July 3, 2020

Book notes — 7 strategies for wealth and happiness from Jim Rohn

I was first exposed to Jim Rohn through an audio CD that one of my fellow Toastmasters lent me. She told me that she listened to this audio CD at least once every month, which reminded me of Seth Godin who listened to Zig Ziglar so many times when he was younger that he wore out the cassettes. Why not read or listen to such formative books multiple times to absorb the information. I believe the more you read or listen to something, the better ingrained it is in your mind.

In the audio CD, I remember Jim talking about how he learned from his mentor, Earl Shoaff and this book starts out the same way – everything that he has learned from Mr. Shoaff, he has translated into this book. Even just looking at the book cover, I knew this was a book that I was going to re-read many times in the future. I want those 7 strategies to be burned into my brain. I want to think and act like Jim Rohn.

What are the 7 strategies?

The first strategy: the power of goals

How many of you define and write down your goals on a regular basis? I certainly don’t. I’ve written down goals in the past but do not regularly go back to review my goals, identify new goals or carefully consider what goals to try to reach that allow me to stretch.

Jim shares a story about how when he first talked to Earl, Earl asked him where his list of goals were. Jim replied that he did not have any written down. Earl then said that if Jim did not have a list of goals, that Earl could guess Jim’s bank account balance within a few hundred dollars. And he did! Jim then asked “So if I had a list of goals, my bank balance would change?” Earl said “drastically”.

Goals do a number of things. Not only do they provide you with the direction you want to move forward in, but they also provide you the motivation and the reason (whether explicit or implicit) to move ahead. Between two people that want to run a charity marathon, the person that is going to train hard, eat right and run that marathon and not slack off is the person with the better reason (say, they have a friend who recently died of cancer and they are doing it for them). If you have enough reasons to do something, you cannot help but achieve those goals.

Why haven’t you started a business? Why haven’t you written that book that you said you were always going to write? Maybe it’s because you do not have enough reasons. Think about the other way around – if you were stuck on an island and had to survive, would you do anything you had to in order to survive? Definitely.

How do you write and set goals? Jim explains his process:

  • First, do a free form writing exercise. From a one year to ten year time frame (i.e., what you want to accomplish in a year to ten years), write down everything you want to do, everything you want to be, what you want to see, where you want to go, what you want to be able to share with others. Don’t be detailed, just write down shorthand things (for example, if you want to be a millionaire, write down $1,000,000 and then move on)
  • Beside each goal, write down the estimated time frame that you think you need to achieve that goal. For example, write down 1 if you think it will take 1 year to achieve or 5 if you think it will take 5 years to achieve. Do this according to 1 year, 3 years, 5 years and 10 years.
  • Look at your overall list of goals and see whether you have a lot of long term goals or a lot of shorter term goals. If you have a lot of shorter term goals, it could be because you do not know what you want to be in the long term. If you have a lot of long term goals, it could mean that you are putting off a lot of things you do not want to do in the shorter term.
  • Once you have the complete list, identify 4 goals from each of the four categories that you consider to be the most important. Beside each of the goals, write down: a detailed description of what you want. If you want to own a particular car, think about the colour, the make, the year, the interior, the scent of the car, how great it will feel with the windows down, the amazing audio system and everything else in as much detail as possible. Also write down all of the reasons why you want to achieve that goal. If you cant’ figure out a good reason why you want it, replace it with another goal.

There’s also short term goals (these are accomplished between one day and a year). These goals are also important and it’s really up to you to find a way to organize these goals (could be under the longer term goals or could be a separate place).

The fun is in having these list of goals and then crossing them off as you do them.

The real benefit of goals is not in being able to achieve certain and specific things. No, the true benefit of goals is to motivate you to become a different person to achieve those goals. Mr. Trump became a millionaire but when he lost all of his money multiple times, he was able to get back millions – he had become a person that could generate wealth.

The second strategy: seek knowledge

First, why is it important to keep studying and improving? There’s a great quote here:

“Income rarely exceeds personal development”

The more you learn, the more you earn. There are two different ways of learning:

  1. Personal reflection

Jim is a strong advocate of keeping a journal. At the end of the week, the end of the month, the end of the year, reflect on all of the things that have happened to you and what you have learned. Funny, we do lessons learned for projects to reflect on both the good and the bad but why don’t we do this more with our lives? And sure, it can be onerous to take the time to write down your reflections but think of it as an investment into your future years. You won’t (or at least are less likely) to make the same mistakes that you’ve made in the past. You figure out how to avoid situations that you have tried to get through before. You better understand what makes you tick.

  1. Learning from others

There is so much knowledge out there, if you only knew! Millions of books, audiobooks, articles, magazines and courses out there on the subjects that you are interested in learning about. When I felt like my finances were in a bit of trouble, I decided to devote myself to finance and investment books out there to make sure that what I was currently doing was the right path. And this does not have to be a lengthy investment either – 30 minutes every day, devoted to reading or learning about something that can help you stretch. And if you really want to grow faster, spend more time every single day. It’s not about spending a whole weekend reading – rather, it’s the consistent practice of learning something every day that will help you grow faster.

The third strategy: learn to change

There’s an interesting anecdote about a man who says “I should be paid more, I have ten years of experience.” Except that man does not have ten years of experience, he has one year of experience repeated ten times. Your life will change when you change. My Dad often told me that you cannot rely on anyone else to help you move forward in your life. You can’t rely on your boss. You can’t rely on your mentors. You can’t rely on your loved ones. All you have to rely on is yourself and your abilities.

What do you change?

Change your spiritual self. Journal, reflect and figure out what is important to you in the future. Change your physical self. Exercise. Sweat. Work hard. Make sure that you are in the best shape of your life. Change your mental self. Learn. Grow. Repeat. Stretch yourself mentally. Do what James Altucher does – write ten ideas every single day.

How do you motivate yourself to change?

Take small steps towards your ultimate goal. Want to build a six figure business? Build a five figure business first. Want to get a million dollars in sales? Get a hundred dollars in sales first. When you start small, it is both easier and that success will help motivate you towards greater levels of success.

The fourth strategy: control your finances

Jim advocates a 70 / 30 rule for your finances. 70% of your finances goes towards paying your expenses, rent, mortgage, food and other things that you need to pay for. What’s more interesting is the 30% that’s left. He says:

  • 10% goes to charity
  • 10% goes to capital investments (reinvesting in your business)
  • 10% goes to savings (passive investments)

Now I can’t tell you to donate to charity but I can say that if you do not donate to charity, you can allocate the 10% to some other things such as a bigger chunk into savings or a bigger chunk into capital investments or even using that 10% as a way to reinvest in yourself (learning, certifications, courses, books, etc.)

You can certainly live on 70% of your paycheck but let’s just say that you can’t. Start small – you should be able to cut back $10 or $100 at the very least if you cut back on coffees or going out for meals with friends. From there, see what else you can cut so that you devote money to investments, to personal development or to charity.

The fifth strategy: master time

Jim describes the four different ‘users’ of time and some specific strategies to master time management:

  • Schedule all the things that are important – exercise, work, appointments, meals with friends and then throughout the day, follow your schedule. Important here is to also schedule down time.
  • When you are working, really work. When you are relaxing, really relax. Why? You want to make sure that when you are working, you are not thinking about actually sitting back in front of the TV and relaxing with a beer. Nor do you, when you are sitting in front of the TV, want to think about that e-mail that you have to send in the morning. If you work, really work, when you have to work, you are going to be more efficient and there will be less ‘bleed over’ from other activities.
  • Reflect on what you are spending your time on on a regular basis to see if there are ways you can improve your efficiency. Maybe you are spending a lot of time cleaning your dishes when you could use the dish washer instead. Or you are spending a lot of time deciding what to eat for dinner when you could have a set meal plan for every week.
  • Prepare a plan for how you will spend your time. If you don’t plan out how you will spend your time, someone else will plan it out for you and that means you may not have the time to do the things you actually want to do.
The sixth strategy: surround yourself with winners

Here, I liken this strategy to the often quoted wise saying “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. If you spend time with people that eat fast food all the time for lunch, you are also going to eat fast food. If you spend time with people that are reading all the time and discussing great books and documentaries, you are similarly going to be influenced to read and learn more.

The seventh strategy: learn the art of living well

Earl told Jim that more money does not make you or other people happier. More money just makes you more of what you already are. More will only send you more quickly to your destination. If you are destined to be unhappy, you will be rich but miserable. If you drink too much right now, more money will mean that you will have more money for booze.

That also means that you should be kind and generous now and learn to live gratefully on what you are making now. If you get more money in the future, that will only help you be able to be kinder and more generous to others in the future.

Don’t forget about love and friendships that you have on your pursuit to wealth and happiness. Living life successfully means living a life of balance. And that means that not only are you spending time on working and developing yourself but also spending time with the people that you love and that love you.


In the end, it’s important to understand that wealth and happiness (i.e., success) is not about what you have but more about what you become on the journey.


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