Jim Rohn: A Man Who Shook the Lives of Many… Life & Lessons

This post is part of our Inspirational People series, covering the life stories and lessons from some of the worlds most successful and influential people. For more posts like this one, click here.

Jim Rohn Life and LessonsJim Rohn may just have been a farm boy from Idaho, but he has over the years and in particular his later ones supplied human kind with a wide and life changing set of lessons and philosophies for the people. Through his speeches, talks, seminars and various media products, Rohn’s had a profound impact on the lives of many, including my own, around the world.

In this post it will be the main lessons applicable to and learnt from, his life that we focus on, rather than the lessons he’s taught in his sessions; although many of these are bound to overlap each other.

Jim Rohn’s Life Biography

Emanuel James Rohn, also known as ‘Jim’ Rohn was born to Emanuel and Clara Rohn on the 17th September 1930 in Yakima, Washington. Jim was born an only child and grew up on a farm, which the Rohn family owned and worked, in Caldwell, Idaho for most of his younger life.

Having completed his time in school, Jim attended one year of college before dropping out. He told his audiences a few years later, “One year of college, and I thought I was thoroughly educated.” And he thought he would be better off taking a salaried job to support his family instead.

For a few years following his dropout of school, Rohn drifted and worked as a stock clerk for Sears. But by the age of 25 he had realized that instead of building a life he wanted, he was in fact living in a life he didn’t: in debt and with no money or wealth to speak of.

By this time, Jim had become a husband and a father, and worked hard just to scrape by. He was upset and frustrated, and felt that he didn’t have enough money to fulfill the promise he had made to himself of providing a better life for his family.

John Earl Shoaff, life of Jim RohnIt was around this time that a friend invited Jim to a lecture given by the then Entrepreneur, John Earl Shoaff. He was a motivational speaker and salesman and Jim was instantly inspired by him and wanted what he had. During the next five years, Shoaff tutored Rohn and taught him some of the simple yet vital life philosophies which he would go on to implement in his own life and later teach other to implement in theirs.

These philosophies were: to ‘work harder on yourself than you do on your job’; ‘your income is directly related to your philosophy, not the economy’; and ‘for things to change, you must change’.


Learning from Shoaff’s words that “profits are better then wages,” Rohn began to build a business and replace the meager salary he had been earning but un-happy with as a department store clerk. Shoaff subsequently challenged the young Rohn to become a millionaire.

Just five years after their first meeting, and Shoaff passed away at an age of 49. But just one year later, then at an age of 31, Rohn completed Shoaff’s challenge and became a millionaire. Since then Rohn has repeatedly and commonly credited Shoaff’s input and philosophies as the key change in his life, and has always made clear that it was this time which helped him to turn his life around.

The Beginning of a Legacy

After making his first fortune, Rohn decided to move in the early 1960’s from his childhood home in Idaho to Beverly Hills, California. It was here where he was invited by a friend of the family to attend and tell his story at a local rotary club.

Jim Rohn Speaks about Success and Achievement at SeminarHe accepted and on request, had soon began speaking at various other local luncheons and events. This was just the beginning of the legacy that would go on to out live his life.

In 1963 at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Rohn gave his first public seminar. Following this, he started presenting seminars all over the country, telling his story and teaching the philosophies he had been taught and learnt in his life.

Throughout the 1970’s he presented seminars for Standard Oil and began participating in a self-development business called “Adventures in Achievement”, which included both live seminars and workshops, very similar to the modern Tony Robbins events of today.

“Jim taught us that success is simple and is the result of sticking to the basic, but mostly missed, fundamentals.” Says Erin K. Casey writer for Success Magazine, “The philosophies he taught were true 2,000 years ago and will be true 200 years from now.”

Jim Rohn speaking about Success

For the next 40 years to follow, Rohn would present to audiences around the world. Further teaching his lessons and philosophies through his seminars, lectures, and other written, audio and video media products of his own. Some of his best-known works include ‘Challenge to Succeed’ and ‘The Art of Exceptional Living’.

He would also mentor, like Earl Shoaff had previously done him, some of the many next generation successes and inspirers of the world. These would include Tony Robbins and Mark R. Hughes of Herbalife International, as well as others who credit Rohn for his influence on their lives including author/lecturer Brian Tracy, motivational speaker Chris Widener, and T. Harv Eker.

I truly believe Jim Rohn is an extraordinary human being whose philosophy can enhance the quality of life for anyone who exposes themselves to it. He certainly had a positive impact on me at a time in my life when I was first forming the philosophies that guide me today. – Tony Robbins

In 1985, Rohn was the recipient of the National Speakers Association CPAE Award for ‘excellence in speaking’, followed by the Master of Influence Award in 2004. Chris Widener, a speaker and author who was in the audience recalls the moment: “right before Mark gave Jim the award, he asked the audience, ‘How many of you would say that Jim Rohn has played a significant part or made a significant impact in your life?’ I looked over the audience of about 2,500 speakers, and about two-thirds of the hands went up – about 1,800 people.”

Later Life & Death

Jim Rohn Life and LessonsBy the end of his life, Rohn was recognized as a master personal-development trainer with more than 5 million people having attended his seminars, and millions more having studied and still studying his teachings through the many books, audio and video products he had authored and produced.

Jim Rohn died of pulmonary fibrosis on the 5th December 2009 and is now buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale) in Los Angeles, California.

Since his death, thousands have mourned and celebrated Rohn’s life with recognition and tributes to his work, with a special tribute site being put up and an online tribute video being viewed more than 100,000 times.

The comments posted to this site and video just go to show the profound impact Jim made on the lives of millions of individuals around the world. Some of the comments can be read below:

“I know I am not the only one who lost a friend, teacher or mentor today. Jim Rohn positively influenced the lives of millions of people all over the world.”

“Jim Rohn was always my absolute favorite speaker. He was always able to speak to your heart and soul in a very simple way for a guy like me to understand…. Thank God for his CDs and books, as his message will live on forever…”

“Jim has really changed my direction to my new destination…”

Life Lessons from Jim Rohn

Jim spoke about his life, experiences and lessons a lot in his products and his seminars. And while not every lesson he taught had a direct experience related to it in his life, the wide majority of them did.

It was the experiences he’d had in his life, which taught him the lessons that he went on to teach to millions of others. And it’s these relatable lessons which we will talk about below, the lessons which he learnt only from the experiences he’d had in the life we’ve spoke about above.

Admit Your Mistakes, to Others & Yourself

Jim had made some huge mistakes, mistakes lasting over 10 years and leaving him, like many others in our world in a life of poorness, dullness and with an inability to provide for his family in the way in which he wanted.

“Sometimes you have to admit [your mistakes] to others.” He said in one of his late conferences, “And here’s the big one, admit your mistakes to yourself. You don’t have to babble about them to everyone in the neighborhood. But it doesn’t hurt to sit down and have a conversation with yourself. And say there’s no use kidding myself, here’s where I really am. I’ve got pennies in my pockets and nothing in the bank. I had a conversation with myself, and I said I don’t want this to happen anymore.”

Face Your Fears & Exercise Your Will Power

From his mistakes, Jim had fears; he had the fear of letting his family down and the fear of continuing to let his family down, keeping them at the bottom of society for the rest of their lives. And for years he had hid away from his fears but after feeling dull about his life and being taken to Mr. Shoaff’s conferences by a friend, he was inspired to make a change and realize that he had to face his fears.

Face your fears, face all your fears, that’s how you concur them. Don’t dismiss them, just face them. Say here’s what I’m afraid of, I wonder what I could do to change that.

Once his fears of had gone, it was his will power to work, succeed and make a true change in his life, which lead him to success. “Use your will power to start the process,” he would say, “Just will power to change a little or change a lot. Anybody can change.”

Believe In Yourself, Fight & Keep Faith

Once he had decided enough was enough and he was going to change, it was his belief, in part spurred on by the inspiration and mentoring of Earl Shoaff, which inevitably led to his success.

“Believe in yourself. Yes you’ve got to believe in the community, you’ve got to believe in the possibility, you’ve got to believe in the economy. You’ve got to believe that tomorrow can be better then today. But here’s the big one, believe in yourself.” He said, “There isn’t a single thing you can’t learn, there isn’t a discipline you can’t try, there isn’t a class you couldn’t take, there isn’t a book you couldn’t read.”

Belief is the second key to anybody’s success, whether it be mine, yours, Jim’s, anybody’s. You must believe and so you should to. It was a belief that he could and would evade his fears, which spurred Jim onto his life changing success.

Always Do More Then You’re Paid

“My fathers seminar in a sentence” He once said, “Always do more then you get paid for, to make an investment in your future.” Whether that’s building a website, taking on an extra night course of education, writing a book, volunteering or even taking part in public speaking like Jim.

After the passing of Mr. Shoaff and the earning of his first million with his business, Jim didn’t just stop there. He carried on; he carried on working harder and harder then ever before.

He was working at his company by day, but he also began speaking at events in California about his experiences as well. And it was this extra work on top of his job, which inevitably brought him the real success of his life.

To the man, who escaped his fears, made up for his mistakes, and the man who has influenced the lives of so many around the world. He’s created a great legacy for himself and his philosophies, one which has and I’m sure will carry on to outlive his own life for a long time yet.


Jim Rohn meets fans

Jim Rohn was an extraordinary man, who influenced and changed millions of peoples lives around the world, including my own from a very young age. It was not only his philosophies which helped him to succeed to the level which he did but also his journey to creating them and most of all, his friendliness towards the people in a world and business of people.

He met and spoke with many people and loved to know he was helping them to succeed like Earl Shoaff did for him. He once said in a seminar “I’d rather sit down with each of you and your families with the fire burning in the living room than be on this platform. I’d love to talk to you and your children face to face. I’d love to spend a few days with each of you.” he said, “But time doesn’t permit for us to have those intimate conversations to get know each other that well, so I’ve got to do it from up here.”

But from where-ever he spoke, he did so in such a way to inspire not only one generation but more then a few. Jim Rohn will be remembered and remain alive in out hearts for a long time yet. And with our recent revolutions in connectivity and the internet; as this post shows alone, I’m sure his lessons and his legacy will live on forever through the sharing of his lessons, tapes, seminars and books.

Wrote by Joe Brown