August 9, 2020

What I learned from Jim Rohn about wealth and happiness

When Jim Rohn was young, he quit high school, jokingly because he said that he was smart enough. This, as it turned out, was one of the few major mistakes that he had made in his life. He was eager to start working and thought that it was easy enough to get a job and to make a living. Of course, there is a difference between making a living and making a life.

He then got married, and he made a lot of promises to his wife which he felt was just around the corner. He was ambitious. He worked hard. Surely his success was coming. However, after working for a number of years, he was not getting the success that he wanted. He started to realize that hard work alone would not do it. Sound familiar? It does to me.

His life turned around when he met a special person named Earl Shoaff. Earl taught him the seven strategies for wealth and happiness and this transformed his life. Jim learned from Earl, and now I share with you what I learned from Jim Rohn.

Five key words

Those five key words are Fundamentals, Wealth, Happiness, Discipline and Success. Let’s break down each one in turn:

  • Fundamentals – Mr Shoaff told Jim that there are always a half-dozen things that make eighty percent of the difference. It is like the 80 – 20 rule. What are the 20% of the things in your life that make 80% of the difference? For me, that’s exercise, writing, reading, sleeping well, eating right and improving by 1% every single day. What are the 20% activities in your life?
  • Wealth – Everybody has a different definition of wealth. In fact, it is up to you to define what being ‘wealthy’ means to you. You can be wealthy as in financial wealth, but you can also be wealthy in relationships, wealthy in love, wealthy in knowledge. What is key here is to have a clear vision of what wealthy means to you so that you have a clear goal to work towards.
  • Happiness – Happiness, like wealth, also has many definitions. What I like about how Jim defines it is it is not a general feeling or state of mind, but rather, it is a method of thinking that organizes feelings, activities and lifestyle. It is a way of interpreting the world and its events. That is, you can be happy in spite of what the world throws at you.
  • Discipline – Discipline is a key trait to have when achieving success of any kind. What are you committing to? What will you give up to achieve your goal? With discipline comes another key to success: action. Lots of people want to write a book or start a business, but what are they doing right now to get there? Ramit Sethi shared a story about one of his friends who wanted to run three times a week. Ramit told her that she should instead run once a week. Her friend then gave him a strange look and said “why would I want to do that?” Rather than running once a week, she would rather dream of running three times a week.
  • Success – Success, like the other key words, has multiple layers and multiple definitions. Everybody has their own definition of success. What’s interesting in how Jim defines success is that it is about turning away from something to turn toward something better. Success is moving from sitting on the couch to walking on the treadmill 10 minutes a day.

Strategy 1 – Goals

You’re probably thinking what I thought when I read this first strategy. Goals? Who has time to write down goals? Let’s get started now! But in fact, writing goals down is something that helps give you direction. I have both a goals list and a dreams list that I work towards every day. My goals are more short term (as it is hard to see that far ahead in the future) and my dreams are long term (10 year dreams). Have you ever heard that we often overestimate what we can do in a year, but underestimate what we can do in ten years? There’s nothing wrong with having ambitious goals, but do now that you may be too ambitious and you might not achieve them. That’s okay! The one thing that I would note is that when you are writing down your dreams, don’t be afraid to make them big, huge. If you have your dreams written down, write down what it would look like if they were 10 times bigger. Want to make $1 million a year in ten years? Make it $10 million. Why not? Don’t limit your dreams.

Strategy 2 – Learn every day

James Altucher, one of my favourite authors, shared his strategy for becoming an expert in something. He said that he would go to the bookstore or to the library and take out all the books he could find on a specific subject. He would read through and by doing this, he would be an ‘expert’ in a short period of time. He did this with investments before he started his hedge fund company.

What do you want to be an expert in? Health? Wealth? Happiness? Books, podcasts, audiobooks are some of the best ways to learn from the experience of others. Any fool can learn from experience, but the people that shortcut their ways to success learn from the success and mistakes of others.

Strategy 3 – Learn how to change

Okay, you’re listening to audiobooks every time you get in the car or do chores. Maybe you’re even listening to podcasts as you walk around the mall or walk the dog. You’re reading every chance you get while on the toilet, or during breaks at work, or at home after dinner. But what are you doing to change your life? If your answer is not very much, well, doing all that learning will do you no good.

To have more than you’ve got, become more than you are. Unless you change how you are, you’ll always have what you’ve got.

Income rarely exceeds personal development. Quite frankly, that makes it easy to improve your income. All you have to do is to improve yourself every day. You might ask yourself how do you get more money at work? It all comes down to the value that you bring to a company. If you increase the value that you bring to the company you work for, in due time, you will get more money. What are you doing to increase the value you bring to work? Are you developing new way to delight customers? Are you bringing in more customers? Are you making the company operate more efficiently?

Strategy 4 – Control your finances

What did I learn from Jim about finances?

  • Use the 70 / 30 rule – Jim talks about applying a 70/30 rule to your finances. This means that you should live off of 70% of what you earn. What do you do with the other 30%? 10% goes to charity or church. 10% goes to your investments. Finally, the last 10% goes to your savings. You can of course, take this further and save more money or devote more money to your investments.
  • Figure out where you are financially – Do you know what assets and liabilities you have? How much your monthly or annual expenses are? What you earn every month? Having a handle on these items will help you figure out where you need to be.
  • Taxes and other must-pay items – Is it annoying to have to pay taxes on your income and other assets? Yes. But Jim argues that these are necessary things that you have to pay for to make your city or country a better place. Who pays for hospitals? Schools? The roads? Yes that’s right, your taxes pay for these things. Rather than bemoaning the fact that you have to pay taxes, why not change your perspective? The next time you have to send in a payment, be happy that you have the chance to do so.

Strategy 5 – Master your time

Some people drift through life. Come what may they just do whatever. Other people are 9 – 5 managers. They work from 9 – 5, come home, eat dinner, watch some TV and then sleep and repeat. Yet others are workaholics. They work from 9 – 5, come home, eat dinner, and then work some more. Their weekends are days spent in the office trying to ‘catch up’ or ‘get ahead’ on things they have to do.

In fact, there is a fourth type of person. Jim calls this the ‘enlightened time manager’. These individuals don’t work harder, they work smarter. They leverage things other than their time to get things done. Maybe if they need to get more sales, they look at hiring more sales people. If they need to get some administrative tasks done, they delegate to others that can do the work.

What are some other ways to control your time?

  • Figure out when you are the most productive – for most of us, it occurs within a few hours of waking up. This means that you shouldn’t be wasting time on e-mails or meetings when you should be doing something that is really tough. Eat that frog as Brian Tracy would say!
  • Be disciplined – if you are at work, work. If you are relaxing at home, relax. Don’t mix the two. You’re not going to be as productive as you would be if you have divided focus.

Strategy 6 – You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with

Every few months, I think about who I am spending time with and whether it is adding to my life. It sounds a little harsh I know but I want to be very careful about what I am taking in all the time, whether it is the books that I read or the people that I talk to. I want to ensure that the things that are going into my life are positive and help me move forward in some way. I don’t have time for negativity. I don’t have time to wallow in the past. I don’t have time for people that are not able to take actions in their life to get ahead.

Just as I try to read the books that I am interested in, so should you also spend time with the right people. Are you interested in starting a business? Find those people that have started a business and spend time with them. Are you interested in getting ahead in your work? Find the people that are already way past where you are and learn how they did it.

Strategy 7 – Live well

Are you a one quarter or a two quarter person? Jim Rohn talks about his early discussions with Earl Shoaff who often told him that he shouldn’t just be making a living, he should be making a life. Jim responds that maybe he should think about being well off financially before thinking about making a life, but Earl disagrees, saying that it is easier to develop this mindset when you are starting out. Imagine that you are getting your shoes shined and you are trying to decide whether you want to give one quarter or two quarters as a tip to the shoe boy. If you give one quarter, you might feel guilty all day or wonder whether you should have given them two quarters. If you give them two quarters though, you will feel happy, confident and abundant all day. Here of course, I assume that one or two quarters is equivalent to tipping $2 or $5 for a shoe shine. The difference is that it will make a huge difference to the person getting two quarters, and it will have a great impact on your own life as you see it. Be a two quarter person.


I’ll be honest, I have read and shared my book notes in a previous post. I wanted to re-read this book though because I wanted to feed my mind with the right mindset and positive takeaways that I need to get ahead. What are you doing to get ahead? It’s not enough to know what to do, heck we all know what to do. If it was a matter of knowledge, everyone would be rich and have six pack abs. It is a matter of applying that knowledge, so I’ll ask you again, what are you doing right now to get ahead?

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