Let me share with you two of the best sources of information available.
1. Your own experiences
Become a good student of your own life. It’s the information you are most familiar with and feel the strongest about, so make your own life one of your most important studies.
In studying your own life, be sure to study the negative as well as the positive, your failures as well as your successes. Our so-called failures serve us well when they teach us valuable information. They’re frequently better teachers than our successes.
One of the ways we learn how to do something right is simply by doing it wrong. Doing it wrong is a great school for learning, but I would suggest that you not take too long doing this. If you’ve done something wrong for 10 years, I wouldn’t suggest taking another 10. But what a close-at-hand and excellent way to learn: from your own experiences!
When I met my mentor Mr. Shoaff, I had been working for six years. I started when I was 19, and when I met him, I was 25. He said to me, “Mr. Rohn, you have been working now for six years. How are you doing?” I said, “Not very well.” He said, “Then I suggest you not do that anymore. Six years is long enough to operate with the wrong plan.”
Next he asked, “How much money have you saved in the last six years?” I said, “Not any.” He said, “Who sold you on that plan six years ago?” What a fantastic question! Where did I get my current plan that wasn’t working well? Everyone has bought someone’s plan. The question is whose? Whose plan have you bought?
Those initial confrontations might be a little painful at first, especially if you have made as many errors as I have. But think of the progress you can make when you finally confront those errors by becoming a better student of your own life.
2. Other people’s experiences
Remember, you can learn from other people whether they have done things right or wrong. You can learn from the negative as well as the positive. Some human stories are called examples: Do what these people did. Other human stories are called warnings: Don’t do what these people did. What a wealth of information, knowing what to do and what not to do. If your story ever gets in somebody’s book, make sure they use it as an example, not a warning.
There are a couple ways to learn from other people.
Read all the books by and about people who have accomplished great things. All the successful people around the world I know and work with are good readers. They just read, read, read. They are driven to read because they just have to know. It is one of the things they all have in common.
Successful people also listen to audiobooks, especially while they’re in their cars or during other times when they can’t read. Audio can help all of us easily pick up new ideas and skills—like how to be strong, more decisive, a better speaker, a more effective leader, have a better effect on other people, become more loving, develop a more winning personality, get rich, develop persuasive influence, become sophisticated… And people don’t utilize these resources.
So many successful people have written their stories in books and told the world how they became successful, and most people don’t want to read or listen to them. How would you explain that? They’re busy, I guess. They say, “If you worked where I work, you’d know that by the time I struggle home, it’s late. I’ve got to have a bite to eat, watch a little TV and go to bed. I can’t stay up half the night and read.”
Imagine someone who is behind on the bills. He’s a good worker and very sincere. Unfortunately, you can be sincere and work hard all of your life and wind up broke, confused and embarrassed. You’ve got to be better than a good worker. You’ve got to be a good reader and a good listener. You don’t have to read or listen to educational programs half the night—although, if you’re broke, it’s a good place to start. All you need is just 30 minutes a day. That’s all. Stretch it to an hour if you can, but set aside at least 30 minutes.
Hear or read something challenging, something instructional, at least 30 minutes a day, every day. Miss a meal, but not your 30 minutes. You can get along without some meals, but you can’t get along without some ideas, examples and inspiration.
Humans have to have food and words to be healthy and prosperous. Make sure you have a good diet of words every day.
There’s a biblical phrase that says, “Man cannot live on bread alone.” The most important thing aside from bread is words. Words nourish the mind; words nourish the soul. Humans have to have food and words to be healthy and prosperous. Make sure you have a good diet of words every day. And remember that to properly feed the mind, you must maintain good balance. Don’t just read or listen to the easy material. You can’t live on mental candy.
With good books and programs, you can “tap into the treasure of ideas.” And if somebody has a good excuse for not tapping into the treasure of ideas for at least 30 minutes every day, I’d like to hear it. You wouldn’t believe some excuses I’ve heard.
I say, “John I’ve got this gold mine. I’ve got so much gold. I don’t know what to do with it all. Come on over and dig.” John says, “I don’t have a shovel.” I say, “Well, John, let’s get you one.” He says, “Don’t you know what they want for shovels these days?”
John has the wrong perspective. Don’t make the same mistake. Invest the money, get the programs and books. The best money you can spend is money invested in your self-education. Don’t shortchange yourself when it comes to investing in your own better future.
Excerpted from Leading an Inspired Life, published in March 2018 and has been updated. Photo by @tatyana.buzmakova/Twenty20