Category Archives: Goal Setting

Get Expert Career Advice for Under $1.00 (2009).

Gary North

If you could get personal advice from the #1 expert in your field — or any field that you are interested in entering — would you pay $1?

Most people wouldn’t.

One of the amazing facts of life is this: experts rarely get asked questions. Warren Buffett does, but not most other real experts.

In every field, there are experts who are ignored by the public. They rarely receive a letter from a newcomer who asks a few simple questions. Only their peers ask them questions — people who may be after incredibly valuable insider secrets. They may clam up.

But some guy (you) who is just getting started poses no threat to an expert. You would be amazed at how much information an expert will share with newcomers.

Sit down and start looking for experts in your field. You may already know who some of them are. You want the top 0.8%: 20% of 20% of 20%. Trade journals will usually provide articles on these experts. Make a list. Get their business addresses.

Create a standard form letter that doesn’t look like one. It should introduce yourself as someone just getting started. Ask for these bits of information:

The titles of two or three introductory books. The two best newsletters or websites to consult. The #1 principle of success he has learned.

Tell him that this information is for your personal use only — not for public access.

Tell him he can just jot down the answers if his secretary is busy. Make it easy for him to jot down answers.

Leave enough space in your letter for replies, in case he scribbles his answers.

Include a stamped, self-addressed #10 envelope with your letter.

Mail your letter. Write to the top ten people. You will get eight replies.

What would this information be worth to you? How much time would it save you?


Update Your Resumé Soon

Gary North

Most people adopt take Scarlett O’Hara’s outlook toward difficult problems: “I’ll think about it tomorrow.” The wise person will think about it today, before the problem becomes evident to everyone else.

When was the last time you revised your resumé? Probably the last time you went looking for a job. When was that? Years ago, probably.

You need to update your resumé now. This assumes that you know how to write a good one. Most people don’t. Your resumé needs the following:


1. Something to make it stand out on the pile
2. A single powerful reason to hire you
3. Evidence to prove that you can deliver
4. A specific action step for the reader to take
5. A believable reason to act now

A modern resumé should include a link to the job applicant’s Web site. If you don’t have a Web site, then you had better have a blog site. If you have neither, you’re not thinking ahead. You’re falling behind.

Then start your search. But search the smart way. For my article on how to this right, click here:

Goals Come in Stages. Smaller Goals Should Precede Big Goals. Becoming Debt-Free Is a Fine Preliminary Stage.

Gary North

Because we do not know how long we will live, we must make presumptions about our life expectancy when we set lifetime goals for ourselves.

At the age of 18, I set a lifetime goal for myself: to understand what the Bible has to say about economics. I was not certain how long I would live, but I knew that the general estimate that Moses offers in Psalm 90:10 is 70 years. Anything beyond 70 years is gravy. Anything beyond 70 years in which an individual still has his wits and strength about him is something of a miracle.

I think it is wise for anyone who sets a lifetime goal to use age 75 as the outside limit. Beyond age 80, most people do not have the strength, mental state, an opportunity to pursue a lifetime goal. Occasionally, people over age 82 achieve remarkable things. But, in general, if you are realistic, you would be wise to use age 75 as your limit area you must then schedule your achievements to meet this goal.

Because we cannot presume upon God to give us 75 years, we should break down our lifetime goal into a series of preliminary goals. These preliminary goals should be valuable as stand-alone achievements. If we are not productive beyond age 75, or if something intervenes in our lives that makes it impossible for us to achieve our primary lifetime goal, we still leave a good legacy behind in the form of intermediate goals which we have achieved on our pathway to our primary lifetime goal.

Let me give an example from my own life. At age 18, I began to study the Bible as best I could in terms of economic issues. I really did not achieve the first stage of my goal until age 31. In 1973, my book was published, An Introduction to Christian Economics. That book was a preliminary attempt to begin to think through some of the issues that the Bible raises about economics.

In that same year, I began a project which is not yet completed. I began a verse-by-verse study of every verse in the Bible that relates to economics. I began with Genesis. As of April 2009, 22 volumes were in print. I still had three or four volumes left to right. Nevertheless, the bulk of my preliminary efforts was behind me. Some of them are hardbacks; some of them are paperbacks; and some of them are in PDF files posted on the World Wide Web (Capitalism and the Bible). But anyone who wants to get this information can download these materials free of charge. I have done this work primarily for myself. I needed to know what the Bible says about economics.

I set age 70 as my finished date when I began the second phase of this project in 1977. I spend 10 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, in working on the economic commentaries on the Bible. At age 70, I always planned to take whatever I had written and write a detailed, large book on Christian economics. By then, I thought I would have most of my exegetical work completed. On the whole, I seem to be on target for this deadline.

If I were to die tomorrow, a successor could put together a competent summary of what I have already published. He could read my materials and write a large book on Christian economics based on these materials. This is what I mean by intermediate goals. Each of the Bible commentaries on biblical economics stands by itself. It is a completed project. I did this because I always wanted to leave something behind, even if I did not live long enough to complete my lifetime project: a comprehensive theory of Christian economics, one that is based on detailed exegetical work on every verse in the Bible that relates in some way to economics.


You are in a position to set a lifetime goal for yourself. This project should be related to your calling: the most important thing you can do in which you would be most difficult to replace. To do this wisely, you should have a long-term plan, but the plan must have intermediate steps. These intermediate steps should be stand-alone projects.

If you have not yet sat down with paper and pencil confirm in writing to yourself that you will achieve a particular lifetime goal by age 75, then you are cheating yourself. There is something you can leave behind that will be of great value, but if you do not pursue a systematic plan, you are unlikely to achieve this goal. Furthermore, if your plan does not call for success indicators along the way to tell you that you are being successful in pursuing your lifetime plan, you are unlikely to be successful. Each of these success indicators should be valuable to other people.

Most people have never sat down with a piece of paper and pencil to go through this exercise. They do not have a long-term lifetime goal. They do not have success indicators that would serve as stand-alone stepping stones along the way to the achievement of their lifetime goal. Most people do not systematically prepared to leave a legacy behind.

This may seem difficult to you if you are deeply in debt. You may think that your primary goal is to get out of debt. But this is shortsighted. In order to stick with the debt-elimination program, you need to have a lifetime goal, as well as preliminary intermediate goals, that will motivate you to stay on your program to get out of debt.

Getting out of debt is an excellent intermediate goal. It is valuable in itself. It will give you a sense of achievement. It should be regarded as a stepping stone. You should see it as a preliminary step in the lifetime achievement of something that you regard as both important and unique to your abilities and circumstances. If you have this lifetime goal in front of you, and if the intermediate goals are best achieved when you are out of debt, you then have strong motivation to get out of debt and stay out of debt.

Success in Life: Imagine Your 75th Birthday Party. Prepare an Outline for Your Speech on Your Greatest Successes

Gary North

This procedure is difficult. You probably will not fill in this sheet. If you do, you will not review it regularly. But this is the basis of exceptional success.

I offered this challenge to a class of high school students.

Imagine your 75th birthday party. Your heirs have assembled. You plan to speak for 10 minutes on your successes in life, and how you achieved them. You want the speech to be useful to younger members of your family. You want it to be practical.

To do this today, you must think through what you would like to be able to say at age 75. This means you must have goals.

Part I: Age 75 Retrospective self-evaluation

A. My five achievements that I regard as the most important, in order of their importance.






B. Which one cost me the most to achieve, and what I had to give up in order to attain it:




C. Which one took the longest to achieve, and why:



Part II: Identifying a specific goal

A. What do I want to achieve?



B. Why do I want to achieve it?




C. When do I want to achieve it?


D. What am I willing to pay (do without)?




Part III: Beginning a specific goal

A. My goal is: _____________________________________

B. I will achieve it no later than: ________________

C. Steps that I will take to achieve it, and completion dates:

_________________________________________ ______

_________________________________________ ______

_________________________________________ ______

D. Today’s date: __________

E. My preliminary goals for 90 days from today:





F. My intermediate goals for one year from today:





Part IV: 90-Day Self-Evaluation Sheet

A. Long-run goal: _________________________

B. Date begun: ________________

C. Today’s date: _______________

D. This is evaluation number _____

E. How close have I come to my previous 90-day success indicators?


F. What have been my main successes?



G. Why was I successful?



H. What have been my main failures?



I. Why did I fail?



J. What are my main success indicators for the next 90 days?



Part V. One-Year Self-Evaluation Sheet

A. Long-run goal: _________________________

B. Date begun: ________________

C. Today’s date: _______________

D. This is evaluation number _____

E. How close have I come to my previous 90-day success indicators?


F. What have been my main successes?



G. Why was I successful?



H. What have been my main failures?



I. Why did I fail?



J. Is there any pattern to my failure? If so, what?




K. What do I have to do to overcome this?



L. Have my priorities changed during the last year? If so, what are they now?




M. What are my main success indicators for the next 12 months?




This exercise is very difficult. Few people ever go through anything like it. I never did. But what I did do was to set lifetime goal at age 18. I decided to investigate what the Bible says about economics. I worked intermittently on this project for over a decade, writing a book on it at age 31, Introduction to Christian Economics (1973). I began writing a monthly column on this topic that year. I increased this to 10 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, in 1977, at age 35, to continue to age 70. I have stuck to this schedule. So far, I have written 22 volumes, plus I have written another half a dozen volumes as appendixes. I used a weekly time input as my self-disciplining device.

My books served as substitutes for self-evaluation sheets. Instead of writing down my successes and failures on individual sheets of paper, I published books: lots of pieces of paper. They are all available free of charge on-line:

Cheating Yourself for a Lifetime

Gary North

I assume that you have a lifetime goal — something you would like to be remembered for.

Maybe you don’t. If you don’t, you’re an exception.

The goal may be vague, such as “See my children happy.” Or it may be specific: “Accumulate a million dollars to leave to charity when I die.” But it is enough of a goal that you think about it occasionally.

If you have a step-by-step plan to achieve your goal, you’re an exception.

This is why most people cheat themselves. They have a lifetime goal, and they spend the bulk of their lifetime ignoring it.

By “ignoring,” I mean: (1) not thinking about it systematically; (2) not devising a plan to achieve it; (3) not budgeting time and money to achieve it; (4) not reviewing their progress at least twice a year.

Specific goals do not take care of themselves. They must be attended to. They are like a garden. Weeds will get the upper hand unless you take steps to care for the plants that you want to see flourish. Yet most people act as though their life’s main goal will take care of itself.

This is what I call cheating yourself.

It is possible to pick a goal and fail to achieve it. But in such cases, the person on his deathbed can honestly reflect: “I gave it my best shot. It just did not work out as I had hoped and planned.” That is a source of regret, but not despair. Such a person leaves behind an example worth imitating.

What is not worth imitating is a life lived without attention to major goals and the steps necessary to achieve them. Even if a person stumbles into outward success, his life isn’t worth imitating.

I strongly suggest that you take the time to identify your primary lifetime goal. Then lay out a program with chronological benchmarks to achieve this goal. You will find that attention to details and regular review will produce visible, measurable results over time.

Don’t micro-manage yourself. But you should allocate time each week to work on the program. Even if it’s only an hour a week, it will add up if it’s focused time.

View this 100-second video by Brian Tracy. It will help you.



Money Is a Result. It is Not a Wise Goal.

Michael Masterson

Getting smart is not the same as getting good grades. You can cheat and get good grades.

The success indicator is not the same as success.

You can get rich and be a failure.

Read my manual on success:

Here, Michael Masterson lays it out beautifully.

* * * * * * * * *My life changed when I decided, one day, that “make a lot of money” would be my number one goal. Focusing on that goal and making it a priority changed my income… from about $50,000 a year to seven-plus figures. It changed my business status from that of a nameless employee to that of an employer of hundreds. It changed my lifestyle from one of making minimum payments on credit card statements to the kind happy movies provide for their heroes.

But it also had two negative consequences:

1. I gave up thousands of hours of good times with friends and family.

2. I did a few things I wish I hadn’t.

It was 1982 when I set that goal. I had just been hired as editorial director for a fledgling publishing company in South Florida. Although I knew that there are more important things in life than money, I figured that if I made the money first, I could then have everything else too. (I knew nothing about making money. I had come from a family of teachers.)

It worked. Big time. But, as I said, there were unexpected side effects.

Thinking back, I realize that I could have made all the money I wanted without suffering those side effects. So if you are at the beginning of your wealth-accumulating journey, I have some observations and suggestions for you that may be helpful.

Let’s start with this. Perhaps the best thing about having “make a lot of money” as my number one goal was that it made subsequent business decisions much easier.

Prior to establishing money as my priority, I was never sure if I was making the right call. Faced with multiple options, I could see some merit in just about all of them. I’d force myself to pick one… and then worry that it might have been the wrong one.

But now that I knew what I wanted, there was no longer such uncertainty and self-doubt. I’d listen to a question or problem and ask myself, “What solution would give me the best return in terms of money?”

Suddenly, complicated problems were simple to resolve and difficult questions were easily answered. I went from being an editor who was ambivalent about marketing and argumentative about quality to a businessman who had an “amazingly good” instinct about what would sell and what wouldn’t.

Within 18 months of my making this transformation, our business went from a negative worth of more than a million dollars to a million dollars in the black. And then it got better! Two years later, my partner/boss gave me a plaque that read “Michael Masterson: Marketing Genius.”

That’s what’s good about making wealth building your priority.

The mistake I made was in how I dealt with this priority. Lacking the experience I have now, I made two big mistakes:

1. I was too short-term-oriented.

2. I ignored my instincts about quality.

What that amounted to was this: I sometimes promoted products that weren’t as good as they could have been. Since I knew I could sell the heck out of them, and since I believed that selling the heck out of them was the only thing that mattered, I’d allow inferior products to reach the marketplace.

I didn’t do this all the time. It was probably the exception rather than the rule. But whenever I did it, I regretted it. And that’s the point of today’s message.

If you want to make wealth building your number one goal, go for it. But make sure you go after that wealth with a long-range view of making profits and a serious commitment to creating good products.

If you do it that way, it will be a little tougher at first. You will have to spend more money improving the product and you’ll have to wait a little longer for it to be produced. But in the long run you’ll make more money and will be happier, because your customers will stay with you and reward you with continued buying.

I was talking to “Eliza” this weekend about her career. She was considering a job offer that would double her income and put her on a rapid road to wealth. “I am tempted to take the offer,” she told me, “but I don’t want to make money the center of my life. I want to do good for people.”

Had she said this to me many years ago, I would have told her to get real. Now, I realized that her instinct was right. She should never make the pursuit of money her primary objective. She should be in a business that she wants to be in. She should sell products she’s proud of selling. She should find some way to make her business interests coincide with her personal ethics and dreams.

“Yes,” I said to Eliza,” make the good you can do for people your primary goal. But pay attention to the money as well, because it will be the best and simplest way to measure the financial health of your business.”

You should be in business to provide people with something of value. If you conduct your business correctly and offer them a good deal – and if the product you sell is something they really want – you’ll make plenty of money.

Russ Whitney put it this way in his book Millionaire Real Estate Mentor: “Money is a result, not a cause. If you get into business solely for the money, chances are you will never be great at what you’re doing. That’s why so many people fail at network-marketing businesses – they’re attracted by the promise of big profits, but then they realize they have to sell soap or vitamins or lotions or whatever, and don’t want to do that. Get into a business that you like, learn it thoroughly, and do it right. The money will come automatically.”

I’ve heard the same thing said by professional athletes. The guys who do it right – who have long, successful careers – play because they love to play. People like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods don’t work as hard as they do for the money. They do it because they want to be the best. And in being the best, they earn amazing amounts of money. The money is the result, not the cause.

Money isn’t the root of all evil, but the love of money is.

Don’t love money. Love the idea of your business. Love the good that it does. Love the fact that in some way your products meet the needs or wants of your customers. See money for what it is – a neutral indicator of how good you are at doing what you do. If the value you provide is worth the money you get for it, people will buy what you’re selling. The better the value you give, the more money you will get.

This is from Masterson’s Early to Rise site.

Calling vs. Occupation: Get This Distinction Straight.

Gary North

On June 19, 2006 I gave a lecture to a group of students who were studying how to get jobs. These students live in the inner city of Memphis. It is one of the poorest communities in the United States. Most of them had no experience in getting a job. Yet most of them were at least 20 years old. Several of them were over 40 years old.

There were 17 students in the room. Only one of them was male.

My goal for the lecture was to introduce them to the concept of the calling. This is different from the concept of the job or occupation. I wanted to make certain that they understood that their occupation is subordinate to their calling. This is not widely recognized.

Whenever it is not recognized, people have a tendency to overestimate the importance of their occupation. They become motivated primarily by money, prestige, or fame. They become sidetracked from the important issues of their lives.

On the other hand, some people are not highly motivated by anything connected to their job. The modern State welfare system enables them to gain a minimal living without working. For these people, a job may seem superfluous. So, when the going gets tough on the job, these people tend to resign. They quit. They go back onto the welfare system. They do not learn the basics skills associated with the job.

The longer they stay out of the labor market, the more likely they will not be able to get permanent employment.

The privately funded organization that invited me to give the lecture is dedicated to bringing to inner-city residents the basic skills of getting a job and managing a personal budget. One of the programs sponsored by this organization is a three-week class that trains people how to get their first job. The organization actually pays people to attend this three-week course. It raises money from donors who want to help people escape the welfare system. Sometimes, people enroll in the course, and then quit after a few days. Even though they are being paid to attend, they lose interest.

All of the people in the class were African-Americans. Because only one of them was a male, I decided from the beginning that my goal was to explain the difference between calling and occupation in terms that would be familiar to black women. I wanted to motivate most of the people who were in that room.

* * * * * * *

What I’m about to tell you is not commonly known. It has been very important in my life, both professionally and financially.

I was trained to be a college professor. My field was history. Today, I’m in business. There is a lot more money in business than there is in teaching in a college. Nevertheless, the important work in my life is still my academic work, and much of it is connected to history.

My calling in life has not changed, but my occupation has changed. What is most important in my career has not changed, but the way that I make my money has changed.

I define “calling” as follows: the most important thing that you can do in which you would be most difficult to replace. I define “occupation” as the way you put bread on the table. Sometimes these can be the same, but not very often. The most important thing is your calling. Your occupation should support your calling.

A hundred years ago, there was no confusion about calling and occupation for most women. The calling for most women was related to their families. So was their occupation. They were wives and mothers. They did not work outside the household for money. They were not paid a wage. In such a case, the calling is the same as the occupation.

But in American life, there were exceptions to this rule. Afro-American women often served as domestics. Sometimes they took in washing. They earned money outside the household in order to help finance the household. This began shortly after the end of the Civil War.

If you asked one of those women what her most important task was, she would have defined that task in terms of her family. She would not have defined herself as a washerwoman. She would not have defined her life in terms of domestic service. If you explained what a calling is, she would have understood that her family responsibilities were her calling.

There has always been a tendency for men to define themselves in terms of their occupations. Yet man change their occupations. When they are husbands and fathers, they’re not supposed to make changes. Like women, their callings are related to their families. But they don’t always understand this.

In my case, my calling is my academic work. The most important thing that I can do in which I would be most difficult to replace is related to my academic career. Yet I don’t earn my living by my academic career. I earn my living by selling information in the area of business and finance. I do my calling free of charge. My occupation supports my calling.

When people understand the distinction between occupation and calling, they are far less likely to make serious mistakes in the allocation of their time. They won’t confuse money with the most important thing that they can do in life. But not all people understand this. I hope you do.


I want you to understand that there is no such thing as a dead-end job. Every job can be a stepping stone to a better job. The limitation is not the job. The limitation is the person who has the job. When you get your job, think of it as a stepping stone to the rest of your career. Think of your career as your calling.

To understand this distinction, let’s consider the career of a pair of billionaires.

Bill Cosby has always understood that his calling is his family. His humor was always tied to family living. He began his career by telling stories about growing up in South Philadelphia. They were very funny stories. They were not particularly racial. His humor was therefore universal. Later, he wrote a book called “Fatherhood.”

In terms of his career, his great gift was his humor. Unlike most people, he found that he could earn a great deal of money with his gift. But this took many years. He was fortunate, because when he began his career, there was a market for comedy records. He gained a national audience by means of these records.

Then he got the opportunity of a lifetime. In the mid-1960s, he was made co-star of a popular television show called “I Spy.” He won an Emmy three times for the show. After that show was cancelled, he kept working. Then, in the 1980s, “The Cosby Show” became the most popular show on television for eight years. The money rolled in. As a result of that show, he became a multi-multimillionaire. Some estimates put his total wealth at a billion dollars.

Cosby’s career was based on his humor. The most important thing that Cosby could do, outside of his family, was to entertain people. He never forgot this. He always maintained high standards. Step by step, the money he made from his occupation increased. His occupation supported his calling: making millions of people’s lives more enjoyable.

Now consider Oprah Winfrey. She is said to be worth $1 billion. She entertains millions of women, but she also uplifts them. Hers is a self-help show, not a scandal-of- the day show. She offers people hope. Her sponsors see her as a way to make money, but her calling is not making money. She has no immediate family, so her calling is her career.

Now she faces a big problem. So does Cosby. When you have this much money, you have enormous responsibility. You are going to die. That money is going to go somewhere. Someone is going to put that money to use. What use will that money be put to?

Bill Cosby is in a better position to solve this problem than Oprah is. His career as an entertainer is probably close to the end. His more recent television shows have not made much money. So, he can devote time to giving away his money, which he does. He has so much money that he can’t give all of it away without wasting it. Giving a way that much money is a full-time calling — not a job, a calling.

Oprah, on the other hand, still has to devote most of her time to her television work. She makes far more money than she can possibly give away. So, what is her calling? Is it entertaining women? Is that the most important thing that she can do in which she would be the most difficult to replace? Or is giving away her money the most important thing she can do? Most people never face this problem — not on this scale, anyway. A few people do.

Bill Cosby and Oprah Winfrey worked very hard for years before they got rich. They paid attention to their occupations. They put time into mastering their jobs. They got better and better at it. Then opportunities opened up for each of them. They were in a position to take advantage of those opportunities.


In the 1970s, Daniel “Chappie” James became a four- star general in the Air Force. He was an Afro-American. I once saw a film of a speech that he gave. He said that his mother had always taught him to keep knocking on the door of opportunity. But she told him that when you knock on the door of opportunity, you had better have your bags packed. You had better be able to take advantage of that opportunity as soon as the door gets opened. You have to do your homework first.

When you get your job, do everything you can to improve your skills. Master the details of that job. Don’t think that it’s a dead-end job. It isn’t a dead-end job. It’s a stepping stone. Prepare yourself to take each new step. This is the way he become successful in your career.

Once you prove to your boss that you can take on more responsibility, and you can improve your performance, he will be ready to promote you. For every dollar he pays you, he probably makes two dollars. He would rather pay you $50 and make $25 than pay you $10 and make $5. He has no financial incentive to keep you in a low-paying position when you’re capable of moving to a higher paid position. Never forget this. He has every economic incentive to make you more successful if you can make him more successful.

It is possible that he does not have any way to pay you more in his business. It may be a very small business. If you can figure out a way where you can make him more money, tell him. He may not have seen this opportunity. But if it’s clear that he has no way to promote you to a better paying position, then it’s time to look for a new job. As your skills increase, your opportunities will increase.

Your first job may seem like a dead-end job. Remember: There are no dead-end jobs. There are only stepping stones. It is important that you stick with your first job for at least a year. You have got to prove to your boss that you are capable of taking greater responsibility. The way to a successful career is through increased responsibility. You have to prove that you’re competent at simple jobs before you’re going to get an opportunity to prove yourself competent at more complex jobs.

As you move up the ladder of responsibility, never forget your goal. Your goal is not simply to make more money. Your goal is to exercise your calling. Your goal is to do the most important thing in which you would be most difficult to replace. The greater your skill, the more difficult you will be to replace.

There is no guarantee that you will make more money just because you become better at your calling. But in most cases, you will make more money. Or, if you don’t make more money, you will achieve greater influence. I can’t prove this, but I have seen it in my own life, and I seen in the lives of many other people.

This is why it is so important to get that first job and keep it. The first job is the stepping stone to success in your whole life. If you able to get that first job and keep it, your career will open up. You’ll be able to use your occupation to extend your calling.

* * * * * * *

These are basic principles that are not taught in our schools or our churches. I don’t think they are widely understood.

If they were better understood, we would have stronger families and greater wealth. The great irony is that the pursuit of money is self-defeating. When money, a tool of our callings, is defined as the supreme goal of our efforts, we mistake a means for an end. This is what Jesus called Mammon. It is the great rival religion in history.

There is so much that a person can accomplish in this life, if he puts his mind, his heart, and his back to it. But it is so easy to get sidetracked. Like the student who initially pursues grades as a way to climb the academic ladder, but then substitutes grades for knowledge, or term papers for productivity, so is the person who pursues money at the expense of his calling. He confuses a success indicator in serving the public’s economic demand with success in extending his vision of how things ought to be. He gets seduced.

For people in the inner city, they have already been seduced by the welfare State. For them, getting a job is the stepping stone out of dependence on the government, which keeps them impoverished. Yet they need motivation beyond just getting off the dole. They need to understand their callings as much as anyone else does. They need to be motivated by something more than money.

The tragedy of the inner city is seen in the make-up if that classroom: sixteen women and one man.

If you want a hard-nosed analysis of just how bad it is in the inner city, read about Bill Cosby’s “Call Outs.” He is lecturing to black audiences around the country, telling women that they are now the backbone of the inner-city communities. He is catching a lot of flak from the Establishment. But it’s hard to argue against what he has to say.

Muley Sykes: A Man Whose Job Was His Calling

Gary North

Steve Spurgin is one of the most talented performers I have ever seen. He writes great songs, sings them flawlessly, and plays an acoustic guitar better than most, but without flash.

For four decades, he has had a calling. I define “calling” as the most important thing you can do in which you would be most difficult to replace. His calling is to perform. The trouble is, there aren’t a whole lot of people who have seen him perform. It’s not a job that has matched his income with the level of his talent. Like most men who try to make a living from their callings, he has never made it onto Oprah.

One of his songs is about a man with a calling. It is the only song I have ever heard that gets across the idea of the driving power of the calling in a man who has clearly been called. The lyrics grabbed me.

I use this song in a course I teach in the Memphis inner city to adults who do not have jobs. Some of them have never had a steady job. My task, as I see it, is to explain the difference between a calling and a job.

I know their first jobs will not be exciting, high-paying, or prestigious. But that first job is a step in the development of a career. If they see the larger picture, they may not get discouraged and quit that entry-level job.

Spurgin’s song is about a porter on a passenger train, back in the days when passenger planes provided ear-popping experiences for the rich. Trains were for the middle class. It’s title: “Muley Was a Railroad Man.” Here are the lyrics.

Muley Sikes had one gold tooth,
An Elgin watch, and a porter’s suit.
He hustled bags for fifty years,
And he worked the railroad line.

From overalls and cotton fields
To spit-shine shoes and rumbling steel,
His life was made to roll on rails.
And that suited Muley fine.

His old Pap never got so far as
Twenty miles from a sharecrop farm,
While Muley, he’s seen shooting stars
From Denver up to Maine.

He loved the gentle, rolling sway,
The sound the lonesome whistle made.
He knew his calling from the day
That he first saw a train.

Muley was a railroad man,
From Portland to Miami’s sand.
He knew that in this great big land
There’s nothing like a train.

He’d tell the children stories
How the rails were laid by hand.
And they knew his name
From coast to coast.

Muley was a railroad man.
Muley was a railroad man.

He’d spend his off-days at the yard.
And he knew each engine there by heart.
He could have taken one apart,
But they never let him try.

He said, “We’ve all got a gift to use.
Some drive the train; some shine the shoes.
The engineer may get folks there,
But me, I make ’em smile.”

He always spoke about the time
That Woodrow Wilson rode the line,
And tipped him twenty dollars, gold,
He carried ’til he died.

But he’d have praised the Lord
If someone laid a quarter in his hand.
God put him here to ride the trains.

Muley was a railroad man.
Muley was a railroad man.

Muley spent his golden years
Explaining throttles, wheels, and gears:
Caretaker for the train museum
At the Dallas County fair.

He’d tell you how the whistles blew,
The engines roared, and the cinders flew.
When he got to heaven, he just knew
They’d still be running there.

He lived to be a hundred-four.
He died in Ft. Smith, Arkansas.
Laid to rest in his porter’s cap,
A double eagle for his fare.

And when I step off heaven’s train,
He’ll have my bags in hand.
With a smile and a “Yes, sir,
Right on time.”

Muley was a railroad man.
Muley was a railroad man.

Muley was a railroad man.
Muley was a railroad man.

A song never sounds the way we think it will when we read the lyrics. This one is no exception. For a sample of the song, click here.

Muley knew what he wanted to do with his life as soon as he saw a train. Most people never experience this early. It’s love at first sight. I had the same experience at age 18. It changed my life.

Second, he was content to shine shoes, yet he had a mastery of all aspects of the operation. “He knew each engine there by heart.” African-Americans were legally and socially limited in what they could achieve in that era. Porters were an exception. They could have good careers in an undistinguished field. That is sometimes the nature of a calling: undistinguished but good.

Third, he was committed to the customer. “We’ve all got to give to you.” He understood his task: to make them smile.

Fourth, he did his job with enthusiasm for five decades.

Fifth, he stuck with the field after he retired. He tried to show people what was great about trains.

Spurgin wrote this song years after encountering a porter who impressed him as a child. This song is a testimony to what a calling is: God-given. When you find yours, pursue it even after you retire, if you retire.

What’s Holding You Back?

Gary North

Lots of things, of course. We live in a world of scarcity. We cannot get everything we want at zero price. We can barely get anything we want at zero price.

But these same sorts of things are holding back everyone else, too. So, why are a few people so far ahead of you?

The fact is, almost everyone is ahead of you in something. That is the great gift to society of specialization. In a free society, each person is legally free to pursue his interests, using his skills and capital in an attempt to achieve success as he or she defines it. The rest of us are just not interested in matching most people in their pursuit of happiness, excellence, or money. “Do your own thing,” Americans say, and they generally mean it. “To each his own.” They mean that, too.

I am speaking about your thing. What’s holding you back?

Let’s round up the usual suspects.


The bills come due each month. You have to hustle to pay them. “Money doesn’t grow on trees!” (True enough; it grows in the computers of fractionally reserved banks.)

You are out there buying money. You buy it with your innate skills, your time, and your years of experience. You trade time for money.

Almost everything in life is a trade-off between time and money.

If you are short of money in modern society, you are long on time if you’re in the middle class or higher.

In the allocation decisions between time and money, you must conserve the resource that you value most highly. Most people say they worry more about money more than they worry about time. But if they kept time stubs the way they keep check stubs, their records would testify against them. They are profligate with their time far more than they are profligate with their money. They waste more time than they waste money.

The great time drain today is television. Radio preceded television, with similar results. I think of Jack Benny’s running gags about money. “Your money or your life,” the radio thug told him. “I’m thinking! I’m thinking!” was his legendary reply. He got rich kidding about his obsession with money. He got rich because so many people allocated so many hours listening to him, and then went out to buy the products his sponsors promoted.

Jack Benny was a net gainer in the transaction. So were his listeners, or else they would not have listened. But they, unlike Benny, put a low price on their spare time.

There ain’t no such thing as free time (TANSTAFT). It’s our only unrenewable resource. We should allocate it wisely.

If Americans had skipped “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” had gone to sleep 90 minutes early, and had gotten up 90 minutes earlier to work on their businesses and careers, the American economy would have grown by an extra 10 percent per year — minimum — for three decades. The Tonight Show was expensive. I can hear Ed McMahon. “How expensive was it?” I can hear Carson: “It was so expensive that. . . .” I just can’t think of anything funny.

Television is a time-sucking monster. It should be treated as an addictive drug.

If you have a problem with money on the expenditure side, you need help with budgeting and self-control.

If you have a problem with money on the income side, start managing your time better. You are letting time dribble away. Time is money.

In the time-money trade-off, the ignored issue is time-preference. It’s about how you value the future in comparison with the present.

We all value the present more highly than the future because we live in the present. But some people value the future more highly than others do. They are future- oriented. If there is one characteristic that marks the highly successful person, it is high future orientation.

Harvard’s political scientist Edward Banfield a generation ago called this outlook the upper-class mentality. Class position has more to do with a person’s outlook on time than the amount of money in his bank account. Present-oriented people are lower class. Economist Ludwig von Mises called this orientation high time-preference.

Three features mark present-oriented, lower-class cultures and societies: high interest rates, high illegitimacy rates, and low economic growth rates.

So, your lack of money is not your biggest problem. Look elsewhere.


You don’t have a college degree. Or you don’t have a master’s degree. You don’t have a license. You don’t have a certificate.

You are like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz before the witch was dead.

In the good old days, there were fewer degree-granting institutions. The result was greater legal freedom to enter a new field. Only a few fields were closed to outsiders by degree requirements: the ministry, law, and medicine. This exclusion began early: the twelfth century for ministry and law. It took longer for medicine.

Today, the main barriers to entry are institutional: formal certification by one or another government-licensed trade monopoly. Call it restraint of trade.

But because the screening system is widespread, there are lots of loopholes. If you can’t get into one school, you can get into another. Decade by decade, the minimal performance standard moves ever lower in almost every field.

In very few fields is an above-average IQ the primary screening factor: nuclear physics, chemistry, and a few other narrow professions. In most fields, the ability to endure years of mental drudgery is primary.

Money is not necessarily the main barrier. Ignorance of alternatives is. It is possible to earn a bachelor’s degree in four years for under $11 per hour on a part-time basis. But not many people know this. They needlessly pay retail for college.

If you are willing to give up television for four years, you can get through most of the hoops that bar your upward move. But most people are unwilling to do this after age 25. That is their barrier to entry. It need not be yours.

If you lack certification, you can get it. The cost is mainly time. Blame something else.


I think this is the biggest single restraining factor in most people’s careers.

People tend to assume that they have a minimal competitive advantage. They think, “Everyone knows what I know.” They do not recognize the nature of specialized knowledge. They assume that knowledge is widely shared. Access to knowledge in a free society is widespread. The Web has made it even more widespread. But a specific aptitude isn’t. Specific experience isn’t.

Employers pay for specific performance that enables the company to produce whatever it is that specific consumers want to buy at specific prices.

What is your specific advantage? You have one. If you didn’t, you would be working at the counter of a fast food restaurant. You would by pressing illustrated buttons on a computerized cash register. The cash register would make change.

“Anyone can do what I do.” This is not true. Hardly anyone can do it. Even fewer can do it better than you can.

If you were to put in an extra two hours a day on learning how to do it better, you would gain a far greater advantage within three years. But there is a better way.

Most people are more comfortable burrowing deeper into their niche than they are learning how to market their skills. They focus on polishing what they already know. They do not learn the techniques of broadening the market for what they already know.

This is why so few people climb to the top of their field. They become technicians. There is a market for technicians, but employers know that technicians have tunnel vision, especially regarding employment opportunities elsewhere. Even if technicians have knowledge of the market outside corporate headquarters, they lack the knowledge of how to exploit this demand for their own advantage.

Because technicians lack self-marketing skills, they are fearful of being cut off from the umbilical cord of a predictable paycheck — predictable as long as the company doesn’t go under or get swallowed up in a merger.

People lack self-confidence because they lack the following: (1) knowledge of the job market; (2) knowledge of how the techniques for increasing demand for their specific skills; (3) knowledge of what motivates consumers; (4) knowledge of where to start learning what they don’t know. All of this adds up to a lack of self-confidence.

Start working on this. It is probably your #1 problem.

But how? By dealing with subordinate problems.


We speak of having the courage of our convictions. The courage of most employees is minimal because their convictions are minimal. They think: “I’m mediocre. Safety first.”

In my first full-time job, I saw the handwriting on the wall within months of being hired. The pay was never going to be great, although it was the best offer I had. In the region where I lived, wages were high. I was going to fall behind if I stayed.

The job demanded little, but it offered only one path to advancement: replacing the boss. The boss said he was going to stay on until he died, which he did a dozen years later. I knew I had to get out.

I spent a year trying to find a way to get out.

I eventually found a way. That escape hatch proved to be a mirage. I quit again, with no alternative employment. I immediately got another offer. It turned out to be more of a dead end than the first job, but it allowed me to launch my newsletter, “Remnant Review,” which I still publish. “Remnant Review” was my life preserver. Its income let me take more chances. I did not spend it. I saved it.

By the end of the decade, I was making twenty times what I had made when I began. But the pace was faster, and the risk was greater.

If I had kept that initial job, you would not be reading this. I would also not be rich. I would not have written 40+ books. (Ten, maybe.) However, I might not have white hair.

When you perceive that you are facing a dead end, start looking for an off-ramp. If necessary, drive off the highway and go looking for an on-ramp on another highway.

If you can stay on the dead-end road long enough to find a paved off-ramp, that’s best. But it’s not always possible.

I did not leave my first job in search of wealth. I left it in search of significance. I knew I was in a cocoon. Butterflies want to get out. I had spent too many years in graduate school as a caterpillar. It was time to break free.

Most people are unwilling to break free. This is why they become contented with a caterpillar’s life. But they see the sky and long to fly.

Are you afraid of heights? Look for a landing pad close to your cocoon.


Motivation is internal. It is based on an internal assessment of external conditions. You compare where you are with where you could be, given your skills and opportunities.

At the beginning of a career, most people don’t know their limitations. Most people think they are more limited than they really are. What they lack is experience. This is why the military requires boot camp. It is also why it has ranks. Within the ranks are significant barriers: non- commissioned vs. commissioned officers, captain vs. major, full colonel vs. brigadier general. To get beyond each barrier, men must abandon their comfort zone.

The tyranny of the comfort zone is mild but ruthless. Beware the comfort zone.

The most effective period for breaking through a military career barrier is during a war. The enemy produces holes in the chain of command. It is easier to become an officer in wartime than in peacetime. You get promoted if you survive. There is a lot of motivation to survive.

Profit-generating employees rise rapidly in a company that is facing tough competition. College degrees count for less than black ink. It is when market competition is replaced by government licensing that advancement depends on certification.

People say, “I want to be successful.” Yes, they do: at zero price. They want success on their terms, not the market’s terms.

When people say, “I want to be successful, even if it costs me everything I own,” they are serious about success.

Most people are somewhere in between.

Where are you?

If your goal in the future is big enough (external), and if you don’t discount the future steeply (internal), then you are likely to be highly motivated. If your present array of talents and capital is minimal (external), but you are emotionally committed to achieving your goal (internal), then you are highly motivated.

It is problematical to say that positive internal motivation will overcome external circumstances in most cases. Frankly, I suspect that it won’t. But this kind of internal/external motivation ratio is a common characteristic of people who are successful. I see it as analogous to running the race. Most competitors don’t win, but all would-be winners must run.

The main inhibiting factors are these: (1) a minimal goal; (2) minimal capital; (3) high time-preference. In such circumstances, a lack of courage, money, and self- confidence produce paralysis.

I think most people who are not internally driven to achieve a significant goal blame their failure to achieve much on their lack of capital. What is inherently an internal problem is blamed on external circumstances.

When people are not highly motivated, the other inhibiting factors take over.

It boils down to this:


What do you want to achieve?How long will you work to achieve it?What are you willing to pay?The larger the goal, the more the effort is required and the more time is required to compensate for minimal capital.

I believe from my observations that capital is less important than the size of the goal, unless a person is close to the end of his career. Yet even here, no one knows for sure. Ludwig von Mises arrived in the United States as a refugee, almost penniless, in 1941 at the age of 60. Over the next quarter century, he established his reputation here, although it never matched his reputation in Europe in 1930 during his lifetime. Today, a generation after his death, he is better known than he was in 1930. 


Something is holding you back. The question is: How can you overcome the premier inhibiting factor in your life?

It would not be a bad idea to spend the weekend reassessing your capital, your top goal, and the time you probably have remaining to you.

How steep a discount do you apply to your goal? The lower the discount, the more likely you can achieve that goal.

Think back to your decision to get married. Talk about a leap in the dark! How much money did you have? How much education? Not much. But you were highly motivated. You were self-confident — just this once. You showed courage — just this once.

Considering the permanence of that decision, and the high cost of escaping from it, career decisions are minor. Yet men seem paralyzed when facing a career change. They prefer to burrow deeper into their niches if they are willing to do anything extra at all. Worse, they bide their time. This used to be called punching the clock. They inserted a time card into the clock, which stamped the card. The card recorded their physical arrival and departure.

Their mental departure took place long before they stopped punching the clock.

Life Expectancy. When Setting Lifetime Goals, Begin Here.

Gary North

We all know the warning: “Don’t run out of money before you run out of month.” We need to budget our money to match our salary period.

That sounds easy enough, but it’s very difficult for most people. American households are now failing to do this. The household savings rate has gone negative in recent quarters. Americans are not cutting back on their spending. They are spending by drawing down their savings or even borrowing to pay the bills.

I trust you are not among them. But you still should work on budgeting.

The crucial budget ratio is the income/time period ratio. Are you likely to run out of money in any time period?

Let’s apply this to the longest relevant time period for your budgeting: your life expectancy.

Have you ever used an on-line life expectancy calculator to see what the statisticians say about your expected longevity? Probably not.

You should.

It’s best to get a second opinion. Here are two calculators that I have used. Just click.–lifeevents–longevityThe second one is clever. The results, when you’re finished, are in a box in the upper right-hand corner of the screen.

Remember: Half of the people will live longer than the age that the calculator produces.

The older you get, the longer the projection is.

See if you’re doing your best to bankrupt Social Security ahead of schedule.