THE TRUTHS OF LIFE- My Advice From 20 Years Ago

20 Years Ago…

Yesterday while cleaning out the garage, I came across these notes. They relate to a keynote I gave 20 years ago at a Rotary event to about 140 high school seniors and guests. I learned afterwards that many didn’t know what the future held in store for them, and that these concepts gave them a compass to follow and hope.

In today’s COVID19 world, I feel like many entrepreneurs and small business owners may be experiencing the same feeling of uncertainty as these high school seniors did two decades ago. Much of what I talked about back then applies today. For that reason, I want to share these ideas and talking points with you today.

Most of the approaches and quotes were taken from books I read or people I talked to. I’m not claiming to be the original author of these ideas. I do embrace these concepts and try to use them on a daily basis. I’m also glad to have had the opportunity to share them with the students then, and with you today.

Also please keep in mind this keynote was given long before people recognized the names of Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. These truths are timeless. Put them to use.


Having a passion for what you do is everything. What kind of passion am I talking about? You know, that excitement you see and hear from your dog when you walk in the front door at the end of the day.

Now that’s real passion. It’s excited to see you and passionate about sharing that excitement with you.

Embrace this emotion. Embrace love, hope and joy. There’s nothing more positive, enjoyable and energizing than having passion.

But while having passion is important, attitude, skills and action are also required. Passion, all by itself, is like running in the dark. You might get to where you want to go but, you may never know it or worse, you might trip over something and get injured along the way. Keep your eyes open and consistently take focused action fueled by daily passion.

Decisions and Actions

It’s not who your parents are that matters. It’s who you are and what you do that matters.

When I gave my talk, my research showed that 52% of the CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies were from lower middle class or poor families. Furthermore, 80% of the millionaires in America were first generation millionaires.

Along those same lines, opportunity is alive and well for those willing to take action. About 75% of the 300 world-class leaders were raised in poverty, abused as children, or had a serious physical disability.

“Men and women are limited not by the place of their birth, not by the color of their skin, but by the size of their hope.” -John Johnson

In case you don’t know who Johnson was, by his own account, he was a great grandson of slaves who grew up shy, insecure, inarticulate and bowlegged. He wore homemade clothes and was constantly subject to ridicule and insults. Despite these challenges, Johnson grew up to become one of the wealthiest people in America.

The key to decisions, actions, success and greatness is understanding the above and the following: You don’t have to be great to start, but you do have to start to be great.

The Success Formula

This simple formula, applied daily, will help you find success: CANI (CONSTANT AND NEVERENDING IMPROVEMENT). Here are the steps:

#1 Clearly decide what you are absolutely committed to achieving;
#2 Take massive and focused action towards achieving your goal;
#3 Notice what’s working or not;
#4 Continue to change your approach until you achieve your goal.

Character is Everything

Character is what you say and do when no one is watching you.

Having good character, in business and life, is important. It’s also not easy for everyone but that’s OK. Just keep trying.

Overtime you’ll learn and develop good character habits. After all, motivation will get you going but habit will get you to your final destination. Make motivation your habit.

Also remember that success is temporary. When all said and done, the only thing you have left is your character. Focus on learning and building a good character each day.


Stop acting insane. “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” -Albert Einstein

Refer back to the success formula. That’s all you need to do.


Stop wishing for things to happen. Stop wishing you were luckier.

“The harder I practice the luckier I get.” -Gary Player (pro golfer)


There’s no such thing as failure. Eliminate this world from your vocabulary.

What you’re actually experiencing are unexpected results. Learn from them.

Mark Twain once said, “There’s no sadder sight than a young pessimist.”

He’s right. People who believe in failure are almost guaranteed a mediocre existence. Failure is something that is just not perceived or acknowledged by people who achieve greatness. They don’t dwell on unexpected results. They go back to the Success Formula.

Successful people understand, as did John Johnson (above) that it’s not what happens to you, but how you handle what happens to you, that makes a difference.

Few people would put themselves through these experiences. Then again, few people achieve greatness.

He failed at business at age 21.
He was defeated in a legislative race at age 22.
He failed again at business at age 24.
He overcame the death of his sweetheart at age 26.
He had a nervous breakdown at age of 27.
He lost a congressional race at age 34.
He lost another congressional race at age 36.
He lost a senatorial race at age 45.
He failed in his effort to become Vice President of the US at age 47.
He lost another senatorial race at age 49.
He was elected President of the United States at age 52 and his name was Abraham Lincoln.

Along those same lines, after trying 9,999 times to perfect the light bulb, Thomas Edison was asked, “Are you going to have 10,000 failures?” He responded, “I didn’t fail. I just discovered another way not to invent the light bulb.”

Roles in Life

John Wooden’s Seven Point Creed: “Making the Most of Oneself”

#1 Be true to yourself.
#2 Make each day a masterpiece.
#3 Help others.
#4 Drink deeply from good books
#5 Make friendship a fine art.
#6 Build a shelter against a rainy day.
#7 Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings each day.


This is something we do every day. Learn and get good at it.


Understand, plan and polish the weekly diamonds in your life.

Time Management

You can always earn more money, but when time is spent, it is gone forever.

Short-term evaluations and decisions can lead to long-term pain and wasted time.

“Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are all dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it I say! Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.” -Michael Landon


Be genuinely interested in others. Use a system (today that would be a CRM).

Market Yourself and Build Your Brand

Learn how to toot your own horn. Even better, be the kind of human being who provides the kinds of products and services, that others will want to tell the world about.

Master Your Finances

Invest your money. Invest in your life. Learn the power of compound interest.

By the time they reach the age of 65, most Americans are either dead broke, or dead.

Compound interest example: If you fold a napkin (1/32 of an inch thick) in half, how thick is it? It’s 1/16 of an inch thick. Folded upon itself a second time and its thickness is now 1/8 of an inch. By the fifth fold upon itself, it is now 1 inch. The moon is 237,305 miles away. Question- How many times would you need to fold this napkin (or compound it) until it reaches the moon? The answer is on the 39th fold. By the 50th fold, you would theoretically have a napkin thick enough to reach the moon and back 1,179 times. That’s the power of compounding.

While building wealth, focus on the power of compound interest and practice asset protection. Use business entities to separate your business liabilities from your personal assets. Also use them to maximize tax benefits.

Watch Your Health

Mental and physical health is key to a long and happy life. Put your health first, family second and occupation third. Get these things mixed up and you’re in for a long ride.

Practice the Rotary 4-Way Test

In all you say and do:

#1 Is it the truth?
#2 Is it fair to all concerned?
#3 Will it build good will and better friendships?
#4 Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Well, these were my talking points. I hope I planted a few seeds. How often you water and cultivate those seeds is up to you.

Let’s stay in touch!


Author: Mitch Jackson

I'm a California trial lawyer trying to fix the world one client, cause, and digital interaction at a time.

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