Five Things We Can Learn From The Greats Of Self-Development & Productivity.

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This year, one of my objectives was to go back to where the whole self-help and personal development popularity began, to see what I could learn from the pioneers of the modern personal development scene. What I found was fascinating.

We are so lucky today to have access to the best of people like Jim Rohn, Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins and Brian Tracy. Many of their programmes are now freely available on YouTube and the concepts they taught have been written about many thousands of times. These teachings used to cost a small fortune. I remember in the 1990s when a set of tapes from these guys would cost anywhere from $30 all the way up to $100, and videos and DVDs were prohibitively expensive. Now we have access to the wisdom these incredible people taught, and in some cases still teach, so widely available today.

What I found fascinating was whether it is goal planning, time management or just straight forward life success, these amazing people taught the same thing. They had the same system. The difference between them was the way they taught it. Zig Ziglar combined a wonderful sense of humour with brilliant illustrative stories to get his message across. Jim Rohn, used the power of common sense to deliver his message. Tony Robbins of course, still going strong, uses immense energy and passion, and Brian Tracy is able to explain it all in a manner than anyone can understand. He breaks it down into simple concepts that makes perfect sense.

So, without further ado, here are four things they taught that I think are so relevant today:

Positive Mental Attitude

Although this one was big in all Zig Ziglar’s teachings, the others also explain that if you do not have a positive frame of mind, then nothing will ever change. If you tell yourself that life is unfair and that the best you can hope for is to survive and live to a reasonable age, then that is exactly what will happen. Tony Robbins constantly tells his audiences that the negative stories we tell ourselves are what is holding us back. If we believe all dogs bite, then we will always be afraid of dogs. Very few dogs bite of course, but in some people’s mind; all dogs bite. These kind of limiting beliefs hold us back from reaching our potential.

“Beliefs have the power to create and the power to destroy. Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives.” Tony Robbins


Without exception, all these top life coaches explain that without a plan you will fail. Every single one of them had the same method to creating and achieving goals. The basic method they all taught was you first need to decide what it is you want to achieve, then you need to truly understand why you want to achieve it. Wanting something is okay, but without a compelling “why” you will inevitably fail. Then finally, you need to have a set of action steps that you focus on every day that will take you from where you are to where you want to be in the future. It really is that simple. It was simple in the early 1970s and it is still simple today. It worked then and it still works today!

Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution; this gives you a 1,000 percent Return on Energy!” — Brian Tracy

Life long learning

Jim Rohn always talked about this one, but if you listen to any of these people on this, they all point out the importance of reading and learning. Reading was always best way to learn, but in today’s world we also have YouTube and access to online courses, many of which are free. Self-improvement is not improvement unless you are in a constant state of learning new things. To truly develop yourself you must be constantly learning and this message comes across very loud and very clear from all of them. Sitting down at the end of the day to watch the latest episode of your favourite drama or TV series may be nice, but you are unlikely to be learning anything useful. But sitting down in your favourite chair with a good book, that is the kind of thing that will change your life. As Zig Ziglar said:

If you can read but choose not to read, you are no better than a person who cannot read”

Personal Responsibility

If you smoke twenty cigarettes a day for twenty years and find yourself with debilitating lung disease in later life, it will be your fault. It is your responsibility. Of course it is easy to blame the tobacco companies for providing a product that led to your problems, but you chose to smoke. You are 100% responsible for everything that happens to you in life. Whether you are an overwhelming success or a drop out loser, these things happened because of your choices. It is no good blaming other people, the government or your company. You have the freedom to make choices that will effect the outcome of your life. It is never the fault of other people, the economy or your government. If you do find you are always blaming others for your difficulties or failures here’s a quote from Jim Rohn:

“You need to change your philosophy”

Physical Wellbeing

If you are not in peak physical condition you are not going to be in peak mental condition. If you want to be at you very best day after day, then you need to look after your physical wellbeing. This means eating the right things, not smoking or drinking too much and having a consistent exercise programme. Jim Rohn and Zig Ziglar were teaching these concepts way back in the 1970s, well before it was popular to go to the gym or go out running. How right they proved to be. Your physical wellbeing is so important if you are going to achieve the success you desire.

I could go on, but these four concepts are consistent in all the teachings of these great people. No matter how the world changes, no matter what new technology comes along, these four basic principles will never change. They are timeless, they work and they have helped millions of people to improve their lives and to achieve tremendous things. My advice to anyone wanting to improve themselves and to achieve a successful life is to take advantage of the resources we have available to us today and learn from these great people. Their wisdom is there for all of us to learn from.

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Carl Pullein is a personal development and productivity specialist, presenter and author of Working With Todoist: The Book as well as Your Digital Life, a book about using your technology to achieve greater productivity. Carl works with clients all over the world to help them focus on the things that are important to them and to become more successful, productive and creative.

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I help people learn to manage their lives and their time so they can experience joy and build a life they are truly proud of.

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