The Art of Exceptional Living – Life Changing Ideas

The Art of Exceptional Living

As part of my reading for my Personal MBA, I am documenting the key lessons I learnt from The Art of Exceptional Living . It is not intended to be a summary or review, rather a reflection of how the book has influenced my thinking. I recommended the audible version, if you haven’t yet signed up, they give you a free trial. Otherwise it’s probably available for free on Youtube, I prefer Audible as it is easier to digest and more convenient.

This is now my number one resource on My Personal Philosophy and Principles which I am drafting. It is brilliant, balanced and practical. So much crammed into less than 5hrs.

I came across this when I was reviewing Josh Kaufman’s – The Personal MBA recommended reading list. Jim Rohn mentored two of my favourite digital mentors, Tony Robbins and Darren Hardy, they personally accredit much of their success to him. No further endorsement needed.

This is a (the) classic in personal development. It is not some silver bullet that worked for someone, it contains timeless fundamentals. I have been reading extensively for a few years now. Factoring in recency bias, this is now my new number one recommendation. Very few of the ideas were new to me as I’ve seen diluted versions before. They were clearer and more coherent though.

Typically I listen to audiobooks while walking and commuting, I listen at 1.3x, which I find to be a comfortable speed. I then stop to take note of key points in Evernote, which then become the draft for my blog posts.

I couldn’t do that with this book. There was too much value. I had to switch down the speed 1.3x to 1x. I could only listen to it while stationary and I could actively take detailed notes.

I’ve included some of my notes, but I suggest you just listen to it. The original cassettes were recorded by Jim himself and his humour, sincerity and conviction are obvious.

Why this audiobook

I am building and synthesizing an ambitious vision for my impact on the world, it will be large in scale, high impact. I expect that during my journey it will be easy for my confidence to waiver. To slip back into a job that covers my needs, even one that I enjoy and I get to make a positive impact. That would be comfortable.

I know I need to make sure that my philosophy and conviction are strong enough to fight the uncertainty, those that might drag me down, the inevitable failures and doubters.

Most of all, I want to live an exceptional life.

My notes:

This is not my typical blog post, as the thoughts are clearer in his own words.

  • “Work harder on yourself than your job.” Then you bring more value to everything, your job, your family, your relationships.
  • Self sacrifice is not noble. Self investment is, become more value. Bring that to the party.
  • Ideas are transferable. Regardless of dreams. Ideas help you solve the combination lock to success. It is closer than you think.
  • Inspiration is a mystery – excuses -> some use, some overcome. With the same communication. Some mock, some don’t understand, some believe.
  • Take the simple approach – sometimes things happen, accept you don’t know why. People who mock and laugh are the mockers and laughers. Don’t try to understand it all.
  • Be thankful of what you already have, to get the most out of today. Being cynical locks away your chances.
  • Listen well. Be a good student. Take good notes. This is one of the reasons I keep a blog. It creates an accountable method of reflection which interrupts the process of forgetting.
  • Don’t be a follower, be a student. Take and listen to advice, not orders.
  • Fundamentals are key. The basics. There are no new fundamentals. Be sceptical of anyone who says they have new fundamentals.
  • Success doesn’t come from doing extraordinary things, it comes from doing simple things extraordinarily.
  • There are a half dozen things that make 80% of the difference. Often less. Identify these six things and go to work on them.
  • Pursue Wealth and happiness – however you define them. Action is needed.
  • Discipline – A positive word. It bridges between thought and accomplishment. (My philosophy – prioritisation, focus, habits and compound effect)
  • If you are ill, you start a health plan, if you are broke, start a finance plan. Start a plan. Get a book for your new library. Today. Put some money into your wealth plan. Today. Today. Today. Get some momentum. Break away. Like a rocket taking off.
  • Success is a journey and a destination.
  • Your personal philosophy will determine your outcome. Not circumstances. Same circumstances, different results. Philosophy or luck?
  • What are bad decisions now going to cost finances and health in the future.
  • Success – a few simple disciplines practiced every day. Everything affects everything else. Nothing stands alone. Every let down affects the rest. Every new one affects the rest.
  • Learn from your own experiences and those of others. Read, listen.
  • Leaders are readers. At least 30 minutes of learning. Every day. This needs to be balanced. Good and evil. Not just inspirational.
  • 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration.
  • Not what happens, it’s what you do about it.
  • Don’t wish it was easier. Wish you were better.
  • Need to be more valuable to the marketplace (also called reality).
  • Don’t major in minor things.
  • Success is not something you do, it’s something you become. Same thing happens to two people. One gets rich, the other doesn’t. It is not what happens, it is what you do.
  • Take good care of your body. You only have one. More careful with what your animals eat. Than yourself.
  • God looks on the inside. People look on the outside. Shouldn’t, but do. Live with it. Appearances matter.
  • It is frustrating that people who need the help most, don’t want it. I’ve come to realise there is a reason they need it. I now focus of giving opportunity. Strangely it is usually people who are 80% there, looking for a final 10%-20%.
  • Philosophy needs to be strong enough for you to defend it. It will be challenged and fail, if you don’t reinforce it.

4 Major lessons: Circumstances are Seasons

“You shouldn’t give circumstances the power to rouse anger, for they don’t care at all.” – Marcus Aurelius

Life and business are like the seasons. You can’t change the seasons. You can change yourself. Learn to work with them.

  1. Learn how to handle the winters. Some are long, some are short. They always come. You can’t change them. You can get stronger, wiser, better. Don’t wish it was summer. – wish you were better.
  2. Learn how to take advantage of the spring (opportunity). They will come. That is guaranteed. Opportunity follows difficulty. Take advantage. Plant in the spring or beg in the autumn. Get busy quickly. Don’t let it pass.
  3. Learn how to nourish and protect in the summer. Prevent the intruder taking it from you. All good will be attacked. All valued must be defended.
  4. Learn to reap in the autumn without complaint. Take full responsibility for what happens to you. If you have done well, no apology. Not done well, no complaint.

Let go of self imposed limitations:

  1. Procrastination – enough of those days will compound. Drifting in the wrong direction.
  2. Blame – the ego trying to defend itself. Prices are too high, has been a go to for decades.
  3. Excuses – what are you going to do. Don’t do anything, it will be the same. What can you do? What will you do?
  4. Setting? (To update the next time I listen)

5 abilities for personal development (a verb)

  1.  Ability to absorb– be like a sponge. Don’t get through the day, get from it. Wherever you are, be there. Take pictures with your heart, mind.
  2. Learn to respond– let the emotion strike you. Our emotions need to be as developed as the intellect. Is linked to absorbed. < I blog
  3. Ability to reflect – go over text read, the day. Capture that day. I’m not doing this, a mate does this with his son as a way of bonding. Reflect regularly, end of the day, end of the week. end of the month, end of the year. When we don’t do this and we wonder why we don’t feel like we are progressing, could be because we are and missing it or not learning. Make the past, more valuable. Invest it in the future.
  4. Ability to act – not hastey if not required, but don’t lose to much time, take a first step when the emotion is high. Set up a discipline when the emotion is high and the idea is strong. Law of diminishing intent.
  5.  Ability to share – share what you learn. The more you do. The more your capacity grows.

Financial Independence- ability to live from the income of your own personal resources.


The person you become is determined by the ingredients you put it. Influence. People around you. We know positive influence is good, not enough focus on negative influence.

Three key questions:

  1. Who am I around?
  2. What are they doing to me? What have they got me doing, thinking, feeling, saying?
  3. Is that okay?


  • Disassociation may be essential to save the quality of your life
  • Limited association – casual time, minor. Limit.
  • Expanded association- more time with the right People.

Find association on purpose. Digital mentors. Different people for different things. Small daily changes add up.


Need someone to ask the right questions. Strive to be the person that people of substance want to be around. Attract valuable people, by being attractive


  • Health
  • Investment
  • Family
  • Travel
  • Gifts and sharing
  • Family
  • Meet
  • Become
  • Skills to develop
  • Debt
  • Experiences

Learn how to set goals – dreams of the future

  • Reasons first, then the answer comes
  • What gets you inspired? What turns you off.

Goal setting

  • Decide what you want
  • Write it down
  • Don’t set them too low.
  • Don’t compromise, don’t sell out

That’s it. Set the kind of goals that will make you better in achievement. Goals affect everything you do. Goals should be fun and rewarding. Don’t buy someone else’s view. Plan or settle for existence. Make a living or design a life. Greatest value is not what you get, it’s what you become.

Goal Exercise:

Set goals with specificitivity. The more specific, the clearer and stronger the pull.

Long range goals:-

  • What do I want within the next 1-10 years – 50 things, not in detail, thoughts pour. As long as you can. Managed 30. Then need write the number of years to accomplish. Then pick out 4 most important 1, 3, 5, 10. – 16 goals. Describe each of these in detail, why it is important (if you talk yourself out of it, great), reflection. Schedule to review, it is a live continual process.
    • Want to do
    • Want to see
    • Want to be
    • Want to have
    • Where to go
    • Like to share

I found this hard, partly because I’ve done so much already. I have been on this journey for 3 years. Some things seem too hard, “but that would take 5 years”, don’t I wish I had started 5 years ago, well, otherwise I will sound like I am stuck on repeat.

Checks for goals list:

  1. Do I need to rebalance – More 1s, 3s, 7s etc.? – Need to have some in the planning phase.
  2. Does it include, 3 important categories:
    1. Economic – Income/profits/productivity
    2. Material items – tangibles, don’t attached the wrong value to materials, but recognise they are important
    3. Personal development – Fit, decisive, language
    4. Family/Social/Lifestyle

I bucket these as WISH (Wealth, Individual, Social, Health)

Need to love the process. Willing to do what I need to, to get what I want.

Short term goals (confidence builders) – next year.

  • Personal MBA
  • Athlete experiment – Diet -> Running fat burning -> Parkour -> Wing Chun
  • Frugal minimalist

What kind of person will I have to become to get all that I want?

Cultivation of lifestyle – need to live moment by moment

Learning how to live. Be happy with what you have, while in the pursuit of what you want. Style of giving, seeing, enjoying. Live with style. The arts. Give, it doesn’t need to be expensive, give creatively with thought.

More money will only make you more of what you are. Get you there quicker.

Can’t just focus on happy, negative is normal, it’s to be mastered.

The day that turns your life around:

  1. Disgust – For me, it was when I couldn’t tie my shoelaces. Helps if you can add an act.
  2. Decision
  3. Desire – sometimes waits for a trigger
  4. Resolve – I will…until…

Last word

  1. Learn to help people with their lives, not just their jobs
  2. If you work on your gifts, they will make room for you.

Questions to ponder:

  1. Why try?
  2. Why not? What else are you going to do?
  3. Why not me?
  4. Why not now?

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