Sam Walton’s Genius Advice to a 17-Year Old is Useful to Anyone Who Wants to Succeed

In 1986 Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, was the wealthiest man in America with an estimated net worth of $4.5 billion.

Although Walton opened his first Wal-Mart store in 1962, he started in the retail business in the mid 1940s, acquiring a Ben Franklin franchise and eventually running 15 stores before striking out on his own.

By 1976 Wal-Mart was a traded public company worth over 176 million in stocks and by the early 1990s it had grown to $45 billion.

Sam Walton’s wealth and busy schedule did not keep him from answering the letter of a 17-year-old who wanted to learn valuable lessons from his success. That teenager was Bob Duggan’s son, Demian Duggan.

Sam Walton took the time to thoroughly answer Demian’s questions. His reply letter shows his genius from greeting to signature.

Here’s the original letter and a retyped version of it for clearer reading.

Sam Walton Letter

We’ve identified the genius characteristics that stand out in Sam Walton’s letter:



“Dear Mr. Duggan;“Thank you for your letter and your interest in our Wal-Mart Company. I appreciate

the honor you have given me and our company with your questions pertaining to

the research you are doing.

“My friend, you have asked some very thought-provoking questions and I am not sure

I can respond adequately.”

Genius Characteristics Displayed: Outgoingness

Walton not only greeted Demian as “Mr. Duggan”, but also called him “my friend”. The 17-year old was impressed by Sam Walton who was a booster from the start.



“(1) There were several persons who had an indirect influence on my business philosophy: my parents, teachers, friends, and associates.”

Genius Characteristic Displayed: Curiosity

A curious mind will learn from those around him, whether by asking or observing.



“(2) The training and experience I received and the self-confidence I gained probably were the motivating factors that prompted me to enter the retail business.” 

Genius Characteristics Displayed: Optimism and Enthusiasm

Self-confidence is the jewel here. Optimism points out that geniuses don’t doubt they will succeed. While enthusiasm calls for really believing that things will turn out well.



“(3) My advice to anyone wishing to succeed in business is to first count the cost of time, energy, and investment that will be necessary…”

Genius Characteristics Displayed: Willingness to Take Chances, Ability to Judge, Honesty and Dynamic Energy

In this line, Sam Walton expresses that risks can be minimized by analyzing the factors involved and by honestly looking at them and working out a plan to make your goal happen.



“then become dedicated to hard work, sacrifice, reinvestment into the business…”

Genius Characteristics displayed: Drive and Perfectionism

Geniuses are not afraid to work hard and complete what they started. Reinvesting in your business shows perfectionism—wanting to do more and better.



“obtaining all the knowledge that is possible…”

Genius Characteristics displayed: Knowledge

This one speaks for itself—geniuses continually accumulate information.



“sharing profits with employees, practicing hospitality and aggressiveness…”

Genius Characteristic Displayed: Persuasion

Geniuses know how to motivate people, Sam Walton knew that sharing profits would definitely do the trick.



“and having a willingness to serve others…”

Genius Characteristics displayed: Idealism

Idealism is about doing great things not just for yourself but for the betterment of others. Walton was willing to do this.



“Thanks for taking the time to write and best wishes for success and happiness in whatever you pursue.“Very truly yours,

“Sam Walton”

Genius Characteristics Displayed: Perception

Talk about thinking more of others’ needs than you do of your own.

Sam Walton was an entrepreneurial mastermind. His Ability to Communicate and Idealism are also evident throughout this letter.

In Knowledge, Dr. Barrios encourages us to “Read. And question people who know.” Demian Duggan asked Sam Walton. He knew, he answered, and we thank Bob Duggan for sharing this treasure with us.

Now, continue applying the 24 characteristics of genius and be unstoppable in whatever you set out to accomplish.