The Seven Secrets of Success

Would you like to make the big bucks writing a self-help book on how to be successful? Here are seven secrets you have to know:

1. Use the word “secret” in your title, even though you’re not revealing anything remotely secret. Just because you don’t know something, doesn’t mean it’s a secret. I don’t know particle physics, but it’s not a big secret. I don’t know how to cook a goose, but it’s not a secret. But if you want to sell a goose cookbook, call it “The Seven Secrets of Cooking Your Goose.”

2. Do you want to know the secret of how to make a million dollars on Wall Street? It’s not really a secret; you simply start out with $2 million. In no time, you’ll have a million dollars. Don’t get greedy and try to make half a million dollars. Once you have your million, quit.

3. When you say “secret,” what the reader hears is “trick.” What’s the trick to making millions? Here it is: Pick rich parents. This, more than any one thing you can do, will make you rich beyond your wildest dreams. Sadly, you won’t appreciate it. You will spend most of that money on therapy, complaining about your rich parents.

When you say “success,” make sure that you mean “making a lot of money.” Sure, getting four kids through college on, say, a teacher’s salary is a thousand times harder than running a Fortune 500 company. But no one considers that a “success” because you’re not living in a $10 million mansion with your fourth wife and spoiled children who hate you. That’s success.

4. Give plenty of examples of successful people. Tell the stories of how they started out in the mail room and, through grit and determination, clawed their way to the top over the backs of other people with the same grit and determination – people who were fired as soon as possible so they wouldn’t be a threat to their success.

5. Don’t mention how miserable the quest for success has made them. The drive that makes people like Tiger Woods successful is the same thing that derails them. As much as we seem to enjoy reading about the celebrity meltdowns of Charlie Sheen, Michael Jackson, Roseanne Barr, Eliot Spitzer, Pete Rose and a thousand other “successful” people, we don’t take away the real message that success has not made them happy. If anything, just the opposite.

6. Talk about their possessions – the cars, the homes, the yachts, the private jets, the horse ranch and the art that successful people have. Don’t mention the craziness of owning more than you can possibly use. If you can eat only one hamburger, why would you go to a restaurant and order 50 hamburgers? To show off? Because you’re out of your mind? Either way, no one would think, “That’s the kind of person I want running my business.”

Steve Jobs was famous for living in a near-empty house. He created not one, but three billion-dollar businesses – Apple, NeXT and Pixar. He paid himself a dollar a year. He created tens of thousands of jobs.

The CEOs of our car companies did not invent the car or the assembly line. The CEOs of our banks did not create the idea of banking or the banks. The CEOs of stock brokerages did not invent stocks. They’ve lost us hundreds of thousands of jobs, yet they pay themselves tens of millions of dollars. Gee, what is the secret to their success? Whatever it is, let’s do the opposite.

7. Always have seven secrets in the title of your book. Six seems too easy, like you’re holding back. Eight seems too many. I want to be wildly successful, but learning eight whole secrets? Sheesh, that too hard.

Jim Mullen’s new book, “Now in Paperback,” is now in paperback. You can reach him at

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