Lead the Field: Earl Nightingale’s Great Classic

Lead The Field - Earl Nightingale

Summary of “Lead the Field” : To succeed in life you can’t just count on luck and circumstances. You must find hidden nuggets inside yourself rather than traipsing around the world in vain looking for them… Have goals and desires and define them clearly, have an attitude that sets you up for success and love yourself, use your brain as a resource for reflection every day, understand that our rewards in life always correspond to the services we deliver, learn without ceasing and continue to grow, develop your vocabulary and mastery of language, leave the flock to act on your own, understand your value and the value of several tens of millions of euros, clearly define the amount of money you want to earn, economize or invest and save for your retirement, have a personal library that is rich and relevant, do your best every day and, one by one, accomplish the tasks that will lead you to be successful in your goals, specialize in something; then you will be in the top 5% of humanity who find themselves at the top of the success pyramid — whatever that is.

Lead the Field by Earl Nightingale, 102 pages, published in 2007 (book) and 1986 (audio cassette)

Book chronicle and summary of Lead the Field:

I am not going to write a biography – even a short one – for all the authors in my PMBA challenge. But Earl Nightingale seemed to be a rather interesting personality, and atypical enough to warrant an exception:

Earl Nightingale was a famous amercan orator, and an example of what self education can do for someone who starts out with plenty of things going against him. Born in 1921, raised by his mother who was left alone with his two brothers, he grew up in a poor Los Angeles suburb in the middle of the depression. Wishing to understand why some people are poor and miserable and others are not, and not finding anyone in his acquaintance who could answer, he began his quest for answers and knowledge in the local library, which would lead him particularly to a study of philosophy, psychology and the great religions for decades. After the war, during which he survived, with 12 marines, an attack on the battleship USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor (1103 dead out of 1511 crew members), he worked in radio and created one of the first audio books, The Strangest Secret, which is a best seller and sold more than a million copies. He went on to found, with Lloyd Conant, the Nightingale-Conant Corporation, the first company to offer audio cassettes about personal development. He died in 1989.

Lead the Field is a collection of advice

The book is about personal development, originally only offered in audio format. Fortunately, a book offering an exact transcription was published, which allowed me to read it and to offer you a review. It is a lot harder for me to understand spoken English than written, and while audiobooks have undeniable advantages, such as being able to do other things while you read them. And use the time in transit or traveling for self-improvement, I much prefer a good book when it comes to soaking up knowledge, reflecting, and taking notes. I love to write post-it notes which I stick on the paragraphs that speak to me – difficult to do that with an audio CD.

In Lead the Field, which is enthusiastic and brimming with energy, Earl Nightingale insisted on the fact that success in life is not due to luck and circumstances. But to principles based on good sense and habits that are easy to acquire on the condition that you practice them every day. I will paint you a panoramic, chapter by chapter:

Introduction of Lead the field

Our daily environment is a merciless reflection of ourselves. Everyone we meet and come into contact with every day will always react in response to our attitude. And we can control this attitude, every morning when we start our day. If we are cheerful, happy, and enjoy the miracle of life, others will return this cheerfulness and good humor. We will be the kind of person that others like to have around them. Test it: treat each person that you come in contact with as the most important person on earth. You will quickly see the difference that it creates.

Acres of Diamonds

In the 19th century, an African farmer heard stories about the success of other farmers who had made millions by discovering diamond mines. Excited by the prospect, he sold his farm and took off in search of diamonds, a long and fruitless search that left him alone and penniless in the end. He threw himself into a river and drowned. The man who bought the farm noticed a blue and red shiny stone one day at the bottom of a brook, he picked it up and, finding it very pretty, he placed it on the mantle. Some days later, a visitor picked it up, went pale, and told the farmer that the stone he had picked up was an enormous diamond.

Acres of Diamonds

The farmer, astounded, told the visitor that his brook was full of stones like that. The farm that the first farmer had sold to go in search of diamonds, turned out to be one of the most productive diamond mines on the African continent. He had sold it for a mouthful of bread to search elsewhere for something that was in front of his nose. He would have known that had he taken the time to prepare himself and to learn what a diamond in the rough looks like.

What does that tell you?

That we all have diamond fields, we only have to recognize them and exploit them. All you need is the patience and wisdom to explore intelligently and effectively the work you are already doing. Everything we do is rich with opportunity. But the opportunities don’t glow in the dark, are not written on neon signs. To spot them, you have to look with new eyes. All too often we don’t question what already exists because if millions of people are doing it, it must be the best way to do it. But it’s not the best way; it’s the average, ordinary way.

To put it into practice: Begin by taking an hour a day with a notebook to sketch out your work. Try to see with new eyes and examine all the ingredients. Opportunities are there – fields of diamonds.

A Worthy Destination

The United States is overflowing with immigrants who come here to escape appalling conditions in their countries. They all started over from nothing with everything against them – without wealth, without knowing the language, without material possessions. And they have succeeded in a remarkably short amount of time. This was a wonderful experience for them filled with happiness. Why? Because freedom is the most precious thing – and the most rare – on earth. By coming to the United States, they have been able to taste it and intoxicate themselves on something that is taken for granted by most Americans.

So it is with all our desires: once we have realized them, enjoying them daily becomes something we take for granted, and they lose a great deal of their interest and their magic. It is desire, more than realizing desire, that makes us happy. Children are happiest on Christmas morning when the wrapped presents await them under the tree than once the surprise and the suspense is over; we are happier going to the restaurant than coming home; happier when we are leaving on vacation than when we return. And we are happier when we are pursuing our goals relentlessly than when we have reached them.

What is Success

Success is the progressive accomplishment of an objective that is worth the effort. The success lies in the journey towards the objective – the desire – rather than the objective itself – the accomplishment.

What is Success

Don’t let’s waste our resources and our precious and limited time on useless objectives. Let’s define worthwhile objectives. According to Earl Nightingale, only 5% of the population succeeds in attaining success that is out of the ordinary. For the rest, average is a good thing.

Therefore it is important to set worthwhile goals and to set more once you reach them. Every day of our lives we should be engaged, advancing, and learning, and looking out for higher heights from which to set out again. But to do so you must know what you want.

You will become whatever you think of yourself.

Miracles of Your Mind

We are the only species on earth to be endowed with the power to shape our lives by the images we see in our minds. Everything that has been done by humans is the result of the following goals and objectives.

On a more individual level, everything we have – our work, our relationships with our family and others, our philosophy of life – is the result of the use we have put our mind to.

Now, scientists think that we use on average only 10% of our brain’s capacity. If everything you have accomplished up until now is thanks to only 10% of your brain, what do you think we could achieve if we were to use 20%?

Note: I am not in agreement with this statement by the author. The fact that we are using 10% or less of our brain is a rehash of an old idea first presented by American psychologist William James in 1908. And does not really reflect what we know today about how the brain works. Look here for that information. I do, however, agree with the general idea: “we do not think enough.”

Now, unfortunately, schools do not teach us to think, and it is by thinking that we will find creative solutions for how to make better use of our brain and its awesome power.

Use of our brain

There is a simple way to make better use of our brain: every day, take a piece of paper, write at the top of our primary objective, then write underneath all the ideas that come into our head to help up reach this goal. Do this for an hour. We can easily come up with about 20 ideas a day on paper. Some of these ideas won’t be feasible, or practical, but even if we only do this 5 days a week, 40 weeks a year, we will have 4,000 ideas at our disposal to help us reach our goals. And this will only have taken us 200 hours, out of 8,760. If we subtract about 2,920 hours for sleep, and about 1,645 hours for work, that leaves us 3,995 leisure hours.

Use of our brain and lead the field

Never in the history of humanity have we had so much time to devote to things other than work. Using 5% of our supplemental free time to think could completely change our lives: a single big idea could revolutionize our work or our entire lives. One out of 4,000. Or 40,000 – one big idea every 10 years would be more than enough!

Destiny in the Balance

Our rewards in life are always by the services we perform. It is a universal and general law, the law of cause and effect. Services include our thoughts, our work, our actions, our words.

Before looking for rewards, we must reflect upon our services and improve them. This law appears simple and yet it is, for the most part, misunderstood and ignored by all. Many people lean against a mantle where the fire has gone out in a freezing room. And say “Give me a light and I will put wood on the fire.” People whine because they receive bad service or bad treatment. When the problem comes from their service to themselves, which is not worthy of the rewards they expect.

Rather than worrying about what the future will bring, we would be better off using our wasted energy to find and improve our services – to improve ourselves – by thinking of the best ways to do so. But so many people will do I don’t know what in this world, even resorting to crime, before they will THINK.

Seed for Achievement

The seed for achievement is integrity. Integrity is honesty and truth, with others and with yourself. If we are at peace with ourselves, we cannot be false towards others. If our words carry integrity, our sleep will not be troubled and we will respect everywhere we go.

There is nothing we cannot accomplish if we live by this principle from the inside out. To be honest with oneself implies taking responsibility to use what we have to the utmost. And what we have, our under-utilized mind, our abilities, our talents and our time. These are our possessions, which we carry with us everywhere, which represent a huge fortune. It is the investment of this fortune that determines our return on investment. It is what makes us autonomous human beings, even though most people are not aware of this.

To respect our integrity, and be honest and true to ourselves, we must do our best in every circumstance, therefore. Life is a piece of fertile land that is waiting for us to sow our seeds in it. It cannot return anything if you don’t plant it.

It’s Easier to Win

Only 5% of people succeed in reaching an unusual goal. These are the people that earn the highest salaries, who live in the best part of town. They have the most comfortable houses, have the best education, the good things of life, and make the greatest contribution to their communities.

The average man, or average woman, grows up imitating their environment. They think like all their friends think. They take the life they live for granted. Everyone they like is in the same group. They are in this group as well, and as long as they are not unusually motivated to leave it, they will become an indistinguishable member of it. They do this because it is natural to do it. The group’s objectives, or lack of objectives, become their own. It requires their minimum ability all the years of their life. It is not necessary, because all the industrialized countries are so rich and dynamic that the majority of people don’t need to shift into second or third gear to reach a decent standard of living.

No-one has ever told this young man or this young woman: “Look. There are two very different groups in our society. There are different layers in the socio-economic pyramid. Here is the 5% at the top of the pyramid. Now, this is what we call the middle class, and it is divided into two main groups. And at the bottom, you find the lower class, those who, for innumerable reasons, need help from everyone else. Now, look: we are living here, at this level of the pyramid. It is neither the highest nor the lowest in society. That is where I wanted to be, and your mother and I are perfectly happy here. And where do you want to be?”

Where do you want to be?

People who succeed follow an independent path. At some moment in their life, they decide to leave the cocoon of their social group and set out on their own path. And it is easier to win there. There is less competition higher up.

Note: this description of the levels of society seems to be simplistic and relevant at the same time. Earl Nightingale was interested in sociology. To learn more, I invite you to begin by researching the Wikipedia article on social classes.

How Much Are You Worth?

Every human life is priceless, but the tangible and intangible payments that we receive in life vary a great deal. We are all unique, but what are the services that we offer?

life is priceless lead the field

Think of yourself as a company. You are the president of the company, and you are responsible for its success or failure. You and the members of your family are shareholders in the company, and it is your responsibility to increase the value of the shares year after year. Your family has faith in you and invests a great deal in you, and it’s up to you to prove that their faith is justified.

A complicated company can be divided into four departments. They are
  1. financial;
  2. production;
  3. sales;
  4. research.

Take away one of these ingredients and the company is destined more or less to fail in the long run. Don’t neglect these four parameters for ourselves.

Research is the most commonly ignored operation. You would be surprised by the enormous number of people who stop learning once school is over. Other than company manuals and technical documentation, they read only a very small number of books of any real value. Well, knowledge is power.

Let’s Talk About Money

Someone who has specialized skills in our society is worth more money than a person with basic skills that can be easily replaced. That doesn’t mean that he is more important from a strictly humanistic point of view, just that his services are better paid. A janitor is just as important from a human point of view as a neurosurgeon. But replacing him is easier. Anyone can be trained to clean floors in a few days or weeks – while a neurosurgeon has spent many years learning his profession. Often at the price of great personal sacrifice and great expense, and he cannot be easily replaced. Thus the neurosurgeon can earn more in a day that the janitor makes in a year.

lead the field

Therefore, what we earn is related to what we can give and what is asked. But how much do you want to earn?

There are two steps to reach the level of income that we want:
  1. Decide how much money we really want, the exact amount.
  2. Once you have made the decision, you must forget about money. And concentrate on improving what we are doing and the services we offer.

One Thing You Can’t Hide

Knowledge intelligently applied is power, and everyone needs knowledge. In this information age, to an unprecedented degree in the history of humanity. A person’s degree of ignorance will determine his place in the world. Everyone is born ignorant, and must, for a moment, live in ignorance, but all those who remain ignorant can only blame themselves.

People who lead the field are the top 5% of the pyramid are those who know the most. They have a better command of the language and send their children to the best schools than most of the population. This might seem surprising, but a correlation exists between the quality of your spoken language. And the number of words you know, with your social and economic success. Actually, a good command of the language is an asset in every aspect of your life; language immediately reveals certain things about us, and notably our socio-cultural level and where we belong on the social pyramid. Language indicates the social status to which we belong.

Reader’s Digest

Reader’s Digest published an article by Blake Clarke entitled “Words can work wonders for you”. In this article, he reports on a scientific study of 350,000 people. This study shows a surprising correlation between vocabulary levels and richness of language and economic and social success. So it is important to develop your vocabulary and to use language that is varied, accurate, and relevant.

Note: I was not able to find this article, but it seems that Reader’s Digest has published numerous versions – at least 8 – of Lead the Field (which is not actually an article) from 1972 to 1985. It seems that the book has been re-edited since the 80s.

Choice of words

In any case, it seems obvious to me that the choice of words and their richness are important to effective communication. I am getting a lot out of batting around this old idea, taught in various courses around the world. Often by NLP practitioners who look no further than the end of their nose. According to which words only account for 7% of a conversation (followed by 38% for your voice, and 55% for gestures and facial expressions.) These figures come from a study in the 70s by Albert Mehrabian, an American psychologist. He explains, in one sentence on his web page touting the merits of his book “Silent Messages — A Wealth of Information About Nonverbal Communication (Body Language)”, that “Unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable.” What seems to be more important, in fact, is the coherence between words, voice, and gestures. To learn more, I found this most interesting passage on the subject:

Exaggerated and suspect

However Mehrabian’s numbers have been called “exaggerated and suspect,” by non verbal language specialists such as Judee Burgoon, David Buller and Gill Woodall. The saying: “it’s not what you say that counts; it’s the way that you say it” is a half truth, according to these specialists. Their analysis of over 100 studies showed that Mehrabian’s research minimizes the importance of words. The relative impact of non verbal and verbal language depends on the context of the meeting. In reality, the degree of persuasion necessary considerably influences the impact of the two different types of language in one’s delivery. For example, when it is an important presentation (argument, conference..) the distribution of impact sources is reversed. Body language goes from 55% to 32%, tone of voice from 38% to 15% and the message (words) goes from 7% to 53% of the impact.

Therefore, it is important to develop your knowledge in the general area that naturally interests us. We are all interested in something. Read books to learn more about that subject area, but also for fun. Begin a systematic study in your field of interest.

Finally, a personal quality library is essential for success.

Today’s Greatest Adventure

Life is made up of days. They become weeks, months, and years. Let’s reduce that to the least common denominator: one day, and finally one task on that day.

This day is a brick which you use to build your house. Sometimes we see a builder start to build a wall, brick by brick, and we think of the amount of work left for him to do. And then one day, some weeks or some months later,  a whole house is standing in the place where the builder was working.

Thus it is in our lives: if we place each of our stones successfully, we will be able to build a magnificent tower. To get in the habit of success, the only thing to do is succeed in the little tasks that we assign ourselves each day.

Try out this $25 idea: “Every day, write down on a piece of paper 6 important tasks for that day. Then rate them in order of importance. Then do them, one by one. If you don’t get to the last ones, let it be! Because you would not have been able to do it at all.”

This method will allow you to stop worrying about tomorrow. You can relax happy in the knowledge that successful tasks mean successful days and that makes a successful life.

The Person on the White Horse

To lead the field it is important that we are the leaders in our own lives, and that our services are so important and irreplaceable that others come to us for them. For that, we must specialize and become believable in a specific area of our work. Become a vital part of the organization which we are in.

Book critique of Lead the Field:

Lead the field is a collection of extremely relevant advice for succeeding in life. The majority of the advice is practical, easy to apply, and has the potential to change our lives. I think that I will start with the main advice in chapter Miracles of Your Mind. I will put my ideas down on paper, every day of the week. Many years ago, I learned to play the guitar by getting up half an hour earlier every day. I think that I will do the same thing now, to think and have ideas.

Finally, Lead the Field is absolutely excellent, with very few weak points. Earl Nightingale touted his other audio products a bit too much for my taste. And he makes one mistake about the level of brain function – but an enormous number of strong points. A must-read.

Strong Points of Lead the Field:
  • A lot of practical, relevant, and easy to use advice.
  • “Written” very simply
Weak Points of Lead the Field:
  • A little too much advertising on the company’s audio products.

My rating : image image imageimageimageimageimageimage image

Have you read Lead the Field? How do you rate it?

Mediocre - No interestReasonable - One or two interesting paragraphsIntermediate - Some goods ideasGood - Had changed my life on one practical aspectVery Good - Completely changed my life ! (1 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)


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27 thoughts on “Lead the Field: Earl Nightingale’s Great Classic

  1. Olivier
    I really like your summary of Lead the Field and I learned something very interesting with your post on Mehrabian’s study. A few years ago I did an English to French translation of Lead The Field and went to Chicago to record 12 CDs in French, one for each chapter: I did that in collaboration with Bob Proctor, who was a previous salesman for Nightingale -Connant.
    Anyway, I salute your courage and willingness to help French people to dive into English and I really admire everything that you do on Youtube.
    Looking forward to meeting you in the flesh one day.

  2. I think in the section Miracle of your Mind Earl speaks of using less than 10% of our mind, or mental capacity, not our brain. There is a subtle difference there. The mind is a more abstract concept. I think in one instance he does mention the brain, but still referring to its “capacity”. The way I would compare it is liken to using a state-of-the-art computer to play Minesweep. Yes, electricity is running through all the circuits, and all the LEDs are lit up, but that piece of equipment is capable of so much more.

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