Stop Doing What Poor People Do: Earl Nightingale

Stop Doing What Poor People Do: Earl Nightingale

Many people start in life poor by material standards but don’t have to stay poor. It’s easy to find people pursuing the wrong path guided by superficial and short-term desires. But what if I told you there’s a different perspective to consider? A perspective that invites you to redefine success, take control of your destiny, and stop drifting aimlessly through life. This perspective is inspired by the timeless wisdom of Earl Nightingale, one of the most influential motivational speakers and authors of all time. Through his profound understanding of human nature and success, Nightingale has gifted readers with invaluable insights that can help reshape their lives, leading people away from common pitfalls and toward achieving their highest potential. Let me share with you his transformative perspective and enhance your life journey. Keep reading to unravel his enlightening wisdom.

Below I summarize the principles from a twenty-five-minute talk by Earl Nightengale in the mid-1950s, where he explains what separates people that are successful financially from those who are not.

The Paradox of Living Without Goals

Earl Nightingale postulated that one of the most notable distinctions between the successful and the unsuccessful lies in their goals. Many people wander through life without clear objectives, which Nightingale considered a paradox. Living without goals is akin to embarking on a journey without a destination. It’s essential to understand that goals provide direction and purpose to our lives.

Circumstance vs. Control: Which Rules Our Lives?

In the grand chessboard of life, are we merely pawns of circumstance, or are we in control? Nightingale argued that we have control over our lives. Instead of blaming circumstances or luck, we should take responsibility for our actions. It’s our decisions, not our conditions, that shape our destiny.

Defining Success: The Progressive Realization of a Worthy Ideal

According to Nightingale, success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal. It’s not about accumulating wealth, fame, or power but about moving towards our big or small goals. Each step we take toward our ideal makes us successful.

The Key to Success: Hidden in Every Job

Success, as per Nightingale’s teachings, isn’t limited to specific careers or professions. It’s hidden in every job. What matters isn’t what we do but how well we do it. Any job done exceptionally well paves the way to success.

The Pursuit of Professionalism: Compete or Create

Nightingale believed in the power of creativity over competition. While competition focuses on outdoing others, creativity emphasizes creating value. By focusing on creativity and professionalism, you can carve a unique niche for your self, contributing to society while succeeding in your endeavors.

The Illusion of Security in Jobs

Many people cling to their jobs under the illusion of security. But Nightingale suggested that proper job security is an illusion and that life offers no guarantees. People should focus on developing themselves rather than seeking security in jobs, becoming so good that they are always in demand.

True Security: It’s Inside You, Not Outside

Genuine security, Nightingale taught, comes from within. It isn’t about having a stable job or substantial savings. It lies in our skills, knowledge, and abilities. When we believe in our capabilities, we can face any challenge that life throws at us.

Becoming a Pro: Learning, Planning, Working

To become a pro in your field, Nightingale emphasized the importance of learning, planning, and working. Continuous learning equips you with knowledge and skills, planning gives you direction, and diligent work brings your plans to life.

Overcoming Obstacles: Harnessing Your Mind’s Power

We all face obstacles, but Nightingale believed in the power of the mind to overcome them. With a positive mindset, we can turn adversities into opportunities. It’s all about how we perceive and respond to challenges.

Setting and Acting on Personal Goals

Setting goals is just the first step. Acting on them is what brings them to life. Nightingale suggested that we set personal goals that align with our passions and values and then relentlessly act on them, adjusting our course as needed.

Investing in Your Mind: The Power of Continuous Learning

One of Nightingale’s fundamental tenets was the power of continuous learning. He believed that the mind, like any investment, gives returns when we invest in it. We can stay relevant and succeed in an ever-changing world by continually learning and adapting.

The Role of Desire and Energy in Success

Desire and energy, according to Nightingale, are the fuel of success. Without a burning desire to achieve our goals and the energy to pursue them, success remains elusive. It’s essential to nurture our desires and maintain our energy levels to achieve our goals.

Implementing Earl Nightingale’s Rules for Life

Nightingale’s rules for life aren’t merely theories; they are practical guidelines we can implement. From setting goals to continuous learning, each rule can be applied to improve our lives. The key lies in taking action, not just understanding these principles.

Becoming What You Think About

The underlying principle of Nightingale’s philosophy is that we become what we think about. Our thoughts shape our actions, and our actions shape our destiny. Therefore, it’s vital to cultivate positive thoughts and focus on our goals.

Key Takeaways

  • The attainment of goals is a matter of personal intention, not a consequence of drifting through life.
  • Our existence isn’t dictated by chance or external forces but by our ability to command our paths.
  • Success isn’t measured by material wealth but by steady advancement towards a meaningful purpose.
  • Regardless of your role, your profession can be a launching pad for personal growth and success.
  • Professional excellence doesn’t require rivalry; it promotes innovation and originality.
  • Employment doesn’t guarantee security; true peace of mind stems from internal strength and resilience.
  • Mastery in any field demands continuous learning, strategic preparation, and consistent effort.
  • The mental resilience to tackle difficulties is crucial for achievement.
  • Effective goal-setting and persistent action are indispensable for personal and professional growth.
  • Lifelong learning empowers the mind, making it a worthy investment.
  • Strong desire and vitality play an essential role in the pursuit of success.
  • Integrating Nightingale’s principles into daily life can significantly improve personal and professional outcomes.
  • Our thoughts shape our reality, thus underlining the power of positive thinking.


The essence of Earl Nightingale’s teachings can be distilled into one core principle: proactive self-direction. This involves taking the reins of our lives, setting purposeful goals, and dedicating ourselves to steadily pursuing these objectives. It’s about recognizing the potential for growth in our jobs, fostering a spirit of originality rather than competition, and seeking security from within rather than from external circumstances. Nightingale encourages us to harness our mental prowess to overcome challenges, invest in continuous learning, and energize our desire to succeed. Essentially, he asks us to be architects of our destiny, shaped profoundly by our thoughts and aspirations.