Above All Else
by Chris Widener
Throughout history, countless books have shared important ideas about success. Many claimed to have the secret or key to success—and many embody great ideas. But throughout my quest for the same important ideas about success, I kept coming back to a piece of ancient wisdom, a Proverb from the Old Testament written by the richest man of all time, Solomon. His name is synonymous with wealth and wisdom. It begins, “Above all else…”
We can scour all of the world’s literature and try to find the secret to success; we can devour the biographies of billionaires; we can stand in awe of the stories of Olympic athletes; we can be amazed at the lessons from those who have overcome incredible obstacles. But when the most successful man in human history starts out a sentence with “Above all else…” it is time for us to stop, listen, and reflect on his advice.
So, what should we do, “above all else?” I seek to answer that question in this book. It has been a challenge to learn and implement Solomon’s wisdom in my own life. In my research, I received insights from some of the most successful men and women I’ve met on how they apply this principle in their own lives. Their thoughts are included in this story.
The characters and story are based on characters Jim Rohn and I created for our best-selling book Twelve Pillars. You will get an overview of Twelve Pillars early on in this book as a refresher, or in case you haven’t read it. I encourage you to pick up that book; it embodies the twelve principles Jim and I think should be a part of everyone’s life.
You’ll notice that the subtitle for this novel is very deliberate. It says this book is “the single most important lesson for achieving, sustaining and enjoying success.” I’ve found that most books focus on achieving success.
The principle you will learn here will go even further: It will make sure that you enjoy your success once you get there. Just open the newspaper and you will see people who have achieved fame and fortune, yet do not enjoy it. I believe they learned how to achieve success but failed to learn to enjoy or sustain it. That is the key: Get it. Keep it. Enjoy it.
Thanks for picking up Above All Else. I hope you will benefit from reading it as much as I did in writing it. —Chris Widener
Michael Jones was walking down the beach on his beloved Sanibel Island. He and his wife Amy had lived an incredible life, and now, at age seventy-two, he was enjoying the fruit of that life. A number of years ago they had built their dream home on West Gulf Drive on this exquisite tropical island. It was a sprawling estate built on three lots, with a cost of over ten million dollars. It had a gorgeous view to the south, looking out to the seemingly endless horizon. Dolphins regularly swam just off the beach. Birds were plenty. And most of all, Michael loved the shells—a nearly endless beach of incredible shells. He loved to walk and look for another perfect shell for his collection. He and Amy enjoyed the hand-in-hand walks they took together, but this evening, Michael was by himself. It was just before sunset and he was walking toward the setting sun. His heart was filled with the wonder of it all.
His peace was temporarily broken when his cell phone rang. He normally didn’t bring it with him on his walks, but he forgot to take it out of his back pocket before he left. When he saw who it was on his caller I.D., he was glad he had it. It was his oldest grandchild, Josh.
He punched the connect button. “Josh! How are you?”
“Good, Grandpa. How are you?”
“I am doing terrific. Just walking along the beach, enjoying the sunset. What are you up to?”
“Just doing homework.” It was September of Josh’s senior year of high school and he was inundated by the workload. Josh was a good kid—a strong young man with a good head on his shoulders and a bright future. Since Michael and Amy had moved full time to Sanibel Island, Josh hadn’t seen as much of his grandparents. Usually just a week a year for vacations. But Josh and Michael spoke on the phone every couple of weeks.
“What classes are you taking? You are a senior this year, right?”
“Yep. One year to go. I am taking the normal stuff. Pre-Calculus, English, History. You know.”
“Well, your grandpa is getting up there. It was over fifty years ago when I was in high school. Are you enjoying it?”
“Actually I am. I am just trying to make sure I do well in school and also have some fun with my friends. You know what they say, ‘All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy.’ ”
“Just like your grandpa, Josh.”
“Well, Grandpa, I am calling because of one class I am taking. It requires me to do a senior project on a successful person.”
“Yeah, who are you going to do it on?”
“Well, I was thinking about doing it on you Grandpa.”
“Well that’s very flattering Josh, but you should do it on a president or one of the great industrialists or technology titans. That’s probably what your teacher expects. An historical figure.”
“Well, I asked my teacher if I could do it on you, and she said yes. I mean, Grandpa, lots of people know you and you have achieved more than almost everybody. And the fact is, even though I know your basic rags to riches story, I don’t even know the details behind it. I’ve picked up bits and pieces throughout the years but maybe now would be the time for me to put it all together.”
Indeed Michael had achieved more than most Americans, but it hadn’t always been that way. At forty years old he was broke, but at age sixty-four he sold his company for a three billion dollar profit and walked away into retirement. For twenty years he had been a regular fixture on the cover of business magazines, so many people knew his name and his basic story.
Michael was proud that his grandson would want to know about his life. “If your teacher says it is okay, then, okay. What do I need to do to help you?”
“Awesome. Well, I just need to interview you. I need to tell your life story, but this is really more about what drives you. All the kids have to write about a successful person but not just what they did. We have to write, as my teacher calls it, ‘the story behind the story.’ Would that be okay?”
“It sounds great to me. Hey, I have an idea. How about I fly you down here one weekend next month and you and I can spend the weekend together? We can fish and go out on the boat and do your project.”
“That would be great. I have to ask my dad though.”
“You leave your dad to me. We’ll have you come down on a Thursday night and go home Sunday night.”
“But what about school on Friday?”
“Josh, there is an old saying: ‘Don’t let school get in the way of your education.’ What you will learn that Friday will be more important than your entire high school curriculum combined.”
“Okay, if you can get my mom and dad to let me. That would be fun.”
“We’ll get it done. This will be fun! You tell me the dates you want to come and I’ll buy the ticket.”
“Wow. That’ll be great Grandpa.”
“It sure will, Josh.”
“I’ll let you know.”
“All right. Love ya buddy.”
“You too Grandpa. Bye.”
When they hung up, Michael slid his phone back into his pocket. He kept walking, his heart warmer than the evening sun. When he got back to the house, he shared the news with Amy. She was ecstatic to be able to have one of her grandchildren come down. She was also happy that Michael would be able to tell his story one-on-one with one of his grandchildren. Though Michael had become a famous person, he was also a private person. Somewhat of an introvert. Just as Josh had said, Michael’s children and grandchildren knew the basic story of what had happened, but Michael had never really gone into great detail about the intricacies of his life and transformation from broke salesman to billionaire.
What others are saying about Above All Else
“Above All Else is a perfect follow-up to Twelve Pillars. How often do we get to jump forward and see how someone succeeded thirty years after getting advice that will change their life? In Chris’s new book, it is exciting to see how the lessons learned, and new lessons as well, can change a life and leave a legacy for others. Enjoy this simple story of success.”
—Jim Rohn, America’s Business Philosopher
“Success is not achieved by what you pursue, but rather who you become. This poignant story not only tells you what to do; more important, it shows you how to be.”
—Darren Hardy, Publisher, SUCCESS magazine, www.SUCCESS.com