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Leader of the Month for February 2006:

Charlie "Tremendous" Jones

Charlie Jones

Charlie Jones's story:

Charlie “Tremendous” Jones passionately promotes the reading of books. His ability to quote and reference varied literature is an impressive testament to his own commitment to reading. But Charlie does an awful lot more than simply read. He advocates sharing books and the messages they offer, and he certainly practices what he preaches. Charlie is an entertaining humorist, and he passes along his messages with a brand of humor that endears him to audiences and makes his messages memorable. In the following anecdotes, Charlie shares his views on a wide range of topics.

On Books

The heart of my life is books. My favorite saying is this: “You are the same today you’ll be in five years except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read. In every turning point and crisis of my life, there’s always been a book that helped me think and see more clearly and keep laughing and keep looking up and keep my mouth shut. I would never tell anybody I ever had a problem, so everybody always thought I was on top of the world, and yet I was just like everybody else with problems coming out of my ears. Now, when people come to my office, they come to talk to me. Instead of conversing with me like they think they are going to do, I get them reading. I pick out some great books and have each person read three or four sentences. I just received another email from a person recounting how his life was changed by learning the power of reading together--rather than talking. I just can’t get over the power of a little book--sometimes only 30 or 40 pages--that literally turns and shapes an entire lifetime. Yet most people say, “I don’t read.” My heart aches for those people since I remember when I didn’t read because I was so ignorant. In my case, I was always blessed because I was ashamed of my ignorance; most people are proud to be ignorant.

We gave away over 25,000 books last year. This is how it all started. Years ago, I discovered that people throw away your business card. I could never imagine that people would be dumb enough to spend money on something that people throw away. I am not brilliant, but I am not dumb either: I gave away books as a business card and wrote my name and phone number in the book. People never threw them away! So I have given away hundreds and hundreds of thousands of books over the years and people remember me around the world. Many people say, “You’re the first person who ever game me a book.” What makes you different is not what you have in your head, it is what you have in your heart. It is reading that helps you see more clearly and grow: You can not be interesting if you do not read.

On Commitment

In 1951, my first full year in the insurance business, they made me the Man of the Year. People say, “Boy you were really good.” And I say, “No. I was the Man of the Year because everyone else had quit. I was the only one left.” The point of that was that all the good guys had quit. They are still running around trying to find something in life and I stayed committed. The secret was commitment. Some people are always quitting. It is not how things are going. I have learned you stay where you are. Don’t try to get a better job: Do a better job, and you have a better job!

On Life

Life is so simple, and it is not jumping here or there and looking for something more or better. It is being thankful where you are and learning to give and share what you have where you are. When something comes along and moves you in a different direction, then fine. But do not be on the constant lookout for something else. Don’t be a world changer: Let God change you and your world changes because He changed you. You are going to fail changing the world.

On Flexibility

I go into things with a flexible plan. What’s that? The thinking that “whatever can go wrong will go wrong.” So you go in thinking that something will go wrong, and when it goes wrong, that is your new plan. You ask, “What if something goes right?” Well, we’ll work it in. But don’t worry about it: Nothing ever goes right.

On Voice

The following quotation is identified on Charlie’s website as part of his list of favorite quotations: “The sound of the human voice betrays the speaker, for the sound comes from the soul, while words fly off the tongue.”

On Leading

I maintain we are all leaders. The point in question is not, “Are you a leader?” The point in question is this: “Are you leading people up? Are you leading people down? Are you leading them in? Out? All about?” And really the question is always, “What is your motive?” There are only two motives: one is for you—which is the way we all start out. The other is when God becomes the driving force in your life, and then you do it for others. You can not do it for yourself because the selfishness, our ego, gets in the way. As you grow mature in the Lord, and He begins to have a little more of His way, you begin to have a little less of your way. It is so much more wonderful to see how He works through you rather than you working for Him: One is showmanship and the other is bemanship.

The final two sections, On Leadership and On Exposure to Experience, contain excerpts from Charlie’s writings titled, “Seven ‘Tremendous’ Laws of Leadership” and “The Price of Leadership.” The articles--in their entirety--are found on Charlie's website.

On Leadership

Leadership is not personality, title or endowment. Leadership is a price and the price begins with ALONENESS.

No one ever led in a crowd. In every area of life the world is starving for individuals who will go ahead, set the pace, or pave the way.

How to make a decision: Make it. Don’t wait until you can make the right decision. Make a decision and then make it right; you have your whole life to do it in.

Leadership is learning to give whether or not you get anything in return. If you ever give to get something, you're not giving; you're trading. And there's a big difference between giving and trading.

On Experience

In the beginning of life, God gives everybody an imaginary key ring. Every time a person exposes himself to another situation they get another key of experience for their key ring. Soon, the key ring begins to fill with thousands and millions of keys of experience. As a person gets exposure and experience, they get to use the same keys over and over again. The law of exposure to experience gets better with the years. Finally, a person gets to know which keys unlock which doors while the inexperienced don't know if they have a key. All they can do is fumble around and hope to add another key of experience to their key ring.

About Charlie Jones

Publisher, Motivator, Humorist

Home: Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA (born in Alabama, USA)

Current personal passion: My monument is getting people to read, think, and share. One of my movements is I want to stamp out literacy because it is better to remain illiterate and never read than be literate and never read and share great books. Just reading is no good! Yes, you must read good books, but then you must share what you read, or it is better that you never read at all. I am changing the world one book at a time. I hate to work: I am very lazy. So I decided that since what I do is for others and for the Lord, it is my worship; so now, even though I am seventy-eight years old, I can still worship eighteen hours a day. I would not want to work eighteen hours a day, but I do not mind worshiping eighteen hours a day. I get so excited just talking about reading: There is nothing that you see shape the lives of people like reading.

Dream: My dream is to impact so many lives and excite so many people that they think of me as a book evangelist. I love being a book missionary because I do not have to raise any money or attend any committee meetings; all I have to do is work hard, buy books, and give books away.

Place in the world you most like to visit: Well, I have been around the world, but it all comes back to London, England. I love England most because of its significance for all of our heritage. All the countries that have an English influence just seem to be a little further ahead than other nations. I love Germany, Italy, Spain, Scotland, and Ireland, too; I find wherever it is I go I love people and architecture. Germany has some of the most beautiful architecture. The most beautiful city in the world is Bamp, Canada. People who can not travel as much need to remember: You can travel as much as a billionaire in books. In books, you can visit the world without ever leaving your bedroom.

Favorite quotations: General Patton had several good ones: “Success is not how high you reach; success is how high you bounce when you hit the bottom.” Abraham Lincoln said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom, and that of all about me, seemed insufficient for the day.” Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, the greatest speaker of the last century and a man with whom I worked for thirty years, memorized forty little verses in his youth. Most people do not realize that was his secret. These short verses, which we’ve now distributed in a book called Thought Conditioners, are also great to quote and one of them is “If God be for me, who can be against me?” At times, quoting scripture will do more for you than almost any other type of motivation. Another Dr. Peale quote is, “I can do all things through Christ, he strengthens me.” Almost all the Thought Conditioners are only ten words long. You can memorize one in only fifteen seconds. Everybody should memorize 4-5 quotes. At the beginning of a presentation, you should have a couple good quotes to open with. Then, you need a couple good quotes to season your message. Finally, you need a great quote to wind up. Usually, I wind up my talk on the Greatest Seeds of Success with a couple little words: “Learning to be thankful: an attitude of gratitude flavors everything you do, and if you’ll learn to be thankful, almost every other quality will flow out of it. And if you’re not thankful, there’s nothing that will grow from a thankless heart. You can not grow as long as you remain thankless.”

Favorite books: Well, that would be different depending on one's stage of life and aim. In my early insurance career, Dale Carnegie said the greatest of all the books ever written on selling—and he was right—is Frank Bettger’s How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling. When people still read it, they can not believe that the book was written sixty years ago. You just laugh and laugh because you see yourself in it. The Kinder brothers have a great book that is just being re-published now called Selling in the Twenty-First Century. Three others are Dr. Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking, Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, and Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich. After motivational books, if you want to grow, you must really key in on biographies and devotionals: It would be great to start with Churchill, Lincoln, Booker T. Washington, and Robert E. Lee. The number one devotional in the world today is a book called My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. I have been reading it for years and have memorized it all. Charles Spurgeon is another author I suggest. There is a new book of prayers (written about 200 years ago) called Valley of Vision. I just found it six months ago, and I can’t believe there were ever men who could write like these men do.


In his career, Charlie has received accolades from many renowned speakers and authors. Og Mandino, the deceased author of the bestselling book The Greatest Salesman in the World, once shared this thought: "Charles Tremendous Jones is one of the most dynamic speakers our country has produced in the past fifty years. His speeches on leadership and life have spell bound audiences from coast to coast as he punches home his points by helping his listeners to laugh at problems and failures which Jones insists are actually stair steps to success." Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, also deceased, once said of Charlie, "Charles Tremendous Jones is one of the greatest motivational speakers of our time. He has blessed the lives of many including me." Zig Ziglar's comment on Charlie is as follows: "Charles Tremendous Jones is truly one of the unique people on this earth. His zeal for life and for helping others is evident in everything he does. Tremendous is truly well named in every aspect of his life."

Charlie Jones and Leadership

Books recommended for aspiring leaders: Books are all timing. There are books like Good to Great, Tipping Point, and all these newer books that are great. Ken Blanchard is my #1. My favorite current book--sort of a novel--is High Five; it is a story of a man who gets fired from his position and learns some great lessons coaching his son in midget hockey. Oh, what a story it is! Greg Reed wrote a book called Positive Impact (the 1st chapter of the book is phenomenal; someone just ordered 1500 copies of it the other day). Viktor Frankl’s work is great. I like William Glasser’s Reality Therapy. There are so many books for different types of needs for management and selling, I could not even begin to mention them all.

Most admired leaders: It is hard to call many people who are living people leaders because you do not know how they are going to turn out. Fred Smith, author of a book we published called You and Your Network is just a quality human being; he is 91 years old and still speaking. Fred is Zig Ziglar’s chairman of the board. I have had so many role models, but, at my age, most of my role models are all dead.

Traits most important in a leader: Thankfulness and honesty. By honesty, I mean you realize you are not honest. Only an honest man can realize how dishonest he is. Only an honest man can see how inconsistent he is. Only an honest man can see how shallow he is. Recognition and acknowledgement are what make humility. Humility usually comes from humiliation, but there are two kinds of humiliation. The one kind is where the world humiliates you, and you become bitter and cynical. The other comes from God. God has a way of humiliating you privately, personally, inwardly, and that humbles you because you see how good God is to teach us some lessons in the quietness of our hearts.

Advice for aspiring leaders: I always tell people that I have two kinds of advice: I have good advice but then I have priceless advice. I always have to ask them, “Would you like my good advice or would you like my priceless advice?” Their response is, "Well, what’s the difference?"  The difference is this: My good advice is good. But my priceless advice is never ask for or take advice. Because when you ask advice, you are asking somebody to tell you what they think you should do, and they do not have any idea. What you should do is never take or ask for advice but get counsel. Counsel is when you gather information from different sources and then make your decision with the help of God. But always--when you make your decision--you make it your decision and let no one else influence it (except for their counsel). My counsel is to read and think about biographies and devotionals because if you do that you will be drawn to a more spiritual meaning in your life. In my case (at the age of 22), I came to know Jesus Christ as my savior. When you read about men such as Lincoln, Washington, or Patrick Henry, all of them had a Christian experience at some time in their life that allowed them to have a whole new life. None of them were evangelists or pastors or priests, but they nevertheless had a significant Christian experience. With my counsel I never tell people where to go to church, and I never tell them what to believe. I do not tell them to turn over a new leaf, but I do encourage them to read books that will get them to think and share it. Because as you do that you begin to broaden and deepen and see more clearly, and you see that you are not going to do anything alone. Daniel Webster is one of my favorites; when asked what the most important thought that had ever entered his mind was, Mr. Webster replied, “My personal accountability to almighty God.” And Webster was a man who could have been President, but he had such integrity that he made a decision that cost him even his Senate seat. My individual counsel to someone recently was to be open enough to consider the spiritual side of life because you are only here temporarily, but you are going to be dead a long time. If you know God in Christ you never die: You live for eternity.

What and where are the best training programs for leaders? There are so many good programs and seminars. Jim Rohn has his programs, and Brian Tracy is starting a new university. There are all kinds of online programs now. The one program that will never go out of style is Dale Carnegie. And then Toastmasters is perhaps the greatest training program there is where you do not have to spend any money. You have to learn to think and get on your feet and be critiqued by your peers. That is great training. For me, though, the greatest training program in my life was not the courses I took at Purdue or LSU or any of the schools: My greatest training program was teaching Sunday school with eight year olds. It disciplined me to study each week to teach these young people the Bible. I never taught that much, but I sure learned a lot. I have seen great results and success in many young mens' lives because they took my counsel and taught Sunday School. You eventually discover that men, no matter who we are, are all little boys at heart. The greatest training program in my years in the business is Southwestern Book Company. They hire several thousand students every summer to sell books for ten weeks. What they do with young people proves that young people today are exactly like they were fifty years ago. So if anybody you know is somebody in college, and they want training that will be greater in ten weeks in the summer than in four years in college, you tell them about the Southwestern Book Company in Nashville, Tennessee.

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