What can your mind learn, your heart embrace and your soul discover about success from a fortune cookie?

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"An aim in life is the only fortune worth finding."
Robert Louis Stevenson

Over the past twenty plus years, I have made a point of collecting and cataloging the fortunes I received in fortune cookies. Now, I don’t believe there is anything mystical or magical that happens when I get a fortune cookie, but there is often a gift of wisdom and that’s pretty powerful magic by itself.

Fortune cookies not only provide sweetness at the end of a savory meal, they also can produce nourishment for the mind while culling a sense of appreciation for life within you. Sometime the urge is to look for an answer to something puzzling, like a set of winning lottery numbers. I have found that the secret to reading a fortune cookie is to look for the question you should be asking yourself that is relative to the advice the fortune cookie is communicating.

If you consistently look for the questions inside your fortune cookies you might find yourself on an amazing journey of self-examination fueled by the questions your fortune cookies have “asked”. Within these journeys you might encounter pieces of wisdom that your mind will learn, your heart will embrace, and your soul will discover about success.

Let me tell you about some of mine…


In my early-forties, I received a fortune that did not change me physically, but it did change my way of thinking. At that time in my life, I had become preoccupied with death having witnessed my 69-yer old father lose his valiant bout with cancer. I worried about living long enough to witness the level of success and joy that he had in his life. Imagine the pressure I was placing on myself based on what I now know was an unrealistic expectation. After getting this fortune, it helped me to shift my mindset from the distant future to the immediate present. It also helped me realize that even under the worst outcomes, if I had my basic needs fulfilled, I would and could aim at fulfilling my unlimited potential. 

This is the fortune I received that changed how I have thought about life and success from that day forward, “Your blessing is being no more than safe and sound for the whole lifetime.”

Really? Great! Where do I go to sign up for that? 

If you’re thinking about how you will approach your success journey, it sure would help to know that you will be safe and sound for your whole lifetime. I know it did to me. I began to think about the word “lifetime”. A lifetime is just the span of one’s life. It is not defined by any measure of years, accomplishments or accolades. It is, as they say, “The dash”, between the dates on a tombstone. A lifetime is what you make of it. It does not need or beg for comparison to the lives of others to be of value. 

This little piece of fortune cookie wisdom encouraged me to ask,  “What it was that I really needed to live a successful life?” This hidden question helped me shift my thinking from what I thought I needed to be successful to what really mattered to me about living a successful life.


I have always been a smiling person, although my dad was quick to point out I was a colicky baby and cried almost continuously for the first two years of my life. From my perspective, I was just getting all the tears out of my system so my naturally smiling character could shine through.

I don’t remember at what age I realized the power of my smile, but I know it has always been among my greatest assets. I like giving smiles away. To family, friends, colleagues and strangers. Smiles cost me nothing, are almost always returned to me immediately, and no matter how many I give away my supply of smiles is inexhaustible. Here’s a fortune I received that sums up my Smile Philosophy, “Smile. It makes your day brighter as well as the days of those around you.”

This small piece of advice encouraged me to ask, “Who benefits most when I share a smile?” My answer was simple, “I do.” When I share a smile, I get the high of releasing positive energy into the world around me. That positive energy has the potential to change the attitude of contention and the altitude of limitation in the world. Imagine the power of one small piece of paper to warm your heart and touch the hearts of others as well. That’s what this fortune was able to do for me.


A significant portion of the success coaching I do with businesses, organizations and individuals consists of identifying the purpose, passion, and promises of their intended goals. For so many people, and for a very long time for me personally, success was an unsurmountable and elusive target. I never understood how to achieve it because I did not understand the simple nature of success. Like many people, I fixated on measuring success by the things I acquired, be they a position, some power or a possession.

In recent years, I have come to understand that most of the success I believe had eluded me was simply going unnoticed by me. And, as a result, I was never able to build and sustain the ultimate success I desired because I always seemed to be starting from square one with every effort. But now, I know differently. I have learned that success is not a single event set somewhere at the edge of a distant horizon. Success happens every day, if you just pay attention to it.

A fortune cookie once told me, "Success lies in the hands of those who want it."

This led me to ask the question, “Are you clearly and purposefully defining what you want enough to establish a clear and reasonable expectation of your intent.” When I discovered I wasn’t doing this, it helped me pave the way for striving to live a successful life by intent. In the simplest of terms, success is the achievement of an intent. Purpose, passion and promise are the foundational pillars successful people practice with confidence and consistency.

Success need not be measured by exorbitant achievements at all. In fact, to be successful most often requires you to recognize the smaller accomplishments that lay the foundation for larger ones down the road. The devil truly is in the details. Finding strength and confidence in the ability to consistently do the small things in life, is a critical step that can lead you to achieve a successful life.


The cumulative effect of paying heed to fortune cookie wisdom is the level of awareness it will create in you when you follow the wisdom with an inquiring question. We live hurried lives, leaping from one second of inspiration to another, expecting something fantastic to happen along the way. This type of success strategy is akin to going into a multiplex theater and seeing a small fraction of each film they are showing. You might get a sense of each film, but you will not experience their complete stories. To truly make the theater going experience complete you have to invest the necessary time it will take to watch each film beginning to end. In other words, you must make a commitment, have an intent and expand your patience.

According to fortune cookie wisdom I received, "Success is usually the fruit of patience."

How sweet that is!

This blog marks the end of the first year of my “all about Speaking Success” in which I published 50 thoughts on topics including Content Creation, Executive Speaking, On Leadership, Speaker’s Mindset, Speaking Tips, and Thinking Success. The first year, is indexed by topic at this link. I trust these posts have been insightful and of value to you, my readers. I want to thank those who have shared comments and suggestions with me and I’m looking forward to positively contributing to your life in the next year. Please continue to share your suggestions and comments with me. As always, I encourage you to freely share this post with friends and colleagues.

To Your Speaking Success.
The Speech Wiz