The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightingale

Can you guess the year this book, the Strangest Secret, was written?

The Strangest Secret begins:

“Some years ago, the late Nobel prize-winning Dr. Albert Schweitzer was asked by a reporter, “Doctor, what’s wrong with men today?” The great doctor was silent a moment, and then he said, “Men simply don’t think!”

“It’s about this that I want to talk with you. We live today in a golden age. This is an era that humanity has looked forward to, dreamed of, and worked toward for thousands of years. We live in the richest era that ever existed on the face of the earth … a land of abundant opportunity for everyone.

“However, if you take 100 individuals who start even at the age of 25, do you have any idea what will happen to those men and women by the time they’re 65? These 100 people believe they’re going to be successful. They are eager toward life, there is a certain sparkle in their eye, an erectness to their carriage, and life seems like a pretty interesting adventure to them.

“But by the time they’re 65, only one will be rich, four will be financially independent, five will still be working, and 54 will be broke — depending on others for life’s necessities.

“Only five out of 100 make the grade! Why do so many fail? What has happened to the sparkle that was there when they were 25? What has become of the dreams, the hopes, the plans … and why is there such a large disparity between what these people intended to do and what they actually accomplished?

The Strangest Secret is a book and also an audio recording. The Strangest Secret was published in 1958.

(The more things change…)

  • Jason

    Yeah this is good stuff. Simple and direct.

  • storm

    Is this a shameless plug?

    Can you please say a few words about why there is such a large disparity, thanks.

    • Christopher Franco II

      Shameless plug? He’s posted the audio there for you, for free. Which as you can see is on youtube – and you can bet if you spent 5 seconds on google you’d likely find the book, for free, too. Appreciate him sharing, quit trying to bring him down.

      • Danger & Play

        Yeah, that was a pretty weird comment.

  • Anti-Blue pill

    Great audio This info is still relevant for those who seek a little mental pick me up.

  • Faust

    Picked up the kindle copy. Well worth the 3$. I can see a lot of your writing reflected in it.

    The kindle edition you linked, by the way, includes a number of other short pieces by that author, dealing with creativity, problem solving, asking questions, etc.

    It’s not a long book, but the information inside is gold.

  • david alexander

    every thoughts carries a certain energy with it.

    make thoughts count.

    and if you can’t make em count then go empty by default.

  • samseau

    His opening argument is that all philosophers have agreed upon the “secret”:

    As you think, you should become. If you think negative things, you get negative results. If you think positive things, you get positive results. If you think about how you’ll achieve your goals, then you’ll achieve them.

    But you know what, that’s not true. Aristotle, perhaps the greatest philosopher of them all, has a directly opposite view: Thoughts are irrelevant.

    “To be, is to do.”

    You are nothing more than your actions… what you think about is irrelevant.

    I had a lot of dreams and goals when I was younger. I achieved some of them and then I realized the goals were worthless.

    The greatest thing I’ve achieved is that goals and dreams are worthless.

    • Rob

      If what you think about leads you to action, then thoughts aren’t worthless.

      Saying thoughts aren’t relevant is similar to saying the people you hang around with don’t matter. The people in our lives shape and influence us. Thoughts shape our perspective and mood. Both thoughts and people directly influence our actions.

      If goals and dreams are worthless, can I assume you don’t have any?

      • samseau

        “If goals and dreams are worthless, can I assume you don’t have any?”

        Au contraire, I have many of them, and I pursue them forcefully, yet I am indifferent to the outcome.

        • Jacked

          Yes, it does sound as if you are saying don’t aim for anything and be listless. But you actually mean you focus on an area and don’t worry about the outcone., just that there is progress.

  • samseau


    The greatest thing I’ve achieved is realizing that goals and dreams are worthless.

  • Krauser

    “Most people would sooner die than think; in fact, they do so.”
    Bertrand Russell

    I heard that in uni and it stuck with me ever since.

    “Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognizes genius.”
    Sherlock Holmes

  • Ironthumb

    The problem with those is that these men had sparkle in their eyes but their hope and dreams were that of an
    They think that they’ll be successfull with living the american dream and they would either find the truth that business mindedness creates wealth soon enough or they’d be stuck within the false reassurance that having a job, a wife and 2.5 children will land them to gold

  • Oskar Jansson

    I’d like to try this.

    My problem is that I’ve never been able to get a clearly defined goal.
    I want to be a good musician, this involves multiple skills that are hard to quantify.
    I can definitely try focusing on smaller goals such as, learning a specific piece of music well, or writing something every day.

    Now that I think about it, the best goal I can come up with is getting in to a good music school.
    It’s not an end in and of itself, but at least it’s clearly defined and achievable.

  • Gil G

    Amazing video! :)

  • Timmy Jimmy

    Sounds like Orson Welles is narrating.

  • Josh Cox

    I’m 25 right now and have decided to go back to college instead of pursuing a career in law enforcement. Having worked a corrections job for a little over a year I’ve come to realize that it just isn’t for me. This is mainly because the environment is less than optimal for my personality and overall goals in life. And the fact that nearly everyone employed there is unhappy, backstabbing and ass kissing really turned me off as well. I’d rather talk to the inmates any day.

    So, I’m pursuing a degree in exercise science because I love athletics. I’m also thinking of minoring in business. And, I’m looking at swinging all of this in an entrepreneurial direction. All of this will take me about 2-2.5 years, much less than a lifetime full of waking up everyday, and dreading going to work until that faithful day that I can retire. Every common persons “dream,” right.

    The point of my story is this: Do what you WANT with your life, guys! Not what someone else wants you to or what you think you should do. Deep down you KNOW what you want to do. Most people have several things buried within their minds that they’d love to do, but they never pursue them.

    A rule of thumb: Pick the one that most excites yet scares you.

    • Danger & Play Blog

      Great story, Josh. Keep us updated on your progress.

    • anon1

      how are you doing a year on, Josh?

  • Derek Wolf

    I’m glad you found this, Mike. I heartily recommend it to everyone and especially younger men. I first listened to this a couple years ago and it gave me incredible insight.

    I listened to it once a day for weeks on end.

    Fun fact: Earl Nightingale’s Strangest Secret was the first spoken word recording to ever break gold status in sales; one million+.

    For one reason or the other, I resonate much better with ol’ Nightingale than the new kids who revamped The Secret.

    In fact, I’d watched The Secret long before I found Nightingale. I had no idea he had done The Strangest Secret.

    To those who enjoyed this, YouTube also hosts his “Lead The Field” series which is full of timeless gems.