Success is Not Taught in Schools

Today I want to share some “guidelines for a successful life” that you may not have come across in your formal educational process. I unashamedly describe myself as a formerly shy, low-self-esteem underachiever with a bad attitude – in other words, I was a pretty normal young adult. You may be able to relate to that, along with feeling lost, confused, scared, frustrated, and depressed about your prospects for the future. If that’s the case, don’t despair – I believe most people have a similar experience, something like: “OK – I’ve got my degree(s)… now what?” Relax – you’re not crazy, and you’re not stupid – you just haven’t been given a REAL education on what it takes to be successful.

So here are a few guidelines and resources I can share that helped me get it together:

Mission Statement

In his classic book Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill interviewed over 500 highly successful people and found they all had what he called “a chief definite aim or major purpose.” So the first step in creating a successful life is to define your mission. If you need more clarity on your career direction, simply do an Internet search on “career assessments” – you’ll find a number of free online assessments to help you narrow down your choices.

Positive Mental Attitude

Henry Ford was quoted as saying, “If you think you can, or if you think you can’t, you’re right.” It’s critical for all of us to believe in ourselves, regardless of our current situation, because our circumstances can only improve if we believe they can. I highly recommend Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s book The Power of Positive Thinking.

Goal Setting

Once you’ve created a Mission Statement and believe you can achieve it, you’ll then need to set your goals in the four major areas of life: Mental (your career and financial goals), Physical (the shape of your body and what you put in it), Emotional (your relationships), and Spiritual (those things that help your spirit soar). The best teacher of goal setting is Brian Tracy.

Time Management

You can then manage your time based upon your goals in these four areas of life. I highly recommend you get a daily planner, then set an appointment with yourself every weekend to schedule all your activities for the upcoming week – you’ll sleep well on Sunday night if you do, because you will have a plan. The only people who fear Mondays are people who don’t know what to expect. First Things First by Stephen Covey is a fine book to help you do this right.


All great athletes, from the professional ranks to the Olympians, use mental rehearsal to picture successful outcomes in their sports. It’s no different for you. The basic technique is to put yourself in a relaxed state, breathing deeply with your eyes closed. Then use a “preprogrammed daydream” to see yourself achieving your goals, whether it’s completing a project, closing a deal, being in great shape, or improving a relationship. Check out Shakti Gawain’s book Creative Visualization.

Lifelong Learning

I was not the best student in high school – I graduated with a 1.74 grade point average because I refused to take studying seriously. I’m now very serious about not only my success, but especially the success of my clients. So I now have an annual learning goal – since 1998 I’ve read over 40 books a year related to my field. I’ve come to realize that when we stop learning, we’re dead. No budget for books right now? No problem – your local library has all the books you’ll need.


Finally, you GOTTA laugh at life! A well-honed sense of humor will help you keep perspective on your life, especially during the inevitable tough times, so you can stay focused on success without taking any setbacks personally. My best “coaches” on this? Rodney Dangerfield, Richard Pryor, Jim Carrey, and The Marx Brothers’ movies.

I hope you find these guidelines and resources helpful and begin to apply them today. In the long run they’ll bring you the satisfaction of a life well lived.

Jim Rohrbach, “The Personal Fitness Trainer for Your Business,” has coached hundreds of business owners, entrepreneurs, and sales professionals on growing their clientele. He is a featured contributor to, a daily ezine for Financial Advisors.