks or days), you take it for granted?

You should because it’s a biological phenomenon called hedonic treadmill that makes you take for granted materialistic items you receive (whether it’s an expensive car, mansion, or new video game). Although money is important, science has shown that money alone cannot guarantee happiness.

The last time this happened to me was when I went out for a run in I was parched 100+ degree heat. Within minutes I was so parched but there was not a water fountain in sight. Water felt like the most sacred item out there. Nothing else mattered. And when I finally drank some, it felt like liquid gold pouring down my throat. 

Yet what’s funny is a day later, I walked past a fountain with infinite water and I just took it for granted and did not drink much. 

I noticed this also happens a lot to me with food. Going out to eat food was a special occasion growing up since I was poor. I would save up and and look forward to meals from Chipotle, Five Guys, or Chic Fil A like a holiday. I would literally fantasize about the taste because I really enjoyed food. 

But when I was able to order out often, it got old. There was no excitement. The same meal tasted boring and bland in my mouth.

It’s kind of like a cocaine addict who gets needs increasingly higher doses of the drug to get the same high. He keeps increasing it until he dies or gets no feeling from it but becomes dependent on it. 

So here’s the takeaway: Try out voluntary deprivation. 

This is when you “deprive” yourself from time to time of a high quality of living that you take for granted so that you appreciate it once again. It can also mean adding variety into your life to increase to experience something new and take a break from what you have been doing.

People are different and you may take different things for granted based on what you value more. Some people do not appreciate food as much as me. For them, it could be the obsessive desire for more money, clothes, or sex.

I have heard the same process of taking things for granted happens when you date more attractive women or buy increasingly flashy and expensive cars. For these more superficial items, try visiting a third world country once in a while to keep everything in perspective. One day, I will probably live in a neighborhood where the average person is a lot poorer than me so I do not fall into the trap of trying to keep up with the neighbors’ expensive toys or feeling less happy from constant social comparison.

Note: volunary deprivation does not necessarily mean to starve yourself. It can be as simple as going on a two week break from eating out so the food tastes special again. 

Listening to Stand-up Comedy

As I mentioned in previous days of the challenge, I want to make sure I laugh for at least 10 minutes everyday. I read a story about a man who cured himself of an illness that should have killed him by watching nothing but comedy during his time in the hospital.

I do not know if laughter is truly the best medicine, but I know I feel a lot better, more cheerful, and happier when I do laugh. And some days, I don’t if I don’t make it a point to.

Today, I spent around 20 to 30 minutes listening to stand-up comedy. As mentioned in the previous day of the challenge, it’s tough to get me to laugh. I did get one chuckle in. I used Pandora and have been skipping and down voting comedy tracks I do not like with hopes that their algorithm will find something funny for me. I will keep at it. 

A Gratitude Journal and Daily 10 Minute Meditation

Science has shown (see the article I link in the Conclusion) that gratitude and meditation help with happiness. I’ve been semi-consistent with these on a daily basis (2 to 4 times a week). Exercise is a third driver of happiness, and I’ve been even more consistent with that.

You may be able to become more self-aware of your own problems and where you can improve if you do something similar. I recommend something as simple as:

  • Writing out some things you are grateful for in a journal daily (2 minutes). Try to be detailed.
  • Fundamental meditation. Just focus on your breath (5 minutes). Once you get really good at it (it could take months), you can switch to mindfulness meditation.
  • A few moments to reflect on your stumbling blocks and what you can do to get over them (5 minutes or less).
How to improve self awareness
It doesn’t take much to improve your self awareness. A pen and paper will do.

Conclusion and In the Future

In the future, I will be saving a day of this challenge for volunteering. Science shows giving back time or money to others (even strangers) is a great way of improving happiness. I am more of a selfish person (based on personality tests) so it’s been tough to stop procrastinating on this. 

I found an interesting pet volunteer opportunity and it will be one of my first volunteering events ever. Hopefully, I will not procrastinate any longer and will actually follow through. If so, stay tuned for news on what I did and if it improved my happiness.  

Let me know in the comments below: Do you have similar issues with getting a good laugh? What do you think about voluntary deprivation? What is the one lesson you learned from this that you can take action on immediately?

Views – 86

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.

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