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Those who know Paul J. Meyer best believe that if he was stripped of all his possessions and dropped off in some part of the world where he knew neither the language nor another person, not only would he survive, but in a short time he would thrive.
That’s because Paul is more than a leader; he is an achiever and a winner. He believes whatever you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe and enthusiastically act upon must inevitably come to pass. And for more than five decades, by spreading this message he has inspired millions of people around the world to become winners in every facet of their lives.
Why has this man captured the interest of so many? Probably because his life is the living testimony to his teachings. Now 80, he is still dreaming, planning, climbing and achieving. He sets records then breaks them. He sees potential and possibilities the average person doesn’t believe possible or overlooks.
Paul J. Meyer is considered one of the most influential people in the history of the personal-achievement industry. He is the No.1-selling author of personal-development materials in the world. He has sold more than $2.5 billion worth of materials translated into 24 languages in more than 60 countries. Just a single program—The Dynamics of Personal Motivation—has racked up more than $700 million in sales.
Paul started Success Motivation Institute 48 years ago. He was the first to condense self-improvement books and put them on reel-to-reel, later 12-inch LPs, then 8-track tapes, then cassettes and now CDs and DVDs. Paul has since written 28 full-length programs and courses on the subject of goal-setting, motivation, sales and leadership. If put into book form, all these programs would be equivalent to more than 100 books containing some of the most important and impacting personal-achievement material ever produced. W. Clement Stone, owner of SUCCESS magazine for several decades, said Paul J. Meyer took the personal-development industry from the reading age to the audio age.
Paul’s body of work has influenced the lives and teachings of many in the personal-development space including John C. Maxwell, best-selling author on leadership, who was a young man, recently married and still finding his feet as a pastor, when he first heard of him. “I have the highest regard for Paul J. Meyer and for what he stands for,” Maxwell says. “He helped open my eyes to the reality of living in the world of the possible, setting goals and taking giant steps toward my destiny. Paul J. Meyer doesn’t talk theory, he’s talking reality.”
Born to be an Entrepreneur
With an entrepreneurial spirit dating to his youth, Paul has acquired and started a variety of businesses. Before he was 25, he built the largest insurance agency in North America, recruiting 820 agents in 12 months at a time when the average agency was comprised of about 5 to 20 agents. As a sales agent himself during that time, he personally earned the equivalent of $8 million a year in today’s dollars. For the last 50 years, he has earned $5 to 20 million a year. He and his family operate more than 40 successful businesses in a multitude of industries.
This is only part of the story of Paul J. Meyer—a small part, in fact. Paul is also a devoted husband to his wife, Jane, to whom he has sent flowers every week of their 37 years of marriage. They have five children and 15 grandchildren with whom they’re very close.
And maybe the most significant thing about Paul is that he is a giver on a grand scale. The Paul J. Meyer Foundation has given many millions of dollars in the last 20 years to charities and organizations devoted to making a difference. One example is his Passport to Success program, which he founded in 1984 to help economically disadvantaged students in Central Texas obtain a college education. A few years later he joined forces with three other foundations, and together they have helped 6,000 economically disadvantaged children who otherwise, despite their intelligence and desire, would not have been able to attend college.
For the past five decades, Paul has synthesized and summarized what he has learned to share it with others. But if he were pressed to summarize the principles in all of the programs he has written, as well as volumes written about self-improvement, he would simply state, “Attitude is Everything.” It has become his clarion in the personal-development world, and it was the underlying inspiration behind Success Motivation Institute.
Mostly important the material Paul teaches comes from true life experiences—vetted through trial and error. He does not hypothesize or theorize about what it takes to be successful. Paul has lived it. You cannot question whether he knows what he is talking about; you only need look at his life for testimony.
What it Takes to Become a Winner
Over the years Paul realized even more fully the powerful role attitude plays in determining success and winning in life. “When people think of themselves as successful, they succeed,” Paul says. “When you believe in yourself, others tend to believe in you. When they see your self-confidence and positive expectancy about your goals, they believe in you and begin to accept your ideas.”
Paul says successful people think like winners. They approach life with a confident expectation that they can solve any problem that arises, turn any situation into a positive advantage and achieve any goal that is important to their success. “Winners share some general attitudes that are basic to success for anyone and essential for gaining the winning edge,” he says.
Winners Think Positively
“Success begins with an attitude,” Paul says. “Winners habitually face the work of the day with the purpose of discovering what can be done instead of worrying about what cannot be done. When winners encounter roadblocks, they draw instantly on their positive attitude and determine quickly how to react constructively.”
“Winners never make excuses; they acknowledge their mistakes or failures and learn from them.”
This point was driven home to Paul by his father, a furniture maker and craftsman who believed that the skillful use of the right tool was essential to creating the desired masterpiece. One tool that stands out in Paul’s memory is his father’s magnet, because his father used it to demonstrate an intriguing law that Paul would use his entire life. “Experimenting with this magnet brought the law of attraction to life for me,” he says. “Positives attract, and negatives repel. When people allow fear, worry, doubt, indecision and other forms of negative thinking to determine the direction of their mental attitude, they shut off the positive power of their magnets.”
In contrast, Paul says when we point our attitude toward positive results, the results are positive. “The power of a positive attitude is far-reaching; it goes well beyond the immediate boundaries of our thought process.”
During a 1962 economic recession, Paul and his team were struggling to find a way to help his sales force during this trying period. Knowing they were surrounded with negative messages coming from all directions, the company set a goal not to read the newspaper, not to watch television and not to listen to any gossip for 30 days but simply to go out and work. They increased production by 50 percent. “When you concentrate on the positives in your life, you stir up the desire to get moving, to seize the day, to take action, to conquer every adversity that jeopardizes well-being or prosperity.”
Winners Are Willing to Pay the Price of Success
“Winners do not expect to get something for nothing,” Paul says. “Winners are willing to give the time, effort, creativity and money necessary to achieve their purposes. They know that any success worth having carries a high price tag and they gladly accept the opportunity to invest in their own success.”
Learning the value of work was another of the gifts Paul’s parents gave to him. “What my parents taught me has, year by year, taken on an even fuller, richer meaning as I have experienced the wonderful world of work,” he says. “I have always had the willingness to work by a plan to achieve worthwhile, predetermined goals.”
During his mid-40s, Paul was trying to recruit some peers into one of his businesses. They repeatedly gave excuses about being too old or it being too late to venture into such endeavors. Paul set out to prove them wrong by showing that anything is possible as long as you set a goal, have a winner’s attitude, and apply discipline and a willingness to work. At 47, Paul decided he would make his point by learning to play tennis and becoming a champion.
Before he even picked up a racquet, he bought a wood-burning set and made an affirmation and put it on his desk. It read: “I am a Class-A tennis player.” Then he went to work. He bought and repeatedly studied every video from every great tennis player. “I took lessons from Rod Laver, the world’s No. 1 tennis player at that time, as well as from Roy Emerson, who had won more tournaments than anyone else at that time; and from Russell Seymour, the top player in my age group.”
He then bought a local tennis club, installed the No. 1 tennis player (Robert Trogolo) as resident pro and sponsored him on the world tour. He took more than 300 lessons, read 20 books and went to four tennis camps. He even bought a computerized ball machine, using its 7,000 shot variations to simulate the style of his targeted opponents. “It would shoot the same balls at me that you would hit at me,” Paul says. Within five years he won the Dallas Open and was one of the top-ranked players in the country in his age group.
When asked how someone his age could accomplish such a task, he brings the discussion back to the power of goal-setting. “I put down my goal in writing, listed the obstacles and roadblocks and then it was about finding a way around them,” Paul says. “I was over 50 years of age at the time, but that’s what I was willing to do to learn. It’s what I had to do to be a champion and to be the best.”
Winners are Willing to Accept Responsibility
“Winners exercise initiative; they do what is needed because they are personally responsible,” Paul says. “Winners never make excuses; they acknowledge their mistakes or failures and learn from them. Winners carry out their responsibility to be and to do their best.”
Early on in Paul’s insurance career, he was beginning to make a name for himself in the industry as one of the top producers in the country. After showing the company his ability to get results, he was assigned to be the agent over the state of Florida. Paul took on a partner 30-plus years his senior, thinking he was a man of honor and integrity. The decision proved costly. “He wrecked our agency from a financial standpoint,” Paul says, remembering coming in one Monday morning to an empty office. “Everything was gone. My partner had mismanaged the company reserves and had taken the money produced from sales in Florida out of the state. A quick phone cal l revealed that the majority of the bank accounts were also gone.”
"When you believe in yourself, others tend to believe in you."
Although devastated by the betrayal, the reality was he had several hundred insurance salespeople working for him who were suddenly out of jobs, just as he was. There were also many people who had bought policies from his agency who were in financial jeopardy. Most people in this situation would claim they were victimized and file for bankruptcy protection. Not Paul. “I could not in good conscience fail all of those people,” he says. He spent the next year—with no pay—undoing the damage. “We made sure our policyholders were protected and helped every salesperson in the agency find new jobs. When everything was done, I had nothing left except the knowledge that I had done what was right.”
After the affairs of the company were in order, a prominent lawyer told him he was the richest young man he knew. And when Paul asked him why, he said, “You protected your name and your reputation and your character. God gave you a gift and you’re going to make it back now 100-fold because of what you have done here.” And that’s what happened.
Winners Use their Creative Abilities
“Everyone is born with the ability to be creative,” Paul says. “Winners cultivate their creativity, trust it and exercise it. Creativity springs from self-acceptance, self-knowledge, and the courage to develop and practice one’s unique talents.”
Meyer used this creativity when he was in the army during World War II. One day he heard that his platoon was heading to Japan. Later that night he went to see his colonel and asked him if there was anything he could do to keep from going. The colonel’s words were, “Well, it would have to be something pretty damn spectacular.” Paul replied, “Sir, I’m glad you mentioned that. That’s what I do.”
The colonel had heard Paul was a pretty good athlete and made him a deal—a deal he thought he could never keep. He told him the U.S. Army physical fitness records were coming up in three weeks, a decathlon-like competition. He said, “If you break every one of those records, you can stay here and be a physical fitness trainer.”
And to the amazement of the entire platoon—especially the commander— Paul broke every record. Some of the records he broke were 81 pushups with one arm and 3,500 sit-ups without stopping. The colonel was good on his word and Meyer was allowed to stay. “I enter everything I get involved in, no matter what it is, without giving mental recognition of the possibility of defeat,” Paul says. “I have a no-limitations belief in my creator, a no-limitations belief in myself, a no-limitations belief in other people and a no-limitations belief in what we can do together. Every day is that way for me.”
Winners Persist and Persevere
“The phrase give up is not in the vocabulary of winners,” Paul says. “When winners choose a goal, their commitment to achieving it is firm and steadfast. When winners are confronted with hurdles or run into stumbling blocks, they go over them or turn them into stepping stones. Winners pursue their goals persistently until they succeed.”
The first sales job Paul had was with an insurance company based in Columbus, Ga. With World War II just ended, competition for jobs was fierce. Paul applied to all 57 companies in town. “The last company gave me a job and they sent me out in the country—one of the hardest areas to get sales—to test my mettle,” he says. “Failure was out of the question.” He set a goal to be successful selling life insurance and that was all there was to it. If there were obstacles, he would go over them. If there was a wall, he was going to go through it. “If I heard a no, it didn’t make any difference to me,” Paul says. “I had the same healthy self-image when I called on the first insurance company that I did on the 57th one, even with 55 rejections in between.”
With a talent for recruiting gifted and talented people to join his team, Paul became a top producer, leading two of the nation’s largest life insurance companies. And by 27, he’d acquired a personal net worth of $1 million from personal production and agency development.
Still Persisting and Persevering
Although the color of his hair may give a hint to Paul’s age, his daily regimen doesn’t show it. He still lives every day with the same passion and desire he had as a young man. And he shows no sign of stopping. To celebrate his 70th birthday, Paul climbed Mt. Elbert, the tallest of Colorado’s 14 highest peaks and the second-tallest mountain in the continental United States. This might not seem like an impressive feat, but just three weeks earlier, Paul walked out of a respiratory hospital after having been admitted with a severe asthma attack. To achieve his goal, he had to crawl the last 500 feet on his hands and knees because breathing was so difficult. “It might have taken me a while, but my attitude was such that I was not going to be denied. I was going to the top—period,” he says.
Paul celebrated his 80th birthday in May and still has a lot left to accomplish on his plate. He just finished a program on leadership for women as well as a program for an educational system in another country. “I’m just finishing my 18th book I’ve written since I was 70, called A Fortune to Share, and the fortune to share is the attitude I got from my parents that made all of this possible.”
Attitude is Everything
Paul says his success in life is not part of some magic formula but about having the right attitude in life. “Attitude is everything,” he says. “I have that sign in my office. I went down around South America on the maiden voyage with the Queen Mary and down at the South Pole, as far as I could get, I held up a sign that said, ‘Attitude is Everything.’ I went scuba diving in the Cayman Islands, where I live four months a year, and took the sign down to the bottom of the ocean. It said, ‘When you’re down at the bottom, Attitude is Everything.’ So it doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing, it all has to do with attitude. And then I have an I will-not-be-denied attitude. And that’s an incredible thing to have. I don’t look to my weakness; I look to my strength. I don’t look to my problems; I look to my power. It’s all about attitude.”
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