Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

Strategies for Life Success

If you have a moment, I’d like to share a story with you.

I graduated from one of the top prep schools in America in 1982 and decided I would stay near home and attend the University of Miami (in Miami Florida), mostly because I had a small fishing skiff and a girlfriend and didn’t want to leave either of them. Let’s just say I did not take college too seriously and soon found myself with a 1.6 GPA and a nice note from the people at the University of Miami indicating that I had been… expelled. As if that weren’t bad enough, my father was one of the top alumni ever to graduate from University of Miami, was on the Board of Directors of their law school and was one of the most well-known and respected people on campus… Ouch.

I decided that I would restart college at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida (where I now reside). I will never forget the day that I turned in my transcripts at the University of Florida registrar’s office only to have the woman behind the counter begin laughing at me and say very clearly, “You may want to go to University of Florida – but we do not want you!!!”

It was a turning point in my life. I walked out of the door of that office sat on the curb and began to cry as I realized that I was about to throw my college career and my life down the drain. It was then that I decided I would learn everything I humanly could about how to build a happy, joyful, balanced and highly successful life. Starting that very day I began reading every book, attending every seminar, taking anyone who I thought was successful to lunch… doing anything and everything I could to try to deeply understand how to get my life back on track and create a happy and successful future for myself.

Long story made bearable, I ended up attending an absolutely wonderful local community college, Santa Fe, where an incredible instructor name Roger Strickland helped me understand the secrets to being successful in college. In a nutshell he taught me that (at least in college) there are three major keys to success:

1. Start a study group with a group of students that all have a 3.6 GPA or higher.

2. Ask all of the professors, teaching assistants and “A” students for all the help they will give you – because then you end up with a whole bunch of people on your team trying to help you – and college becomes really easy and a lot more fun.

3. The answers are in the books. If you will just read and study the textbook for the class – there’s a good chance you will get an “A” in the class – because all of the answers you need for the tests are in the books. (Although it is clear that the answers to “life” are not in the books – the information you need to create the right answers in your life ARE often times in the books).

I took Mr. Strickland’s advice to heart, followed it to the letter… and it completely changed my college career (I eventually ended up graduating from the University of Florida as one of the top three public relations students in America and went directly to work for one of the Rockefeller foundations – where I was named CEO at the age of 26). It also led me to understand one of the absolute most important things I’ve ever learned:

“You become what you focus on and similar to the people you surround yourself with.”


So I have been on an all-out quest since that time to focus on the finding and studying the best information I can get my hands on (I have read a minimum of 100 business and self-help books a year –  every year since 1987) and  surrounding myself with high-integrity, values-driven, honest and successful people. By the way, this is pretty much what Napoleon Hill suggested in his classic self-help book “Think and Grow Rich,” when he stated that one of the “Master Keys” to success in life was forming Mastermind Groups!

Let me finish with some wonderful advice I heard from the former CEO of Xerox, and incredibly talented woman named Anne Mulcahy, who was able to turn Xerox around from the brink of bankruptcy and return it to global success —  and as a result was named the third most powerful businesswoman in the world.

Here’s how I summarize what she had to say about being a successful business leader:

1. Surround yourself with a huge group of people who are interested in your success. Bright, sharp, smart, talented people who genuinely want to see you have an incredibly successful life and career.

2. You’re not supposed to have all of the answers, so go to those incredibly bright people you have surrounded yourself with and… ask them for help!!!

3. Learn to be a learner. Create a discipline and lifelong habit of reading, studying, listening to and learning as much as you possibly can about your area of interest and how to make your life super successful and happy.

4. And from a business leadership standpoint… take the three things above: a big group of people that want to see you succeed – the courage to ask for help – a total dedication to lifelong learning… and focus it intently on the two groups of people that you serve: your employees and your customers.

Folks, that is some really, really fantastic advice – which I truly hope you will take to heart.

One of the reasons I wrote this blog today is that when I was in college and struggling, I started to build myself a “life success workbook” to help me stay on track and keep focused on building my dream life and creating my dream career. Over the last 25 years I have read hundreds and hundreds of self-help and leadership books – attended dozens of seminars – listened to thousands of hours of self-help audios – and continued to compile all of the best things I was learning into my own personal “Strategies for Life Success” workbook. I have used that workbook as the basis for class that I’ve taught to thousands of people around the world – from Fortune 100 companies to students at more than 90 colleges and universities across the US. Up until now the only way you could get access to that workbook was to attend one of these sessions, but I have now decided to offer it as an open workbook that anybody can buy and use to create a strategic plan for their life. If you are interested in getting a copy here is a link to my Lulu storefront.


I have always avoided pushing any product, book or workbook and my blogs – but I honestly believe this can be a life-changing workbook and have seen it impact so many people’s lives in such a great positive way that I am breaking my own rule and simply letting you know that it’s there if you want it.

I hope you found the ideas and information above helpful – and that you will take a quick look at the workbook and consider possibly purchasing one for yourself or for someone who you care about who could use a little guidance and direction in their life. If for any reason you do not think it is absolutely fantastic and super helpful – just send me an e-mail and I will gladly refund your money immediately.

My very best to you – Jon Spence

***Thank you for indulging me the semi-sales pitch, it’s very uncomfortable for me – yet I do think this is something that would be a win/win for all of us — you get a great workbook, I get to help a lot of people – and I make a little bit of money for me and my family too. It matches very well with one of my favorite Zig Ziglar quotes, “If you just help enough other people get what they need, you will get everything you need.”


  1. Thanks again John, Makes perfect sense. I have a super intelligent 14 year old that reads 100 pages of almost anything and is bored and totally deatached from school. I’m going to get him right on this and see what happens. Regards from the deep south in NZ

  2. Deon — thanksfor the note – I have taught this class to probably 20,000 or 30,000 high school/college students in the last 15 years. It is a perfect workbook for someone who is young and struggling to find their direction – and also to help them understand some of the keys to success that it takes most of us a lifetime to learn. Hopefully your 14-year-old will enjoy the workbook and get some great benefits from it – and it will be something that they come back to year after year (like I do) to keep themselves on track and continually checking their progress and planing for the next year… And 10 years! I very much look forward to your feedback on how the workbook has helped your teenager. My best to you – John

  3. Hi John. I love what you said about becoming what you focus on. Very Law of Attraction. Someone once asked Napoleon Hill a question about his book. He said if he could change anything, it would be to include a word the publishers took out because it was too ahead of its time. The word was vibration. The second part of the most important things you learned also rang a bell with me – about being similar to the people you surround yourself with. One of my earliest mentors, Rita Davenport, said, “If you want to be rich, hang out with rich people. Take a rich person to lunch.” Obviously you already knew that at an early age. I’ve also heard it said this way: You are the sum total of the five people that are closest to you. That gave me pause, and I started to focus on and attract different friends. Made a huge difference in my life. I appreciate your blog. Thank you.

  4. I’m so glad you told us about this. Your story is compelling and you are certainly a gifted writer. I’m ordering the workbook. Since I loved “Awesomely Simple”, I’m sure it is a superb value.

  5. John,

    This was a great read and I have to say that you always write things that refocus what I do. Thanks for your insite and ability to keep me motivated.

  6. Anne Martin says:

    I’ve heard your life story at one of our classes and appreciate you putting into writing for your blog, as it is truly inspirational. I’ve already passed this link on to family and friends who are struggling with what direction to take in their lives. I know your book will be helpful by providing organization and structure as they move forward and hopefully encourge them not to give up on education, whether it is formal or life-long learning.
    Thank you!

  7. sowmya says:

    hi sir,
    i m so glad that i read ur blogpost today.i got
    answer to all my questions about my next step in my career.
    Ur suggestions are so profound and left me with high dose of inspiration.
    I m grateful for everything u shared with us.thank you sir.

  8. Rose Grand-Pierre says:

    Thanks for sharing your personal experience.

    You are a true self-motivated and proactive person to have accomplished this. This is a good example for people who have a goal. It is amazing to be able to cry outlout at the end of the tunnel that you have reached your goal to be a successful entrepreneur.

    The opposite could have happened. Life is always a matter of choice. You have made the right and the good choice. May you have lots of followers!

  9. Michael Maltsev says:

    Thanks for sharing these excellent advises!

  10. Just about all quality improvement comes via simplification of design, manufacturing… layout, processes, and operations.
    You simply can’t chance a company by fear, since the strategy to eliminate fear would be to avoid criticism. And the way to avoid criticism would be to do nothing.