Advice From the Dying Rabbi

By: Dan Kennedy on: July 1st, 2010 5 Comments

I want to talk about my A-B-C thoughts about the formula of success.

Let me start out with a story to illustrate this.

It’s a little story about a Rabbi educator, very much respected, elderly, wise man in the Jewish faith who was on his death bed. Gathered along the side of the bed were his Rabbinical students of that particular year, apparently as custom, he had them ordered from the smartest student, his very best student closest to him all the way down to his very worst student – sort of the dunce of the class that no one had much respect for at the far end of the line.

And he was really on the verge of passing away and his favorite student leaned over to him and he said, “Rabbi before you leave please finally tell us, finally condense for us the meaning of life.” This student really wanted it in a condensed form and the dying Rabbi had no choice but to give it in a condescended form so he looked up at the student and in a barely audible voice he croaked to him, “Life is like a river.”

And his wisest student turned to the next one in line and he said, “He said that life is like a river. Pass it on.”

And he turned to the next student and said, “Life is like a river. Pass it on.” And it moved all the way down the line to the dunce, the student at the end that nobody had much respect for and he looked back at the one who passed it to him and he said, “Life is like a river? What does that mean life is like a river? Ask him what he means by that.”

And so they passed that back up the line in the other direction. One said to the other, “Guy at the end doesn’t know ask him what he means by life is like a river.” They passed it up with the guy at the end, you know, he doesn’t understand what he means by life is like a river.

All the way back up the student leans over to the dying Rabbi, he says, “What do you mean life is like river?” And the rabbi looks up and says, “Okay, so it’s not like a river.”

The problem with that, of course, is that if that highly respected Rabbi had expired before the dunce asked the question all across this country for the next decade or so the subject of all the sermons and talks from those graduating rabbinical students would have been life is like a river.

The mystical, magic word from on high, you know, for the sake of a second or a minute or one provocative stupid question and many times they are the same stupid and provocative questions. Something could have been considered the wisdom of the ages when it really wasn’t. The point of that is that we find as we look at successful people and as we get an opportunity to meet and talk with successful people in all fields that there are many, many, many differences between successful people.

There is no real one A-B-C formula for success that works for everybody. A friend of mine in the diet business said if there was one diet that worked for everybody there’d only be one diet. But open a National Enquirer this week and there’s 500 of them in there.

If there was one success formula that worked for everybody there’d be one book and nobody would have ever written another one.


Dan Kennedy is internationally recognized as the 'Millionaire Maker,' helping people in just about every category of business turn their ideas into fortunes. Dan's "No B.S." approach is refreshing amidst a world of small business marketing hype and enriches those who act on his advice. For more money-making marketing tips, tactics and strategies, go to

5 Responses

  1. Rob Anspach says:

    No real formula…yet there are many examples!
    Learn to follow the right people and success will eventually come your way!

  2. “Life is like a river.”

    OK, so it’s not! 😀

    The Rabbi (still alive here, hey!)

  3. Great story. Love the punchline.

  4. Scott Martin says:

    Pretty much 90 per cent of the good direct response copywriting books are the same from author to author. I learn a lot from the 10 per cent…the slight variations.

  5. There are many different formulas for success, but there are certainly commonalities among all successful people.

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