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[Illustration: BENJAMIN FRANKLIN,
American Philosopher, Statesman, Diplomatist, and Author.
_b. Boston, 1706; d. Philadelphia, 1790_.]
AN IRON WILL
_By_ ORISON SWETT MARDEN
AUTHOR OF "PUSHING TO THE FRONT," ETC.
WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF
_ILLUSTRATED WITH PORTRAITS_
THOMAS Y. CROWELL COMPANY
BY THOMAS Y. CROWELL & COMPANY.
AN IRON WILL.
TRAINING THE WILL.
"The education of the will is the object of our existence," says
Nor is this putting it too strongly, if we take into account the human
will in its relations to the divine. This accords with the saying of J.
Stuart Mill, that "a character is a completely fashioned will."
In respect to mere mundane relations, the development and discipline of
one's will-power is of supreme moment in relation to success in life. No
man can ever estimate the power of will. It is a part of the divine
nature, all of a piece with the power of creation. We speak of God's
fiat "_Fiat lux_, Let light be." Man has his fiat. The achievements of
history have been the choices, the determinations, the creations, of the
human will. It was the will, quiet or pugnacious, gentle or grim, of men
like Wilberforce and Garrison, Goodyear and Cyrus Field, Bismarck and
Grant, that made them indomitable. They simply would do what they
planned. Such men can no more be stopped than the sun can be, or the
tide. Most men fail, not through lack of education or agreeable personal
qualities, but from lack of dogged determination, from lack of dauntless
"It is impossible," says Sharman, "to look into the conditions under
which the battle of life is being fought, without perceiving how much
really depends upon the extent to which the will-power is cultivated,
strengthened, and made operative in right directions." Young people need
to go into training for it. We live in an age of athletic meets. Those
who are determined to have athletic will-power must take for it the kind
of exercise they need.
This is well illustrated by a report I have seen of the long race from
Marathon in the recent Olympian games, which was won by the young Greek
peasant, Sotirios Loues.
A STRUGGLE IN THE RACE OF LIFE.
There had been no great parade about the training of this champion
runner. From his work at the plough he quietly betook himself to the
task of making Greece victorious before the assembled strangers from
every land. He was known to be a good runner, and without fuss or bustle
he entered himself as a competitor. But it was not his speed alone,
out-distancing every rival, that made the young Greek stand out from
among his fellows that day. When he left his cottage home at Amarusi,
his father said to him, "Sotiri, you must only return a victor!" The
light of a firm resolve shone in the young man's eye. The old father was
sure that his boy would win, and so he made his way to the station,
there to wait till Sotiri should come in ahead of all the rest. No one
knew the old man and his three daughters as they elbowed their way
through the crowd. When at last the excitement of the assembled
multitude told that the critical moment had arrived, that the racers
were nearing the goal, the old father looked up through eyes that were a
little dim as he realized that truly Sotiri was leading the way. He
_was_ "returning a victor." How the crowd surged about the young peasant
when the race was fairly won! Wild with excitement, they knew not how to
shower upon him sufficient praise. Ladies overwhelmed him with flowers
and rings; some even gave him their watches, and one American lady
bestowed upon him her jewelled smelling-bottle. The princes embraced
him, and the king himself saluted him in military fashion. But the young
Sotirios was seeking for other praise than theirs. Past the ranks of
royalty and fair maidenhood, past the outstretched hands of his own
countrymen, past the applauding crowd of foreigners, his gaze wandered
till it fell upon an old man trembling with eagerness, who resolutely
pushed his way through the excited, satisfied throng. Then the young
face lighted, and as old Loues advanced to the innermost circle with
arms outstretched to embrace his boy, the young victor said, simply:
"You see, father, I have obeyed."
The athlete trains for his race; and the mind must be put into training
if one will win life's race.
"It is," says Professor Mathews, "only by continued, strenuous efforts,
repeated again and again, day after day, week after week, and month
after month, that the ability can be acquired to fasten the mind to one
subject, however abstract or knotty, to the exclusion of everything
else. The process of obtaining this self-mastery--this complete command
of one's mental powers--is a gradual one, its length varying with the
mental constitution of each person; but its acquisition is worth
infinitely more than the utmost labor it ever costs."
"Perhaps the most valuable result of all education," it was said by
Professor Huxley, "is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have
to do when it ought to be done, whether you like it or not; it is the
first lesson which ought to be learned, and, however early a man's
training begins, it is probably the last lesson which he learns
DOING THINGS ONCE.
When Henry Ward Beecher was asked how it was that he could accomplish so
much more than other men, he replied:
"I don't do more, but less, than other people. They do all their work
three times over: once in anticipation, once in actuality, once in
rumination. I do mine in actuality alone, doing it once instead of three
This was by the intelligent exercise of Mr. Beecher's will-power in
concentrating his mind upon what he was doing at a given moment, and
then turning to something else. Any one who has observed business men
closely, has noticed this characteristic. One of the secrets of a
successful life is to be able to hold all of our energies upon one
point, to focus all of the scattered rays of the mind upon one place or
The mental reservoir of most people is like a leaky dam which we
sometimes see in the country, where the greater part of the water flows
out without going over the wheel and doing the work of the mill. The
habit of mind-wandering, of worrying about this and that,
"Genius, that power which dazzles mortal eyes,
Is oft but Perseverance in disguise."
Many a man would have been a success had he connected his fragmentary
efforts. Spasmodic, disconnected attempts, without concentration,
uncontrolled by any fixed idea, will never bring success. It is
continuity of purpose alone that achieves results.
LEARNING TO SWIM.
The way to learn to run is to run, the way to learn to swim is to swim.
The way to learn to develop will-power is by the actual exercise of
will-power in the business of life. "The man that exercises his will,"
says an English essayist, "makes it a stronger and more effective force
in proportion to the extent to which such exercise is intelligently and
perseveringly maintained." The forth-putting of will-power is a means of
strengthening will-power. The will becomes strong by exercise. To stick
to a thing till you are master, is a test of intellectual discipline and
"It is astonishing," says Dr. Theodore Cuyler, "how many men lack this
power of 'holding on' until they reach the goal. They can make a sudden
dash, but they lack grit. They are easily discouraged. They get on as
long as everything goes smoothly, but when there is friction they lose
heart. They depend on stronger personalities for their spirit and
strength. They lack independence or originality. They only dare to do
what others do. They do not step boldly from the crowd and act
THE BIG TREES.
What is needed by him who would succeed in the highest degree possible
is careful planning. He is to accumulate reserved power, that he may be
equal to all emergencies. Thomas Starr King said that the great trees of
California gave him his first impression of the power of reserve. "It
was the thought of the reserve energies that had been compacted into
them," he said, "that stirred me. The mountains had given them their
iron and rich stimulants, the hills had given them their soil, the
clouds had given their rain and snow, and a thousand summers and winters
had poured forth their treasures about their vast roots."
No young man can hope to do anything above the commonplace who has not
made his life a reservoir of power on which he can constantly draw,
which will never fail him in any emergency. Be sure that you have stored
away, in your power-house, the energy, the knowledge that will be equal
to the great occasion when it comes. "If I were twenty, and had but ten
years to live," said a great scholar and writer, "I would spend the
first nine years accumulating knowledge and getting ready for the
"There are no two words in the English language which stand out in
bolder relief, like kings upon a checker-board, to so great an extent as
the words 'I will.' There is strength, depth and solidity, decision,
confidence and power, determination, vigor and individuality, in the
round, ringing tone which characterizes its delivery. It talks to you of
triumph over difficulties, of victory in the face of discouragement, of
will to promise and strength to perform, of lofty and daring enterprise,
of unfettered aspirations, and of the thousand and one solid impulses by
which man masters impediments in the way of progression."
As one has well said: "He who is silent is forgotten; he who does not
advance falls back; he who stops is overwhelmed, distanced, crushed; he
who ceases to become greater, becomes smaller; he who leaves off gives
up; the stationary is the beginning of the end--it precedes death; to
live is to achieve, to will without ceasing."
Be thou a hero; let thy might
Tramp on eternal snows its way,
And through the ebon walls of night,
Hew down a passage unto day.
THE RULERS OF DESTINY.
There is no chance, no destiny, no fate,
Can circumvent, or hinder, or control
The firm resolve of a determined soul.
Gifts count for nothing; will alone is great;
All things give way before it soon or late.
What obstacle can stay the mighty force
Of the sea-seeking river in its course,
Or cause the ascending orb of day to wait?
Each well-born soul must win what it deserves.
Let the fool prate of luck. The fortunate
Is he whose earnest purpose never swerves,
Whose slightest action or inaction serves
The one great aim.
_Ella Wheeler Wilcox_.
There is always room for a man of force.--_Emerson_.
The king is the man who can.--_Carlyle_.
A strong, defiant purpose is many-handed, and lays hold of whatever is
near that can serve it; it has a magnetic power that draws to itself
whatever is kindred.--_T.T. Munger_.
What is will-power, looked at in a large way, but energy of character?
Energy of will, self-originating force, is the soul of every great
character. Where it is, there is life; where it is not, there is
faintness, helplessness, and despondency. "Let it be your first study to
teach the world that you are not wood and straw; that there is some iron
in you." Men who have left their mark upon the world have been men of
great and prompt decision. The achievements of will-power are almost
beyond computation. Scarcely anything seems impossible to the man who
can will strongly enough and long enough. One talent with a will behind
it will accomplish more than ten without it, as a thimbleful of powder
in a rifle, the bore of whose barrel will give it direction, will do
greater execution than a carload burned in the open air.
"THE WILLS, THE WON'TS, AND THE CAN'TS."
"There are three kinds of people in the world," says a recent writer,
"the wills, the won'ts, and the can'ts. The first accomplish everything;
the second oppose everything; the third fail in everything."
The shores of fortune, as Foster says, are covered with the stranded
wrecks of men of brilliant ability, but who have wanted courage, faith,
and decision, and have therefore perished in sight of more resolute but
less capable adventurers, who succeeded in making port.
Were I called upon to express in a word the secret of so many failures
among those who started out with high hopes, I should say they lacked
will-power. They could not half will: and what is a man without a will?
He is like an engine without steam. Genius unexecuted is no more genius
than a bushel of acorns is a forest of oaks.
Will has been called the spinal column of personality. "The will in its
relation to life," says an English writer, "may be compared at once to
the rudder and to the steam engine of a vessel, on the confined and
related action of which it depends entirely for the direction of its
course and the vigor of its movement."
Strength of will is the test of a young man's possibilities. Can he will
strong enough, and hold whatever he undertakes with an iron grip? It is
the iron grip that takes and holds. What chance is there in this
crowding, pushing, selfish, greedy world, where everything is pusher or
pushed, for a young man with no will, no grip on life? The man who would
forge to the front in this competitive age must be a man of prompt and
A TAILOR'S NEEDLE.
It is in one of Ben Jonson's old plays: "When I once take the humor of a
thing, I am like your tailor's needle--I go through with it."
This is not different from Richelieu, who said: "When I have once taken
a resolution, I go straight to my aim; I overthrow all, I cut down all."
And in business affairs the counsel of Rothschild is to the same effect:
"Do without fail that which you determine to do."
Gladstone's children were taught to accomplish _to the end_ whatever
they might begin, no matter how insignificant the undertaking might be.
WHAT IS WORSE THAN RASHNESS
It is irresolution that is worse than rashness. "He that shoots," says
Feltham, "may sometimes hit the mark; but he that shoots not at all can
never hit it. Irresolution is like an ague; it shakes not this nor that
limb, but all the body is at once in a fit."
The man who is forever twisting and turning, backing and filling,
hesitating and dawdling, shuffling and parleying, weighing and
balancing, splitting hairs over non-essentials, listening to every new
motive which presents itself, will never accomplish anything. But the
positive man, the decided man, is a power in the world, and stands for
something; you can measure him, and estimate the work that his energy
Opportunity is coy, is swift, is gone, before the slow, the unobservant,
the indolent, or the careless can seize her. "Vigilance in watching
opportunity," said Phelps, "tact and daring in seizing upon opportunity;
force and persistence in crowding opportunity to its utmost of possible
achievement--these are the martial virtues which must command success."
"The best men," remarked Chapin, "are not those who have waited for
chances, but who have taken them; besieged the chance; conquered the
chance; and made chance the servitor."
Is it not possible to classify successes and failures by their various
degrees of will-power? A man who can resolve vigorously upon a course of
action, and turns neither to the right nor to the left, though a
paradise tempt him, who keeps his eyes upon the goal, whatever distracts
him, is sure of success.
"Not every vessel that sails from Tarshish will bring back the gold of
Ophir. But shall it therefore rot in the harbor? No! Give its sails to
"Conscious power," says Melles, "exists within the mind of every one.
Sometimes its existence is unrealized, but it is there. It is there to
be developed and brought forth, like the culture of that obstinate but
beautiful flower, the orchid. To allow it to remain dormant is to place
one's self in obscurity, to trample on one's ambition, to smother one's
faculties. To develop it is to individualize all that is best within
you, and give it to the world. It is by an absolute knowledge of
yourself, the proper estimate of your own value."
"There is hardly a reader," says an experienced educator, "who will not
be able to recall the early life of at least one young man whose
childhood was spent in poverty, and who, in boyhood, expressed a firm
desire to secure a higher education. If, a little later, that desire
became a declared resolve, soon the avenues opened to that end. That
desire and resolve created an atmosphere which attracted the forces
necessary to the attainment of the purpose. Many of these young men will
tell us that, as long as they were hoping and striving and longing,
mountains of difficulty rose before them; but that when they fashioned
their hopes into fixed purposes aid came unsought to help them on the
DO YOU BELIEVE IN YOURSELF?
The man without self-reliance and an iron will is the plaything of
chance, the puppet of his environment, the slave of circumstances. Are
not doubts the greatest of enemies? If you would succeed up to the limit
of your possibilities, must you not constantly hold to the belief that
you are success-organized, and that you will be successful, no matter
what opposes? You are never to allow a shadow of doubt to enter your
mind that the Creator intended you to win in life's battle. Regard every
suggestion that your life may be a failure, that you are not made like
those who succeed, and that success is not for you, as a traitor, and
expel it from your mind as you would a thief from your house.
There is something sublime in the youth who possesses the spirit of
boldness and fearlessness, who has proper confidence in his ability to
do and dare.
The world takes us at our own valuation. It believes in the man who
believes in himself, but it has little use for the timid man, the one
who is never certain of himself; who cannot rely on his own judgment,
who craves advice from others, and is afraid to go ahead on his own
It is the man with a positive nature, the man who believes that he is
equal to the emergency, who believes he can do the thing he attempts,
who wins the confidence of his fellow-man. He is beloved because he is
brave and self-sufficient.
Those who have accomplished great things in the world have been, as a
rule, bold, aggressive, and self-confident. They dared to step out from
the crowd, and act in an original way. They were not afraid to be
There is little room in this crowding, competing age for the timid,
vacillating youth. He who would succeed to-day must not only be brave,
but must also dare to take chances. He who waits for certainty never
"The law of the soul is eternal endeavor,
That bears the man onward and upward forever."
"A man can be too confiding in others, but never too confident in
Never admit defeat or poverty. Stoutly assert your divine right to hold
your head up and look the world in the face; step bravely to the front
whatever opposes, and the world will make way for you. No one will
insist upon your rights while you yourself doubt that you have any.
Believe you were made for the place you fill. Put forth your whole
energies. Be awake, electrify yourself; go forth to the task. A young
man once said to his employer, "Don't give me an easy job. I want to
handle heavy boxes, shoulder great loads. I would like to lift a big
mountain and throw it into the sea,"--and he stretched out two brawny
arms, while his honest eyes danced and his whole being glowed with
[Illustration: CHARLES ROBERT DARWIN,
_b. Shrewsbury, 1809; d. Down, 1882_.]
The world in its heart admires the stern, determined doer. "The world
turns aside to let any man pass who knows whither he is going." "It is
wonderful how even the apparent casualties of life seem to bow to a
spirit that will not bow to them, and yield to assist a design, after
having in vain attempted to frustrate it."
"The man who succeeds," says Prentice Mulford, "must always in mind or
imagination live, move, think, and act as if he gained that success, or
he never will gain it."
"We go forth," said Emerson, "austere, dedicated, believing in the iron
links of Destiny, and will not turn on our heels to save our lives. A
book, a bust, or only the sound of a name shoots a spark through the
nerves, and we suddenly believe in will. We cannot hear of personal
vigor of any kind, great power of performance, without fresh
FORCE OF WILL IN CAMP AND FIELD.
Oh, what miracles have been wrought by the self-confidence, the
self-determination of an iron will! What impossible deeds have been
performed by it! It was this that took Napoleon over the Alps in
midwinter; it took Farragut and Dewey past the cannons, torpedoes, and
mines of the enemy; it led Nelson and Grant to victory; it has been the
great tonic in the world of discovery, invention, and art; it has helped
to win the thousand triumphs in war and science which were deemed
The secret of Jeanne d'Arc's success was not alone in rare decision of
character, but in the seeing of visions which inspired her to
self-confidence--confidence in her divine mission.
It was an iron will that gave Nelson command of the British fleet, a
title, and a statue at Trafalgar Square It was the keynote of his
character when he said, "When I don't know whether to fight or not, I
It was an iron will that was brought into play when Horatius with two
companions held ninety thousand Tuscans at bay until the bridge across
the Tiber had been destroyed--when Leonidas at Thermopylae checked the
mighty march of Xerxes--when Themistocles off the coast of Greece
shattered the Persian's Armada--when Caesar finding his army hard pressed
seized spear and buckler and snatched victory from defeat--when
Winkelried gathered to his breast a sheaf of Austrian spears and opened
a path for his comrades--when Wellington fought in many climes without
ever being conquered--when Ney on a hundred fields changed apparent
disaster into brilliant triumph--when Sheridan arrived from Winchester
as the Union retreat was becoming a route and turned the tide--when
Sherman signaled his men to hold the fort knowing that their leader was
History furnishes thousands of examples of men who have seized occasions
to accomplish results deemed impossible by those less resolute. Prompt
decision and whole-souled action sweep the world before them. Who was
the organizer of the modern German empire? Was he not the man of iron?
NAPOLEON AND GRANT.
"What would you do if you were besieged in a place entirely destitute of
provisions?" asked the examiner, when Napoleon was a cadet.
"If there were anything to eat in the enemy's camp, I should not be
When Paris was in the hands of a mob, and the authorities were
panic-stricken, in came a man who said, "I know a young officer who can
quell this mob."
"Send for him."
Napoleon was sent for; he came, he subjugated the mob, he subjugated the
authorities, he ruled France, then conquered Europe.
May 10, 1796, Napoleon carried the bridge at Lodi, in the face of the
Austrian batteries, trained upon the French end of the structure. Behind
them were six thousand troops. Napoleon massed four thousand grenadiers
at the head of the bridge, with a battalion of three hundred carbineers
in front. At the tap of the drum the foremost assailants wheeled from
the cover of the street wall under a terrible hail of grape and
canister, and attempted to pass the gateway to the bridge. The front
ranks went down like stalks of grain before a reaper; the column
staggered and reeled backward, and the valiant grenadiers were appalled
by the task before them. Without a word or a look of reproach, Napoleon
placed himself at their head, and his aids and generals rushed to his
side. Forward again over heaps of dead that choked the passage, and a
quick run counted by seconds only carried the column across two hundred
yards of clear space, scarcely a shot from the Austrians taking effect
beyond the point where the platoons wheeled for the first leap. _The
guns of the enemy were not aimed at the advance. The advance was too
quick for the Austrian gunners_. So sudden and so miraculous was it all,
that the Austrian artillerists abandoned their guns instantly, and their
supports fled in a panic instead of rushing to the front and meeting the
French onslaught. This Napoleon had counted on in making the bold
What was Napoleon but the thunderbolt of war? He once journeyed from
Spain to Paris at seventeen miles an hour in the saddle.
"Is it _possible_ to cross the path?" asked Napoleon of the engineers
who had been sent to explore the dreaded pass of St. Bernard.
"Perhaps," was the hesitating reply, "it is within the limits of
Yet Ulysses S. Grant, a young man unknown to fame, with neither money
nor influence, with no patrons or friends, in six years fought more
battles, gained more victories, captured more prisoners, took more
spoils, commanded more men, than Napoleon did in twenty years. "The
great thing about him," said Lincoln, "is cool persistence."
When the Spanish fire on San Juan Hill became almost unbearable, some of
the Rough Riders began to swear. Colonel Wood, with the wisdom of a good
leader, called out, amid the whistle of the Mauser bullets: "Don't
In a skirmish at Salamanca, while the enemy's guns were pouring shot
into his regiment, Sir William Napier's men became disobedient. He at
once ordered a halt, and flogged four of the ringleaders under fire. The
men yielded at once, and then marched three miles under a heavy
cannonade as coolly as if it were a review.
When Pellisier, the Crimean chief of Zouaves, struck an officer with a
whip, the man drew a pistol that missed fire. The chief replied:
"Fellow, I order you a three days' arrest for not having your arms in
The man of iron will is cool in the hour of danger.
"I HAD TO RUN LIKE A CYCLONE."
This was what Roosevelt said about his pushing on up San Juan Hill ahead
of his regiment: "I had to run like a cyclone to stay in front and keep
from being run over."
The personal heroism of Hobson, or of Cushing, who blew up the
"Albemarle" forty years ago, was but the expression of a magnificent
will power. It was this which was the basis of General Wheeler's
unparalleled military advancement: a second lieutenant at twenty-three,
a colonel at twenty-four, a brigadier-general at twenty-five, a
major-general at twenty-six, a corps commander at twenty-seven, and a
lieutenant-general at twenty-eight.
General Wheeler had sixteen horses killed under him, and a great number
wounded. His saddle equipments and clothes were frequently struck by the
missiles of the enemy. He was three times wounded, once painfully. He
had thirty-two staff officers, or acting staff officers, killed or
wounded. In almost every case they were immediately by his side. No
officer was ever more exposed to the missiles of death than Joseph
What is this imperial characteristic of manhood, an iron will, but that
which underlies all magnificent achievement, whether by heroes of the
"Light Brigade" or the heroic fire-fighters of our great cities?
WILL POWER IN ITS RELATION TO HEALTH AND DISEASE.
There is no doubt that, as a rule, great decision of character is
usually accompanied by great constitutional firmness. Men who have been
noted for great firmness of character have usually been strong and
robust. As a rule it is the strong physical man who carries weight and
conviction. Take, as an example, William the Conqueror, as he is
pictured by Green in his history:
"The very spirit of the sea-robbers from whom he sprang seemed embodied
in his gigantic form, his enormous strength, his savage countenance, his
desperate bravery. No other knight under heaven, his enemies confessed,
was William's peer. No other man could bend William's bow. His mace
crashed through a ring of English warriors to the foot of the standard.
He rose to his greatest heights in moments when other men despaired. No
other man who ever sat upon the throne of England was this man's match."
Or, take Webster. Sydney Smith said: "Webster is a living lie; because
no man on earth can be as great as he looks." Carlyle said of him: "One
would incline at sight to back him against the world." His very physique
was eloquent. Men yielded their wills to his at sight.
The great prizes of life ever fall to the robust, the stalwart, the
strong,--not to a huge muscle or powerful frame necessarily, but to a
strong vitality, a great nervous energy. It is the Lord Broughams,
working almost continuously one hundred and forty-four hours; it is the
Napoleons, twenty hours in the saddle; it is the Franklins, camping out
in the open air at seventy; it is the Gladstones, firmly grasping the
helm of the ship of state at eighty-four, tramping miles every day, and
chopping down huge trees at eighty-five,--who accomplish the great
things of life.
To prosper you must improve your brain power; and nothing helps the
brain more than a healthy body. The race of to-day is only to be won by
those who will study to keep their bodies in such good condition that
their minds are able and ready to sustain that high pressure on memory
and mind, which our present fierce competition engenders. It is health
rather than strength that is now wanted. Health is essentially the
requirement of our time to enable us to succeed in life. In all modern
occupations--from the nursery to the school, from the school to the shop
or world beyond--the brain and nerve strain go on, continuous,
augmenting, and intensifying.
As a rule physical vigor is the condition of a great career. Stonewall
Jackson, early in life, determined to conquer every weakness he had,
physical, mental, and moral. He held all of his powers with a firm hand.
To his great self-discipline and self-mastery he owed his success. So
determined was he to harden himself to the weather that he could not be
induced to wear an overcoat in winter. "I will not give in to the cold,"
he said. For a year, on account of dyspepsia, he lived on buttermilk and
stale bread, and wore a wet shirt next his body because his doctor
advised it, although everybody else ridiculed the idea. This was while
he was professor at the Virginia Military Institute. His doctor advised
him to retire at nine o'clock; and, no matter where he was, or who was
present, he always sought his bed on the minute. He adhered rigidly
through life to this stern system of discipline. Such self-training,
such self-conquest, gives one great power over others. It is equal to
"I can do nothing," said Grant, "without nine hours' sleep."
What else is so grand as to stand on life's threshold, fresh, young,
hopeful, with a consciousness of power equal to any emergency,--a master
of the situation? The glory of a young man is his strength.
Our great need of the world to-day is for men and women who are good
animals. To endure the strain of our concentrated civilization, the
coming man and woman must have an excess of animal spirits. They must
have a robustness of health. Mere absence of disease is not health. It
is the overflowing fountain, not the one half full, that gives life and
beauty to the valley below. Only he is healthy who exults in mere animal
existence; whose very life is a luxury; who feels a bounding pulse
throughout his body; who feels life in every limb, as dogs do when
scouring over the field, or as boys do when gliding over fields of ice.
Yet in spite of all this, in defiance of it, we know that an iron will
is often triumphant in the contest with physical infirmity.
"Brave spirits are a balsam to themselves:
There is a nobleness of mind that heals
Wounds beyond salves."
"One day," said a noted rope-walker, "I signed an agreement to wheel a
barrow along a rope on a given day. A day or two before I was seized
with lumbago. I called in my medical man, and told him I must be cured
by a certain day; not only because I should lose what I hoped to earn,
but also forfeit a large sum. I got no better, and the doctor forbade my
getting up. I told him, 'What do I want with your advice? If you cannot
cure me, of what good is your advice?' When I got to the place, there
was the doctor protesting I was unfit for the exploit. I went on, though
I felt like a frog with my back. I got ready my pole and my barrow, took
hold of the handles and wheeled it along the rope as well as I ever did.
When I got to the end I wheeled it back again, and when this was done I
was a frog again. What made me that I could wheel the barrow? It was my
"What does he know," asks the sage, "who has not suffered?" Did not
Schiller produce his greatest tragedies in the midst of physical
suffering almost amounting to torture? Handel was never greater than
when, warned by palsy of the approach of death, and struggling with
distress and suffering, he sat down to compose the great works which
have made his name immortal in music. Beethoven was almost totally deaf
and burdened with sorrow when he produced his greatest works. Milton
writing "Who best can suffer, best can do," wrote at his best when in
feeble health, and when poor and blind.
"... Yet I argue not
Against Heaven's hand or will, nor bate a jot
Of heart or hope; but still bear up and steer
The Rev. William H. Milburn, who lost his sight when a child, studied
for the ministry, and was ordained before he attained his majority. He
has written half a dozen books, among them a very careful history of the
Mississippi Valley. He has long been chaplain of the lower house of
Blind Fanny Crosby, of New York, was a teacher of the blind for many
years. She has written nearly three thousand hymns, among which are:
"Pass Me not, O Gentle Saviour," "Rescue the Perishing," "Saviour More
than Life to Me," and "Jesus keep Me near the Cross."
"The truest help we can render one who is afflicted," said Bishop
Brooks, "is not to take his burden from him, but to call out his best
energy, that he may be able to bear."
What a mighty will Darwin had! He was in continual ill health. He was in
constant suffering. His patience was marvellous. No one but his wife
knew what he endured. "For forty years," says his son, "he never knew
one day of health;" yet during those forty years he unremittingly forced
himself to do the work from which the mightiest minds and the strongest
constitutions would have shrunk. He had a wonderful power of sticking to
a subject. He used almost to apologize for his patience, saying that he
could not bear to be beaten, as if it were a sign of weakness.
Bulwer advises us to refuse to be ill, never to tell people we are ill,
never to own it ourselves. Illness is one of those things which a man
should resist on principle. Do not dwell upon your ailments nor study
your symptoms. Never allow yourself to be convinced that you are not
complete master of yourself. Stoutly affirm your own superiority over
bodily ills. We should keep a high ideal of health and harmony
constantly before the mind.
Is not the mind the natural protector of the body? We cannot believe
that the Creator has left the whole human race entirely at the mercy of
only about half a dozen specific drugs which always act with certainty.
There is a divine remedy placed within us for many of the ills we
suffer. If we only knew how to use this power of will and mind to
protect ourselves, many of us would be able to carry youth and
cheerfulness with us into the teens of our second century. The mind has
undoubted power to preserve and sustain physical youth and beauty, to
keep the body strong and healthy, to renew life, and to preserve it from
decay, many years longer than it does now. The longest-lived men and
women have, as a rule, been those who have attained great mental and
moral development. They have lived in the upper region of a higher life,
beyond the reach of much of the jar, the friction, and the discords
which weaken and shatter most lives.
Every physician knows that courageous people, with indomitable will, are
not half as likely to contract contagious diseases as the timid, the
vacillating, the irresolute. A thoughtful physician once assured a
friend that if an express agent were to visit New Orleans in the
yellow-fever season, having forty thousand dollars in his care, he would
be in little danger of the fever so long as he kept possession of the
money. Let him once deliver that into other hands, and the sooner he
left the city the better.
Napoleon used to visit the plague hospitals even when the physicians
dreaded to go, and actually put his hands upon the plague-stricken
patients. He said the man who was not afraid could vanish the plague. A
will power like this is a strong tonic to the body. Such a will has
taken many men from apparent death-beds, and enabled them to perform
wonderful deeds of valor. When told by his physicians that he must die,
Douglas Jerrold said: "And leave a family of helpless children? I won't
die." He kept his word, and lived for years.
THE ROMANCE OF ACHIEVEMENT UNDER DIFFICULTIES.
What doth the poor man's son inherit?
Stout muscles, and a sinewy heart,
A hardy frame, a hardier spirit!
King of two hands he does his part
In every useful toil and art:
A heritage it seems to me,
A king might wish to hold in fee.
Has not God given every man a capital to start with? Are we not born
rich? He is rich who has good health, a sound body, good muscles; he is
rich who has a good head, a good disposition, a good heart; he is rich
who has two good hands, with five chances on each. Equipped? Every man
is equipped as only God could equip him. What a fortune he possesses in
the marvellous mechanism of his body and mind. It is individual effort
that has achieved everything worth achieving.
THE FUN OF THE LITTLE GAME.
A big Australian, six feet four, James Tyson, died not long since, with
a property of $25,000,000, who began life as a farm hand. Tyson cared
little for money. He used to say of it:
"I shall just leave it behind me when I go. I shall have done with it
then, and it will not concern me afterwards. But," he would add, with a
characteristic semi-exultant snap of the fingers, "the money is nothing.
It was the little game that was the fun."
Being asked, "What was the little game?" he replied with an energy of
concentration peculiar to him: "_Fighting the desert_. That has been my
work. I have been fighting the desert all my life, and I have won. I
have put water where was no water, and beef where was no beef. I have
put fences where there were no fences, and roads where there were no
roads. Nothing can undo what I have done, and millions will be happier
for it after I am long dead and forgotten."
Has not self-help accomplished about all the great things of the world?
How many young men falter, faint, and dally with their purpose because
they have no capital to start with, and wait and wait for some good luck
to give them a lift. But success is the child of drudgery and
perseverance. It cannot be coaxed or bribed; pay the price, and it is
yours. A constant struggle, a ceaseless battle to bring success from
inhospitable surroundings, is the price of all great achievements.
CONQUERORS OF FORTUNE.
Benjamin Franklin had this tenacity of purpose in a wonderful degree.
When he started in the printing business in Philadelphia, he carried his
material through the streets on a wheelbarrow. He hired one room for his
office, work-room, and sleeping-room. He found a formidable rival in the
city and invited him to his room. Pointing to a piece of bread from
which he had just eaten his dinner, he said:
"Unless you can live cheaper than I can, you cannot starve me out."
It was so that he proved the wisdom of Edmund Burke's saying, that "He
that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves, and sharpens our skill:
our antagonist is our helper."
The poor and friendless lad, George Peabody, weary, footsore, and
hungry, called at a tavern in Concord, N.H., and asked to be allowed to
saw wood for lodging and breakfast. Yet he put in work for everything he
ever received, and out-matched the poverty of early days.
Gideon Lee could not even get shoes to wear in winter, when a boy, but
he went to work barefoot in the snow. He made a bargain with himself to
work sixteen hours a day. He fulfilled it to the letter, and when from
interruption he lost time, he robbed himself of sleep to make it up. He
became a wealthy merchant of New York, mayor of the city, and a member
The business affairs of a gentleman named Rouss were once in a
complicated condition, owing to his conflicting interests in various
states, and he was thrown into prison. While confined he wrote on the
walls of his cell:
"I am forty years of age this day. When I am fifty, I shall be worth
half a million; and by the time I am sixty, I shall be worth a million
He lived to accumulate more than three million dollars.
"The ruin which overtakes so many merchants," says Whipple, "is due not
so much to their lack of business talent as to their lack of business
Cyrus W. Field had retired from business with a large fortune when he
became possessed with the idea that by means of a cable laid upon the
bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, telegraphic communication could be
established between Europe and America. He plunged into the undertaking
with all the force of his being. It was an incredibly hard contest: the
forests of Newfoundland, the lobby in Congress, the unskilled handling
of brakes on his Agamemnon cable, a second and a third breaking of the
cable at sea, the cessation of the current in a well-laid cable, the
snapping of a superior cable on the Great Eastern--all these availed not
to foil the iron will of Field, whose final triumph was that of mental
energy in the application of science.
FOUR NEW YORK JOURNALISTS.
To Horace Greeley, the founder of the "Tribune," I need not allude; his
story is or ought to be in every school-book.
James Brooks, once the editor and proprietor of the "Daily Express," and
later an eminent congressman, began life as a clerk in a store in Maine,
and when twenty-one received for his pay a hogshead of New England rum.
He was so eager to go to college that he started for Waterville with his
trunk on his back, and when he was graduated he was so poor and plucky
that he carried his trunk on his back to the station as he went home.
When James Gordon Bennett was forty years old he collected all his
property, three hundred dollars, and in a cellar with a board upon two
barrels for a desk, himself his own typesetter, office boy, publisher,
newsboy, clerk, editor, proofreader, and printer's devil, he started the
"New York Herald." He did this, after many attempts and defeats in
trying to follow the routine, instead of doing his own way. Never was
any man's early career a better illustration of Wendell Phillips'
dictum: "What is defeat? Nothing but education; nothing but the first
steps to something better."
Thurlow Weed, who was a journalist for fifty-seven years, strong,
sensible, genial, tactful, and of magnificent physique, who did so much
to shape public policy in the Empire State, tells a most romantic story
of his boyhood:--
"I cannot ascertain how much schooling I got at Catskill, probably less
than a year, certainly not a year and a half, and this was when I was
not more than five or six years old. I felt a necessity, at an early
age, of trying to do something for my own support.
"My first employment was in sugar-making, an occupation to which I
became much attached. I now look with great pleasure upon the days and
nights passed in the sap-bush. The want of shoes (which, as the snow was
deep, was no small privation) was the only drawback upon my happiness. I
used, however, to tie pieces of an old rag carpet around my feet, and
got along pretty well, chopping wood and gathering up sap. But when the
spring advanced, and bare ground appeared in spots, I threw off the old
carpet encumbrance and did my work barefoot.
"There is much leisure time for boys who are making maple sugar. I
devoted this time to reading, when I could obtain books; but the farmers
of that period had few or no books, save their Bibles. I borrowed books
whenever and wherever I could.
"I heard that a neighbor, three miles off, had borrowed from a still
more distant neighbor a book of great interest. I started off, barefoot,
in the snow, to obtain the treasure. There were spots of bare ground,
upon which I would stop to warm my feet. And there were also, along the
road, occasional lengths of log-fence from which the snow had melted,
and upon which it was a luxury to walk. The book was at home, and the
good people consented, upon my promise that it should be neither torn
nor soiled, to lend it to me. In returning with the prize, I was too
happy to think of the snow or my naked feet.
"Candles were then among the luxuries, not the necessaries, of life. If
boys, instead of going to bed after dark, wanted to read, they supplied
themselves with pine knots, by the light of which, in a horizontal
position, they pursued their studies. In this manner, with my body in
the sugar-house, and my head out of doors, where the fat pine was
blazing, I read with intense interest the book I had borrowed, a
'History of the French Revolution.'"
Weed's next earning was in an iron foundry at Onondaga:
"My business was, after a casting, to temper and prepare the molding
'dogs,' myself. This was night and day work. We ate salt pork and rye
and Indian bread, three times a day, and slept on straw in bunks. I
liked the excitement of a furnace life."
When he went to the "Albany Argus" to learn the printing business he
worked from five in the morning till nine at night.
FROM HUMBLEST BEGINNINGS.
The more difficulties one has to encounter, within and without, the
more significant and the higher in inspiration his life will be.--_Horace
The story of Weed and of Greeley is not an uncommon one in America. Some
of the most eminent men on the globe have struggled with poverty in
early life and triumphed over it.
The astronomer Kepler, whose name can never die, was kept in constant
anxieties; and he told fortunes by astrology for a livelihood, saying
that astrology, as the daughter of astronomy, ought to keep her mother.
All sorts of service he had to accept; he made almanacs and worked for
any one who would pay him.
Linnaeus was so poor when getting his education that he had to mend his
shoes with folded paper, and often had to beg his meals of his friends.
During the ten years in which he made his greatest discoveries, Isaac
Newton could hardly pay two shillings a week to the Royal Society of
which he was a member. Some of his friends wanted to get him excused
from this payment, but he would not allow them to act.
Humphry Davy had but a slender chance to acquire great scientific
knowledge, yet he had true mettle in him, and he made even old pans,
kettles, and bottles contribute to his success, as he experimented and
studied in the attic of the apothecary store where he worked.
George Stephenson was one of eight children whose parents were so poor
that all lived in a single room. George had to watch cows for a
neighbor, but he managed to get time to make engines of clay, with
hemlock sticks for pipes. At seventeen he had charge of an engine, with
his father for fireman. He could neither read nor write, but the engine
was his teacher, and he a faithful student. While the other hands were
playing games or loafing in liquor shops during the holidays, George was
taking his machine to pieces, cleaning it, studying it, and making
experiments in engines. When he had become famous as a great inventor of
improvements in engines, those who had loafed and played called him
It was by steadfastly keeping at it, by indomitable will power, that
these men won their positions in life.
"We rise by the things that are under our feet;
By what we have mastered of good or gain."
TALENT IN TATTERS.
Among the companions of Sir Joshua Reynolds, while he was studying his
art at Rome, was a fellow-pupil of the name of Astley. They made an
excursion, with some others, on a sultry day, and all except Astley took
off their coats. After several taunts he was persuaded to do the same,
and displayed on the back of his waistcoat a foaming waterfall. Distress
had compelled him to patch his clothes with one of his own landscapes.
James Sharpies, the celebrated blacksmith artist of England, was very
poor, but he often rose at three o'clock to copy books he could not buy.
He would walk eighteen miles to Manchester and back after a hard day's
work, to buy a shilling's worth of artist's materials. He would ask for
the heaviest work in the blacksmith shop, because it took a longer time
to heat at the forge, and he could thus have many spare minutes to study
the precious book, which he propped up against the chimney. He was a
great miser of spare moments, and used every one as though he might
never see another. He devoted his leisure hours for five years to that
wonderful production, "The Forge," copies of which are to be seen in
many a home. It was by one unwavering aim, carried out by an iron will,
that he wrought out his life triumph.
"That boy will beat me one day," said an old painter as he watched a
little fellow named Michael Angelo making drawings of pot and brushes,
easel and stool, and other articles in the studio. The barefoot boy did
persevere until he had overcome every difficulty and become the greatest
master of art the world has known. Although Michael Angelo made himself
immortal in three different occupations,--and his fame might well rest
upon his dome of St. Peter as an architect, upon his "Moses" as a
sculptor, or upon his "Last Judgment" as a painter,--yet we find by his
correspondence, now in the British Museum, that when he was at work on
his colossal bronze statue of Pope Julius II., he was so poor that he
could not have his younger brother come to visit him at Bologna, because
he had but one bed in which he and three of his assistants slept
"The star of an unconquered will
Arose in his breast,
Serene, and resolute and still,
And calm and self-possessed."
The struggles and triumphs of those who are bound to win is a
never-ending tale. Nor will the procession of enthusiastic workers cease
so long as the globe is turning on its axle.
Say what we will of genius, specialized in a hundred callings, yet the
fact remains that no amount of genius has ever availed upon the earth
unless enforced by will power to overcome the obstacles that hedge about
every one who would rise above the circumstances in which he was born,
or become greater than his calling. Was not Virgil the son of a porter,
Horace of a shopkeeper, Demosthenes of a cutler, Milton of a money
scrivener, Shakespeare of a wool stapler, and Cromwell of a brewer?
[Illustration: THURLOW WEED,
American Journalist and Politician.
_b. Cairo, N.Y., 1797; d. New York, 1882_.]
Ben Jonson, when following his trade of a mason, worked on Lincoln's Inn
in London with trowel in hand and a book in his pocket. Joseph Hunter
was a carpenter in youth, Robert Burns a plowman, Keats a druggist,
Thomas Carlyle and Hugh Miller masons. Dante and Descartes were
soldiers. Cardinal Wolsey, Defoe, and Kirke White were butchers' sons.
Faraday was the son of a hostler, and his teacher, Humphry Davy, was an
apprentice to an apothecary. Kepler was a waiter boy in a German hotel,
Bunyan a tinker, Copernicus the son of a Polish baker. They rose by
being greater than their callings, as Arkwright rose above mere
barbering, Bunyan above tinkering, Wilson above shoemaking, Lincoln
above rail-splitting, and Grant above tanning. By being first-class
barbers, tinkers, shoemakers, rail-splitters, tanners, they acquired the
power which enabled them to become great inventors, authors, statesmen,
generals. John Kay, the inventor of the fly-shuttle, James Hargreaves,
who introduced the spinning-jenny, and Samuel Compton, who originated
mule-spinning, were all artisans, uneducated and poor, but were endowed
with natural faculties which enabled them to make a more enduring
impression upon the world than anything that could have been done by the
mere power of scholarship or wealth.
It cannot be said of any of these great names that their individual
courses in life would have been what they were, had there been lacking a
superb will power resistless as the tide to bear them upward and onward.
Let Fortune empty her whole quiver on me,
I have a soul that, like an ample shield,
Can take in all, and verge enough for more;
Fate was not mine, nor am I Fate's:
Souls know no conquerors.
"Never give up, there are chances and changes,
Helping the hopeful, a hundred to one;
And, through the chaos, High Wisdom arranges
Ever success, if you'll only hold on.
Never give up; for the wisest is boldest,
Knowing that Providence mingles the cup,
And of all maxims, the best, as the oldest,
Is the stern watchword of 'Never give up!'"
Be firm; one constant element of luck
Is genuine, solid, old Teutonic pluck.
Success in most things depends on knowing how long it takes to
The power to hold on is characteristic of all men who have accomplished
anything great; they may lack in some other particular, have many
weaknesses or eccentricities, but the quality of persistence is never
absent from a successful man. No matter what opposition he meets or what
discouragement overtakes him, drudgery cannot disgust him, obstacles
cannot discourage him, labor cannot weary him; misfortune, sorrow, and
reverses cannot harm him. It is not so much brilliancy of intellect, or
fertility of resource, as persistency of effort, constancy of purpose,
that makes a great man. Those who succeed in life are the men and women
who keep everlastingly at it, who do not believe themselves geniuses,
but who know that if they ever accomplish anything they must do it by
determined and persistent industry.
Audubon after years of forest life had two hundred of his priceless
drawings destroyed by mice.
"A poignant flame," he relates, "pierced my brain like an arrow of fire,
and for several weeks I was prostrated with fever. At length physical
and moral strength awoke within me. Again I took my gun, my game-bag, my
portfolio, and my pencils, and plunged once more into the depths of the
All are familiar with the misfortune of Carlyle while writing his
"History of the French Revolution." After the first volume was ready for
the press, he loaned the manuscript to a neighbor, who left it lying on
the floor, and the servant girl took it to kindle the fire. It was a
bitter disappointment, but Carlyle was not the man to give up. After
many months of poring Over hundreds of volumes of authorities and scores
of manuscripts, he reproduced that which had burned in a few minutes.
PROCEED, AND LIGHT WILL DAWN.
The slightest acquaintance with literary history would bring to light a
multitude of heroes of poverty or misfortune, of men and women perplexed
and disheartened, who have yet aroused themselves to new effort at every
It is related by Arago that he found under the cover of a text book he
was binding a short note from D'Alembert to a student:
"Go on, sir, go on. The difficulties you meet with will resolve
themselves as you advance. Proceed; and light will dawn, and shine with
increasing clearness on your path."
"That maxim," said Arago, "was my greatest master in mathematics."
Had Balzac been easily discouraged he would have hesitated at the words
of warning given by his father:
"Do you know that in literature a man must be either a king or a
"Very well," was the reply, "_I will be a king_."
His parents left him to his fate in a garret. For ten years he fought
terrible battles with hardship and poverty, but won a great victory at
last. He won it after producing forty novels that did not win.
Zola's early manhood witnessed a bitter struggle against poverty and
deprivation. Until twenty he was a spoiled child; but, on his father's
death, he and his mother began the battle of life in Paris. Of his dark
time, Zola himself says:
"Often I went hungry for so long, that it seemed as if I must die. I
scarcely tasted meat from one month's end to another, and for two days I
lived on three apples. Fire, even on the coldest nights, was an
undreamed-of luxury; and I was the happiest man in Paris when I could
get a candle, by the light of which I might study at night."
Samuel Johnson's bare feet at Oxford showed through the holes in his
shoes, yet he threw out at his window the new pair that some one left at
his door. He lived for a time in London on nine cents a day. For
thirteen years he had a hard struggle with want. John Locke once lived
on bread and water in a Dutch garret, and Heyne slept many a night on a
barn floor with only a book for his pillow. It was to poverty as a thorn
urging the breast of Harriet Martineau that we owe her writings.
There are no more interesting pages in biography than those which record
how Emerson, as a child, was unable to read the second volume of a
certain book, because his widowed mother could not afford the amount
(five cents) necessary to obtain it from the circulating library.
"Poor fellow!" said Emerson, as he looked at his delicately-reared
little son, "how much he loses by not having to go through the hard
experiences I had in my youth."
It was through the necessity laid upon him to earn that Emerson made his
first great success in life as a teacher. "I know," he said, "no such
unquestionable badge and ensign of a sovereign mind as that tenacity of
purpose, which, through all change of companions or parties or fortunes,
changes never, bates no jot of heart or hope, but wearies out opposition
and arrives at its port."
"SHE CAN NEVER SUCCEED."
Louisa Alcott earned two hundred thousand dollars by her pen. Yet, when
she was first dreaming of her power, her father handed her a manuscript
one day that had been rejected by Mr. Fields, editor of the "Atlantic,"
with the message:
"Tell Louisa to stick to her teaching; she can never succeed as a
"Tell him I _will_ succeed as a writer, and some day I shall write for
Not long after she wrote for the "Atlantic" a poem that Longfellow
attributed to Emerson. And there came a time when she wrote in her
"Twenty years ago I resolved to make the family independent if I could.
At forty, that is done. Debts all paid, even the outlawed ones, and we
have enough to be comfortable. It has cost me my health, perhaps."
"I TRAMPLE ON IMPOSSIBILITIES":
So it was said by Lord Chatham. "Why," asked Mirabeau, "should we call
ourselves men, unless it be to succeed in everything everywhere?"
"It is all very well," said Charles J. Fox, "to tell me that a young man
has distinguished himself by a brilliant first speech. He may go on
satisfied with his first triumph; but show me a young man who has not
succeeded at first, and has then gone on, and I will back that man to do
better than those who succeeded at the first trial." Cobden broke down
completely the first time he appeared on a platform in Manchester, and
the chairman apologized for him; but he did not give up speaking until
every poor man in England had a larger, better, and cheaper loaf. Young
Disraeli sprung from a hated and persecuted race, pushed his way up
through the middle classes and upper classes, until he stood self-poised
upon the topmost round of political and social power. At first he was
scoffed at, ridiculed, rebuffed, hissed from the House of Commons; he
simply said, "The time will come when you will hear me." The time did
come, and he swayed the sceptre of England for a quarter of a century.
How massive was the incalculable reserve power of Lincoln as a youth; or
of President Garfield, wood-chopper, bell-ringer, and sweeper-general in
We hear a great deal of talk about genius, talent, luck, chance,
cleverness, and fine manners playing a large part in one's success.
Leaving out luck and chance, all these elements are important factors.
Yet the possession of any or all of them, unaccompanied by a definite
aim, a determined purpose, will not insure success. Men drift into
business. They drift into society. They drift into politics. They drift
into what they fondly and but vainly imagine is religion. If winds and
tides are favorable, all is well; if not, all is wrong. Stalker says:
"Most men merely drift through life, and the work they do is determined
by a hundred different circumstances; they might as well be doing
anything else, or they would prefer to be doing nothing at all." Yet
whatever else may have been lacking in the giants of the race, the men
who have been conspicuously successful have all had one characteristic
in common--doggedness and persistence of purpose.
It does not matter how clever a youth may be, whether he leads his class
in college or outshines all the other boys in his community, he will
never succeed if he lacks this essential of determined persistence. Many
men who might have made brilliant musicians, artists, teachers, lawyers,
able physicians or surgeons, in spite of predictions to the contrary,
have fallen short of success because deficient in this quality.
Persistency of purpose is a power. It creates confidence in others.
Everybody believes in the determined man. When he undertakes anything
his battle is half won, because not only he himself, but every one who
knows him, believes that he will accomplish whatever he sets out to do.
People know that it is useless to oppose a man who uses his
stumbling-blocks as stepping-stones; who is not afraid of defeat; who
never, in spite of calumny or criticism, shrinks from his task; who
never shirks responsibility; who always keeps his compass pointed to the
north star of his purpose, no matter what storms may rage about him.
The persistent man never stops to consider whether he is succeeding or
not. The only question with him is how to push ahead, to get a little
farther along, a little nearer his goal. Whether it lead over mountains,
rivers, or morasses, he must reach it. Every other consideration is
sacrificed to this one dominant purpose.
The success of a dull or average youth and the failure of a brilliant
one is a constant surprise in American history. But if the different
cases are closely analyzed we shall find that the explanation lies in
the staying power of the seemingly dull boy, the ability to stand firm
as a rock under all circumstances, to allow nothing to divert him from
THREE NECESSARY THINGS.
"Three things are necessary," said Charles Sumner, "first, backbone;
second, backbone; third, backbone."
A good chance alone is nothing. Education is nothing without strong and
vigorous resolution and stamina to make one accomplish something in the
world. An encouraging start is nothing without backbone. A man who
cannot stand erect, who wabbles first one way and then the other, who
has no opinion of his own, or courage to think his own thought, is of
very little use in this world. It is grit, it is perseverance, it is
moral stamina and courage that govern the world.
At the trial of the seven bishops of the Church of England for refusing
to aid the king to overthrow the Protestant faith, it was necessary to
watch the officers at the doors, lest they send food to some juryman,
and aid him to starve the others into an agreement. Nothing was allowed
to be sent in but water for the jurymen to wash in, and they were so
thirsty they drank it up. At first nine were for acquitting, and three
for convicting. Two of the minority soon gave way; the third, Arnold,
was obstinate. He declined to argue. Austin said to him, "Look at me. I
am the largest and the strongest of the twelve; and before I will find
such a petition as this libel, here will I stay till I am no bigger than
a tobacco pipe." Arnold yielded at six in the morning.
SUCCESS AGAINST ODDS.
Yes, to this thought I hold with firm persistence;
The last result of wisdom stamps it true:
He only earns his freedom and existence
Who daily conquers them anew.
"It is interesting to notice how some minds seem almost to create
themselves," says Irving, "springing up under every disadvantage, and
working their solitary but irresistible way through a thousand
obstacles." Opposing circumstances create strength. Opposition gives us
greater power of resistance. To overcome one barrier gives us greater
ability to overcome the next. History is full of examples of men and
women who have redeemed themselves from disgrace, poverty, and
misfortune, by the firm resolution of an iron will.
Success is not measured by what a man accomplishes, but by the
opposition he has encountered, and the courage with which he has
maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds. Not the distance we
have run, but the obstacles we have overcome, the disadvantages under
which we have made the race, will decide the prizes.
"It is defeat," says Henry Ward Beecher, "that turns bone to flint, and
gristle to muscle, and makes men invincible, and formed those heroic
natures that are now in ascendency in the world. Do not, then, be afraid
of defeat. You are never so near to victory as when defeated in a good
Governor Seymour of New York, a man of great force and character, said,
in reviewing his life: "If I were to wipe out twenty acts, what should
they be? Should it be my business mistakes, my foolish acts (for I
suppose all do foolish acts occasionally), my grievances? No; for, after
all, these are the very things by which I have profited. So I finally
concluded I should expunge, instead of my mistakes, my triumphs. I could
not afford to dismiss the tonic of mortification, the refinement of
sorrow; I needed them every one."
"Every condition, be it what it may," says Channing, "has hardships,
hazards, pains. We try to escape them; we pine for a sheltered lot, for
a smooth path, for cheering friends, and unbroken success. But
Providence ordains storms, disasters, hostilities, sufferings; and the
great question whether we shall live to any purpose or not, whether we
shall grow strong in mind and heart, or be weak and pitiable, depends on
nothing so much as on our use of the adverse circumstances. Outward
evils are designed to school our passions, and to rouse our faculties
and virtues into intenser action. Sometimes they seem to create new
powers. Difficulty is the element, and resistance the true work of man.
Self-culture never goes on so fast as when embarrassed circumstances,
the opposition of men or the elements, unexpected changes of the times,
or other forms of suffering, instead of disheartening, throw us on our
inward resources, turn us for strength to God, clear up to us the great
purpose of life, and inspire calm resolution. No greatness or goodness
is worth much, unless tried in these fires."
[Illustration: BENJAMIN DISRAELI
(Earl of Beaconsfield),
English Statesman and Novelist.
_b. London, 1804; d. London, 1881_.]
Better to stem with heart and hand
The roaring tide of life, than lie,
Unmindful, on its flowery strand,
Of God's occasions drifting by!
Better with naked nerve to bear
The needles of this goading air,
Than in the lap of sensual ease forego
The godlike power to do, the godlike aim to know.
THE DEGREE OF "O.O."
When Moody first visited Ireland he was introduced by a friend to an
Irish merchant who asked at once:
"Is he an O.O.?"
"Out and Out"--that was what "O.O." stood for.
"Out and Out" for God--that was what this merchant meant. He indeed is
but a wooden man, and a poor stick at that, who is decided in everything
else, but who never knows "where he is at" in all moral relations, being
The early books of the Hebrews have much to say about "The Valley of
Decision" and the development of "Out and Out" moral character.
Wofully lacking in a well-balanced will power is the man who stands side
by side with moral evil personified, in hands with it, to serve it
willingly as a tool and servant.
Morally made in God's image, what is more sane, more wholesome, more
fitting, for a man than his rising up promptly, decidedly, to make the
Divine Will his own will in all moral action, to take it as the supreme
guide to go by? It is the glory of the human will to coincide with the
Divine Will. Doing this, a man's Iron Will, instead of being a malignant
selfish power, will be useful in uplifting mankind.
God has spoken, or he has not spoken. If he has spoken, the wise will
We search the world for truth; we cull
The good, the pure, the beautiful,
From graven stone and written scroll,
From all the flower-fields of the soul:
And, weary seekers of the best,
We come back laden from our quest,
To find that all the sages said
Is in the BOOK our mother read.
O earth that blooms and birds that sing,
O stars that shine when all is dark!
In type and symbol thou dost bring
The Life Divine, and bid us hark,
That we may catch the chant sublime,
And, rising, pass the bounds of time;
So shall we win the goal divine,
Be Good to Yourself
Every Man a King
He Can Who Thinks He Can
How to Get What You Want
Joys of Living
Making Life a Masterpiece
Miracle of Right Thought
Peace, Power, and Plenty
Progressive Business Man
Pushing to the Front
Rising in the World
Secret of Achievement
Training for Efficiency
Woman and the Home
Young Man Entering Business
An Iron Will
Do it to a Finish
Power of Personality
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He Can Who Thinks He Can
Will Do Amazing Good
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In Every Sense Worth While
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Be Good to Yourself
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