Lesson One: Your Personal Philosophy – The Set of the Sail

Rohn explains that your personal philosophy is the major determining factor in how your life works out. Each person’s personal philosophy is the set of the sail. The winds of circumstance blow on us all, and yet we don’t all arrive at the same destination. What guides us to different destinations is the way in which we’ve chosen to set our sail. That is, the way in which each person thinks is the major difference in where he or she arrives.

Rohn adds that before meeting his mentor, Mr. Shoaff, he thought that circumstances determined how a person’s life turned out. At the age of 25, here’s what Rohn’s life looked like:

  • He wasn’t doing well.
  • He was broke, with no money in the bank.
  • Creditors were calling.
  • He was behind on his promises to his family.

He was a twenty-five year old man living in the United States—the land of opportunity—and yet Rohn was doing poorly. Rohn adds that it would not have occurred to him to blame his philosophy. That is, he would never have said to himself: “Well, I have pennies in my pocket and things aren’t going well because I have a lousy personal philosophy.” Instead, he found excuses and blamed everyone else. Here are some of the things he would say to himself:

  • The company that I work for doesn’t pay me enough.
  • Taxes are too high.
  • I come from a family of modest means.
  • I was born in obscurity on a farm in Idaho.
  • The banks won’t lend me the money that I need.
  • Things cost too much.

Rohn explains that all of the events that take place around you, and all of the information that you’re taking in from your environment through your five senses, is being processed through your personal philosophy. If things aren’t working out well for you, you have to change your mind; you have to change your thinking; you have to change your personal philosophy; you have to set a better sail.

Here are four things Rohn points out about the set of your sail:

  • “The set of the sail, how we think and how we respond, has a far greater capacity to destroy our lives than any challenges we face.”
  • If the winds change, reset your sail, instead of allowing yourself to be taken in a direction you did not wish to go.
  • “If we can alter the way we perceive, judge, and decide upon the main issues of life, then we can dramatically change our life.”
  • “The development of a sound philosophy prepares us for making sound decisions.”

Rohn indicates that once he changed his personal philosophy, everything changed for him. For starters, everything around him started to look different. In addition, his bank account changed for the better.

Here is Rohn’s definition of failure and success:

  • “Failure is a few errors in judgment repeated every day.”
  • “Success is a few simple disciplines practiced every day.”

The difference between failure and success is the difference between eating a chocolate bar every day and eating an apple every day. It’s the difference between taking a walk around the block every day and not taking a walk around the block. It’s the difference between going out for dinner every night and cooking at home most nights so that you can save some money.

Your personal philosophy will determine whether you go for the disciplines, or for the errors in judgment. And you develop the right personal philosophy through education. You have to get the information that success and happiness require.

Lesson Two: Your Life is Affected by Your Attitude

While your personal philosophy is what you know and how you think, your attitude is how you feel. Specifically, it’s how you feel about the following five things:

1. Your Past. Use your past as a school, not as a club. Don’t beat yourself up with your past. Instead, look at your past as lessons that you can apply to do better in the present and in the future. Here’s a quote from Rohn:

“Until we have finally accepted the fact that there is nothing we can do to change the past, our feelings of regret and remorse and bitterness will prevent us from designing a better future with the opportunity that is before us today.”

2. Your Present. Seize this day and make a point of a new beginning.

3. Your Future. The thoughts and feelings that we have today are crucial, for they are contributing to our future. What vision are you holding of your future? Set goals that fill you with excitement and anticipation of the day when that dream will become a reality. Here’s a quote from Rohn:

“If we are intelligent enough to invest our experiences of the past, and wise enough to “borrow” the excitement and inspiration of the future by clearly seeing that future in the mind’s eye, then past experiences and future excitement become today’s servants.”

4. Other People. Everyone needs other people to help them achieve their dreams. No man is an island, and your attitude toward other people will have a huge impact on your future success.

5. Yourself. We can’t recognize our own innate gifts and talents if we have a poor attitude about ourselves. Recognize your value and applaud your accomplishments.

Lesson Three: Take Action

If you plant the seed, the tree will grow. You have to convert your knowledge (personal philosophy) and your good feelings (attitude) into activity. As Rohn points out, “What we know and how we feel merely determine our potential for achievement. Whether we actually achieve our goals is ultimately determined by our activity.” We have to put our assets to work.

The two rules of activity are as follows:

1. Do what you can. Rohn encourages others to ask themselves the following question: What simple thing could I do, which I’m not doing, which could increase my health and/or my wealth?

2. Do the best that you can. Follow this philosophy from Ecclesiastes 9:10 — “Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might.”

Lesson Four: Constantly Measure Your Results

Every now and then you need to measure how you’re doing with your philosophy, your attitude, and the action that you’re taking. That is, you need to measure the results that you’re getting.

When Rohn met his mentor, he told Rohn that they were going to do a little review (at the time Rohn was 25 years old and he had been out in the working world for six years). The mentor asked Rohn the following questions:

  • In the last 6 years, how much money have you saved and invested?
  • How many books have you read in the last 90 days?
  • In the last 6 months, how many classes have you taken?
  • How regularly did you exercise in the past month?
  • How many times did you write in your journal this week?

Your results will teach you a lot about your own philosophy, your own attitude, and your own action. Here’s what life asks you to do: make measurable progress in reasonable time. If you’re not getting the results that you want, it’s an indication that something needs to change. Here are some examples:

  • You may need to change your philosophy.
  • You may need to adjust your attitude.
  • You may need to change your current level of activity.
  • You may need to change the quality of your activity by acquiring new knowledge and skills.

There are some things that you’re going to have to check every day; there are some things that you need to check once a week; there are some things that you need to check once a month; and so on. As an illustration, if a salesman is supposed to make ten calls a day, his supervisor would ask him once a week how many calls he made that week. Measuring your results allows you to take corrective action.

Success is a numbers game; so check your numbers.

Lesson Five: Lifestyle – Learn How to Live Well

The results that we get from our personal philosophy, our attitude, and our actions lead to our lifestyle. That is, our personal philosophy, our attitude, and our actions are the cause, and our lifestyle is the effect. To change the effect, we must alter the cause. Therefore, if you’re not happy with your current lifestyle you need to re-examine your philosophy, your attitude, and the actions that you’re taking.


Tony Robbins was mentored by Rohn. Mark Victor Hansen, Brian Tracy, and T. Harv Eker also indicate that they were influenced by him. Now, after having read this post, you can add yourself to the list of people who have been mentored by Rohn, even if it’s been indirectly. Rohn passed away in 2009, but the legacy of this great man lives on.





5 Life Lessons From Motivation Mega-Star Jim Rohn

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