60 years ago, Earl Nightingale, the highly respected speaker, author and radio personality gave us the secret to brilliant presenting and perhaps even other aspects of life. He recorded an audio program which sold over a million copies to become the first spoken- word recording to achieve Gold Record Status.
That recording, ‘The Strangest Secret’ has since been listened to by countless people around the world. Together with over 7,000 radio programs, 250 audio programs and many television programs and videos Earl Nightingale is often referred to as the ‘Dean of Personal Development’.
His words have inspired millions of people from all cultures and nationalities, including myself. I believe that I owe much of my personal and professional success to ‘The Strangest Secret’ which I first heard 25 years ago and only wished I had heard and heeded as a young boy.
The essence of the secret was instrumental in me having applied so much of its truth and wisdom to good effect that I wrote my own book about it in 2009, ‘Hamster to Harmony’.
The secret is as stupendously simple as it is powerful and Earl Nightingale explains in the recording why he refers to it as a ‘Strange Secret’:
‘Now why do I say it’s strange and why do I call it a secret? Actually it isn’t a secret at all. It was first promulgated by some of the earliest wise men and it appears again and again throughout the Bible, but very few people have learned it, understand it. That’s why it’s strange and why for some equally same reason it virtually remains a secret.
If that statement troubles you in that you feel it suggests this is a religious text, please do not stop reading because it is not.
This is an article about three very important things.
- A brilliant presenter
- What I believe made him a brilliant presenter, and how we can learn so much from his speaking skills
- A powerful message that’s worth exploring
At this point, I am conscious of the fact that many readers will be unfamiliar with Earl Nightingale’s work and at 300+ words in may be a little frustrated that you have not yet learned the secret.
Therefore, ‘without further ado’ here is ‘The Strangest Secret’:
‘We become what we think about’
Are you disappointed?
Please don’t be, I would reserve judgement until you have read the full article and listened to the recording for yourself, which I strongly urge you to do.
After all, how often do any of us pause every now and then for a few moments to think about the way we think, the quality of our thoughts and the impact they have on our results?
If you have not had the pleasure of listening to the presentation for yourself, I have included it at the end of the blog.
If you have then here is what you may remember:
- A brilliant opening
- Emphasis on key words
- Thought provoking questions
- Powerful pauses
- Meaningful repetition
- Authoritative quotes
- Shocking / surprising facts
- Variety in pitch, pace, volume and intonation
- A conversational rather than a lecturing approach
- Appropriate changes in energy
- Inspirational lifts in tone
- Examples which help to explain a point
- The conscious raising of curiosity
- Compelling facts and statements
- Support for his message
- Clarity of his message
- Reinforcement of the message
- Challenging personal thoughts
- Great scene setting
- Clarity of what to do with the information presented
- Audience interaction
- Alternative positions to the message shared
- A distinct and mighty voice
- Sheer passion
- A sincere intention to make a difference
- A clear call to action
I have presented a long list of attributes illustrating just some of what we at Mindful Presenter believe it takes to be a brilliant presenter and public speaker.
It is not an exhaustive list, but then how often do any of us come across 30 such potent traits in a 30-minute presentation? Added to the fact that this is an audio and not a video where there is no visual evaluation of the non-verbal aspects we can’t see, I’m sure you will agree it’s extremely impressive.
If you have a 30 minute train journey to work put your head phones on and listen to the recording, you will be so glad you did and it will make an enormous difference to your day at work.
To some it may appear inconceivable to even imagine themselves presenting in such a way; we know however, that with the right intention, discipline and presentation training it is very possible.
Earl Nightingale was clearly a very practiced, passionate and inspiring speaker although I’m sure that like all great orators that was not an overnight accomplishment. If you listen to the recording and agree with our perspective that the attributes I have highlighted are some of the keys to brilliant presenting I can assure you that they are all within your gift.
At Mindful presenter in our Presentation Training and High Impact Public Speaking Courses we teach it all; however, we do recommend that you only apply a few of the attributes at a time each time you speak.
Whether you are interested in developing your presentation speaking skills, or are simply looking for some wisdom on how to get better results in your life, we urge you to listen to the recording at the end of this article:
Alternatively, we have highlighted just a few of the points referred to earlier in the text below.
Start as you mean to continue
The first 100 words that leave your mouth set the tone for preparing, engaging and intriguing your audience. They also dramatically influence the likelihood of your audience listening carefully to what comes next.
Here is how Earl Nightingale opened ‘The Strangest Secret’ in the 4 seconds that was captivating enough to make me want to listen to the remaining 29 minutes and 56 seconds all of those years ago.
‘I’d like to tell you about the strangest secret in the world’
He then qualified his opening by referring to an interview with the Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Albert Schweitzer
A reporter asked him, ‘doctor what is wrong with men today’
After a moments silence he replied, ‘men simply don’t think’
With such a brilliant, thought provoking and controversial start to a presentation very few people would want to reach for their phones to check their email; although I don’t believe there were many around in 1956.
Don’t just say it, feel it
The spoken word is so much more powerful than the written word because it allows us to focus on and emphasize key words in a way that will ensure their desired impact.
‘We in America are particularly fortunate to live in the richest land that ever existed on the face of the Earth, a land of abundant opportunity for everyone, but do you know what happens?’
How often do you hear presenters deliver an entire presentation in the same tone and manner all the way through; emphasis offers one of the many keys to making an emotional connection?
Get them thinking early
What is the point of a presentation if you do not want your audience to think, feel and to do something with the information?
Get them thinking from the very start.
‘Let us take 100 men to start even at the age of 25. Do you have any idea what will happen to those men by the time they are 65?’
When you are talking about the success of those men over a 40 year period it’s something to think about and I believe that most people would want to know the answer.
Pause and make it personal
Giving your message the space to land with your audience and them time to absorb it is one of the most powerful things you can do in a presentation.
‘By the time they’re 65, 1 will be rich… 4 will be financially independent… 5 will still be working. …54 will be broke. Now think a moment.’
He gets them thinking, delivers the answer, which results in them having to think about the issue even more.
Most people will immediately start thinking about where they will be when they reach the age of 65.
If it’s really important say it again
Repetition is the mother of learning and skill, so when it comes to presenting its worth repeating a key point wisely.
‘Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal’
Earl Nightingale said it once and then immediately repeated it; after pausing of course.
We love authority
We all admire, respect and love the voice, wisdom and authority of experts and brilliant speakers know how to quote them to their advantage.
‘Rollo May, the distinguished psychiatrist wrote a wonderful book called “Man’s Search for Himself” and in his book he says, “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.”’
Keep them awake
‘In America right now, there are over 18 million people 65 years of age and older. Most of them are broke. They’re dependent on someone else for life’s necessities.’
In the unlikely event that you were considering drifting off somewhere in your mind, Earl Nightingale presents a sobering thought you will want to stay awake for.
Energy inspires, so can your voice
‘I’ll tell you who the successful people are as success is the schoolteacher who’s teaching school because that’s what he or she wants to do.
Success is the woman who’s a wife and mother because she wanted to become a wife and mother and is doing a good job of it.
Success is the man who runs the corner gas station because that was his dream, that’s what he wanted to do.
Success is the successful salesman who wants to become a top notch salesman and grow and build with his organization.
A success is anyone who is doing deliberately a predetermined job because that’s what he decided to do deliberately but only 1 out of 20 does that.’
These aren’t words you can simply say or read, they require you raising your energy for impact and increasing your pace, tone and tempo; they are powerful words which need to be expressed with meaning.
Curiosity did not kill the cat…
‘For 20 years, I looked for the key which would determine what would happen to a human being.
Was there a key, I wanted to know, which would make the future a promise that we could foretell to a large extent. Was there a key that would guarantee a person becoming successful if he only knew about it and knew how to use it?
I think most of us would be very curious to know whether there is a key and if so what it looks like.
Give them the key
‘Well, there is such a key and I found it’
Another powerful statement can only serve to heighten curiosity, now we really want to know about ‘the key’.
There are still many unanswered ‘life’ questions
‘Have you ever wondered why so many work so hard and honestly without ever achieving anything in particular and others don’t seem to work hard and yet seem to get everything? They seem to have the magic touch.’
I can relate to that question, can you?
Do not wait for them to ‘get it’, help them to see it
‘Think of a ship leaving a harbor and think of it with a complete voyage mapped out and planned. The captain and crew know exactly where it’s going and how long it’ll take. It has a definite goal. Now 9,999 times out of 10,000 it will get to where it started out to get.
Let’s take another ship just like the first only let’s not put a crew on it or a captain at a helm. Let’s give it no aiming point, no goal, no destination. We just start the engines and let it go. I think you’ll agree with me that if it gets out of the harbor at all, it’ll either sink or wind up on some deserted beach, a derelict.
It can’t go any place because it has no destination and no guidance, and it’s the same with a human being.’
A fabulous way to help your audience to understand what it is you are trying to say is to bring it to life by giving and example in the form of an analogy.
Tell them what it’s like
‘The American economy today can be likened to a convoy in a time of war. The entire economy is slowed down to protect its weakest link just as the convoy had to go at the speed that would permit its slowest vessel to remain in formation.’
In the same way a strong analogy can be so helpful to your audience, well-considered similes can have a similar effect.
Don’t be afraid, be bold
‘Well, let me tell you something which if you really understand it, will alter your life immediately.’
That is a statement I would like to hear followed up, wouldn’t you?
Are you ready for the message again?
‘Here’s the key to success and the key to failure. We become what we think about. ( PAUSE) Now let me say that again’
He gave us the message very early on, has taking us on a journey to help us to understand and support his claim now we need to hear it again, twice.
Why should your audience take your word for it?
“A man’s life is what his thoughts make of it.” Marcus Aurelius
“Everything comes if a man will only wait. I’ve brought myself by long meditation to the conviction that a human being with a subtle purpose must accomplish this and that nothing can resist a will that will stake even existence for its fulfillment.” Benjamin Disraeli
“A man is what he thinks about all day long.” Ralph Waldo Emerson “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”
“We need only in cold blood act as if the thing were question were real and it will become infallibly real by growing into such a connection with our life that it will become real. It’ll become so knit with habit and emotion that our interest in it will be those which characterize belief.”
“If you only care enough for a result, you will almost certainly attain it. If you wish to be rich, you will be rich. If you wish to be learned, you will be learned. If you wish to be good, you will be good. Only you must then really wish these things and wish them exclusively and not wish at the same time 100 other incompatible things just as strongly.” William James
“If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” The Bible: Mark 9:23
“This is one of the greatest laws in the universe. Fervently do I wish I had discovered it as a very young man. It dawned upon me much later in life and I have found it to be one of the greatest, if not my greatest discovery outside of my relationship to God. The great law briefly and simply stated is that if you think in negative terms, you will get negative results. If you think in positive terms, you will achieve positive results.” Dr. Norman Vincent Peale
“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.” William Shakespeare
“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want and if they can’t find them, make them.” George Bernard Shaw
Earl Nightingale leaves no stone unturned, as he shares nine powerful quotes from some of the most respected and influential minds in history.
Now say it again…
‘We become what we think about’
If you really want your audience to remember your message you have to be sure it’s strategically placed and repeated at the right moment.
You cannot have too many compelling examples
‘You see, the human mind is the last great unexplored continent on Earth.’
The use of metaphors is another clever and creative way to help your audience to see what you see.
We all like a good challenge
‘Everything that’s really worthwhile in life came to us free. Our minds, our souls, our bodies, our hopes, our dreams, our ambitions, our intelligence, our love of family and children and friends and country.
All these priceless possessions are free but the things that cost us money are actually very cheap and can be replaced at any time.’
Presenting us with something we may not think about very often, if at all, is always a healthy and stimulating thing for a speaker to do.
Find out what they want
‘Decide now. What is it you want?’
Then tell them again
‘Everyone of us is the sum total of his own thoughts. He is where he is because that’s exactly where he really wants to be whether he’ll admit that or not. Each of us must live off the fruit of his thoughts in the future, because what you think today and tomorrow, next month and next year, will mold your life and determine your future. You’re guided by your mind.’
He already has us thinking about exactly what it is we really want so now he reminds us how we can get it.
Don’t forget stories
‘I remember one time I was driving through eastern Arizona and I saw one of those giant earth-moving machines roaring along the road at about 30 miles an hour with what looked like 30 tons of dirt in it, a tremendous, incredible machine. There was a little man perched way up on top with the wheel in his hands, guiding it.
As I drove along, I was struck by the similarity of that machine to the human mind. Just suppose you’re sitting at the controls of such a vast source of energy. Are you going to sit back and fold your arms and let it run itself into a ditch? Or are you going to keep both hands firmly on the wheel and control and direct this power to a specific, worthwhile purpose? It’s up to you. You’re in the driver’s seat.’
A story together with a built in metaphor is a persuasive way of helping your audience to use their imagination.
Set the challenge
‘I want you to make a test that will last 30 days. It isn’t going to be easy but if you give it a good try; it will completely change your life for the better.’
You have taken them on a journey and now they are ready to envision the future and 30 days is within anyone’s grasp.
Support your challenge
Back in the 17th century, Sir Isaac Newton, the English mathematician and natural philosopher gave us the natural laws of physics which applies much to human beings as they do to the movement of bodies in the universe. One of these laws is that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Simply stated as it applies to you and me, it means that we can achieve nothing without paying the price.
The results of your 30-day experiment will be in direct proportion to the effort you put forth. To be a doctor, you must pay the price of long years of difficult study. To be successful in selling and remember that each of us succeeds to the extent of his ability to sell. Selling our families and our ideas, selling education in schools, selling our children on the advantages of living the good and honest life, selling our associates and employees on the importance of being exceptional people, to, of course, the profession of selling itself.
Do not rely on your audience immediately accepting your challenge; now you need to offer them words of support, encouragement and inspiration.
A timely reminder of your message
‘First, it’s understanding emotionally as well as intellectually that we literally become what we think about, that we must control our thoughts if we are to control our lives.’
Keep it simple; do not ask them to remember too much
1 ‘You will become what you think about.
2 Remember the word ‘imagination’ and let your mind begin to soar.
3 Courage. Concentrate on your goal every day.
4 Save 10% of what you earn.
Action. Ideas are worthless unless we act on them.’
Get them involved
‘I want you to write on a card what it is you want more that anything else. It may be more money. Perhaps you’d like to double your income or make a specific amount of money. It may be a beautiful home. It may be success at your job. It may be a particular position in life. It could be a more harmonious family.’
Thinking and doing are two entirely different things. If you get your audience involved they are more likely to follow through.
Remove the obstacles
‘Stop thinking about what it is you fear. Each time a fearful or negative thought comes into your consciousness replace it with a mental picture of your positive and worthwhile goal.’
There will always be a reason for your audience to not move forward on your message. Identify the obstacles and help them to see and challenge them too.
Present the pain of not moving forward
‘Now since making this test is difficult, some will say, “Why should I bother?” Well, look at the alternative. No one wants to be a failure. No one really wants to be a mediocre individual. No one wants a life constantly filled with worry and fear and frustration.’
Call them to action with a compelling or inspirational close
‘Make your 30-day test, then repeat it, then repeat it again.
Each time it will become more a part of you until you’ll wonder how you could have ever have lived any other way. Live this new way and the floodgates of abundance will open and pour over you more riches than you may have dreamed existed.
Money? Yes, lots of it, but what’s more important, you’ll have peace.
You’ll be in that wonderful minority who lead calm, cheerful, successful lives.
You have nothing to lose but you have a whole life to win.’
As you can probably tell, personally I believe that this is one the very best presentations I have heard not just in terms of every aspect of its structure and delivery but also its content.
Take the time to listen to the audio with an open mind, if the concept of the message is not something that personally appeals to you, that’s fine, I quite understand.
In that case, just identify and focus on the raft of brilliant elements that I have highlighted which may resonate with you personally that you may consider developing for yourself.
I really hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please feel free to share it through your preferred social media channels below and subscribe to our mailing list so you won’t miss any future posts.
Image: Courtesy of flickr.com