“When you know what you want, and you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to get it.” One of Jim Rohn’s most famous quotes.
For those that don’t know Jim Rohn was arguably one of the most influential authors and motivational speakers of his generation. He died in 2009. Jim was an absolute quote factory. Perhaps most famously known for advising that “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I can’t count the number of times guests on my Screw the Naysayers podcast have shared this quote.
Jim also said “If you don’t like how things are, change it. You are not a tree”. And then there is one of my favorites, “If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.”
The man was a genius and most likely forgot more things about entrepreneurship and mindset than I will ever know. That’s why I’ve always hesitated to say much when people say, “If you want it bad enough you’ll find a way.” Who am I to question the wisdom of a man like Jim Rohn?
But I do feel as if the quote is open to misinterpretation.
Here’s why. For starters a lot of people skip over the opening six words of Jim’s quote, “when you know what you want.” Raise your hand if you have absolute clarity on all the things you want in life. For those of you that have gotten to that stage in your life, congratulations. If you’re under the age of 35 you’re either wrong or you’re breathing rarified air. There’s a difference between thinking we know what we want, and actually knowing.
Take me for example. When I was 24 years old my wife and I moved to a tiny fishing village in rural Nova Scotia. For Debbie this was home. I was a city boy running away from a place that didn’t hold a lot of good memories. A genetic bone disease meant that I spent close to 50% of my childhood years with plaster casts on one limb or another. The household was an emotional battle ground with my mother and father dragging out an eventual divorce for way too many years. Yelling, screaming, and the occasional police visit. Kids have had it a lot worse, but I didn’t have any warm and fuzzy feelings about Toronto.
The idea of escaping the big city for country life was truly exciting. We settled in, built a house, and decided to start a family. For a couple of years I worked as a life insurance rep (hated it) and then I started my first business. An Amusement arcade with a pool table and state of the art video games like PacMan and Centipede. I was making a living but barely. I was also bored out of my skull making change for teenagers. When our first son was born, Debbie and I had a decision to make. I had fallen in love with Nova Scotia and I sure didn’t want to leave. The idea of going back to the city and having to move in with my chain smoking mother made me physically sick.
But the conflict was real. My burning desire to stay in Nova Scotia ran smack up against my equally strong desire to provide for my family. Some would say that I didn’t want it bad enough. That I could have found a way. I don’t deny that there is always a way. But the truth was I hadn’t put myself in a position to succeed. We didn’t have any savings, the skills I’d learned at University were largely useless in Nova Scotia, and while I loved the idea of being my own boss my current business was barely paying the bills for two. Now there was a third mouth to feed.
When we went back to Toronto people thought we’d given up on our dream. That’s why so many people were shocked five years later when I quit one of the highest paying sales jobs in the country and moved back to Nova Scotia. By this stage we did have clarity.
My wife and I wanted to raise our family in her hometown. I wanted to be my own boss, and I wanted to start an educational software company. Had we not returned to Toronto I would not have had that level of clarity. Five years of a love hate relationship with my boss had convinced me that I was one of those people who would never be happy working for someone else. It wasn’t a question of wanting to be my own boss. I had to be my own boss. During those five years I’d also learned a great deal about sales and educational software. The plan for my business was vague at best, but I believed with absolute certainty that I could use those skills I’d learned in Toronto to create a viable business. Lastly we had enough money in the bank to cover all of our living expenses for at least six months.
That was 31 years ago. My wife and I still live in that same fishing village. I still work for myself, although I’m now onto my fourth business. Both our children live in Nova Scotia, one in the city and one right across the road. Looking back it’s easy to say that Jim Rohn was right. We found a way. The journey took as much time as it did because we needed that time to get clarity on the life we wanted to live. Wanting something bad enough is only part of the equation. It’s the knowing part that is the most important. And that’s the part of Jim’s famous quote that a lot of people skip over.
If you haven’t heard of my podcast yet, it’s a collection of real and raw stories from an eclectic mix of Thought Leaders, Entrepreneurs, WSJ and NYT Best Selling Authors, and a wide range of women and men who have overcome great adversity by finding the gift in their challenges.