Jim Rohn

Jim Rohn

Emanuel James “Jim” Rohn (September 17, 1930 – December 5, 2009) was an American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker. His rags to riches story played a large part in his work, which influenced others in the personal development industry.

Early life

Emanuel James “Jim” Rohn was born in Yakima, Washington to Emanuel and Clara Rohn. The Rohns owned and worked a farm in Caldwell, Idaho where Jim grew up, as an only child.


Jim graduated from high school 3rd out of a class of 140. He went to college for a year and a half before dropping out and joining the work force. At age 25, according to his accounts, he was working as a stock clerk for Sears collecting a weekly $57 paycheck. He wasn’t broke but struggling financially, unable to see a way that would lead to his personal ambitions.

Around this time, a friend invited him to a lecture given by John Earl Shoaff, an entrepreneur who impressed Rohn with his wealth, business accomplishments, charisma, and life philosophy. At that time, Shoaff was VP of Sales in a nutritional supplement company called AbundaVita. In October 1955, Rohn joined AbundaVita and became a distributor of the company’s product line and began a process of personal development that culminated in his becoming a millionaire by age 31.

In June 1957, Shoaff left AbundaVita and with best friend, Rich Schnackenberg, started a nutritional company called Nutri-Bio. Rohn resigned his distributorship with AbundaVita and signed on with Nutri-Bio. It was at this point that Shoaff (and Schnackenberg) really took Rohn under their wing and personally mentored him. Jim took to their teachings like a fish to water and built one of the largest organizations in the company. Shoaff and Schnackenberg were so impressed with Rohn that, in 1960, when Nutri-Bio expanded into Canada, they personally selected Rohn to fill the VP slot.

When Nutri-Bio went out of business in the early 1960s, Rohn’s net worth fell from $2,300,000 to almost zero. According to his own account “It was then that all the houses and the fancy cars had to go.” He still had all of his skills so he rented an apartment, started over from scratch and built his fortunes all over again.

Rohn was invited by a friend to come and tell his “rags-to-riches” story to his rotary club. He accepted and titled his talk “Idaho Farm Boy makes it to Beverly Hills.” The talk went so well that soon others began asking him to speak at various luncheons and other events. In 1963, at the Beverly Hills Hotel, he gave his first public seminar. He then began presenting seminars all over the country, telling his story and teaching the personal development philosophy he felt had led to his accomplishments.

In 1966, a friend and fellow ex-Nutri-Bio distributor, William E. Bailey, started a company called Bestline Products. Bailey hired Rohn to host recruiting and training meetings all across the country, paying him the sum of $250,000, up front, for his services.

Throughout the ’70s, Rohn conducted a number of seminars for the Marketing Executives of Standard Oil (California) which now does business as Chevron Corporation. At the same time, he conducted a personal development business called “Adventures in Achievement” which featured both live seminars as well as personal development workshops. Ultimately, he presented seminars, worldwide, for more than 40 years.

Tony Robbins who worked for Rohn in the late ’70s, was mentored by Rohn during the early years of his career. Others who credit Rohn for his influence on their careers include authors Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield (Chicken Soup book series), author/lecturer Brian Tracy and T. Harv Eker.

Rohn also mentored top motivational speaker Chris Widener (author) the last seven years of his life. Widener now carries on Rohn’s work with Twelve Pillars seminars based on Twelve Pillars, Rohn’s last book, co-authored with Widener.

Rohn was the recipient of the 1985 National Speakers Association CPAE Award for excellence in speaking. He is also the author of 17 different books, audio and video programs.


Jim Rohn died of pulmonary fibrosis on December 5, 2009 after an 18-month battle. He is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Glendale) in Los Angeles, California.

Five Major Pieces To the Life Puzzle

Rohn’s book Five Major Pieces to the Life Puzzle, published in 1991, was built around what he considered the five components of success:

Philosophy – how you think
Attitude – how you feel
Action – what you do
Results – measure often to see if you are making progress
Lifestyle – the kind of life you can make for yourself out of the first four pieces


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