Earl Nightingale: The Top 5%

This is a transcription of The Top 5% audio record by Earl Nightingale. You can also listen to the audio record at the bottom of this post.

Hello, this is Earl Nightingale and I want to take just 13 minutes of your time to tell you about the most interesting and successful people in the world. The people who belong to the top 5 percent. I believe it’s a group you’ll want to belong to also. First let me explain who belongs to this group now and it’s right here that you may as well prepare yourself for a shock. I want you to get a mental image of 100 young men standing in a line. These men are all 25 years of age. The world is ahead of them. Each of them has as much opportunity as the rest. They live in the richest country on earth, truly a land of abundance. Now answer this question. What will have happened to these 100 young men by the time they’re 65 years of age? In other words, let’s turn the clock ahead 40 years. What do you think will have happened to these 100 men who started even at age 25? It’s interesting, isn’t it?

Well here are the statistics. By the time they’re 65, one will be rich, four will be independent for life, five will be working, thirty-six will be dead, fifty-four will be dependent. Let me repeat those figures so that you can get them firmly in your mind. 40 years after 100 young men start even at age 25 one is rich, four are independent, five will be working. And all the remaining survivors, 54 will be dependent on others or an agency for their support. So 5% makes the grade in life. This is the top 5% and hence the title of this record.

To ask you if you want to belong to the top 5% is really unnecessary. Of course you want to belong. And perhaps you already belong. When you discovered that only 5% of our people make the grade financially, were you shocked? You should have been because this is really a serious indictment. Look at it this way. If you practiced playing the piano 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year for 40 years, I know you’ll agree that you would be an accomplished pianist. Or what if you practiced anything 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year for 40 years? Medicine, law, selling, agriculture, teaching, carpentry, writing, anything at all. In 40 years, you can become an expert at anything, right? Of course.

Well the 54 men out of 100 who arrive at age 65 without having become financially independent in the richest land in the world have worked in our economy 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year for 40 years and haven’t figured out in that length of time how to be financially independent for the remaining and certainly the best years of their lives. Why? How is this possible? Financial independence is certainly not a matter of luck. It’s a simple matter of planning.

How much money do you suppose the average man earns in 40 years? Well going by present statistics, a man of even very average income should earn an excess of 200 thousand dollars. That’s a fifth of a million dollars. That’s a fortune. Where does it all go? Well while you’re pondering this question, let me tell you what the experts say. They say that only 5% makes the grade because that’s the group that does not conform. That’s the group that does not follow the crowd. Let’s take a quick look at conformity today and see what it can mean. If we conform, that is if we act like everybody else, the odds are about 95 to 5 that we’ll miss the boat, too. Why do people conform? Well not too long ago the great Nobel Prize winning Doctor Schweitzer was asked in London, “Doctor, what’s wrong with men today?” And the great doctor replied – “Men simply don’t think.” And that’s the answer.

Men conform because it seems like the easy thing to do and because they’ve been taught to conform. From the time they were born all through school they were told what to do. They wanted to be liked, to belong to the group. They dressed, played, and acted like the other children. They didn’t want to be different because children are sometimes cruel to those who are different. They’ve spent, let’s say, at least 18 years learning to conform to their group. Then came the service. Again they were told what to do. Again they must conform. Suddenly a man is out of service, out of school, and on his own for the first time. Now what’s the most natural thing in the world to do? Right, it’s to look around and see what the other fellas are doing. Since we’ve always been told what to do, why should we start thinking for ourselves at age 25?

So he gets a job and again looks around to see how the other fellas are doing their jobs. Now since it seems to be a part of human nature to do no more than a person has to in order to get the weekly paycheck, again he conforms. Now we know he has 40 years to become great at what he does. Plenty of time. But does he do it? Not if he follows the crowd. Not unless he decides to join the top 5%. If we follow the crowd, we haven’t got a chance. If we think independently and follow our good ideas with action and stay with it, nothing in the world can keep us from succeeding. Now if you don’t mind turning record over, I’ll tell you how you can become financially independent, how you can see to it that you’ll never have to worry about an income again as long as you live.

Now let’s look at the big picture calmly and analytically. Since statistics prove only 5% makes the grade financially in a country where there’s more than enough to go around, all the rest must be doing something wrong. And what do the leading educators and experts say is wrong with most people today? They just don’t think for themselves. They simply do not look at life as a complete thing with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Well it’s obvious then that if we don’t want to conform, because by conforming we miss the financial boat, we must think. We must think now before it’s too late. There are only 2 things that can contribute to financial success. The first is the work we do for a living, and the second is the amount of money we save, since it’s only by saving money that it can be accumulated and put to work for us.

You see, by logically following the whole thing through, step by step, we get rid of all confusion, doubt, and guess work and we’re left with 2 jobs that anyone can handle. One, the work we do for a living. And two, the money we can save. Now let’s take them in order. First, the job. Naturally I have no way of knowing what it is you do for a living or what your circumstances happen to be. But more than 20 years of research have proved one thing. No matter what your job may be at this moment, it holds the key to your future. It contains the road to greatness if it’s handled in a certain way. There’s no such thing as a job that is not loaded with hidden opportunities. From checking hats to laying bricks, from working in a factory to selling shoes. Whether you work for someone else or for yourself, there is hidden in your daily work more opportunity than you could develop in a lifetime if you will look for it.

How many ideas do you think you could get in a single day if you really started to think? 5, 20, 100? Well have you ever stopped to think that one idea can make you rich? How do you think your job will be handled 10 years from now? Can you do it that way now? What improvements will be made in your industry during the next 50 years? You know that improvements are inevitable. Someone’s gonna have to come up with them. Why not you? What’s the history of your job? How did it begin? How did your industry begin? Do you know as much about your job and industry as a doctor knows about medicine and its history? You really should, you know. Have you given the same work and dedication to your job that an attorney has given to the study of law? You see, whatever it is that you do for a living is your profession. There’s no such thing as one job or profession being more honorable or better than any other. It is all in the way we look at what we do. It is our attitude that makes the difference. How long do you think it would take you to know everything there is to know about your job and its application to your industry and our economy as a whole? 5 years?

Do you realize that if you attack your job for the next 5 years the same way you’d have to if you were working for yourself, that you can be a national expert on your particular job in 5 years? You see, a person can become an expert at any one particular thing in 5 years. And it’s the experts in this country who can write their own tickets. It’s the experts who get the ideas. It’s the experts who are constantly in demand, regardless of economic cycles.

Your mind is a great and largely unexplored continent. You own it and no one else can trespass upon it. We know it contains unbelievable riches, but they must be found. And there’s only one way to explore and prospect the human mind. We must think. Like any other kind of prospecting, it takes time and dedication. But of this you can be absolutely certain: if you will begin to do your job as you have never done it before, and think constantly of what ways in which it can be done better, you will immediately belong to the top 5%. And you will definitely get the ideas that will guarantee you a great future. Now you might say why should I knock myself out for the company I work for? This is what the majority says, and remember, it’s the majority which always has, and unfortunately probably always will, miss the boat in life. You are actually working for yourself.

Each day you’re building the house you and your family must live in. And the materials and methods of construction you put into your house will determine its strength and your degree of greatness. Remember no matter what it is that you are now doing for a living, it contains the key to greatness if you will only look for it until you find it. So much for the job. The second point that can guarantee our being in the top 5%, those who achieve financial independence, concerns the money we save, systematically, until we are independent. The men and women who find themselves financially independent at 65 did not suddenly come into an inheritance on their 65th birthday. They planned it that way and then stuck to their plan. Saving money is the only check you can write that doesn’t cost you a penny.

You’ve seen a brick layer starting on a large building. He puts down the first brick and you think, my gosh, what a job. But one day you drive by and there’s the building, all finished. The first brick is still there, way down at the bottom. And all the other bricks are in their places. If he hadn’t put down the first brick, none of the others could have been put in place. Each brick, small though it is, makes a vital contribution to the finished structure. It’s the same with saving money. Unless you’re saving at least 10%, preferably more, of what you earn, you are making an extremely serious mistake. Unless you pay yourself at least 10 cents out of each dollar you earn, you are stealing from yourself what can be the most beautiful years of your life. The later years when you can do all the things you’ve always wanted to do. You see, financial success has nothing at all to do with the money you earn, but only with the money you save.

If you have found this information helpful in any way, will you do the person from whom you obtained this record the courtesy of just a few minutes of your time? Thank you.



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