Rags to Riches Stories: Inspiring or Annoying?

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About Lynn Terry

Lynn Terry is a full-time Internet Marketer with over 17 years experience in online business. Subscribe to ClickNewz for the latest Internet Marketing trends & strategies, Lynn's unique case studies, creative marketing ideas, and candid reviews...more»


  1. Jim Campbell says

    Really great points and overall perspective. Napoleon Hill would've been proud. Thanks for all you do!! Jim

  2. Hi Lynn

    5am in the morning here (I love early mornings too) and just caught your video.

    While rags to riches stories are inspiring in many ways, I do feel how connected or how much value you get from the story depends on how you feel about the person telling the story.

    If that person has taken the time to show your other dimensions of themselves...not just pushing "the story" as the only thrust, then it has much more impact and I'm likely to be less cynical.

    Relationships...always, thats the difference that makes the difference.

    I do wonder though, if the rags to riches meme is conditioning people to think that they can't be successful unless they have fallen on hard times.

    • Very good point, Jackie. Relationships are definitely a huge factor. For me too.

      I thought about that as well after publishing the video - that it had a possible negative to it in that regard. Certainly not my intention. And I admit I have a limited frame of reference (my own personal experience).

      I believe ANYone can achieve ANYthing they set their mind to. It's a matter of wanting it bad enough, and being willing to sacrifice certain things in order to make it happen. Period.

      Well, that and patience. Most of us want instant results. The truly great things in life take time. Time that prepares you to best manage those desired results. 😀

  3. I personally love rags to riches stories, as long as they are real. It encourages me.
    I believe you are right about being desperate is very motivating. I know as long as things were comfortable for me, I "played" at IM. When things started to get really tight and I couldn't pay the bills, I got a lot more serious about it.

  4. Deb Gallardo says

    I think TRUE rags to riches stories, or even stories like Rich Scheferen who was a successful clothing store owner and business man before he entered the online arena. Then he started struggling online the same way most people do. That's helpful. Of course then he "got it," and made it visual for the rest of us with his famous Internet Business Manifesto and subsequent reports.

    Mike Filsaime wasn't broke, because he was a successful car salesman, but later had to sell his wife's diamond ring when he was trying to get it together online.

    Whether people are out of work or have fallen on hard times, IF they made lemonade from the lemons life offered them, then that experience gives hope to anyone who feels they, too, are going through hard times. (To some people, hard times is buying DOMESTIC wine instead of IMPORTED wine, and having "only" 3 cars instead of 5. It's all about perception. I mean, Donald Trump lost his fortune. He's got it back. Don't think he was eating abc's and 123's at all during that time. But it's still inspiring to see people succeed against the odds.)

    I'd heard your story about the $7 in your wallet a few times, but not the part about how you came to be in those straits. That made it even more poignant and made me admire what you achieved, and your resilience, even more.

    I was a little cynical about Filsaime's hard luck story, because I'd never heard anything like that out of him. So I suppose it depends on how much a story rings true. I certainly don't want to be manipulated emotionally.

    But anyone who's in a "not good place" gains hope from true rags-to-riches stories. Without knowing someone else made it, how will anyone have hope?

    Just sayin'...


  5. I like hearing rags to riches stories. It gives me hope. You made a good point when you said people who work as if there is no other choice are the ones who will succeed.

  6. Your story did touch on me personally here Lynn. What's interesting is I would be categorized under that subtopic of 'One who was once successful but tasted failure and is now clawing their way back to the top'.

    As for myself, I was the first person in my family to gain a college education however, due to a very poor economy, I was forced into a retail profession which was NOTHING to do with my schooling and swimming in debt I looked for anyway out. I began to learn about internet marketing in nov. 2008 and launched my first business in jul '09 and by all accounts it was very successful.

    As far as 'rags to riches' stories, I believe it's a catch-22. One with a negative mindset will never truly get over the hump. I feel those who find these stories to be a hindrance already may have a handicap with negativity. By the same token, if one is actually putting forth effort following tips, tricks and advice from as many authorities out there as possible and is not progressing but hearing of others' success, that can create not only resentment but a feeling of defeat.

    It's all dependent upon the person. You mentioned the clear-cut vision in your video and I've been told repeatedly in the past to have a vision board so you know exactly what you want. To me, this doesn't work, but that's me. I'll create an audio tape which loops for about a half hour in the morning which psychs me up but visually, I believe it's a waste of my mental and physical energy to conduct such tactics.

    I look at 'rags to riches' stories as great motivators because nothing is quite as powerful as a personal testimony.

  7. I like rags to riches stories as long as they seem genuine. There are so many online and then you get to the end, and you have to purchase a program.
    I do think that when you've been struggling financially for a long time you do work harder. When you have financial success, you'll do almost anything to keep it. At the same time many people who have not had financial success may give up on new ventures to soon because they feel they will never be successful.
    Listening to your story and others like it, does give me the inspiration that I need to continue on. With time and a lot of hard work, I know I will be a success in every way.

  8. I love hearing other People's rags to riches stories but not when they use it in their sales pitch! The actual stories are great and I believe that it is true that you have to hit rock bottom to make it to the top.

    I can see you are a crazy motivated person, much like me, who gets up before everyone else and does work. Then when everyone else gets up, I spend time with my family, and they really don't notice that I work at all. When they have gone to school or work, I work again.

    I watched the other video on your other site and your routine sounds like mine.. I published this on my blog and called it my "daily blogging routine" and people were shocked at how much work I actually did. I can't help myself though, I love what I do.

    I also believe "ANYone can achieve ANYthing" they set their mind to. But when I tell people this they shy away from the work that "anything" involves. Sure you can do it, have it, own it, but it takes work. I am starting to realize (now 41) that not everyone has the ability, the drive, and the mind control that is required to do this business or even be successful. There are different breads that cannot grasp this concept. (or their mind won't let them)

  9. Lynn:

    My life started out difficult when my mother died and I wasn't even a teenager. I had 6 sisters and my Dad was a shipping clerk at a local factory. After the funeral my father told me he would feed and house me, but everything else I needed (like clothes) I had to earn on my own. In addition, when I graduated from high school I had to leave and strike out on my own.

    I went into the Air Force, gained some skills, took some college classes, and after I got out of the military finished my degree. I couldn't find a job I really liked, so I started my own business which grew to over $ 10M in sales.

    Then disaster hit when I took on a partner who turned out to be a crook. I found myself on the doorsteps of poverty just when I should have started retirement.

    But I am climbing back, making progress every day through learning from a few people who are willing to help like yourself. I have regained my financial footing once again, and am making progress.

    The truth is all of this has been OK with me - even in the worst of times I have always been better off than someone else.

    The great thing about this country is if you are willing to work you can make it.

    Thanks for sharing your story with us Lynn.


  10. Love them, they give me hope.
    The Wright brothers knew they would hit the ground many time before they took off, yet they never stopped trying.
    If you don't quit, you win.

  11. Thanks so much for sharing your story !I agree with the previous comment if you dont quit you win !! Pushing myself forward

  12. makes me green with envy jealous frustrated and lost and a ray of hope too.

  13. Hi Lynn,
    I try to read you emails when they come in, I do miss some. I listened to your video on Rags to Riches. Of course your point is very relevant, and true. BUt one of the great things I like about you is your sincerlity, you do a great job. That's a gift Lynn! Wishing you well this year!
    Tim Veach

  14. They are the best kinds of stories I like to listen to or read. They encourage me and help me develop more confidence in myself. Sometimes, if I have nothing to do, I would browse the internet for rags to riches stories, especially the ones from internet marketers, since they are in the same field I want to succeed in.

  15. I find them somewhat inspiring. What irritates me is whats left out in between I'm broke, homeless or whatever to I'm making a six figure income online.

    I'll use you as an example, You left a relationship with your children and I think $7 in your pocket. No job, or business. I don't remember if you had some place to go or not. For me it's how were you able to work all those grueling hours to build your business? Did you get a job? Did you have family or friends to live with? Someone supporting you? Living on public assistants? Were your basic needs met to allow you to work on the internet?

    I know you don't have to answer any of that and I'm not expecting you to and you may have shared it somewhere but I haven't read it. However,if I was someone starting out that way I would want to know how you were able to work all those hours online to build your business and support your family while building it.It would let me know I was not alone and could see a way out.

    We all know it takes time, Right? That is the kind of stuff I see left out of these stories so I feel some of these kind of stories are good sellers.

    (Note..I have no doubt your story is genuine. I just think people are starting to over use it)


  16. Karen Cioffi says

    Hi, Lynn, It's commendable how you achieved success through adversity. Being a divorced parent with a 3 and 7 year old (long ago now) I know how difficult it is to pull yourself up.

    But, I'm not motivated by 'rags to riches' stories, even if their sincere. There are too many variables in life for there to be a one-for-all guide book.

    In fact, when I'm attending a webinar or teleseminar, it's annoying when the presenter takes 15 minutes or more to tell the audience his/her rags to riches story. Everyone's time is valuable, I'd rather that 15 minutes be spent on providing more information that will help those in attendance get where they want to be.

    I do agree though that it takes drive, determination, and perseverance to achieve most things in life.

  17. Like Bernita, I'd be really really curious about that in-between time, because that's where I am now. From working abroad, earning decent money, paying bills on time, and just getting started in my online business, to back at "home," making little over minimum part time in a factory ... I've nowhere to go but up. But how to get there when creditors are taking you to court and you're terrified you'll end up homeless. Lynn, I absolutely can't imagine how someone barely up from a shelter can possibly make it online! Bernita's right, you don't have to answer, but I am so very curious.

  18. I don't know if you'll see this or not, Lynn, but I'm just now finding my way to some of your older posts and felt compelled to respond to this video.

    As to your question - I am totally sick of the stories that go something like "homeless man discovers amazing online trick and makes 5 million dollars overnight and here's how you can too"... ugh! We all know that's a total lie/sales pitch.

    However, on the other hand, I truly enjoy REAL stories of people who have come from difficult circumstances and become financially independent/successful... or have accomplished some major worthwhile goal that helps others. In fact, I often read autobiographies for their inspiration. I love it when people are willing to share what they've had to overcome to get to where they are, your personal story is a prime example.

    One qualifier as to stories that I like are ones where the person made the climb out of a bad situation and achieved "success" only through ethical means (no cheaters or crooks) and who didn't just "get lucky" through some fluke event. I appreciate the struggles others have gone through and love to read those (so where's YOUR autobiography Lynn?) and always learn from them.

    I agree that many who have never struggled to survive become complacent and never really do or achieve anything profound. Many take for granted what you and I have had to fight for, and that seems unfair. BUT.. I don't see it as unfair because I feel I am "rich" because I'm going somewhere, I'm creating something significant, and I've had to learn to appreciate small blessings (like a roof, food, etc.) so I see the world and my own life differently than perhaps others would who've never struggled. Also, it's the challenges in life and our reaction to them that makes us who we are. I think that without challenges people become marshmallows. Yuk.

    Like you, I'm really not money-motivated or materialistic. I couldn't care less about flashy new cars, expensive clothes or jewelry, or living in a fancy house. My "dream home" is about an 800 square foot cabin on the side of a mountain with nothing around me but nature itself (no houses, people, etc.), a covered deck on at least 3 sides, a pond or lake, time to do whatever I want, and, of course, my animals. That's it!

    So anyone who tries to flaunt "lifestyles of the rich" to me is barking up the wrong tree, so to speak. I am so much more inspired by people who do or create something significant that helps others, helps the environment, etc., especially if they started with very little, or have overcome very difficult circumstances.

  19. Another thing I like to see is someone who has made it online in the past few years, after the economic crisis, and also years after the 'net pioneers got their start when the digital landscape was up for grabs.

    Today it's no longer a landscape but like one giant traffic jam. Let's face it -- most of the good domain names and niches are taken, and at least in my field, most of the good ideas already done, the brilliant new terms already coined ... That doesn't stop me, though.

    So my inspiration today comes from someone who worked like mad to make it up from hard times TODAY, recently, when it's so much harder to do. That doesn't take away from your achievements, Lynn. It just lets us know it can still be done today.

    And if you're so far down that you can't afford to buy products ... which brings me to another major peeve: sales letters touting rags to riches where someone'll say, "I was where you are ... I had nothing ... I was homeless," ad nauseum, then the "Buy Now" button. Where, then, did they get the money to buy products or invest in business?

    You're obviously selling to people who have some disposable dollars so leave off the broke-and-homeless thing. Your customers can't relate to that. People who really are broke and homeless are not your market and never will be.

    I want very much to help people in those straits get started in business; it's one of my major goals. But I can't figure out a way to do it and make a living, too. They can't afford to pay me. So I have to make it first with those who can, then pay it forward in that realm.

    So again Lynn, love you and you ain't getting rid of me anytime soon, but after your story, I and others in the same circumstances would really love to know where the roof over your head came from during those times. I'm about to lose mine so at the moment concentrating on business is a tad hard. Yet I plug along.

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