Disregard This Advice To Remain Mediocre!

Here’s a story of self improvement and self :

He was poor, he could not go to school.  He went to work for his brother at the age of 12 or 13 years of age.  By the time he passed from the American scene, he had done the following:

He built his business from the ground up, after a couple of failures, to the point that he was able to retire young off of the profits of his company.

He organized the first police and fire departments in the United States.

He bought a newspaper.

He helped establish the first public school system in the United States, and the first university.
He invented, among other things, an efficient heating stove, bifocal lens for glasses, and the lightning rod.

He helped establish the first armed services in the Colonies.

He helped start the first hospital in Pennsylvania.

He helped organize and sign the Constitution of the United States.

He was a man of enormous contributions to public service in the United States.

personal growth development

The man?  Benjamin Franklin.  I am currently reading The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and I am struck by three that you can put into practice in your own life.  To do this will be easier said than done.  It will require a commitment on your part.  However, if you want to rise above mediocrity and impact generations, I advise you to do these three things:

Key Success Factor: Dedicate Yourself to Reading and Studying Every Day

For the rest of your life!  This is the single most important thing that Benjamin Franklin committed himself to.  While the rest of his young acquaintances would be partying it up at the bars on the weekend, he would be staying up late into the night, or all day on Sunday, reading voraciously.  By developing this habit of thirst for knowledge, he became learned and influential.  Leaders in government noticed his grasp of ideas, his ingenuity, and his informed viewpoints.  Through this he formed connections that later served him well in his life.

Jim Rohn, a key motivation success speaker and author, stated that you are your most important asset and your most important investment.

Where can you find some good sources for feeding your brain?  You can start off reading some of my quality finds from across the net, found at Feed the Brain.  I also highly recommend checking out Guy Kawasaki’s Alltop blog magazine, where you can find a feast of personal achievement and blogs all compiled in a magazine format that is very easy to read.

For self-improvement books, I recommend ThePersonalMBA blog, which has reading plans in which you can select books that will help you with entrepreneurship and business.  Also, I highly recommend all the books that I personally selected for this blog, for your own ongoing personal development plan.

In order to Change Your Life the Smart Way, I highly recommend my own book, recently completed on your behalf.   Because of this goal setting system, I can honestly say my relationship with my wife has improved, my friendships are stronger, I produced my first book (referenced already:), and I’m running the Chicago Marathon as you will be reading this very post!

I also recommend that you also start learning to get up early in order to have the time you need to read.  Take at look at the Personal Excellence Blog for some tips on learning how to rise early.  And finally, head over to the Change Blog for some free self help audio books and programs.

Finally, Turn Off the TV! 

Darren Hardy, CEO for Success Magazine, has written on this topic.  The clients he has coached have doubled their productivity and had more free time for family after they have done this.  If you are able to record TV programs, do so, so that you can watch them at a later date.  If you can’t bring yourself to totally turn off the TV cold turkey, then figure out how much you are watching in a week and try to cut it in half.  Now you have the time you need for reading and study.

Key Success Factor: Define and Live According To Your Personal Values

You can gain the world, but lose your soul.  You can accrue the millions like Bernie Madoff, and lose years of your life in prison.  You can rise to the top, like Tiger Woods, and lose your reputation and good standing, and possibly your marriage.  None of us is above a Tiger Woods or Bernie Madoff.

For a practical writeup on the discipline that Benjamin Franklin used to incorporate 13 North Star Virtues into his life in a methodical manner, check out this great article, and maybe try it for yourself.

Key Success Factor: Form Your Own Junto

The junto was a MasterMind Group that Benjamin Franklin formed when he was starting out in business.  “The members of the Junto were drawn from diverse occupations and backgrounds, but they all shared a spirit of inquiry and a desire to improve themselves, their community, and to help others.”  For a great writeup on the nature of the junto, check out this Wikipedia article.

I have the privilege of belonging to about three of my own juntos, which enable me to grow, to sharpen others, and to be sharpened by others in my spiritual and career roles. One of them meets 6 am on Friday mornings, and another one meets once a month at 7:30 am.  I have a good friend I get together once a week at 5:30 am for business sharpening.  And I have another friend that I run with a couple times a week.

What about you?  Do you have your mastermind groups in place?  Here are some suggestions to get started:

From a spiritual standpoint, are you part of a church or other place of worship?  Oftentimes there are small groups that get together for study, meditation, and mutual growth.

From a business standpoint, there are many business information networking groups, Chamber of Commerce groups, and Toastmasters groups that you can join.  Be sure that you join with the mindset of contributing versus receiving, and you will  find that you will get back even more than you give.

If you make it a habit to read and study self help books and books in your industry, to live according to a set of personal values, and to actively participate in a mastermind group, you will find that you are surpassing mediocrity on your way to excellence.  The road of excellence does not have much traffic, and I hope to find you as a fellow passenger on that highway soon! :)

photo credit: immugmania

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  1. says

    Hi Stephen:

    I absolutely love this post! I actually did not know all those details about Benjamin Franklin and what he had to overcome and the things he had to sacrifice in order to be successful. It definitely does take total commitment and focus. I like that you talked about turning off TV. People don’t realize how much that box sucks out life out of their business especially those that are self employed work at home entrepreneurs. Nothing is wrong with some entertainment or keeping up with the news but this should be planned for like we plan for other things. I like the idea of recording one’s favorite show and then watch them during your down time.

    You also said it really good about defining and living according to our values. Our core values should never be compromised. Could not have given a better example than Bernie Madoff. If you don’t build your business the right way, regardless of how much you make or the heights you reach, it will soon come down crashing!

    Great job Stephen! Can’t wait to read your next post.
    Liz K : Success From Home Trainining recently posted…Best Business Ideas For WomenMy Profile

    • says

      Liz, thanks for the kind words. I know I have drifted off course of my values and with the use of my time in the past, and it usually takes an article like the one from Darren Hardy about TV to alert me to the fact. That’s why it’s great to learn from and read material from other great achievers, like yourself and Darren.

  2. says

    Great article Stephen. I love reading about great people in history because there’s always something inspirational to be learned. One of my favorite books is The Richest Man in the World – about Andrew Carnegie. I was also glad to see you reference AllTop – one of my favorites! I visit there every day. One of their many helpful features is you can set up your own page and bookmark all of your favorite sites. Thanks for the inspiration!
    marquita herald recently posted…Note to Self: Life is short, don’t waste time on regrets …My Profile

  3. says

    Thanks for the Ben Franklin insights, Stephen.

    It’s always a lesson to learn what highly successful people have done to reach such high levels of accomplishment. It’s clear to see, from Franklin’s example, that discipline and dialogue are central to achievement.

    I’m not sure, though, if he really avoiding TV altogether. I mean… nobody can really do that… can they?
    David Merrill recently posted…List Building Strategy for Blogging ProfitsMy Profile

    • says

      David, I was just reading a little from Zen Habits blog, aka Leo Babauta, on making changes in our lives. Starting Small is his mantra. So with the TV, maybe cutting down slowly is the best thing you can do. I will say that Ben Franklin did live without TV, though 😉
      Steve-Personal Success Factors recently posted…Live Like A Marathon Runner!My Profile

  4. says

    Hi Steve,

    A very inspiring post once again! Learning, living our own values and create our own master mind group. This is not a fast satisfaction receipt for success – and that’s probably that so many people fail to live like this. It requires a longtime vision and persistence for many years, but is absolutely worth is.

    Thanks for sharing and have a good time in the marathon!
    marc van der Linden recently posted…How to improve your problem solving skillsMy Profile

    • says

      Marc, thanks for stopping by: it’s an honor to have your input. I recently read a post by a very successful internet marketer: he recommends having a 10 year vision/mission that will keep you going when things get tough. It’s precisely what you are speaking about: longtime vision and persistence for many years.
      Steve-Personal Success Factors recently posted…Live Like A Marathon Runner!My Profile

  5. says

    What a powerful post. You have shared such valuable information in such a neatly organized way. Your book is a real treasure since it is a compilation, easy to ready. of much of the wisdom your have discovered. I am thrilled to be interviewing you next Tuesday, 10/18/11 on my Healthy Baby Boomers Network blogtalkradio show.http://www.blogtalkradio.com/drericag/2011/10/18/personal-success-factors-and-lessons-learned-from-aspergers


    Dr. Erica
    Dr. Erica Goodstone recently posted…The Divorce Myth – Redate Your Mate Before It’s Too LateMy Profile

  6. says

    Hi Stephen. It is quite amazing how many famous people started from absolutely nothing. I guess 99% of them end up in mediocrity, but the ones that really want to show people that they are worth, work very hard to achieve just that.
    Trevor Barrett@Money Advice recently posted…How Much Is A Billion Dollars?My Profile

  7. says

    What a value packed inspirational post! You have out did yourself here. There is enough info here to keep one busy for a long time. I mean to check out your links and book mark them for future use.
    It is always inspiring to read about someone who had very humble beginnings and made themselves successful. I appreciate all the facts you shared about Benjamin Franklin. He was a driven man!
    And BTW, I have always loved rising early. We get the worms. :)
    Have a fabulous day and thank you so much for your article.
    Lynn Jones recently posted…My Review of TSA MasteryMy Profile

  8. says

    Hi Stephen
    It’s not surprising Benjamin Franklin was so successful with his quest for knowledge. Interesting facts about his life and work ethic. I’ve heard before that above all it’s important to work on yourself. You mention some great resources. thanks for sharing
    Anne Perez recently posted…Who is Your Target Market?My Profile

  9. says

    Absolutely a brilliant article loaded with suggestions, ideas and places to research.

    You spoke of a junto and I was in the process of creating a small one today, a mastermind group geared to help others move their businesses forward. And, then to read your article… How cool is that?

    There is much to digest here and I will return to parse it out and take it all in.

    Many thanks,

    Rick Lelchuk recently posted…Retreat ForwardMy Profile

  10. says

    “Because of this goal setting system, I can honestly say my relationship with my wife has improved, my friendships are stronger, I produced my first book (referenced already:), and I’m running the Chicago Marathon as you will be reading this very post!”
    I love it to hear people say things like this, this is because some people tend to only focus on one part of their life. They do not realize that each put of their life will effect all the other parts of their lives. It is all about building a foundation for yourself. I have to read your book, looking forward to it. Keep up the good work. TTYL
    Macus T Cox recently posted…The “six parts of self”My Profile

    • says

      Macus, I took a look at your article, and I can see why you resonate with this more holistic approach to goal setting: Balanced Success is a beautiful thing :)

  11. says

    your an amazing supporter of others. Your insight overwhelms me.

    You have built such a following with hunger minds. I am one of them from this point on. I have loved to learn from the masters of years gone by. You have one of my favorites in your presentation. This is just so inspiring. I am energized to keep on doing what I do based on this article.

    It is so important to continue learning daily. I love reading real content and applying some of it to my lifestyle. One must take it as being a shared view of someone who has experienced things in live. Then understanding what will and can help them in their travels to success as they determined it to be.

    Our minds are so powerful and need to eat. That is the key in developing understand of large amounts of areas. This is equip one with tools and methods that can help others in support. Thus, you will gain more happiness in doing so. Just get out and do something daily is a big step.

    Stephen, thank you for all you do . Your an amazing mentor and visionary in our industry.
    William Earl Amis, Jr. III recently posted…Leverage Back By Demand!My Profile

    • says

      Wow, William! You are very kind and encouraging. I’d like to think that I’m able to shine the light of hope and understanding to as many as possible around me. I’m honored that you enjoyed this article as much as you did. I’ve been blessed lately by tuning the TV way down and turning the good content way up.

  12. says


    The scary thing about mediocrity is that it’s so widely accepted. While people might not be great every time out, I think it’s the mindset to aim for greatest and not accept be average that separates the successful to the unsuccessful.
    Dewane Mutunga recently posted…How To Use Social Media To Get Loyal TrafficMy Profile

    • says

      Thanks for the comment, Dewane. One of my challenges is to set high standards for quality without becoming too much of a perfectionist. Because if I give into perfectionism, I’ll never get anything done. Fortunately, hanging out with people like you helps me maintain a desire for excellence :)

  13. says

    I too love this post. The mindless activities that most people do on a daily basis is why they never suceed. Much more importance is placed on social entertainment than on being discipline and working to improve yourself and your knowledge. You have reminded me that I need to take some time to start reading again.
    Joyce Edwards recently posted…Get a Second OpinionMy Profile

    • says

      Hi, Joyce. Just remember, it’s definitely okay to have fun. But when we get into ‘mindless’ activity just to fill the time, we lose out on maximizing our time. You can also listen to podcasts and audiobooks as a way to accelerate your learning.

  14. says


    Great posting and WOW, what reading every day will do for people.

    I recently read the book called “Outliers” by Macolm Gladwell and in the book he talks about what separates those in school who participated in summer school vs those who didn’t.

    What he found was, those who took more time to improve themselves, achieved more in life due to the fact of compounded interest.

    The thing is, anyone and everyone can do this… the deciding factor is… those who do and those who don’t. But that’s the deciding factor in all of life… isn’t it?

    Dereck recently posted…ARIIX Review – Unleashing The Human Potential For GoodMy Profile

    • says

      Dereck, I love one of the key success factor strategies that came out of Outliers: the 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in your given industry/niche. This truly is a marathon, not a sprint :)

  15. says

    Hello Stephen

    Your post is one of the best articles that I have read on this subject. Define and Live According To Your Personal Values is a foundation key to rising above mediocre. Reading the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and discovering the 13 virtues he defined during his 20′s helped me build my life on a solid foundation. If anyone has never read these I suggest they use the link in your post to see these values. Thanks for this excellent article. I agree Toastmasters is a great group that you can join


    Perry A Davis Jr
    Music City.
    Perry A Davis Jr @Network Marketing Nut and Bolts that make building your business Fun, Simple, Magical and Profitable.s recently posted…Seven keys to developing strong relationships in network marketing.My Profile

  16. says

    I LOVE this post, Stephen! It’s FULL of little treasures, and places to go for more! I am a member of several mastermind groups. The one I talk about most is studying Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill. My husband is the leader of another, a small group in our church. And this month, NaNoWriMo is a mastermind group of a different kind. The beauty of it is, Ian and I and several of our children (teens and 20s) are involved in all three mastermind groups with us!

    It’s only in the last couple of years I’ve begun reading again, after some years of burnout (long story). I don’t know how I survived without it.

    Willena Flewelling
    Willena Flewelling@10 Steps to Success recently posted…NaNoWriMo is November is NaNoWriMoMy Profile

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