Two Myths and One Truth of High Achievers


Two subconscious myths that keep us from being legendary and one truth you may be missing

For three years now I’ve hosted the Zig Ziglar show. I’ve been privileged to have intimate conversations on and off air with many of the most influential people in our culture, to see what is happening behind the scenes. What I’ve discovered is… these business and media heroes are basically normal. I’m here to shine a light on two myths most people believe that hinder becoming every bit as successful as those high achievers.

Let me begin by clarifying what I mean by success. Success in your life will look vastly different than success in someone else’s life. You are shaped by unique circumstances, genetic markers, and childhood influences that make you who you are. Sadly, most of us choose to believe those characteristics limit our success instead of realizing those aspects can help define, shape, and propel our success.

The point here is twofold:  to free you, and to convict you. If you can begin to walk in the reality that there are no valid excuses barring you from success, that freedom to succeed will transform your attitude and life. The crux of the matter is “if you can….” Because let’s be honest: most of us rely on a long list of excuses to validate our mediocrity. When I accept that those excuses do not realistically limit my unique success, the only thing I can blame is myself. Feeling the sting of conviction? I know, me too…thus we have to leverage such conviction to bring about transformation.

Before I explain the two myths, I will share the primary ingredient and truth I have found all influential and successful people have that you may not be adequately harnessing – Drive.

Psychologically speaking, drive is defined as an innate, biologically determined urge to attain a goal or satisfy a need. Every person I interview on the show along with every person you follow and admire in any area, has a strong psychological drive. Motivation. Desire. A recent interviewee said he views drive and determination as being in a state where he will be dissatisfied until achieving the goal. This determination separates the successful from the unsuccessful, as many, many people simply don’t want anything bad enough to do what it takes to get it.

Regarding drive, don’t fool yourself into thinking you just don’t have enough or it’s just not in you. Some people DO inherently have strong levels of internal drive. Good for them. For everyone else, you must manufacture it. You must increase your desire enough to take action and do what’s needed. Otherwise, you will continue to stay where you are now.


NEXT – The two myths –

Not everyone desires to do something of value with their lives. But with over two decades of working with people who do have this desire, I’ve come to realize in them, and in myself, we often discount our ability for success for a couple main reasons. We listen to podcasts, read books, read blogs, attend seminars and conferences and through all of these we receive knowledge with which we can truly rewrite our stars (to pull from a fave movie of mine, A Knight’s Tale).

We revere the influencers and leaders. We applaud them, and too often put them on a pedestal. But culturally, the majority of the population ascribes to the belief that these people have something special, and “regular folks” can’t achieve such successes. The good news and the bad news (no excuses, right?) is that the leaders we revere started out as “regular folks” just like you and me.


Myth #1

We often believe high achieving, influential, and successful people have certain inherent qualities we do not. They must have higher IQs, more intellect, brilliant intuition and innate superhuman qualities. The media helps us to believe such things by showcasing such people as actually being superhuman. Just look at the glut of superhero movies where nobody is amazing because of hard work, but simply because they were born or mutated with a super power. It’s the climax of the dream that we can just be something amazing without working hard for it. This is why there will always be demand for the next weight loss super-drug instead of facing the reality that 95% of weight loss is due to how many calories (and what kind) we ingest, and how many calories we burn.


Myth #2

We believe high achieving, influential, and successful people were provided better opportunities. This is a question of environment and circumstances. Of course there are cases of rare opportunities creating ‘superhero’ advantages. Malcolm Gladwell, in his incredible book Outliers, showcased that some successful people, while not having superhuman abilities, did have some exposure that helped. Bill Gates had access to early computers that most didn’t. That access would have added up to nothing without Bill’s drive of course, but the access helped. Michael Jordan had access to a basketball court and there is some kid today living on a farm who doesn’t.


So how do we dispel these myths? Evidence based research. In interviewing hundreds of world leaders, these myths are debunked.


Let’s look a them:  

Myth #1 – The Super Hero

Our world changers were not born with anything more than the rest of us. Many were born with less. They also didn’t fall into a vat of chemicals and have a “big bang” experience that gave them super powers. If anything they may have instead blown themselves up in a garage and gotten 3rd degree burns on 95% of their body that crippled them for life, like John O’Leary.


Show after show I hear that these amazing people often had deficits; ADHD, dyslexia, depression, learning disabilities and delays. Recently I read Tim Ferriss’ new book Tribe of Mentors. It’s fascinating to go page by page and see how much effort all these high achieving people have to put into dealing with their weaknesses and limitations.


Conclusion: You have nothing less between your ears or under your skin that limits your ability to achieve pretty much anything you have a true desire to achieve.


Myth #2 – The Super Fortunate

By far and large, the amazing people of our times did not have better circumstances than the rest of us, instead, the vast majority had worse circumstances. They came from hardship, struggled with handicaps, and encountered failures. It was having to overcome those hardships that provided the strength and drive to achieve.


Listen to The Ziglar Show interviews and you’ll be amazed to hear how many of those interviewed came from:

  • Personal handicap
  • Poverty
  • Broken homes
  • Abuse
  • Scandals
  • Financial failure
  • Tragedy


And so much more. Very, very few cite having a “nice, healthy, balanced upbringing.” If anything, coming from such a comfortable upbringing almost seems to be a disadvantage as it doesn’t produce much strength of character and overcoming.


Conclusion: You can’t cite hard life circumstances for limiting your ability. But don’t go citing your comfortable life as a limiter to success either. No excuses, remember? Embrace the sting of that conviction.


So then, what is the answer? What enabled these people to do such amazing things and achieve such heights? Two things:

  1. Drive – As we discussed before. You need to take a step back and assess yourself here. If the truth is you just don’t want it enough, then you can either release those dreams, or audit your life to ascertain your honest efforts. Are you okay with status quo? If not, it is time to commit.
  2. Healthy Habits – The leaders you revere simply did the day-to-day, little steps that took them from A to B, B to C, and ultimately to fruition. Two guys wake up with 10 inch biceps. One never does anything, the other lifts weights every day and after 6 months has 12 inch biceps. Basic work and basic math.


For the last six months with every interview I do on The Ziglar Show, I do a Part 2 interview called Habits. I utilize Zig Ziglar’s Wheel of Life and the seven spokes he used to help people create a balanced life of success. They consist of:

  1. Physical
  2. Family
  3. Mental
  4. Financial
  5. Spiritual
  6. Career
  7. Personal


Nothing will serve you better here than listening to these shows and hearing it straight from the person’s mouth. Most share their struggles in each area, then the consistent habits they employ to have success.

Here is a brief overview of what I’ve found:


  1. Physical – Almost all of them exercise at least five days per week, and most do a combination of cardio and strength training. Many employ a personal trainer to help them with their lack of motivation and joy in exercising. The ones who actually enjoy it have found an exercise they think is fun. I have a business partner who is a doctor and his reply to the question, “What is the best exercise?” is, “Whichever one you enjoy and will keep doing!” Nutritionally, these leaders frequently tell me about giving up gluten and most grains, giving up sugar and other simple carbs, and are eating more healthy fats, greens and vegetables.
  2. Family – The key here is intentionality. Most have regularly scheduled dates with spouses and activities with family members. These are busy people so the time seldom just “happens.” It’s made priority by being given absolute time in the weekly schedule. There is no chance of life happening and the family time being left behind, as it is militantly scheduled. A great insight from one interviewee is that he has a babysitter scheduled to come twice per week, no matter what. When she arrives, he and his wife leave, no matter what.
  3. Mental – The leaders and influencers I interview are a book reading group. Some listen to podcasts and read blogs but the vast majority read books about the areas they want to progress in, and almost always have a current book they are inspired by. They also take measures to get themselves into small groups of intelligent, deep-thinking people where they are being challenged and stretched.
  4. Financial – This one is interesting, it’s about half and half. Granted, most of these people have achieved a high level of wealth at this point, and finances is and has been a big part of their lives. Half are pretty diligent with budgeting and living within their means and they keep tabs on their finances. The other half cite a significant distaste for dealing with finances at all thus they rely massively on CPAs, financial advisors and assistants to keep their finances in order. What it shows again is an intentional approach to financial management and growth.
  5. Spiritual – I’m tempted to say that literally every interviewee has a spiritual component to their lives. We have a high majority of practicing Christians, though a good many are cautious to claim that label and are outspoken against “religion.” While some claim Catholicism or Buddhism, we had a handful of agnostics, but zero purported atheists. The common thread is they all believe in a bigger picture and higher power, even if they don’t claim a specific affiliation.
  6. Career – This spoke is definitely the hardest to culminate. The career paths and trajectories were incredibly unique. Many college grads, many who never went. Many who had great successes as employees, many who hardly ever worked for another. Today I believe every single interviewee is self-employed. But a common denominator is absolutely…they were readily willing to try new things. Frans Johansson, in his book The Medici Effect, cited that entrepreneurs weren’t anything special, they just tried more things. There is a good mix of introverts and extroverts, so that’s not a commonality. Regardless of a myriad of differences, these folks had ideals and desires they wanted to pursue and achieve and they gave it a go with many endeavors that helped them finally find the right opportunity and their “secret sauce”.
  7. Personal – The focus here is truly on personal joys and fulfillments. The things you do just for you. Guy Kawasaki surfs, Skip Prichard sings, Mandy Harvey fishes, and on and on. There is a smaller percentage of those interviewed who struggle to take time for these endeavors, citing it was a struggle. The majority had specific things they routinely invested in that gave them joy and inspired them.


The Moral of the Story

Do you want to achieve big things? Want to find purpose and truly matter? Want to live a legendary life and leave a legacy?


  1. Find your drive. Manufacture it if you can’t find it! Everything is moot unless you do.
  2. Don’t discount yourself due to your perceived abilities or circumstances.
  3. Create an intentional, daily plan for the key areas of your life. Ultimately who you are and where you are is a result of what you do day in and day out.


Below you can find Zig Ziglar’s Wheel of Life and an inventory to take on yourself from which you can develop your own Health Habit Regime!


Here’s to you!

Kevin Miller

P.S. A disclaimer: Knowing these truths and doing them is entirely two separate things. I’m on this journey just as you are –  constantly striving to increase my own drive, to avoid discounting myself, and to do the daily, healthy habits necessary for my own success. So…here’s to us!