leader network logo

    National Leader of the Month for March 2008

Earl Nightingale

Earl Nightingale

For this posthumous honoree feature, LeaderNetwork.org has provided two mediums for you to experience the leadership insights of National Leader of the Month Earl Nightingale. In the feature that follows, Earl's widow, Diana, graciously responds to questions from the perspective of Earl (based upon the beliefs and philosophies that Earl expressed to her during his life). For the podcast portion of the feature, listen to the short excerpt of Earl speaking on "Acres of Diamonds" (also provided courtesy of Diana Nightingale). To listen to the podcast, copy and paste the following RSS link into your preferred podcast software: http://www.leadernetwork.org/leadership_podcast.rss. In order to begin playing the audio in a separate window, click here Earl Nightingale audio.

Honoring Earl Nightingale

We had never before honored a leader posthumously and could think of no more fitting recipient than Earl Nightingale. Mr. Nightingale passed away in 1989 but not before leaving an amazing legacy of insights on life and leadership. To this day, his philosophy lives on through his books and speeches, profoundly influencing lives in a positive way. For the remarkable leadership that he offered in his life--and the wisdom that he has left behind for leaders--Earl Nightingale is the National Leader of the Month for March 2008.

About Earl Nightingale

Speaker, Author, and Philosopher

Bio: born in California on March 12, 1921; Marine stationed on the USS Arizona who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor; radio and television host; wrote and recorded over 7,000 radio programs and 250 audio programs during his lifetime; died in 1989

Famous quote: "We become what we think about." Earl uttered this line in The Strangest Secret, and the line is his trademark. Earl recorded The Strangest Secret in 1956, and it brought him renown throughout the world, impacting millions of lives over a span of more than 50 years.

Favorite books: the classics. Why the classics? He chose the classics because they were tried and true. Anything trendy is just that: itís trendy. [Just because something is trendy] doesnít mean that itís going to work. That is why you find a lot of people will spend years and years going to seminars and following certain people, yet their lives donít change, and they donít change. They think itís like a vaccination: They keep going back for another fix, but it doesnít work for them. I think the fact that Earl was not a trendy person was one of the reasons that he and his messages have maintained their popularity for more than 50 years. He believed in quoting the great masters and the great works and saying, "This is how this works in the world today." In his radio program, Our Changing World, the stories give you something that you can apply to your life no matter who you are, where you live, how old you are, what your economic background is, or what religion you practice.

Earl Nightingale and Leadership

What were some things that Earl identified that kept organizations from meeting their full potential? Earl talked about how people go into business, and they spend millions of dollars in creating a business entity, spend millions of dollars in creating a viable product, and spend millions of dollars to advertise that product. Afterward, they offer a meager wage and hire someone who is incompetent to answer the phones. That new employee, [who communicates directly with the customers], will run off their customers when they call in; therefore, [that one person's communication can undo millions of dollars of investment.] I think in todayís world, I see that rudeness and abruptness more and more. People have forgotten that they are here to serve other people.

What was one of the things that drove Earl's passion for learning? He really wanted to know why people turned out the way they did. That was his journey in life: not only to discover why people turned out the way they did but to share that information (which he did for his entire life).

What were some things that helped shape Earl's perspective? Earl said there are two kinds of people in the world: river people and goal-oriented people. River people are born with a passion that they canít do anything other than follow. Other people donít know what they want to do. They look around, see what interests them, and they sit and accomplish things. These goal-oriented people can be highly successful and gifted. If their present activities donít work out, theyíll be fine and theyíll do something else. In contrast, river people have a passion in life: they will be the great artists, the great musicians, the great philosophers, the great teachers, or the great spiritual leaders. They canít just do anything other than follow their passion; Earl was absolutely given a gift, and he couldnít do anything else but follow that passion in his life.

How would Earl advise aspiring leaders? He would advise them to continue to learn all they can about their profession and not to rest on their laurels.

What are the traits Earl considered most important in a leader? He considered it important that people find and follow their passion.

How did Earl define good leadership? One thing that Earl often said about leadership was that you can always tell a great deal about the person at the top by the behavior and the attitude of the workers that follow. That is because the workers will mimic what is happening to them. If theyíre unhappy, youíre going to hear them talking about how unhappy they are. They will be looking for something else and looking for ways to cut corners.

What was a piece of advice that Earl gave? Find out what the majority of the people are doing, and do exactly the opposite. He was in favor of everyone leading. It was not that everyone should necessarily be leading great groups of people, but they should be being leaders in their own lives. We all have our own group: whether itís someone that shares our life or family, whether itís a business, or whatever else it happens to be, we are the leader of something. Earl felt that too many people relied on other people to tell them what to do, how to think, and how to dress. Earl was really opposed to mediocrity. Over the course of Earlís life and the years since he passed away, have we Americans become more apt to be leaders in our lives or less apt? Less apt. Why? A really, really good example is the fact that people begin their morning and end their day listening to other people tell them about whatís happening in the government and in the economy. People donít even go outside to find out whether itís going to be hot or cold tomorrow or whether itís going to rain or not. People depend on others to tell them what to think and how to vote. We watch things on television, and then someone tells us what weíve just seen. Everybody wants to look alike: women all want to be a size zero and men all want to be macho. Other people are telling us how we are supposed to be behaving in our lives; if you donít fit in, then there is something wrong with you. Weíre supposed to be here to enjoy our journey, and that was the thing that Earl used to refer to life as: our holiday on earth. Earl said that people would say, ďWhat is the meaning of life?Ē His response would be, ďThatís up to you. You have breath, you have life, and what you do with it is your business.Ē Most people are so overwhelmed at the thought of being in charge of their own lives that they canít handle it. You hear people all the time blaming other people for their circumstances.

Please talk about Earl's thoughts on ideas: One of the things that Earl always said was that everybody gets great ideas. The one thing you donít want to do is start talking about them. He used to make the comment, ďDonít tell your brother in law about your idea: heíll shoot down every good idea that you have.Ē Earl likened great ideas and creativity to a pot that starts bubbling. As you begin bubbling with ideas, all the exciting possibilities occur to you, and you are overflowing with thoughts about their potential. Then, when you start talking about the ideas, itís like taking the lid off the pot and letting the steam out. Fulfillment of the idea never comes to fruition because sooner or later you just burn out on the idea. The "burn-out" takes place because you listen as people say things such as, ďOh yeah, but thatís not going to work. How are you going to do that? Oh, I tried that before. I knew somebody who did that. Itís already been done.Ē For too many great ideas, youíll hear people say, ďI came up with that idea years ago, but I let somebody talk me out of it.Ē Another comment you hear is this: ďI couldnít get the money together.Ē Great ideas are out there floating around, and when you are impassioned with a great idea or something that you really want to do, you have to go do it.

Diana Nightingale Carries On Earl's Legacy

What is next for you, Diana? Iím taking Earlís work to another level: more of a teaching level. Iím going to be doing a few retreats each year, including one coming up soon. Itís going to be a realization of a dream for me because I have always been very frustrated about attending meetings, and we all have to attend them in life. If youíre working and you are going to continue with your education, you will find yourself in a meeting hall some place with somebody talking at you. Normally, itís in a very commercial environment, and people are not really comfortable. The temperature is usually set at about 43 degrees, and even if you get a really great ďAha,Ē and you are feeling really good about the world, you leave there. By the time you get home, youíre not really sure what it was all about, but it costs a lot of money.

I feel that the best way to do a seminar or a retreat is actually in a place where youíre going to be surrounded with a very tranquil atmosphere. Iím going to be holding these retreats in quiet places where weíll come together as a very small group: a handful of people that will share a weekend or a week. The one that is coming up is going to be a six-night event where people come in the morning for a retreat. I teach the Earl Nightingale works, and we really delve into them to see how they fit you as a human being (rather than me preaching at you and telling you that I have all the answers for your life).

In the event coming up, weíre going to be in Arizona out at a ranch. Weíll have a whole morning of instruction, and some time to really take it in while being at leisure, doing things like horseback riding or playing golf in the afternoon. One of the things that Earl always said is that we donít always get the answer when weíre looking for it. Sometimes, the answer comes to us when we are almost asleep, or first thing in the morning, or at leisure. In the evening, weíll be around the bonfire, and we will talk about what we discussed in the morning and about thoughts that arose during the course of the day. We will be asking questions, such as, "What would Earl think? How would Earl take that information and apply it to my life?" The event will be an in-depth mentoring and coaching session.

For More About Earl Nightingale