Paul J. Meyer: What it Takes to be a Winner

UPDATED: June 22, 2009
PUBLISHED: June 22, 2009

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

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.”

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.”

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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