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Who Is Earl Nightingale

Earl Nightingale was a popular radio show host in the 1950’s, who achieved substantial financial and career success before the age of 35. He was the most listened to man in the history of the broadcasting industry. However, his meteoric rise to the enduring and legendary levels of fame which he achieved, came from his contributions to the self-development, motivational, and success industry; which was driven by his retelling of his quest for the secret of success. Without a doubt, he was one of the best story-tellers of all time, who’s scholarship on the subject of success and motivation is to this day, is unmatched. So, If you’ve been wondering “Who Is Earl Nightingale?”, this is who he is in a nutshell.

Of course, there is so much more to this titan of success. So, if you want to really know who Earl Nightingale was, and why you should learn more about him and his words of wisdom, then keep reading, as we aim to unravel his inspiring story, and some of his most prized secrets of success.

Earl Nightingale | Success Story

Earl Nightingale’s story is a true rags to riches story. Nightingale was born in 1921 in Long Beach California. He was a Depression-era child, who at the age of 12, during the height of the Great Depression, had to move into a literal tent after his father abandoned the family. His mother moved the family to tent city, a makeshift form of government housing created to assist families during the Great Depression.

Nightingale’s experience with poverty, and watching his mother struggle to barely make ends meet to take care of him and his two brothers frustrated him. In fact, him bothered him so much, that he decided to figure out why some people have money, and lots of it, while many others struggle to earn the bare minimum.

This began Earl Nightingale’s quest for the secret to success. And from 1933 to 1950 he went on a mission to discover how people can go from poverty to success. He read every book he could get his hands on, and questioned every adult whom he suspected of “that special knowledge” of the key to success.

And it was at the ripe age of 29 when he finally had his “ah-ha” moment. At the age of 29, he finally cracked the code while reading Napoleon Hill’s ‘Think and Grow Rich’. The words that stood out to him, and hit him like a ton of bricks was the following:

“We Become What We Think About.”

– Napoleon hill –

Early Career

Now, before Earl Nightingale’s made his key discovery, he went about to make his living by joining the Marines. Soon after joining, he would eventually get stationed in Hawaii.

In fact, he was aboard the U.S.S. Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor, and was one of only 334 marines who survived the attack on the ship out of a total of 1,511other crewmates.

Before his service would end in the military, Nightingale happened to stumble upon radio by volunteering to be an announcer on evenings and weekends. He volunteered for this job for the sole purpose of picking up what he thought could be a good skillset to have once he re-entered the civilian world. And his instincts paid off.

Earl Nightingale would enter into the broadcasting industry soon after his time in the Marines came to an end, and he took the industry by storm. He started off his Radio career in Phoenix, AZ, but after a few short years, opportunity quickly presented itself, and he soon found himself working for one of the most prominent radio stations at the time; WGN radio out of Chicago, IL.

It wasn’t long after this, that Earl Nightingale really hit his stride. In fact, by 1957, at the age of 35 Earl Nightingale had officially made it, and was successful enough to officially retire. No doubt, Earl was able to do achieve such staggering success by applying the secret to success that he discovered just 7 years earlier.

The Making of a Legend

Earl Nightingale would lean into the next phase of his life as the owner of an insurance company. He invested his money into the purchase of an insurance company, with much of his new found wealth derived from his success within the broadcasting industry.

And it was this experience that would would ultimately lead to Earl Nightingale’s true legacy. As the owner of an insurance company, Earl would give motivational speeches to his insurance reps often. One day he was preparing to do some travelling out of town, and the sales manager asked him if he could record one of his famous speeches to keep his team motivated while he was gone. Nightingale agreed, and the result was one of the first audio-recordings of the self-development industry.

Word got out of Nightingale’s inspiring recorded sales speeches, and soon after he was asked to record his accumulated advice on how to others can achieve similar success, and one of the best motivational/self-help recordings of all-time was born: ‘The Strangest Secret’.

Once “The Strangest Secret” was complete, and word got out about how insightful and inspiring the work was, demand skyrocketed and caught Earl Nightingale off-guard. Once Nightingale partnered with friend Lloyd Conant to handle bottlenecking issues on orders, the audio-recording would become a national best-seller.

Amazingly, the wisdom from that recording is still impacting hundreds of millions of people all over the world to this day. In fact, snippets from this classic can be found all over the web; here’s one such example:

Video Credit: Siddarth Rajsekar

Notable Accomplishments

Earl Nightingale went on to achieve numerous notable accomplishments over the timespan of his life. His life, and his accomplishments are a prime example of his success secret in action. Here are just a few of the other accomplishments he made that are certainly noteworthy:

  • Awarded a Golden-Record Award for ‘The Strangest Secret’
  • Hall of Fame Inductee for ‘The Association of National Broadcasters and National Radio’
  • Awarded the Napoleon Hill Gold Medal for Literary Excellence
  • Achieved Toastmasters International Golden Gavel Award
  • Created Hit Audio Book ‘Lead The Field’
  • Authored “The Greatest Discovery”
  • Co-founded Famous Self-Development Company Nightingale Conant Corp.

Earl Nightingale Success Lessons

Below are just a few of Earl Nightingale’s key success lessons pulled from his own words. These quotes are from both from his multiple works, and are just a glimpse of the wisdom contained within his classic book, and best-selling audio books ‘The Strangest Secret’, and ‘Lead The Field.”


This quote above is the essence of his discovery of the secret of success; namely, that we become what we think about. So, be careful what you put into your mind (news/media/etc.) and pay careful attention to what you are thinking about (because you’ll usually get more of it).

No doubt, this success insight stems from his experience through life, and his keen observations that the riches you receive, usually comes down to the exact value you gave through your product or service offering.

If success was easy, everyone would achieve it. So, the best way to ensure you are not successful, is to listen to and follow the crowd. This bit of Earl Nightingale wisdom is still accurate to this day.

One of the keys to success, aside from being vigilant about what we think about, is persistence. And too many people let their doubts (negative thinking) talk them out of putting in the effort because of what almost always appears to be an uphill battle. Pro Tip: All striving is an uphill battle.

This is a great piece of wisdom of Earl Nightingale, because so many people think that success is what others say it is. But this isn’t true. Success is what you decide it to be, and so long as you’ve made up your mind what your success is, and you commit to making continual progress on it until you achieve it, you are on the path of success.

Earl Nightingale Secret

Final Thoughts

There you have it, the answer to the question “Who Is Earl Nightingale?” We hope this brief synopsis of one of the world’s most influential motivational speakers, writers, and success scholars, has given you the insight you were looking for.

Without a doubt, he is someone to be studied, as his philosophy of success is as relevant and true today, as it ever was. So, we hope at the very least, this Earl Nightingale profile has inspired you to dig deeper into the lessons and insights offered up by ‘The Dean of Personal Development’ himself.

Till then,


PS – If you enjoyed this Earl Nightingale bio, then you’ll love this inspiring collection of Earl Nightingale Quotes.

The Strive Team is made up of everyday people and experts from all sorts of different callings and professions, each contributing their best advice and unique insights to help you navigate the challenges of achievement, and support you as you strive to live your best life.