One Man’s Unexpected Path to Legendary Success


I’m going to kick today’s post off with a topic I’m sure will bring out some strong feelings.

Are you ready?

I want you to think about…



Yes, Wal-Mart.

I don’t care who you are…I’m sure as soon as you saw the word “Wal-Mart” you had strong feelings.

Some people love it…other people hate it…

And no matter how you feel about it, chances are Wal-Mart is part of your life in one way or another.

But that’s not what we’re really here to talk about.

Do you know who started Wal-Mart?

Wal-Mart was started by one of the greatest masterminds of American business…

A guy named Sam Walton.

Sam Walton broke the mold and proved that big discount stores could succeed in small, rural areas.

And it paid off.

Wal-Mart grew to be America’s biggest retailer…and one of its biggest corporations.

Sam Walton became an extremely wealthy man in the process, and his family remains one of America’s richest families.

That’s success, right?

You bet it is.

But actually, I want to tell you about someone else.

I want to tell you about a guy who came before Sam Walton.

The man I want to tell you about was a retailer, too.

He started out as a store clerk at a place called the Golden Rule Store, which sold dry goods in Wyoming.

Working his way into a partnership in the Golden Rule store, he eventually opened more stores and made customers out of the families in the mining towns.

He had a simple approach to running his business: find good employees, train them well, and mark up the product just enough to make a small profit while keeping prices low.

The strategy worked.

The man’s chain grew to 200 stores…then 1,000…then 2,000.

Eventually there was a store on nearly every Main Street in America.

And then crisis hit.

The Great Depression slammed the country.

The man was an owner of a bank that failed and he had to personally guarantee the deposits of the bank’s customers…to the tune of millions of dollars.

And then there were his loans…all secured by stock in his company.

Times couldn’t have been worse.

And yet, his company survived the Great Depression. It’s still with us today.

So who is this mystery man?

He’s a man so legendary in American business that Sam Walton hung his words over his desk in his office at Wal-Mart headquarters.

On a plaque above his desk, Sam Walton had these words:

“Serve the public…to its ultimate satisfaction.”

Who spoke those words?

The legendary retailer J.C. Penney.

I wanted to share J.C. Penney’s story with you for two reasons.

First, I wanted to share his story because it’s inspiring.

Here’s J.C. Penney starting from scratch and building a massive organization…and it turns out he’s one of the driving forces behind Sam Walton’s success.

I love it!

The second reason I wanted to share J.C. Penney’s story is because J.C. Penney’s success came from an unlikely source.

What was his key to success?

Was he incredibly smart? Did he start with a lot of money? Did he have tons of connections to help him?

J.C. Penney said the reason he did so well is because he lived through times of struggle.

“I would never have amounted to anything were it not for adversity. I was forced to come up the hard way.”

That’s not what you expect to hear, is it?

My wish for you today is this…

It’s not that you wouldn’t struggle.

Struggle is unavoidable.

My wish is that you keep learning to find success in the midst of struggle. Just like J.C. Penney did.

When you learn to do that…

You might be amazed at what you build…

And who else you inspire.

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