As a Depression-era child, Earl Nightingale was hungry for knowledge. He was also an avid observer of life. His mother’s love of books fired his own life-long interest in reading. As a young boy growing up, he frequented the Long Beach Public Library in California. Searching for an answer to his questions about the life around him:
“As a youngster, I didn’t know anything about a sense of achievement, but I was all too aware of being poor. It didn’t seem to bother the other kids, but it bothered me. What made it all the more exasperating to me, as a boy of 12, was to be poor in Southern California, where there seemed to be so many who were rich…. I decided to find out why some people were rich while so very many of us were poor.”1
Yet it was to take 17 years before he found the answer he was looking for.
Earl Nightingale’s early career began when, as a member of the Marine Corps, he volunteered to work at a local radio station as an announcer. He was able to earn some extra income and learn the business from the ground up. Finally completing his tour of duty, Earl and his young family moved first to Phoenix to announce for KTAR, then later to Chicago at WBBM.
Just a short time after arriving in Chicago, he ran across a copy of Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich”.
“I believe I knew all the principles before I read the book. But in Think and Grow Rich, they were in crystallized form. I could see them clearly. I decided to employ them: specifically, to double my earnings within a period of two weeks. I wrote my definite objective on a piece of paper and my earnings doubled in two weeks.
“I felt this might have been a coincidence. So I again decided to double my earnings and set a specific date. When I achieved this objective before the date set, I said to myself, “This is no coincidence. Here I have a formula for success.”2
Nightingale then continued to test these principles for the next 7 years. These led him to resign his plush job as a CBS network announcer and to take a job with local station WGN – where he would have a percentage of advertising revenue from his shows.
This gave him a greater opportunity for personal expansion and success. His 15 minute show in the am then became an additional afternoon show as well. Later, he had his own hour and a half weekly TV talk show – one which was the most heavily sponsored in the industry at that time.
He also bought an insurance company where he gave weekly motivational talks to the sales people there.
At the outset of a planned vacation, his sales manager for that company said that their sales would flag without his talks. So he set about to write and record an inspirational message for them. To be played in his absence.
In the spring of 1956, I was asked to put the essence of what I had learned during those many years of assiduous reading and research into a rather short essay. Because my working career involved both writing and broadcasting, I was to then record the essay for the possible benefit of others.
I thought about it, turning the ideas over and over in my mind. Finally, I asked myself, “What would you tell your children if you found you had only a short time to live? What advice could you pass on to them that would assist them in living highly productive, very successful lives?” I awakened at four the next morning with the answer to that question clearly in mind.
I got up, put on a pot of coffee, and went into my study to put my thoughts on paper. By ten that morning I had completed the essay. I showered and dressed and by noon was recording my essay at CBS.
It was finished before lunch. I called what I had written and recorded The Strangest Secret.3
Pressed into a vinyl LP record, the sales of this single record soon passed a million copies – making it the first spoken-word album to earn a Gold Record. And started the recorded personal development industry.
By 1957, he was so successful, he decided to retire at the age of 35. After years of recording and writing radio and TV shows, he decided to turn his back on that industry completely.
But a chance meeting changed his mind:
In the spring of 1959 another acquaintance suggested at lunch that I write and narrate a daily radio program for syndication. I told him of my vow regarding radio, studios, and microphones, and promptly forgot the matter. But later, during the summer, on a Canadian ﬁshing trip, the memory of that conversation came to mind. And in the quiet, peaceful evenings in that beautiful setting I began writing the radio programs which we later called “Our Changing World.” When I returned to Chicago, I recorded the programs I’d written and we sent them to a representative sampling of radio stations. Another avalanche!
In ﬁve years “Our Changing World” grew to become the largest syndicated radio program in the history of broadcasting.4
For the next 28 years, Earl Nightingale would write and produce simple 5-minute radio shows, 5 days a week. And soon his syndicated program reached over a thousand markets, the Armed Forces Network, and 23 nations internationally. It became the number one radio-syndicated show of all time. He went onto produce over 7 thousand episodes that are still popular today.
He attributed his unbroken chain of success to that one discovery, what he discovered as crystallized in that one book. He put it to the test for years and it never failed him.
Today, more than five decades later, The Strangest Secret remains one of the most powerful and influential messages ever recorded. It continues to transform the lives of everyone who hears and heeds it.
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1 “Earl Nightingale’s Strangest Discovery” 1987
2 “Essence of Success” 1993
3 “Earl Nightingale’s Strangest Discovery” 1987