Steve Harvey is one of the few who truly started from the bottom.
There are plenty of successful people who started in the middle of life with a good education and rose to the top. Steve flunked out of school, worked at a factory job, go fired, was homeless, and made up his mind to be a success when he was middle-aged.
I can list the names of people I know who started like that on my fingers: Richard Branson, John Paul DeJoria, Chris Gardner, Jim Carrey, Sylvester Stallone, Brian Tracy, and Tony Robbins.
When I first heard Steve’s story on YouTube, it struck me so deeply that I had to learn more. Why? Because some part me had lost hope but I saw that if Steve could change his life so late in the game, maybe I could too.
As always, I do a search to see if he wrote a book on success, not expecting to find anything.
Just like with Michael Strahan, I was surprised to find that he did. It is called Act Like A Success, Think Like A Success. Isn’t that interesting? You’d be amazed how many of your role models have written books explaining their secrets.
It’s a tragedy few people know about these books or bother to read them.
Steve’s book gives me a unique perspective. It’s not advice from someone who at the top. It’s coming from someone who came from the bottom.
By the end of this, any excuse you have, whether it’s “I don’t have the connections”, “I don’t have the skills”, “I don’t have the knowledge”, or “I don’t have the education” should be flushed out of you like turds in a toilet bowl. No excuses.
Many people die letting their false beliefs and excuses hold them back from their dreams. Don’t let this be you. Here are the top 18 lessons I learned from his book:
1. Find Your Gift
I once saw the entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk speak live. The #1 piece of advice he said he could give was to know yourself. Know what you are good at and what you aren’t.
Warren Buffett says you must stay within your circle of competence. Know what you are great at and stay in those areas only.
Steve Harvey advises in his book to find that special gift that only you have and nurture it over time. He says all of us have different gifts. His was being funny but he never knew it could turn into money.
Here’s the point: Most people think they know what they’re good at and are wrong. You have to be brutally honest with yourself. Develop and stay around the skills that you can be good at. Remove any bias.
Stop deluding yourself and thinking you are good at sales or singing if you absolutely suck at it and have zero potential to get good at it. Many people never do because they are too vain to be honest with themselves and realize that they have no potential to be good with something they’re not.
If you are a great manager but bad at accounting, hire people who are better at you to cover your weaknesses rather than trying to be good at everything.
For some skills, it can be tough because your perception is cloudy. These fields include your musical talent or your start-up entrepreneurial skills. Even these fields can be partially screened out if you fall on the extremes. For example, I thought I was pretty good at singing but after singing in front of hundreds of people in my lifetime on and off to test myself objectively, it was clear by their reaction that I was tone deaf. I had to be brutally honest and remove my bias. I had no potential of ever becoming a great singer.
Steve says that sometimes your gift is right in front of you. He was always funny and could always make people laugh but never thought to turn it into a profession.
A bit of practical advice from me: I just have to be brutally honest and warn you. While sometimes Steve seems to imply that you can turn any gift or passion into a well-paid job, I don’t think that’s true. For most of our economic history, the job options were very limited.
dIn the last few decades, the economy has opened up to allow all sorts of crazy jobs like comedy to make you wealthy. Having said that, not EVERYTHING can be turned into something like this. Eating potato chips on the couch won’t make you rich.
Making videos on Youtube won’t make everyone rich because the competition is so fierce. Look to see if you can pivot to something that DOES pay within that gift. Maybe you have a HUGE knowledge of basketball but could never play professionally. Maybe that means being a sportscaster.
You must acknowledge competition and if you have the potential to be one of the best at the skill.
Steve Harvey, like many wealthy people, never focused on the money. He focused on being the best he could at something, and the money came.
Steve could have stayed at his factory that he hated like many people do because they falsely believe that this is their destiny. Steve firmly believed that he had greater potential and fulfillment. His belief spurred him to quit and do greater things.
If you are not fully engrossed and fulfilled doing something that provides great value to people with your gift in a way that you enjoy, you may not have reached your potential yet. Steve was mediocre at his factory job and hated it. He wasn’t there yet.
You must COMMIT to your gift. Only when you commit to what you want to do can you fully be engaged and put your 110% into it.
Your gift is something that people can’t copy even if they get the right information. Skill is something you develop over time with practice. Both are important.
Will Smith says talent is something you are innately born with while skill is something that is only developed by hours and hours of developing your craft.
2. Remove All Excuses
In his book, Steve Harvey says that excuses block you from your goals. These limiting beliefs are almost always not true and are used as a crutch so that you don’t have to do the hard work necessary to succeed.
He himself was a huge culprit. He had a thousand excuses for why things weren’t working out at his job and why he flunked out of school.
Like most people, he had what Stephen Covey of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People call “Excusitus”, the disease of blaming others.
Children do this naturally all the time: “It wasn’t me.” And most adults never get rid of it. They always point the finger at someone else for why they are not successful. Steve Harvey had many excuses for why he didn’t get a good education but he realized one day that all those excuses were not true and simply used to hold himself back.
This is a huge and critical mindset shift for me and most people. All of us have an excuse. Do any of these sound familiar?
- I’m too old
- I’m too young
- I’m not the right ethnicity
- I have the wrong skin color
- I’m too poor
- I don’t have the right education
- I wasn’t born in the right city
- I don’t have the experience or skills
- It’s too hard to learn these skills
Eliminate all immediately!
What if these things weren’t true at all and you were simply using these false beliefs to hold you back from success? Even if it’s holding you back just slightly that unnecessary obstacle is preventing you from achieving greatness.
Many of these beliefs have small grains of truth from history that manifest through.
I have done this and I challenge you to do this:
Say this out loud with me: “From this day on, I will never again have another excuse for why I cannot achieve the goals that I set out to accomplish. I have access to incredible resources like the internet to help me achieve my goals that were not possible anytime before this in history. I have access to resources, education, and a land of opportunity. Things were not perfect but I will prevail. People have achieved things FAR greater than what I have set out to do with LESS opportunities. People have managed to build a rocket space to the Moon and Mars against insurmountable odds. I can do this.”
You can adjust this affirmation if you don’t have access to the Internet or education or whatever else. The point is that you must eliminate what is holding you back immediately.
Steve recommends this exercise: Identify your Top 3 Excuses and Top 3 Expectations. Excuses are the things that are unnecessary obstacles that hold you back from your goals (why you can’t) and expectations are what you want to achieve and will do what it takes to get to (why you will).
To find your Top 3 excuses, it’s usually the things that you say out loud or in your head most frequently. Now, simply replace your excuses with your Top 3 Expectations each time they come up.
3. Avoid Negativity
Anyone who is negative will drain you. Avoid people who always say bad stuff or always have to be right.
If people aren’t bringing you up or adding value, consider if they should really be around you. Negative thoughts and ideas will rub off.
You want a team of people who are constantly trying to do great work and better each other.
It seems so simple but no one takes the time to really figure out if the people they are around should be there. I challenge you right now to change who surrounds you for the better. Find one person to add to your circle. And maybe one more to remove or distance yourself from.
4. Be Careful Who You Share Your Vision With and Who You Surround Yourself With
Steve Harvey makes a great point that some of your goals and part of your vision should not be shared with other people. Some things are deeply personal and should be kept to yourself.
Other parts of your vision and goal should only be shared with the select few people you trust.
Have you ever been a situation where you shared your goals with someone small-minded or negative and they should them down? Many of us have.
Make sure you only share your goals with people you trust with accomplishments you admire or have achieved you want in life so that you only take opinions from people with the advice you should follow.
Life is like pulling a wagon with a rope uphill. The rope cuts into your hands. You get to choose who you let on the wagon. People can cheer you on, inspire you, move rocks out of the way, brush the sweat off your face, but they cannot pull the wagon with you.
You are responsible for pulling the wagon.
If you choose the wrong people to get onto your wagon, they may sit there and refuse to help. They may drag you down. They may act like they’re helping but as soon as you turn your head, they put their feet up and relax on the wagon. Be careful who you let on.
Success is a language. And the best way of learning any language is to immerse yourself in the culture of people who speak that language natively. You must get yourself around like-minded people who talk about success natively.
You never want to be the smartest person in the room because, at that point, you are just pulling others up all the time rather than growing yourself at all. If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room.
5. Constantly Remind Yourself Of Your Vision
Steve Harvey uses vision boards that he places everywhere to constantly remind himself of the bigger goal: he has it as his screensaver for his phone, and he has it all over his house and in his workplace.
If you only place your vision board or vision in one place, you will forget about it and constantly get off task. I challenge you to get a visual representation of your vision and place it everywhere so you constantly reminded of the physical manifestation of where you want to be.
Do this now. I make it my phone and computer screensaver since you end up seeing it multiple times a day.
6. Know Your Worth and Don’t Be Afraid To Ask
The best-selling personal finance author Ramit Sethi said something that rings true to this day: “Life is tough enough without us actively cockblocking ourselves.” He was specifically talking about people who are afraid to ask for help from people who have offered to help in the fear of being impolite or some other reason.
While some people have the opposite problem of being too aggressive and only taking from other people, some people do have this issue of never asking for help.
There could be a variety of reasons for why. You could be too proud to show that you need something from someone else, for example.
Steve emphasizes that you need to ask sometimes to get. He was a culprit of all of these things in the past. He also recommends that you know your worth and ask for your worth. Many people, especially women, have low self-esteem and ask for less than they are capable of.
The worst that can happen is they say no. The best is that you get what you want.
7. Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
S.M.A.R.T. stands for short, measurable, attainable, reachable, time-sensitive goals. Successful people always set SPECIFIC, detailed goals that they strive to reach.
If you have a very cloudy or vague goal, how can you possibly even know if you have reached it? How could you possibly move towards it?
Even moving slightly towards your goal should be celebrated. If you saved up $100, that’s still $100 closer to your goal.
Your goals and plans may change over time as unexpected events occur in your life that shift your priorities. That’s completely fine. As Mike Tyson says, “Everybody has a plan until you get punched in the face.”
Be cool with shifting your plan and pivoting if things aren’t working out. But at least have a plan so you can get moving!
8. Failure Is Good
Failure is good. Fear is normal. Most successful people I have studied have mentioned how failure is the pathway to success. They’ve failed much more than the average person, which has taught them to succeed.
Most successful people I have studied have mentioned how failure is the pathway to success. They’ve failed much more than the average person, which has taught them to succeed.
You want to learn from other people’s failures to save yourself time and money, but some lessons must be learned through your own experience because you need that real-world experience.
Steve Harvey failed a lot of times on his journey to success. He lost every comedy competition he entered before he made it. He was laughed at when he quit his job to pursue comedy.
He was scared to death when he started his talk show, when he hosted at Apollo, when he began the King of Comedy tour, and when he interviewed President Obama.
He bombed at his comedy sessions multiple times in front of big audiences. Those lessons taught him to perform better. He learned to approach comedy from a more mathematical model, similar to Chris Rock: every joke he told was tested on numerous audiences and scored numerically to determine if it was a keeper or not.
9. Slowly Move Your Way Up
Steve’s success was not overnight. He advises a slow but methodical climb to where you want to ultimately be.
He went from barely making ends meet as a comedian to $100 a month to $500 a month for random shows to $1000 a month at bigger comedy clubs to tens of thousands a month at large clubs to hosting Apollo to his own TV show.
Steve gives an example of how this can be applied to anything: if you want to own a fleet of trucks, the process is the same: start with getting a driver’s license, then pass the test to get a license to drive trucks locally, then drive interstate trucks, then drive bigger trucks across the country, invest in owning your first truck, and then, over time, build your entire fleet.
10. Set The Right Priorities
Steve said he used to have this order of priorities:
He went through 2 divorces, a $20 million tax bill, homelessness, and all sorts of other issues. He said nothing ever worked out until he changed his priorities to this:
Some of you may not be religious. From my own studies of successful people, many have accumulated wealth without being religious or putting family first. Take this advice as how you will.
I do think that you can achieve wealth without having to sacrifice family time, health, sleep, or time at church if you set priorities right and work smart. Obviously, it is easier to do so when you have more time to work but people regret missing out on their family and it’s sometimes not worth it.
No one regrets not spending enough time at their office on their death bed. Especially when you are already earning a ton of money, is the extra money really worth what you sacrifice for it?
11. To Whom Much Is Given, More Is Required
Steve Harvey has a very rigorous schedule from the time he wakes up at 3 AM to the time he goes to sleep at 9 PM. Every minute of his day is blocked out from waking up to praying to prepping for his radio stand TV show.
The more you are given in life, the more is required out of you. He was forced to get better at managing his time, working with other people, and honing his craft because of the success he wanted.
He preaches that those who get a lot deserve to be there. He also recommends that you be grateful and appreciative for what you do get. The more you appreciate what you have, the more you will appreciate what you get in the future.
There are kids on this Earth with very little and no future. Over 2.7 billion people on this Earth live off $2 a day.
Steve says that if you only take and hold on to what you get, you will only succeed in the short term. Those who give more than they get are those who remain successful for years to come.
12. Become Financially Intelligent
Steve owed $20 million in taxes because his accountant failed to file taxes for 6 years. It would have cost him at least 12 years to pay it back but he hustled and took every gig he could and paid it back in half the time.
He recommends a few foundational principles of personal finance: save as much as you can, live below your means, always pay all of your taxes no matter how rich you are, and teach your kids.
I talk about this a lot myself. I recommend the book Rich Dad Poor Dad for any beginner and Richest Man in Babylon or Money: Master The Game for intermediates.
13. Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses
This is something I have seen the entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk emphasize live. Just like Steve, he recommends that you truly know your strength, where you can potentially become good, and where you can’t.
Most people are never honest with themselves about this and delude themselves to be good in areas that they will never get good at. Think of the people who go on singing competitions and think they are so good but actually are completely tone deaf.
As managing legend Peter Drucker says Know yourself.
Steve recommends that you are brutally honest with yourself about your strengths and find people who can do the things you can’t do better. If you really suck with finances, maybe Chief Financial Officer is a role you should give to someone else.
The billionaire Richard Branson has been asked numerous times in interviews (trust me, I’ve watched them and they come up very often. See Joe Polish’s youtube channel) how he has built his companies to the billion dollar level while others haven’t. His answer was simple:
His answer was simple:
Find people who can do the things you do better than you, hire them, and trust them so that you can do nothing but what you do best (and enjoy best), which is the higher strategy and mission.
14. Embrace Change
This piece of advice is very similar to Sam Walton’s. Sam was a man who built his one retail store into a global retail empire called Walmart.
He says in his great book Made in America that you should embrace change. I was surprised by this because he seemed to be an old-fashioned type of guy, similar to many grandparents you know who are scared of change.
While he was building Walmart, he always embraced change and switched it up, which really got him ahead of his competition, especially when he was the first to adopt satellite communication.
Steve recommends that you never get stuck with your old skills. He suggests that you always learn something new. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. If you learn acoustic guitar rather than sticking to electric, you might be surprised to find that you get more positive reception from it.
15. Never Respond To Haters
Steve says you should NEVER respond to haters — an opinion that is in stark contrast to Gary Vaynerchuk and Jay Bauer’s advice of hugging your haters and trying to understand them. He says the most successful people in the world (he points to Oprah, Ellen, Obama, Gyandhi, Nelson Mandela, etc.) never have time for haters.
A wolf can bark at the moon but the moon will never bark back unless it wants to shed unnecessary spotlight on the wolf. Never give the time of day to people who are small-minded and don’t deserve it.
Successful people are too busy to bother responding to haters.
Steve Harvey was once in a bad place when he was told by his friend Tyler Perry (another successful comedian) that if he responded to the blog posts that were hating on him, it would turn into a press conference. By responding to haters, you give them power.
Don’t take precious time out of your day to respond or try to fix someone else who doesn’t want to be fixed. By doing so, you are delaying your own climb to success.
Don’t take your foot off the ladder to success to try and kick at someone who’s trying to annoy you below you. If you ignore them and continue climbing, they will be so far down there you won’t hear them anymore.
With more success, there naturally becomes more haters. It just naturally is how things are. In fact, with the internet and social media, the world has opened up to allow more jealous, bitter people all over the world to hate on you. Steve says it will be tougher but you must be strong enough to deal with this strategically.
Honestly, I agree with Steve more than Gary Vee on this. I’ve been in some toxic communities, like League of Legends gaming and dating advice, where the most horrible people go because their real lives suck. Trying to understand and communicate with them is a waste because they’re just there to tear others down to make themselves feel better.
16. Set Values and Say No
When you are younger, you don’t have many opportunities and are probably better off saying yes to as many opportunities as you can to get your foot in the door.
However, as you get older and more successful, I have seen a LOT of successful people give speeches or interviews where they said they wish they learned to say No sooner. They have so many opportunities and overwork themselves to exhaustion and unhappiness because they are not used to so many offers and still have the young “foot in the door” mindset.
Examples of interviews or speeches of successful people who have said this include some of the most followed people on Instagram including Cara DeLevigne, Lady Gaga, and top entrepreneurs like Oprah Winfrey (in her book What I Know For Sure) and Ariana Huffington.
In the video above, Ariana Huffington admits how she made this mistake too. At some point, you need to delegate and get others to help you out. Billionaire and female talk show host extraordinaire Oprah Winfrey suffered severely from this.
In her book (affiliate link), she mentions how she was flooded with offers and requests to donate to charity. She was left exhausted and unfulfilled donating to charities she didn’t really care about. She learned her lesson the hard way.
In her book, she mentions how she was flooded with offers and requests to donate to charity. She was left exhausted and unfulfilled donating to charities she didn’t really care about. She learned her lesson the hard way.
This is a HUGE lesson for anyone who is successful. Like Oprah, Steve Harvey suggests that you DECIDE ON YOUR VALUES FIRST and then make sure to say No to anything that doesn’t align with your values. This is a common piece of advice from successful people that is often learned the hard way. You can skip the years of pain and headache by doing it right first!
Steve gives the example of how he had one of the best sponsors in the world during his comedy tour. Everything was running smoothly, they were nice, paid a LOT of money, fit right in alignment with his King of Comedy brand because of their crown logo, but he decided to say No because he didn’t want to promote alcohol as it was against his values.
Immediately, things got nasty.
They kicked and screamed. They made a huge fuss and a ton of Steve’s staff even argued with him about it. He held true to his values and eventually got them to be removed as a sponsor, even though he almost came very close to losing his very lucrative comedy tour.
17. Break The Glass Ceiling
Steve Harvey was discouraged from reaching for his potential by his teacher. He wrote down he wanted to be on TV as a class project, but his teacher tore him apart because he had no connections or network with anyone on TV.
Do not let small-minded people affect your emotions, belief, or perception in the world.
He gives the analogy of fleas in a jar. Fleas have the highest vertical jump in relation to their body size out of all organisms. They have a 36+ inch jump. But if they’re put in a jar that limits their jump, they teach their children to jump smaller because there’s less room in the jar and that’s all their children ever know of when they grow up.
It reminds me of a study done with monkeys. They had a banana at the top that the monkeys could climb to get to it but they would get shocked each time they got close. Soon, all the monkeys pulled anyone who tried down to protect them.
Here was the problem though: Everyday, the scientists would take one monkey out of the room and add one new monkey to the room. Eventually, there were no old monkeys in the room and they removed the shocking feature. Even though there was no shock blocking the monkeys from reaching the banana anymore, the monkeys still pulled down the other monkeys because they were taught to do so.
Past assumptions and beliefs about your potential can be hindered by the beliefs of your parents or others that are NOT true anymore based on changing times, environments, and economies. The world has opened up and changed dramatically over the years, allowing more equality in gay’s, blacks, Jews, and females.
This stuff happens to humans as well.
Take the lid off the jar and believe. From there, you just might jump higher than you ever thought possible.
18. Write Goals On Paper and Read Them Out Loud At Least 2x A Day
There’s something magical about this one because I’ve seen a ton of successful people do this. And it’s almost never on a tablet, phone, or computer. It’s always with a paper and pen or pencil.
Write down your goals in detail at least twice a day, and say them out loud, when you wake up and when you go to bed.
Steve Harvey did this himself (watch the video above).
Many successful people do it more than twice a day and use a specific visualization method as well to program this into their subconscious so that they are constantly reminded and aligned with their goals so they don’t get off track.
I particularly resonated with Steve’s story because it’s gut-wrenching, he really started with not much, he made up his mind to be a success, he faced really difficult times, and he did it.
When I say he made up his mind, he really did. This is what makes his story incredible: he had a friend called Arsenio Hall who went off to Hollywood after school. Steve and all his friends thought Arsenio was crazy. Years later, Steve is working a factory job he hates (the practical option) and Arsenio is doing comedy on TV. He broke down crying when he saw that because Steve always wanted to be a comedian on TV as well.
Here’s the kicker: Steve then realized that Arsenio achieved his dreams with no connections and no advantage. He did it with his own conviction in his own mind. Steve decided it was up to him, decided to do it, and after a lot of struggle through homelessness and tough times, he and Bernie Mac ended up achieving the title of the highest grossing touring comedy troupe of all time with $58+ million dollars.
Steve’s story is incredible because he really didn’t come from much of a future. All of us have a ton of excuses.
Another popular book on success is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. One of its main points is that we must acknowledge luck because people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates had years of an advantage since they got one of the first computers in the world years before anyone else.
I’m afraid a lot of people will come out of reading that with the excuse to just give up because they weren’t lucky. That’s the wrong framework.
The book is simply asserting that the highest levels of wealth are a result of all the right variables aligning: exceptional luck, talent, hard work, and so on.
Steve Harvey’s story, as well as all the other people I mentioned, is a great example that hard work, determination, and his principles of success can change your life. You may not be the richest person in the world but you can sure make a huge difference even if you didn’t luck out, just like Steve.
Grab Steve’s Book
You can pick up Steve’s book Act Like A Success, Think Like A Success on Amazon. If you purchase through my link here, I will get a commission at no extra cost to you.
What was your favorite lesson you learned from this article? Let me know in the comments below.
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