Lessons from the Best

September 3, 2019
James Whittaker

Check out this episode on the Win the Day Podcast

“There is no other road to genius than through voluntary self-effort.”

Napoleon Hill

One of the greatest honors of my life is having the opportunity to interview more than 100 of the world's most revered game-changers, entrepreneurs, and innovators, to unlock their secrets to success.

Which brings us to some exciting news – in this post, I'm going to be sharing with you the 11 BEST lessons I've learned along the way! These secrets have created billion-dollar empires, globally-recognized brands, and turned ordinary people into extraordinary achievers. They are what motivate me every single day to success in life, business, and relationships.

The best part? They can work for you too! These 11 lessons can be applied by anyone, irrespective of where you're at right now.

Enjoy 🙂

1. View success as an obligation.

One of the greatest turning points in my life occurred when I stopped casually waiting for success and instead started to approach it as a duty, obligation, and responsibility.
– Grant Cardone

We all crave success in one form or another. And why wouldn’t we? As we spoke about in Episode 10: How to Become a Financial Winner, success gives us happiness, freedom, and the ability to help others.

After losing three of his male mentors (grandfather, father, and brother) in quick succession, 15-year-old Grant Cardone became a serious drug addict for the next 10 years. At 25, after being beaten to within an inch of his life and refused access to his own mother's house, Cardone realized that he had a duty, obligation, and a responsibility, to be the best he could be.

Due to the enormous wealth he has been able to accumulate, Grant Cardone is now able to provide thousands of jobs, while his books, events, and other educational resources inspire others to make the most of their potential.

As my good friend John Shin says, “Don’t be too casual about your life, or you’ll become a casualty.”

Success is your responsibility, not anyone else's.

2. Thoughts become things.

Thoughts become things. If you see it in your mind, you will hold it in your hand.
– Bob Proctor

Just as you can think and grow rich, you can think and grow poor. Our thoughts become our beliefs, which then become our actions. Over time, those actions—good or bad—create our reality.

What’s the catch? If you do not keep a clear destination in mind and a structure to win the day, the negative mindset automatically seeps in. If those barnacles latch on to your hull unchecked, they will continue to amass until they sink your ship.

For any big goal, see it vividly in your head and allow your mind to unleash its infinite power for it to manifest.

3. Build a life that gives you energy.

It’s creating your entire universe about you being at your best, living with energy every day, and just being happy. That’s the ultimate freedom.
– Rob Dyrdek

I recently posted a video of what most people focus on each day: complaining. Yet, if redirected, that same energy could be used to create the circumstances to have everything we wanted in our life.

Former pro skater turned business mogul, Rob Dyrdek, reminds us that life is about working on projects that give us energy. Happiness, freedom, and the ongoing pursuit of our potential are available to EVERYONE who takes the right action, but so many of us believed it is reserved for a lucky few.

One day at a time, build a life that gives you energy.

4. Take purposeful action, every day.

Above all else, action … every single day.”
– Lewis Howes

Action is the key, not intellect. Sometimes people who are book smart are too good at evaluating risk, which keeps them in a state of inaction because they can always come up with a reason why they should not do something.

The ones who reach the loftiest heights are those who take action. This habit means they fail quickly and repeatedly. In these failures, the seeds of success are sown, creating a much faster and deeper success trajectory. It certainly pays to do your due diligence, but results only come from action.

Fortunately, this is firmly in your court, so remember to shoot for the stars each day.

5. Reframe adversity.

Adversity is a learning opportunity, not failure. Sometimes a door has to close for another one to open.
– Sharon Lechter

So many of us settle for “okay” because we’re afraid that if we take a shot at something better we’ll miss out. Yet, it’s the adversity faced in the process of unleashing our potential that enables us to become resilient, resourceful, and persistent enough to achieve extraordinary things.

After being the founder and author of the Rich Dad brand (alongside Robert Kiyosaki), Sharon Lechter felt that her vision was no longer aligned with her business partner. Making the decision to trust her intuition and leave a household brand was a huge hurdle because she experienced the full gamut of emotions that emerge when we’re stepping into the unknown. However, Lechter realized that she just had to have faith that there would be a next step—even if she didn’t know what that was. As Martin Luther King said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.”

Shortly after, the acclaimed entrepreneur received a phone call from Don Green of the Napoleon Hill Foundation inviting her to partner on numerous projects that would introduce Hill’s timeless principles to today’s generations. Lechter also received a call from President George W. Bush's office inviting her to be on the inaugural President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy, a tenure she continued with President Obama.

That never would’ve happened if she didn’t trust her gut, channel adversity into something great, and take that leap of faith.

6. Be competitive.

If you’re not competitive by nature, you don’t succeed as a businessperson.
– Barbara Corcoran

If you’ve seen Shark Tank, you’ll know how fierce it can be not only with the contestants but among the sharks too. When Barbara Corcoran was a waitress at a diner in New Jersey, she had a dream to be the queen of New York real estate.

Corcoran partnered with her boyfriend at the time and launched a real estate company. One day, the aspiring property mogul was confronted with the news that her boyfriend and business partner was leaving Corcoran … for her secretary. Single in romance and business gave her the rocket-fuel to build what would become one of the most respected real estate companies in the world, which she would go on to sell for US $66 million.

The lesson? You have to be competitive to succeed—a powerful trait that Barbara Corcoran employs in her businesses today.

7. Play the long game.

Don’t negotiate to the last penny. Always be fair. Don’t do business with dicks.”
– David Meltzer

I first met David Meltzer a few years ago at the Fairmont Hotel in Santa Monica. From the moment we met, I felt this energy, professionalism, and willingness to help, at such an extent that I’ll never forget. In 2018 I had the opportunity to speak to the Sports1Marketing team and I could tell that Dave’s commitment to excellence in all areas has clearly rubbed off on his team who are all wonderful people.

His three-pronged quote is one I think about often. In the digital age, too many people are increasingly focused on short-term gain by ramming their product down people’s throats. Instead, Dave focuses on playing the long game, which has enabled him to build an enormous network of people who exponentially increase his effectiveness in all areas of life. Anyone who knows Dave personally will tell you that he’s an absolute terminator at getting things done, whether it’s raising money for a charity, gathering a crowd for an event, or helping a client.

When he says, “Don’t negotiate to the last penny,” he emphasizes the importance of maintaining integrity in business. Any business dealing can be used as an opportunity to develop a strong relationship with others so they can see your true character, which also ties in to the second part of his quote, "Always be fair." That's what enables opportunity to come to you, rather than you chasing it.

The final part of his quote “Don’t do business with dicks” is probably self-explanatory! Unfortunately it can be hard to spot unscrupulous individuals early on, but experience has taught me that you need to trust your intuition when it comes to people. I’ve done business with people who ended up being dicks and it’s a horrible feeling—a mistake I don’t intend on making again anytime soon!

Remember to never accept toxicity in your life, no matter what form it’s in. Life’s too short to be around energy vampires, negative people, and those who don’t align with your values.

8. Create, and consistently offer, value.

Build an audience that you serve with free, valuable, and consistent content.”
– John Lee Dumas

Many authors and business coaches talk about the importance of finding your tribe. However, if you want to truly make an impact, you need to build your tribe. EOFire founder John Lee Dumas should know—he went from being a rudderless military vet bouncing from job-to-job, to hosting a podcast that in seven years has generated more than US $16 million.

What’s the best way to build an audience? Create and publish free, valuable, and consistent content. As the community grows, you can home in on common pain-points the community faces, then offer paid solutions to those problems. Once you’ve established that trust through continually offering value, the community will grow like wildfire, and at that point you’re only limited by how big you dare to dream.

For professionals and entrepreneurs looking to build their business, your entire model should come from creating a clearly defined audience, and then focus on how you can add as much value to them as possible. Value ALL comes from being crystal clear on the problem your audience faces. The better you understand the problem, the better your solution will be.

If you’re not growing your business or achieving conversions, it’s likely because you don’t know enough about—or haven’t clearly articulated—the problem your audience is having. That’s such an important step and something I work on constantly with my clients to help them grow their business.

Too many people are focused on what they can take from others, but as you’ve heard me say on this show before: the real magic in life comes when you give more than you get.

9. The answer is always "Yes, you can."

No matter what the dream inside you is, the answer is always ‘Yes, you can’.”
– Jim Stovall

Anyone who’s read Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy will remember Jim Stovall’s story, but for those who haven’t read it, I’ll give you a quick recap. Jim was once faced with a problem that many of could barely even imagine. At the age of 17, doctors told the aspiring NFL prospect was told that he would soon go totally and permanently blind … and there was nothing they could do about it.

Rather than wallow in his own pity, Jim realized that there was no way for blind and visually impaired people to watch television, a problem that he realized was faced by tens of millions of people. Despite his own limitations, Jim went on to create the Narrative Television Network, which now operates in more than a dozen countries around the world. He is also now the author of 30 bestselling books.

Even more amazingly? He hadn’t written a single book before he was blind.

Whatever excuse you have for being a failure is invalid. That might seem harsh but it’s true. When you find yourself questioning whether you can start a business, write a book, or achieve any other dream, the answer is always YES YOU CAN!

10. Create your own luck.

I always worked hard, so whenever the door of opportunity knocked I was ready for it.
– Warren Moon

Most of us are able to do the work when people are watching, but it’s what we do behind the scenes – when the lights of accountability are off – that proves how committed we are to our success. One of the simplest ways to stand out is through an unrelenting work ethic.

What that quote — a snapshot of what NFL Hall of Fame player Warren Moon told me during our conversation — doesn't reveal is how many doors were actually slammed in Warren’s face along the way. His ferocious work ethic for a long period of time is what eventually created the opportunity that transformed his entire life and made him one of the most influential figures in NFL history. Another ‘overnight success’ 15 years in the making.

Stand out through your actions — the work you’ve taken to this point — so, when the lifechanging opportunities emerge, you’re ready and able to make the most of them. They then become branches to even more exciting opportunities.

In fact, the opportunity to write a modern companion to Think and Grow Rich never would’ve been granted to me if I hadn’t spent 10 years before that proving through my actions that I would do a good job if given the opportunity.

Your future is entirely dependent on you — no one else. Follow the advice of NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon and create your own luck.

11. The most important opinion is how you feel about yourself.

I just don’t listen when people tell me I can’t do something.”
– Janine Shepherd

Hopefully, by now, you’ve heard Janine’s story. It’s literally the most amazing thing I’ve ever heard, and that’s why it’s featured in the very first chapter of Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy. Believe me when I tell you that Janine knows what she’s talking about when she reiterates the importance of self-belief. She used it to defy medical opinion where now she can walk, ski and bike ride despite still being classified as a paraplegic. She’s also the most kindhearted person you could ever meet.

On the success journey, there’s going to be a lot of critics, doubters, and haters who attack your business, your dreams, your progress, and your voice.

But just remember, regardless of how loud the noise gets, the most important opinion is how you feel about yourself.


I hope you’ve enjoyed these lessons! They’ve been truly transformational for me and continue to inspire me every single day. Just remember, what you do with them is the most important thing 😉

Onwards and upwards always,
James Whittaker

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