Earl Nightingale on the Two Types of People Who Succeed (Which One Are You?)

Image for post
Image for post

According to Earl Nightingale, there are essentially two types of successful people — or two routes to success. In this post I will discuss both types.

If you’re not sure who Earl Nightingale is, please do yourself a favor and seek out his work. He was a pioneer in the field of spoken-word inspiration and personal development.

During his lifetime, he wrote and recorded more than 7,000 radio programs and 250 audio programs.

In 1956, Earl produced “The Strangest Secret,” a bestseller that coined the powerful phrase, “We become what we think about.” In 1960 he co-founded the audio publishing company Nightingale Conant.

I discovered Earl right around the time he died in 1989. Ever since he’s been one of my favorite authors for inspirational audio.

I’m taking the gist of his idea and putting my own spin on it.

If you’re going to be a successful human being, you generally fit into one of two groups. Or, as Earl pointed out, you can also belong to both of them.

The first group is what he called …

River People

These are men and women who have found, often early in life, a great river of interest into which they throw themselves with exuberance.

These people are quite happy to spend their entire lives working and playing in that river.

Image for post
Image for post

For some, the river may be a particular branch of science; for others, it may be some area of the arts.

Earl explained that some doctors and researchers, for example, get so wrapped up in their work that they hate to leave; even after a 16 hour day, they can’t wait to get back to it.

River People are happiest and most alive when they’re in their river — in whatever business, career, or profession that happens to be.

In fact, they feel successful the moment they discover their field of interest; and the related material aspects of success often come in time.

It’s not always the case, but when River People do what they love, the money eventually comes for many of them.

Such people don’t have to ask, “What will I do with my life?” Their work is a magnet for them, and they can’t imagine doing anything else.

We all know such people, or at least about such people. Doing the thing they’re drawn to is usually more important to them than the rewards they earn for doing it. But they’re happy to earn a living from it as well.

Okay. So now you know, the first group consists of River People.

The second group of successful people are those Earl described as …

Goal People

These individuals have not found a particular river, necessarily. They can be quite happy doing any number of things.

But it’s the goals they set that are important to them and allow them to succeed. And, they’re quite aware that there are many roads that can lead to their goals.

Image for post
Image for post

It’s been said that people who are lucky enough to be born into a modern society can achieve just about anything they seriously make up their minds to pursue.

The trouble is …

Most people never make up their minds about anything. People who struggle rarely, if ever, clarify what they want.

Goal-oriented people, however, DO make up their minds. They know what they want, and they keep their eyes and their enthusiasm on the goal they’ve established.

And, they continue to focus on it until it becomes a reality, or until an even better opportunity presents itself. Then, if they’re wise, they set a new goal to pursue.

According to Earl, one of the problems with Goal People is that, after achieving a number of goals and becoming successful, they can run out of goals and become listless and unhappy.

But not the river people, he said. Their interest in what they do never fades.

I know River People who get sidetracked and experience discontent. And I know Goal People who are quite happy most of their lives.

Plus, like Earl himself said, you can be both a River Person and a Goal Person at the same time. In fact, I place myself in that dual category.

I knew from a young age that I was destined to do something in the arts. It’s just that I’ve always had an interest in many aspects of the arts — music, theatre, visual art, the written word, and more.

So over the years I used goal setting to focus on a variety of ambitions within the arts. And for me, it worked out, since I’ve been able to support myself independently for much of my life.

If you’re not sure what you are meant to do (or at least what greatly interests you), and if you find setting and working toward goals a challenge, you’ll probably struggle.

You may need to support yourself with a traditional job until you can figure things out. (And there’s nothing wrong with that.) Or, you may have to find your own alternate path to whatever you define as success.

Regardless, I hope you found this insight from the late, great Earl Nightingale to be helpful.

So, ask yourself:

  • Are you a River Person or a Goal Person?
  • Or both?
  • Or, something else entirely?

I’d love your thoughts on this!

Please leave a comment, give this article a clap or five :) and share it with someone who would benefit from reading it.

Learn more about Earl Nighingale here. Check out his many titles on Amazon here.

What About Bob?

Bob Baker helps musicians, authors, artists, and creative entrepreneurs use their talents and know-how to make a living and make a difference in the world!

Listen to his Creative Entrepreneur or Music Marketing podcasts.

Check out Bob’s books on Amazon and follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.

He also creates affirmation and guided meditation recordings on his YouTube channel, Spotify, Apple, Bandcamp, Amazon, and other platforms.

Written by

My mission in life is to inspire & empower people through audio affirmations, guided meditations, books, podcasts, music, art, coaching, and improv comedy.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store