What I Learned From Earl Nightingale, Joel Weldon, Walt Disney and Tony Brigmon

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One of my early mentors as I was getting started as a professional speaker was Joel Weldon. Joel is an outstanding speaker and presenter, who focuses on the corporate market. I’ve known Joel and his family for more than 25 years, and they’re some of our best friends.

A member of the Speakers Hall of Fame, Joel has earned nearly every award and honor in the speaking industry, including Toastmasters Golden Gavel, and Legend of the Speaking Profession. Today, Joel – even though he commands very high fees for his corporate talks, seminars, and workshops – and even in this “down” economy – is booked solid. He spends a considerable amount of his time mentoring and training corporate executives and teaching up and coming speakers how to make effective presentations. Joel and I talk on a pretty regular basis, always exchanging new ideas, sharing family stories, and getting in a few laughs. 

So why am I telling you about this Weldon guy, and what does this have to do with you?  It’s simple. Joel had a TREMENDOUS impact on me when I first started in this business, and he continues to do so even some 25 years later. Over the years, we’ve spent hours and hours together on one of his several boats, either fishing, water skiing, or discussing the speaking business. And the insights and instruction I’ve gotten from him have been priceless.

Specifically, one of the things I learned from Joel (and I’ve never forgotten it to this day) is that “Preparation compensates for a lack of talent.” In other words, you don’t have to be especially talented or be born with a “silver tongue” to be a speaker (or a consultant, or anything else, for that matter). It’s largely a matter of preparation… understanding your market (or audience), what their needs, wants and desires are, specifically how you can help them solve, satisfy, minimize, or eliminate their problems, challenges, or frustrations, and how you can most effectively present your solutions to them so they will not only “get it”, but that they will actually take action on what you gave them. If you’ve done adequate preparation, the rest… the delivery… is easy.

Powerful stuff, huh? When you “get” Joel’s point, it completely removes any excuses you might have for not succeeding in ANY thing that you do… speaking, consulting, or any other kind of job or profession… and places the responsibility for your success (or lack thereof) entirely where it belongs… on your shoulders.

But that’s not all I learned from Joel. There are tons of lessons that I don’t have the time or space to go into in this article. Maybe I’ll talk about some of them in future articles, because I know the profound impact they had on me, I know that the tweaks and adjustments I’ve made to personalize them for me and my unique situation have made them even more meaningful for me, and I know that if I share them with you and show you how to “customize” or personalize them for you that they will have an equally profound effect on you.

One of the most memorable experiences I had with Joel was being introduced to Earl Nightingale. Joel and his wife Judy, and Cheryl and I, spent considerable time with Earl and Diana, and exchanged stories, experiences, and insights. As you may know, Earl had the very first non-musical recording to sell a million copies. It was a record titled, “The Strangest Secret.” And to this day, it is considered a classic and many people (including Joel) credit the message for a big part of their success.

Simply, the “Strangest Secret” is that we become what we think about. The message is scripturally based, and had been promoted by some of the wisest philosophers for centuries, and recently, its principles have resurfaced as what is today referred to as “The Secret”, or “The Law of Attraction.”


Cheryl and Martin Howey with Earl and Diana Nightingale

People everywhere, including Oprah and other public figures, have jumped on The Secret’s bandwagon and have promoted it as the cure or solution for all kinds of life’s challenges, including financial, health, relationships, and just about anything else you can name.

But personally, I think there are problems with “The Secret’ being a cure-all. I think there’s more. I thought it some 25 years ago, and I still think that way today. Thinking can only take you so far. At some point, there has to be some action. And that leads me back into the point of this article.

The other day I was going through some boxes of tapes and books and I ran across an audio tape that my friend, Tony Brigmon, scripted and recorded for me over 20 years ago, and that I had completely forgotten about. It was based on conversations I had with Joel and Earl and Tony.  As I mentioned, Earl, Joel, and I had some interesting discussions about Earl’s “Strangest Secret” recording. They were good discussions and we came to some common ground and understanding in them. Certainly wouldn’t take exception with the scriptures. That’s not my style nor my intent. But I do have issues with the promoters of “The Secret” as it’s been presented.

In our discussions, Tony and I talked a lot about what we called the “Unique Factor”… what it is that separates one person from another; the thing that makes them stand out; the one thing that makes them unique compared to anything or anyone else who does what they do. And the one reason that anyone wanting what that person knows, has, or can provide, would be a fool to consider any other option.

Today, in more current times, it’s referred to as a USP – Unique Selling Proposition, UPS – Unique Positioning Statement, UPB – Unique Perceived Benefit, UCA – Unique Competitive Advantage, and a variety of other names.

Tony, a very accomplished speaker and song writer, and the Ambassador of Fun for Southwest Airlines, saw some uniqueness in me and asked if he could interview me and create a song about some of the things I taught that were considered controversial at the time (and in light of the recent popularity of The Secret, are still controversial). I agreed.

Here’s the song Tony wrote with the words below if you want to follow along.

Magic Martin

The magic is you, the power is there,
With good old preparation you can go anywhere.
Anything is possible, so what would you like to do?
Be different, be yourself, there’s no one else like you.

It’s magic; Magic Martin. How he does it, come and see.
What appears to be magic can be done by you and me.
You become what you act upon; thinking only goes so far.
Action is the key if you want to be a star.

Be so good at what you do that when you do it, it makes you grin.
And when others see you do it, they want to see you do it again.
And they’ll bring their friends next time to show them what you do.
You can be the best; one of a kind. It’s all up to you.

The magic is you, the power is there,
With good old preparation you can go anywhere.
Anything is possible, so what would you like to do?
Be different, be yourself, there’s no one else like you.

The magic is knowing what you want to do, and then doing what you do best.
What is your “Unique Factor” that separates you from the rest?
If you want to be remembered, then simply go to it.
You can improve what others do, so, hey… do it!

Identify your market; who’s the competition for you?
And what are they not doing that you know would be good to do?
You can talk about what you’re gonna do; and talking can be fun.
But the real thrill is when you can say, “This is what I’ve done!”

The magic is you, the power is there,
With good old preparation you can go anywhere.
Anything is possible, so what would you like to do?
Be different, be yourself, there’s no one else like you.

Be different, be yourself, there’s no one else,
There’s no one else, there’s no one else like you.

In the song, you heard references to “Magic Martin”. That’s because I was the president of IBM – International Brotherhood of Magicians at the time, and was heavily involved in performing magic as entertainment and as part of my speeches, seminars, workshops, and presentations.

You heard Tony say, “How he does it.” That’s a play on my name with a tie-in to magic. People would often say, “I wonder how he does it.” In time, I was referred to as, “Howey Duzzit.”

But right of the bat – in the very first verse, and then repeated two more times throughout the song – it says that the magic is in you, and that with preparation you can go anywhere (reference: Joel Weldon), and the importance of being different, being yourself, and your uniqueness (reference: Joel and Tony).

I really believe that. I believe, and have proven over and over, that anyone can be successful in anything they want to do if they learn the skills, do the necessary preparation and don’t try to copy someone else. That’s the Unique Factor that I mentioned.

Tony wrote, “You become what you act upon; thinking only goes so far. Action is the key if you want to be a star.” That’s what Earl and I discussed in length on more than one occasion, and where I take exception with the promoters of “The Secret.” It’s just not enough to think about something; you have to formulate a plan and then get up and take action.

Tony went on to reference one of the things that I talked about some 20 years ago, and still do in nearly every presentation I make. It’s Walt Disney’s “Law of Unlimited Abundance.” Walt said that you could be successful in anything you do, whether you operated a retail business, a service business, or even a theme park like Disneyland or Disneyworld if you would simply, “Do what you do so well that when others see you do it they will want to see you do it again, and will bring others to see you do it.”

So let’s talk about you. What is it that YOU do? Do you know? Can you identify it exactly, preciously, and specifically? Far too many people shoot from the hip, try to be all things to all people and don’t have a laser focus on something of a specific value for a clearly identified target market. No wonder they have limited success, if any success at all. So the first thing you need to do is identify your specific market or the audience you want to serve, and then determine the quantity and quality of value you can bring to or provide that market.

Next, Walt says that you do what you do “so well.” “So well” doesn’t mean mediocrity. And it doesn’t mean “okay.” It means that you do it (whatever “it” is) with excellence. You do it better than anyone else who can offer anything close to what you do can do it.

So, “You do what you do so well ‘that when others see you do it’…” Who are the “others” that see you do what you do? They’re your customers, your clients, your patients, your policyholders, your patrons, your whatever you call them in your business. In other words, when the people who buy from see what you do, and that you’ve done it with excellence, they “…want to see you do it again…” That’s called “repeat business.” And they “…will bring others to see you do it.” Translated, that means “referral business.”

Your objective then, is to provide such an incredible value to a very specific and targeted market with a uniqueness that no one else can match so they’ll be compelled to come back for more and so they can’t help but be evangelical in telling others about their experience with you.

Tony sings about these very points by saying that you need to identify your market and your competition, and what they’re not doing that you know would be good to do. And then taking action. Thinking only goes so far.

You see, it’s not enough for you to tell others what I can do. It’s not even enough for you to tell them what I can do for them. More importantly, and the only thing that matters, is what you can tell others that I have actually done for you. It’s results, not talk, and it’s not thinking… at least, not by itself. It’s “what I have done”, as Tony sings… not what I say I can do.

So how about you? What are you doing with your life, your career, your experience, your abilities and your potential? Is your job or career giving back to you what you’re giving to it? How about your education and experience? Are you being compensated fairly and adequately for your investment of time and money that you’ve spent to obtain it? What about your financial future? How does that look? Is it secure? Will you have enough money to give your kids the educations they need to compete effectively in today’s world? What about your retirement? How well prepared are you for that? Emergencies? Do you have the funds set aside for unexpected things? How about life? Are you getting everything out of life that you want and that you deserve?

Let me just shoot real straight with you here and have a “here’s what I wish my dad told me” or a “here’s exactly what I’ve told my kids and I’m now telling my grandkids” chat.

What you’re experiencing right now… this thing we call “life”… ain’t no dress rehearsal. This is the real thing. You don’t get “do-overs”. And if you’re letting life pass you by without enjoying all it has to give you, the day will come when you will look back with sorrow, remorse and regret. I know. I have six kids and 26 grandchildren. We have some great times together, but I sacrificed a lot as my kids were growing up… and I can’t turn back the clock. Those times are gone, never to be repeated.

I just turned 67. A couple of years past “normal” retirement age for a lot of people… at least, it’s supposed to be by “standards” set by our society. Unfortunately, far too many people reach that age and can’t retire because they’re not financially able to. This is the time they should be spending enjoying the fruits of 40 or so years of effort; the time they should be spending with their grandchildren, traveling, giving back to their community, going on missions for their church, or whatever THEY choose to do with their time and not what their circumstances or some other person dictates that they have to do.

I look at my own situation. Yes, I’m still working. Why? Because I’ve tried retiring two times before and I was bored out of my mind. I absolutely love doing what I’m doing because I get to see people make quantum changes in their lives, have more free time, more income, more satisfaction from what they do, more enjoyment with their families, and fulfillment from life itself.

If you’re not experiencing these things, it’s time you take yourself aside and have a real in-depth and introspective look at yourself. As the old commercial used to say, “You only go around once, so grab for all the gusto you can get!”.

And if there is any way I can help you get it, let me know. I’d love to help you identify and/or create a meaningful plan or course of action… or at least some things that would cause someone else to write a song about.

13 Comments for this entry

  • Steve Tyra says:

    I have had the honor of knowing and working with Joel, Martin, Tony and Earl for many years.
    These men are the cream of the crop in the world of speaking, writing, thinking and most important they are solid human beings. Read this several times and you will find even more “gold”.

    • Martin Howey says:

      Wow! How flattering… especially from someone who knows them all, and has been the audio editor for some of the most successful speakers and the most popular recordings… things we’ve all grown up on and learned from. You’re a treasured friend, Steve… and I value our friendship more than you’ll ever know.


  • Jayant hudar says:

    I completely agree that martin howey is a gem of a person and more.
    He just keeps giving and giving you all the things he has.
    I got tons of inputs and still getting it. More…
    Thanks to him.
    Hats off to him.. Martin.. You are the man to learn fro. In business consulting.
    I just love the way you do it.. I will try n follow you.
    Warm regards.
    Jayant hudar

    • Martin Howey says:

      Thank you, Jayant. Such a comment coming from you is most appreciated. It was such an honor to have you in our training. You are a very polite, generous, and giving person yourself. Thank you for your gifts to the other attendees… I know they appreciate them and will benefit greatly from them. My best to you as you apply the principles you learned; you’re going to take your already very successful business to a whole new level and I can’t wait to see it unfold!

  • I have always said and believe that I am the smartest man in the room. This belief is why I spend so little time in a room with Martin Howey. There is simply no one that I pay closer attention to when he speaks. When we just meet for lunch I find myself taking notes. I never pass up an opportunity to learn something and Martin has learned from the best and then combined that knowledge with critical thought and proper applicaion and preparation. As we are confronted with the reality of the continuing of the current administration I am able to see this as an opportunity instead of a detriment and that is due in large part to the influence of Martin Howey. Martin is truly one of the greats!

    • Scott says:

      GREAT article Martin, Thank You!

      Please, would either Martin or Steven Clauson expand on the comment, ” As we are confronted with the reality of the continuing of the current administration I am able to see this as an opportunity instead of a detriment and that is due in large part to the influence of Martin Howey.”

      We feel so demoralized, disgusted, derailed with the continuing of the current administration. How do we look at this as an opportunity? I need to get my mind around that.

      Would love to meet you someday Steven, I used to live in Elk Grove and now live in Folsom.

      • Martin Howey says:

        Hey, Scott… nice to hear from you. The answer to your question is really very simple. Many of us are not pleased with the results of the election, but it’s no time to give up, quit, or be demoralized. This is the time for us all (especially small business owners) to do everything we can to take the President at his word when he said, “…you know that I say what I mean and I mean what I say. You know where I stand, you know what I believe, you know I tell the truth…”

        So what did he say that he meant? Here are a couple of points:

        – Obama has said his jobs plan would strengthen manufacturing, help small businesses, improve the quality of education and make the country less dependent on foreign oil.
        – He envisions 1 million new manufacturing jobs by 2016 and more than 600,000 jobs in the natural gas sector, as well as the recruitment of 100,000 math and science teachers.
        – He wants a new tax credit that would allow a company to write off 20% of the expenses of moving a plant back to the U.S.

        If the President is actually “telling the truth” and “means what he says” as he has indicated and is successful at doing these things, there will be a “fall-out” effect for all kinds of businesses. When manufacturing is strengthened, small businesses are helped out, 1.6 million new manufacturing and natural gas related jobs are created, an additional 100,000 new teachers added, and companies getting additional tax breaks to bring their jobs back to the U.S., businesses in general and in multiple sectors will benefit.

        Okay, so what if he isn’t successful? What if he can’t do those things? What if there are other unforeseen factors that come into play? What if he can’t “reach across the isle” and bring the House and Senate together to make these things come about? What if? What if? What if???

        We (you and I) can’t focus on those things. We have no control over or influence on them. We can only deal with the “Controllables”… those things that we can actually do something about.

        I’ve learned a LONG time ago, that there are “Controllables” and “Uncontrollables”, and it makes no sense messing with, or trying to influence the Uncontrollables. Things that we have no control over are the weather, the economy, gas prices, what the clowns in Washington do, what our neighbor does or doesn’t do, how other people drive, and so on. If we have no control over them, why would we want to spend even one minute stressing about them?

        On the other hand, we have complete control over what we do to our body (what we eat, the amount and type of exercise we give it, whether or not we cover it with graffiti), our faith, how we treat other people, the amount and quality of the service we render to others, the example we set, what we allow to enter our minds (through reading, watching, or listening to), and our attitude. Since we do have control over these things, wouldn’t we be better off focusing on these rather than the Uncontrollables?

        The President has made some very bold and emphatic statements and commitments, says that he says what he means and means what he says, and that he tells the truth. So why don’t we move forward with the hope that he really is telling the truth and that he really can do what he says. No one benefits if we don’t get behind him, if we don’t do our part to help him pull these things off. Certainly, there will be things that he says or does that we won’t agree with… every president will have those things. That’s not the point. We have to pull together as Americans united in making the best of the situation at hand – which happens to be a very poor economy – and turn it around. The President says he can do it, so let’s do our part and make it happen.

        Let’s us – ALL of us – do our part to look at these times as opportunities and move forward boldly, confidently, and positively, and use our talents, experience, expertise, skill, and the products and services we provide the marketplace to help each other improve their businesses, their personal lives, and the lifestyles and financial futures of their families.

        • Scott says:

          Thank You very much for your response to my question Martin, it truly helps. I’m going to print it out and keep it in front of me for a few days.

          However, I’m MUCH more cynical than you and that may not a good thing but in my mind is backed by verifiable evidence. I won’t expound because I don’t want to turn your outstanding blog into a political discussion.

          Keep up the great work. I appreciate you.


    • Martin Howey says:

      Thank you very much, Steven. You are very kind and I appreciate your nice words and comments. And you are 100 percent right… we are in some of the best times for business growth and opportunity than we’ve been in for a long time. The administration can only do so much to help or prevent our success; the biggest part of how we proceed and succeed will be whether we view things as strivings or thrivings, and the action we take as a result.

  • Martin, you never stop to amaze and teach me! You’ve grabbed my attention with your Facebook post; I couldn’t agree with you more about so many people playing the “following-the-follower” game and love the way you making people think about the popular “truths” or “keys to success” so many blindly repeat. So I clicked through to read your full article here!

    Oh my! There are so many diamonds here in plain view I now read your article three times and think I need to go over it three times more just to take it all in before I move on with my day. But I still think my favorite one is the first lesson you shared, the one from Joel Weldon, “Preparation compensates for a lack of talent” and more importantly what it means – that the responsibility for my success (or lack thereof) rests entirely on my shoulders. This is something I keep reminding myself every day, teaching and showing my daughters at every opportunity, and “preaching” to all who would listen. I just wish more people would “get it”. It saddens me to watch smart people give in to the “entitlement thinking”, engage in a “blame game”, and settle for the entertainment that passes for education today.

    Thank you, Magic Martin, for being such a great mentor to me and a beacon of wisdom for everyone who gets to know you.

    • Martin Howey says:

      Well, you know, Adam, how I feel about you. And for you to leave the nice comments that you did means more to me than you can imagine. Thank you so much! You are 100 percent right that we are in a new time… a time when so many are looking for handouts, and are not willing to reciprocate by giving the next person a hand-up. It seems that we so often hear of a person who is a “self-made success”, but in my almost seven decades on this planet, I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anyone proclaim that they were a “self-made failure.”

      People are so eager and willing to claim credit for what goes right in their lives, but when something negative happens to them, they are so quick to blame someone or something else.

      Remember the Garden of Eden story? When God questioned Adam about the fruit, Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. But it was the end of the line for the poor serpent… there was no one else to blame, and he didn’t have a leg to stand on.

      There is nothing… absolutely nothing… wrong or to be ashamed of when things don’t go as planned – unless you just did something stupid and you knew it when you did it. Some of the greatest success stories, both in business and in sports, were only achieved after failing multiple times, and sometimes massively. And very often, those successes wouldn’t have been achieved had the person not stuck his or her neck out and took a chance. They didn’t wait for something to be given to them and they didn’t have the entitlement thinking going on. They took action, accepted the responsibility for the outcome, and if things didn’t work out as planned, they didn’t blame someone or something else.

      I’m so glad you commented, Adam. You’re insights were right on, and you are one of those that I not only admire and learn from, but that I strive to model and emulate. Thank you for being a trusted personal friend and mentor to me.

  • Doberman Dan says:

    Martin is a national treasure. It’s an honor to know him and I value our phone chats more than GOLD!

    Any smart entrepreneur would do well to listen very carefully when Martin speaks.

    If you knew the struggles he has overcome it would blow your mind.

    Thank you for sharing, Martin.

    All the best,
    Doberman Dan

    • Martin Howey says:

      You are SO kind, Dan. Thank you very much. As you know, I’ve followed you for years and have come to know you and value your friendship as much or more from a personal standpoint as from business. You’re one of the few copywriters that actually delivers results and not just words on paper or a computer screen. Anyone wanting quality marketing strategies is doing them a disservice if they don’t connect with you and learn how you’ve helped so many others, and what you can do for them.

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