Jim Rohn's Four Keys to Success

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One of the first personal development books I read was Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” There are so many concepts from that book that have been helpful to me through the years. 

I’ve committed myself to the “sharpen the saw” concept about continual improvement. That’s why I read (or listen to) so many books, listen to so many podcasts and take so many courses. I’m on a personal growth and continual learning quest.

Another concept that I’ve found useful is the “teach others” concept. Covey says that you don’t fully master a concept until you can teach it to someone else. In fact, it’s the process of teaching others that help you master the material. I’ve found this to be true in my twenty-plus years as a pastor. 

So in an effort to intentionally bring these two concepts together, I’m going to write short articles on things that I’ve learned. I want to document these lessons for the both of us. Hopefully, you’ll benefit from reading the lessons that I’m learning. I know that I’m benefiting from writing it down.

While attending a recent class at “Automobile University,” I listened to a classic audio recording of a Jim Rohn talk. Jim is considered one of the greatest personal development experts in the last generation. It was a presentation called, “Four ‘Ifs’ that Make Life Worth Living,” and it was brilliant. It was clear, concise, and rang true. It was so clear, that I’m going to recall it’s major points mostly from memory. 

The following will be Jim’s list of “four keys to success.” I’ll also add my personal reflections and commentary about each lesson.

1) You won’t succeed if you don’t LEARN.

You’ve most likely heard the twin evil lies about ignorance:

“What you don’t know can’t hurt you” and “ignorance is bliss.” Only ignorant, dumb people believe that’s true.

In fact, what you don’t know hurts you a lot. Ignorance is not bliss. It’s self-sabotage.

We live in the information age. The world’s wisdom is available at the swipe of our fingers. Information and knowledge are so cheap today. You can even audit courses at Harvard University for free online.

However, even with universal access to knowledge, we still lack wisdom. Wisdom and knowledge are not the same. Wisdom takes knowledge and applies it’s lessons to life. Wisdom can be defined as “the skillful application of knowledge.”

Jim Rohn says that there are at least two sources that you need to learn from: yourself and others.

Learning from Yourself

Don’t forget to learn from your own successes and failures. When you succeed, learn why you succeeded. What did you do that helped you win that new client? What did you do to win those “marriage points” with your spouse? Don’t stay in ignorance of the reason for your success. Know what you did that helped you win so you can keep repeating it.

Even though success is a good teacher, failure is the greatest teacher of all. What can you learn from your failures? Why did you fail? You’ve heard, “those that don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.” That truism also applies on the micro scale of our behavioral patterns, work habits, and attitudes. 

Learning from Others

We live in an amazing time where almost all of the world’s knowledge is accessible to anyone with internet access. My best advice for anyone who wants to grow and improve themselves is this… learn to love books.

I read (or listen to) hundreds of books each year. That may sound crazy, but I love books. You’ll never find me anywhere without a book, my Kindle device, or a new audiobook on my phone. I subscribe to Kindle Unlimited (think Netflix for ebooks) and use the Overdrive App to download free books from the library straight to my Kindle.

There are many different ways to learn from others. But through books, you can be mentored by the greatest minds to have ever lived. There’s an intimacy in reading a good book. You’re allowing the author telepathic access into your mind. Learn from others.

2. You won’t succeed if you don’t TRY.

You have to get started. You have to try. You’ll never know if you can do something unless you try. 

I meet more and more people today who are paralyzed by the fear of failure. This causes them to not to get started or even try. Maybe it’s the over-coddling of soccer moms and the “participation trophy effect.” Many young adults today have never faced failure before, and it terrifies them. They have no resilience to it.

I’ve been talking to my son about a challenging decision he has to make. This is what I told him:

“Son, don’t worry about failure. I just want you to try. This is an experiment. The only goals you should have is to challenge and learn about yourself. If you try, you will accomplish those two goals.”

The problem is most people never “ship.” You never write that book, request a raise, or ask that girl out. You will never succeed until you learn how to try.

3. You won’t succeed if you don’t STAY.

We’re too quick to abandon projects and make a change. People change jobs and careers more today than at any other time in history. This leads to more and more dissatisfaction.

If you struggle with staying and persevering, I recommend that you read “The Dip” by Seth Godin. Seth says that you have to know when to quit and when to keep going. Sometimes the smartest thing to do is to quit. Other times it’s the stupidest thing you can.

Even successful ventures will experience a season of struggle and uncertainty. When you’re going through “the dip,” the key is to keep going and not give up. However, if you’re not experiencing a dip but a trend, that’s a different story. Like Kenny Rogers, the gambler himself, sang, “You got to know when to hold them, when to fold them, when to walk away.” Just don’t walk away too early.

4. You won’t succeed if you don’t CARE.

In the organization I lead, we have five commitments that help us work together. Each staff member is asked to memorize these commitments and I quiz them on it regularly.

One of the most important things I ask my staff to do is this: “Take it personally.” I’m not looking for perfection, productivity, or even high-performance. The thing that I value most is if you care about what you’re doing. I want you to take it personally.

Jim Rohn said that if you care at all, you’ll find some results. But if you care enough, you’ll find extraordinary results. Don’t just do something because you’re supposed to. Or because you’re boss assigned it to you. Don’t just do the minimum. You have to care about what you do. Take your job personally. The tasks might be menial, but how you work reflects on your character.

Which one is most important?

So what do you think? Jim Rohn’s talk was inspiring and helpful to me. It really challenged me. Of the four keys to success, I need to work on #3 the most. I don’t stay long enough. I get distracted and move on too quickly. I have more partially-written and abandoned book projects than most people read in a lifetime. 

I love learning. I’m great at starting. I really care. But sticking to a project and “shipping” is my kryptonite. 

This is actually the reason for my blogging and podcasting. It’s my way of forcing myself to create smaller chunks of content and publishing on a regular basis. I’ll get to finishing the books and courses later.

This is what I learned from Jim’s talk. What about you? Which of the four keys to success are you doing well in? Where do you need to grow? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear what you’re learning about yourself.