Rules No. 1 & 2

Posted on May 23, 2016 by Robert Ringer


In a radio interview some years ago, the host started out by asking me, “In order of importance, what would you say are the three most essential rules when it comes to making money?” Without hesitation, I blurted out: “Rule No. 1: Stay alive. Rule No. 2: Stay healthy. Rule No. 3: Stop losing money.” The phones rang off the hook for a full hour.

I believe that the reason those words jumped out of my mouth, without my even taking a few seconds to ponder the question, was because of my belief that most people tend to ignore or skim over the basics. By basics, I’m referring to things that are often so obvious that people simply don’t bother to give them much thought. Which is unfortunate, because the basics are the building blocks of success.

Rules No. 1 and 2 are as basic as you can get. Why? Because unhealthy people tend to perform at a sub-par level, and low-level performance does not lead to success. As to staying alive, dead people don’t perform at all. Think of Prince, Michael Jackson, Elvis, Andy Gibb, John Belushi, Whitney Houston, Freddy Prinze — the list of celebrities who died at a young, or relatively young, age goes on and on. And most of these early deaths could have been avoided.

For example, a lot of famous people have died as a result of drug overdoses. I don’t like the odds against living a long and healthy life when you put abusive substances into your body, so I choose to pass on drugs. Drugs are a lifestyle choice.

On the other hand, John Denver, John F. Kennedy, Jr., Jim Croce, Ricky Nelson, Buddy Holly, and undefeated world heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano all died in private-plane crashes. I realize that the weekend pilots reading this article will take issue with my assessment, but, personally, I don’t like the odds of flying in a small plane, either.

Of all the things that can kill you, however, the one that poses the greatest danger is obesity (primarily through heart attack, stroke, and diabetes). Since obesity is a subjective term, perhaps it would be more appropriate just to say that eating too much food and/or eating unhealthy food is an irresponsible behavior that can lead to illness and/or death.

Again, what I’m talking about here are Rules No. 1 & 2 for making money: staying alive and staying healthy. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring these two fundamental issues just because they’re so obvious.

The reason this subject is so dear to my heart (hmm … maybe not such a good choice of words) is because I had a severe weight problem for many years. As a result, I have a great deal of empathy for the tens of millions of people in America who are overweight.

We’ve all heard the age-old theme: If I can do it, anyone can.

This is a theme that applies to me in spades when it comes to taking off weight, because I inherently “think fat.” When I say I “think fat,” I mean I can relate all too well to Dom DeLuise and his chubby pals in the movie Fatso when they chanted in unison, “Get the honey!” … then proceeded to rip off the kitchen-cabinet doors.

Like most overweight people, my dinosauric eating habits developed at a very young age. I ate anything and everything I could get my hands on. We’re talking extra-large pizzas … two double-cheeseburgers, two orders of fries, and two extra-thick shakes at a sitting … and a whole salami with a loaf of white bread for a nightcap! Homer Simpson eats like an anorexic compared to me in my heyday.

During my teen years, my habit of vacuuming in any stray food within reach didn’t cause me a weight problem, because I played sports for hours on end. Then, a funny thing happened on the way to growing up. My endless hours of exercise dwindled, but my caloric intake did not. As a result, I soon became grossly overweight and shockingly out of shape.

For years, I felt lousy, and the quality and quantity of my work output was in a downward spiral. What changed everything for me was when I came to realize that even though I loved food, overeating is not an addiction; it’s a state of mind. In other words, I thought like a fat person. Meaning that even if I wasn’t hungry, I would eat, because that’s what a fat person is supposed to do — just like cheaters are supposed to cheat and liars are supposed to lie — straight out of Psycho-Cybernetics.

The reason I decided to tell on myself is that in the event you’re one of the millions of people in this country who are overweight, I suggest you attack the problem with your gray matter. A responsible-behavior mind-set is a hundred times more effective than the greatest diet book ever written.

Specifically, this means declaring war on that part of your brain that thinks fat — and understanding that it’s a lifetime war. Today, people constantly comment about how thin I am. Little do they know that I’m really a closet fat person, because I still think fat.

In fact, I still periodically go for the ice cream or the jar of gourmet hydrogenated fat (a.k.a. peanut butter). But what’s been different about the past twenty-five years or so when it comes to my personal battle of the bulge is that my responsible-behavior brain cells never fail to come to my rescue and overwhelm my think-fat brain cells.

I’ve had some close calls, but the responsible cells always manage to win. And because weight is quantifiable, the tool I use to help them win is my bathroom scale. I monitor the situation every morning to eliminate any possibility of deluding myself.

The result is that even though I still think fat, I manage to eat thin — at least most of the time — because I’ve learned to intellectualize the problem of unhealthy eating habits. To intellectualize means “to give something a rational structure,” and giving something a rational structure leads to responsible behavior.

In other words, it’s 100 percent mental — mind over calories. I focus on taking in huge amounts of fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods before the eating machine within me starts reaching for the saturated fat, cholesterol, salt, and sugar.

So if you’re one of my think-fat soul mates, take heart (hmm … there’s that word again). I’m willing to bet that I love food more than you do. Modesty aside, I’m also willing to bet I can out eat you blindfolded. Having said that, the more important point is that I choose not to.

As the saying goes, if I can do it, anyone can — for sure. Someday, I may write an article about another important component of staying alive and healthy: exercise. And if you want to be around to read that article, you would do well to heed Rules No. 1 & 2.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.