Orison Swett Marden (1850-1924) wrote dozens of books on success, and also founded and ran Success Magazine.
Born and raised in the countryside, he later attended colleges such as BostonUniversity and Harvard. While attending college, he amassed a great deal of money working in hotel management and catering, and later in real estate investment and development.
In the 1890s, Orison turned to writing books based on success, motivation, and optimism. He wrote dozens of various titles throughout his career, at a rate of about two releases per year. He also founded and ran Success Magazine from 1897 to 1912. Many of his books were top-sellers, and his magazine was also a leading publication for years.
After the false report that Dreyfus had escaped from Devil’s Island, his guards were doubled, and he was chained to a plank every night with heavy iron, until his legs were so chafed that they became bloody and gangrenous. The wretched prisoner thought his jailers had orders to torture him to death, but he doggedly and persistently repeated to himself: “I will live! I will live.” Who can doubt that—conscious as he was of his innocence—this vehement affirmation, in conjunction with the man’s almost superhuman will-power, had much to do with his survival of the revolting cruelty to which he was subjected in his island prison.
Few people realize the force that exists in a vigorous, perpetual affirmation of the thing we long to be or are determined to accomplish.
If you do not feel yourself growing in your work and your life broadening and deepening, if your task is not a perpetual tonic to you, you have not found your place.
When we are sure that we are on the right road there is no need to plan our journey too far ahead. No need to burden ourselves with doubts and fears as to the obstacles that may bar our progress. We cannot take more than one step at a time.
Unless you are prepared yourself to profit by your chance, the opportunity will only make you ridiculous. A great occasion is valuable to you in proportion as you have educated yourself to make use of it.
Opportunities? They are all around us. There is power lying latent everywhere waiting for the observant eye to discover it.
What we yearn for, earnestly desire and strive to bring about, tends to become a reality.
A Morgan or Rockefeller mentally creates conditions which make prosperity flow to him. The great achievers do comparatively little with their hands; they build with their thought, they are practical dreamers; their minds reach out into the infinite energy ocean and create and produce what the ideal, the ambition, calls for, just as the intelligence in the seed reproduces the tree plan coiled up within itself.
Keeping the faith that we shall some time do the thing which we can not now see any possible way of accomplishing, just holding steadily the mental attitude, the belief that we will accomplish it, that somehow, some way, it will come to us, the clinging to our vision, gets the mind into such a creative condition that it becomes a magnet to draw the thing desired.
Form a habit of repeating this affirmation, this faith in your ultimate triumph; hold it tenaciously, vigorously, and after a while you will be surprised to find how the things come to you which you have so longed for, yearned for, and struggled towards.
You will notice in a group of boys or young men who are friends or schoolmates, with similar ability and education, that one will step out boldly and advance rapidly, while the others are waiting for somebody to discover them. The world is too busy to hunt for merit. It takes it for granted that you can do what you claim you can, until you show your in-ability.
One of the most unfortunate phases of ancient theology is in the idea of the debasement of man, that he has fallen from his grand original estate. The truth is that lie has always been advancing as a race, always improving, but his progress has been greatly hampered by this belittling idea. The man God made never fell. It is only the sin-made man that has fallen. It is only his inferior way of looking at himself, his criminal self-depreciation, that has crippled and deteriorated him.
The old theology taught us to belittle ourselves. There was a begging element in it. …Man was not made to bow in humiliation and shame, but to assert his divinity. He was made erect so that he could stand up and look anything and everything in the face, even his Maker, for he was made in His image.
It makes all the difference in the world to us whether we go through life as conquerors, whether we go about among men as though we believed we amounted to something, with a strong, vigorous, self-confident, victorious air, or whether we go about with an apologetic, self-effacing, get-out-of-other-people’s way attitude.
Is there any reason why we should go through the world whining, tagging at somebody else’s heels trailing, imitating, copying somebody else, afraid to call our souls our own? Hold up your head, and learn to think well of yourself; have a good opinion of yourself, and your ability to do what you undertake. If you do not, nobody else will.
[Finding Your Way Out of The Blues]
The next time you feel jaded, discouraged, completely played out and “blue” you will probably find, if you look for the reason, that your condition is largely due to exhausted vitality, either from overwork, overeating, hr violating in some way the laws of digestion, or from irregular habits of some kind.
You should try to get into the most interesting social environment possible, or seek some innocent amusement that will make you laugh and cheer you up. Some people find this refreshment in their own home romping with the children; others at the theater, in pleasant conversation, or in burying themselves in a cheerful, inspiring book. If you feel like it, take a good, long nap.
Growth everywhere neutralizes decay. So long as we keep growing, renewing the mind, constantly reaching out for the new and progressive, the retrograding, disintegrating, aging, deteriorating processes cannot be operative.
Instead of trying to root out a defect or a vicious quality directly, cultivate the opposite quality. Persist in this, and the other will gradually die. “Kill the negative by cultivating the positive.”
A great many boys, especially those who are naturally sensitive, shy, and timid, are apt to suspect that they lack the ability which others have. It is characteristic of such youths that they distrust their own ability and are very easily discouraged or encouraged.
If an inhabitant of some other planet were to visit America, he would probably think that our people were all en route for something beyond, some other destination, and that where they happen to be living is merely a way station where they unpack only such of their luggage as they need for a temporary stay.
The visitor would find very few people actually living in the here and the now. He would find that most people’s gaze is fixed upon something beyond, something to come. They are not really settled today, do not really live in the now, but they are sure they will live tomorrow or next year when business is better, their fortune greater, when they move into their new house, get their new furnishings, their new automobile, get rid of things that now annoy, and have everything around them to make them comfortable. Then they will be happy. But they are not really enjoying themselves today.
How we deceive ourselves by this mirage of the future, which a selfish ambition pictures! We are always getting ready to live, neglecting the present, focusing our eyes upon the future, always straining for something yet to come, and never half appreciating what we have, or enjoying as we go along.
The trouble with us is that we expect too much from the great happenings, the unusual things, and we overlook the common flowers on the path of life, from which we might abstract sweets, comforts, delights.
Real happiness is so simple that most people do not recognize it. It is derived from the simplest, the quietest, the most unpretentious things in the world.
If we get the good that belongs to us here and now, we must extract the sweetness of each passing minute while it is ours. That is the real art of living in the today.
Is it not a strange thing that while we ought to make a profession of living, most of us are not even amateurs in this art of arts? We never learn the business of real living. We become specialists in our profession or our business, but in right living, which makes or mars the happiness of life, we never become experts.
No man can be happy when he despises his own act…
Why should I scramble and struggle to get possessions of a little portion of this earth! This is my world now; why should I envy others its mere legal possession? It belongs to him who can see it, enjoy it.
Play is as necessary to the perfect development of a child as sunshine is to the perfect development of a plant.
It is impossible for any normal being to keep his life in harmony without a great deal of recreation and play. What magic a single hour’s fun will often work in a tired soul!
I know a lady who once underwent an operation for the removal of a tumor. Everything in her life dates from that time. She cannot converse on any subject but she drags in her “operation.” It is her excuse for her explanation of all her shortcomings in domestic affairs.
How many people are loath to let their troubles go! They have lived with them so long that they have become sort of companions, and they seem to take a morbid pleasure in entertaining them, just as some patients like to dwell upon their symptoms and aches and pains.
He alone is the happy man who has learned to extract happiness, not from ideal conditions, but from the actual ones about him.
A thwarted ambition seems to wrench the whole nature out of its normal orbit. Everything seems perverted when we cannot do that which we are able to do the easiest and the best. Every one is conscious that he was made to fit perfectly the work for which he was intended, and that anything else will be a misfit.
It is very easy to say that man is an adaptable creature and can adjust himself to conditions which confront him. Of course, a man can do something in a work he is not fitted for; but he cannot do it superbly well, with that zest and enthusiasm which are characteristic of excellency. He cannot find in it satisfaction.
The human mind is happiest when it is most active in performing the functions which it was intended to perform. One of man’s greatest passions is that of achievement, the passion for doing things, the ambition to accomplish. This is one of the greatest satisfactions in life, and satisfaction is the chief ingredient in happiness. The consciousness of growth, which increase’s ones power, is one of the durable satisfactions in life.
The love of achievement is satisfied in the very act of creation, in the realization of the ideal which has haunted the brain.
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 generals.
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.
One of the saddest things in life is to see men and women who started out with high hopes and proud ambitions settle down in mediocre positions, half satisfied just merely to get a living, to plod along indifferently.
When we have attained a little success, when we have gained a little public applause, how many of us think we can relax our efforts, and before we realize it our ambition has disappeared, our energy evaporated. A sort of sluggish inactivity comes over us and lulls us into inaction.
Choose companions and friends who are in sympathy with your ambition and who will give you their moral support and make you do what you are capable of doing. A few such friends may make all the difference to you between a grand success and a mediocre existence.
[Really Living Versus Vainly Existing]
There are scores of people in our great cities who do not really live at all. They merely exist. They are the slaves of a morbid ambition and a greed that has grown to be a monster. Many of these people take very little comfort; they are always on a strain to keep up appearances, to “Keep up with the Jones,” and they keep themselves constantly worried over it, killing their legitimate comfort and enjoyment through the exhaustion of the strain and stress—and all for nothing that is real or permanent, nothing that adds to their character or well being. …
Everything about them is deceiving. They live masked lives. Few people know them as they really are. They only know them as they pretend to be.
It is always a question of what is uppermost in the ambition, the dominant aim, that shapes the life most. When a man has pursued an aim for years which tends to dry up the best within him, when he has used all of his life forces, all of his energies, to feed that unworthy ambition until it has become a monster which controls him, he is a pitiable creature. There is no more distressing sight in the world than that of one who is completely in the clutches of a heartless, grasping, greed. Spurred on by the morbid ambition which has taken possession of him, he is madly pursuing the dollar which haunts him, until he is deaf to all appeals of his finer self, and has lost all taste for that which he once enjoyed.
Multitudes of people seem to think that if they were only in an ideal environment, where they would be free from worry or anxiety regarding the living—getting problem, if they were free from pain and in vigorous health, they would be perfectly happy. As a matter of fact, we are not half so dependent for happiness upon our environment, or upon circumstances, as we sometimes imagine we are. False ambition, envy and jealousy are responsible for much of our uneasiness, our restlessness and discontent. Our minds are so intent upon what other people have and are doing that we do not get a tithe of the enjoyment and satisfaction out of our own work, out of our own possessions, that they should afford us.
An ambition not within proper limits, a desire to get ahead of others, a mania to keep up appearances at all hazards, whether we can afford it or not, all these things feed selfishness, that corrosive acid which eats away our possible enjoyment and destroys the very sources of happiness. The devouring ambition to get ahead of others in money making, to outshine others socially, develops a sordid, grasping disposition which is the destroyer of happiness. No man with greed developed big within him need expect to be happy. Neither contentment, satisfaction, serenity, affection, nor any other member of the happiness family can exist in the presence of greed, or an inordinate, selfish ambition.
Everywhere we see men and women doing the lower, the commoner things, seemingly satisfied to do them all their lives, when they have the ability to do the higher.
Many people do not start out with ambition enough to spur them to do big things. They make a large career practically impossible at the very outset, because they expect so little of themselves. They have a narrow, stingy view of life and of themselves which limits their ambition…
A fine ambition is a splendid life steadier. It holds us to our task; keeps us from yielding to the hundred temptations that might ruin us.
What chaos there would be but for man’s ambition to get up and get on in the world and to improve his condition.
Nothing so strengthens the mind and enlarges the horizon of manhood as a constant effort to measure up to a worthy ambition. It stretches the thought, as it were, to a larger measure, and touches the life to finer issues.
“I am determined to make my life count,” said a poor young immigrant with whom I was talking not long ago. Now, there is a resolution that is worth-while, because it is backed by a high ambition, the determined purpose to be a man, to make his life one of service to humanity.
This young fellow works hard during the day, studying in a night school, and improving himself in every possible way in his odds and ends of time.
This is the sort of dead-in-earnestness that wins.
The trouble with many youths is they start out with no definite plan, no one unwavering aim, for success, no worth while goal in view. They just look for a job. It may fit them or it may not, and they plod along, doing their work indifferently, with no spirit or ambition to push them towards the heights.
It is astonishing how many people there are who have no definite aim or ambition, but just exist from one day to another with no well-defined life plan. We still see all about us on the ocean of life young men and women aimlessly drifting without rudder or port, throwing away time, without serious purpose or method in anything they do. They simply drift with the tide. If you ask one of them what he is going to do, what his ambition is, he will tell you he does not exactly know yet what he will do. He is simply waiting for a chance to take up something.
It is not enough for success to have ability, education, health. Hundreds of thousands have all these and still fail, or live in mediocrity, because they do not put themselves in an attitude or condition for achievement. Their ability is placed at a disadvantage by the lack of a big motive, the stimulus of a worthy ambition.
“The important thing in life is to have a great aim and to possess the aptitude and perseverance to attain it,” says Goethe.
Of course, many people are hindered in the race through no fault of their own, but the vast majority of those who cease to climb and give up (often right in sight of their goal), do so from some weakness or defect. Many of them lack continuity of purpose or persistency; others lack courage or determination. Many of these unfortunates would attain to at least something of real success by merely sticking to their tasks.
If the motive is big enough the ability to match it is usually forthcoming. There is not a person who could not be more alert, more original, more ingenious, more resourceful, more careful, more thorough, more levelheaded; not one of you who could not use a little better judgment, a little more forethought, a little more discrimination, if you saw a tempting prize ahead of you as a reward.
There is a powerful tonic in holding the conviction that you are in the world for a purpose, that you are here to help, that you have a part to perform which no one else can take for you, because every one else has his own part to fill in the great life drama. If you do not act your role, there will be something lacking, a want in the production. No one ever amounts to much until he feels this pressure—that he was made to accomplish a certain thing in the world, to fill a definite part. Then life seems to take on a new meaning.
Do you know that nothing is more demoralizing to the life, weakening to the character, than to be constantly wishing and dreaming of the great things we are going to do without a corresponding effort to actualize our dreams? Wishing without a corresponding effort to realize degenerates the mind, destroys initiative.
How many people deceive themselves into thinking that if they keep aspiring, if they keep longing to carry out their ideals, to reach their ambition, they will, without any other effort, actually realize their dreams! They do not seem to know that there is such a thing as aspiring too much, as forming the dreaming habit to one’s injury.
Our visions are the plans of the possible life structure; but they will end merely in plans if
we do not persistently follow them up with a vigorous effort to make them real; just as the architect’s plans will end in his drawings if they are not followed up and made real by the builder.
Three things we must do to make our dreams come true. Visualize our desire. Concentrate on our vision. Work to bring it into the actual. The implements necessary for this are inside of us, not outside. No matter what the accidents of birth or fortune, there is only one force by which we can fashion our life material—mind.
All men who have achieved great things have been dreamers, and what they have accomplished has been just in proportion to the vividness, the energy and persistency with which they visualized their ideals; held to their dreams and struggled to make them come true.
It is one thing to have the ability and the desire to do something distinctive, something individual, but doing it is a very different thing.
Some one has said that the man who depreciates himself blasphemes God, who created him in His own image and pronounced him perfect.
There are plenty of people who are good to others, but are not good to themselves. They do not take care of their own health, their own bodies, do not conserve their own energies, husband their own resources.
Faithfulness to others is a most desirable trait, yet faithfulness to yourself is just as much of a requisite. It is as great a sin not to be good to yourself as not to be good to others. It is every one’s sacred duty to keep himself up to the highest possible standard, physically and mentally, otherwise he cannot deliver his divine message, in its entirety, to the world. It is every one’s sacred duty to keep himself in a condition to do the biggest thing possible to him. It is a positive sin to keep oneself in a depleted, rundown, exhausted state, so that he cannot answer his life call or any big demand that an emergency may make upon him.
The most precious investment a man can make is to be just as good to himself as he possibly can, and never, under any circumstances, pinch or economize in things which can help him to do the greatest thing possible to him. There is no doubt that the efficiency of numerous people is kept down many percent by improper diet, inferior foods. Many a man who thinks he is economizing because he spends only fifteen or twenty cents for his lunch may lose dollars in possible efficiency because of this short-sighted economy.
No one can make the most of himself who does not consider his personal needs. When we are best to ourselves, we radiate a healthy mental attitude of optimism, joy, gladness, and hope. It is a great thing to be a good animal, to maintain mental poise; then we radiate exuberance of life, enthusiasm, buoyancy.
He who would get the most out of life must be good to himself. Everywhere we see people who have been trying to pinch and save, paying for it in premonitory indications of discomfort. Does this pay? Does it pay to take so much out of oneself for the sake of putting a little more in the bank; to rob one’s life in order to add a little more to one’s savings? We must look at life from a higher plane, a longer range, and ask ourselves at the very outset, “What must I do, how conduct myself, how treat myself in order to make the largest success, the completest life possible?”
If you would make the most of yourself, cut away all of your vitality sappers, get rid of everything which hampers you and holds you back, everything which wastes your energy, cuts down your working capital. …
Do not drag about with you a body that is half dead through vicious habits, which sap your vitality and drain off your life forces. …
Much precious energy is wasted in fretting, worrying, grumbling, fault-finding, in the little frictions and annoyances that accomplish nothing, but merely make you irritable, cripple and exhaust you.
Get rid of all vitality-sappers. If you have taken an unfortunate step, retrace it if you can; remedy it as far as it is in your power to so; but, when you have done your best, let the thing drop forever. Do not drag its skeleton along with you. Never allow what is dead, and should be buried, to keep bobbing up and draining off your life-capital in worry or vain regrets.
Do not do anything or touch anything which will lower your vitality. Always ask yourself, “What is there in this thing I am going to do which will add to my life-work, which will increase my power, keep me in a more superb condition, and make me more efficient in the service of humanity?” If you would make your mark in the world, and do your part in advancing civilization, you must cut off everything which is an energy-waster or success-killer.
[Directing Energy to the Best Use]
What are you doing with your energy? Are you using it to produce light, or are you losing it in useless ways?
The best tonic in the world is the exhilaration which comes from the consciousness of personal power, of being masterful in what we undertake, of being able to grapple vigorously with the great life-problems and to seize with the grip of a master precious opportunities when they come; to feel equal to any emergency, however great, and to be larger than any demand upon us. Whoever possesses this tonic will be sure to transmute into achievement not one per cent, merely, but one hundred per cent, of his energy.
There is no one thing more fatal to that dignity of bearing, that refinement, that personal grace which commands respect, than this habit of dropping all standards of ordinary good behavior and conduct in the home. It fosters a vulgarity which is very demoralizing to all the laws of character-building and right living. This easy-going, slipshod manner of living, as practiced in many homes, tends to the loss of self-respect and respect for one another.
It often occurs that a man marries a beautiful, bright, cheerful girl who is always bubbling over with animal spirits, and in a short time everybody notices a complete change in her character, brought about by the perpetual suppression of her husband, who is severe in his criticisms and unreasonable in his demands. The wife is surrounded with this atmosphere of sharp criticism or severity until she entirely loses her naturalness and spontaneity, and self-expression becomes impossible. The result is an artificial, flavorless character.
I have sat down at table in a hotel or restaurant with a cold, repellent personality, when it has been positively depressing to sit there, even without speaking to the man; for his whole manner forbade one to look at him.
On the other hand, I have sat at table with foreigners who could not speak a word of our language, and yet their cordial, gracious salute as I sat down warmed me for the rest of the day. Their manner spoke a language all nationalities understood. It was the language of brotherhood, of good will.
Everywhere we see people starving for love, famishing for affection, for some one to appreciate them.
On every hand we see men and women possessing material comfort, luxury, all that can contribute to their physical well-being—who are able to gratify almost any wish—and yet they are hungry for love. They seem to have plenty of everything but affection. They have lands and houses, automobiles, yachts, horses, money—everything but love.
I know a man whose courage is very much overdeveloped and his faculty of caution is very deficient. He does not know what fear means, and he plunges into all sorts of foolish operations which do not turn out well, and he is always trying to get out of things which he has gone into hastily. If his prudence had been equally developed with his courage, with his boldness, he would have made a very strong man. …
I know another man who is the perfection of kindness, who would do anything to help any one in trouble; but he entirely lacks the restraining, regulating quality of prudence, good judgment, and he gives away everything he has, and even robs his family of the comforts of life. He does not mean to, but he is not well-balanced.
Whatever you believe or do not believe, do not get morbid or cranky upon any subject, for it is inevitably fatal to advancement.
Every man should have good sense, good judgment, to steady his conduct in any emergency, so that he will not lose his head and topple over under provocation, but keep cool and carry a steady hand, no matter what happens.
The compass of one’s judgment must point as true in a storm as in the sunshine.
The efficiency of employees depends almost wholly upon their courage, because, without courage, enthusiasm and zest are impossible. No one can be original, creative, and prolific in his work under fear and suppression. Spontaneity is absolutely necessary to the best results. If employees are hemmed in, watched, suspected, criticized, their work must be restricted and of an inferior quality. Courage and hope are great elements in production. They are powerful assets in employees, which many proprietors entirely cut off. Things which create antagonism and put the employee constantly on the defensive suppress individuality, and make him a mere machine. There must be freedom or a loss in the ideal service.
We cannot do two things with our energy at the same time. If we use it up in friction, we cannot expend it in effective work.
The passion for conquest, for power, the love of achievement, is one of the most dominant and persistent characteristics of human nature. With most men the bread and butter and housing problem, the question of getting a living, a competence, is only one, and often one of the least, of the motives for an active career.
We have an instinctive feeling that we have been set in motion by a Higher Power; that there is an invisible spring within us—the imperious must—which impels us to weave the pattern given us in the Mount of Transfiguration of our highest moment, to make our life-vision real. A divine impulse constantly urges us to reach our highest ideal. There is something back of our supreme ambition deeper than a mere personal gratification. There is a vital connection between it and the great plan of creation, the progress, the final goal, of the race. …
These promptings of humanity and the yearning of every normal man and woman for a fuller, completer life the craving for expansion, for growth; the desire to objectify our life-visions, to give birth to the children of our brain, to exercise our inventiveness, our ingenuity, to express our artistic temperament, our talents, whatever they maybe; the inherent, instinctive longing to become that which we were intended to be; to weave the life-pattern given us at birth—these are the impelling motives for a creative career.
One man expresses himself, or delivers his message to humanity, through his inventive ability to give his fellow men that which will emancipate them from drudgery; another delivers his message through his artistic ability; another through science; another through oratory, through business, or his pen, and so on through all the modes of human expression, each delivers himself according to his talent. In every case the highest motive is beyond the question of mere living-getting.
The great artist does not paint simply for a living, but because he must to express that divine thing in him that is struggling for expression. He has an unconquerable desire to put upon canvas the picture that haunts his brain. We all long to bring out the ideal, whatever it may be, that lives within us. We want to see it; we want the world to see it.
It is not so much what men get out of their struggles, as the inherent passion in every normal man for self-expression—to do the biggest thing possible to him—that urges them on. This is what keeps men going, always struggling to achieve.
Some savage tribes believe that the spirit of every conquered enemy enters into the conqueror and makes him so much stronger. It is certain that every business or professional conquest, or financial victory, every triumph over obstacles, makes the achiever so much larger, so much stronger a man.
We hear a great deal of criticism of the greed of rich men, which keeps them pushing ahead after they have more money than they can ever use to advantage, but the fact is, many of these men find their reward in the exercise of their powers, not in amassing money, and greed plays a comparatively small part in their struggle for conquest.
...The higher type of man plays the game, from start to finish, for the love of achievement; because it satisfies his sense of duty, of justice; plays it because it will make him a larger, completer man; because it satisfies his passion for expansion, for growth. He plays the game for the training it gives, for the opportunity of self-expression. He feels that he has a message to deliver to mankind, and that he must deliver it like a man.
The struggle for supremacy—the conquest of obstacles, the mastery of nature, the triumph of ideals—has been the developer of man, the builder of what we call progress. It has brought out and broadened and strengthened the finest and noblest traits in human nature.
The idea that a man, whatever his work in the world, should retire just because he has made enough money to live upon for the rest of his life is unworthy of a real man, who was made to create, to achieve, to go on conquering.
Every normal human being is happiest as well as strongest when active, especially when doing that which he was intended to do, that which he is best fitted to do; when he is trying to make real the vision of his highest moment. He is weakest and most miserable when idle, or doing that which he is least fitted for by nature.
Many people do not seem to know how to let themselves out unreservedly in their play. The ghost of worry or anxiety is nearly always present to mar their enjoyment, or they fear that it would not be dignified for a man to act like a boy. This keeps many men from getting the best out of their recreation. When in the country, they could derive a good lesson in healthful abandon from the young cattle or colts when they first leave the barn in the spring and are turned out to pasture. How they kick up their heels, as though they delighted in mere existence!
People who live in congested districts feel the need of amusement; they are hungry for fun; they live under strong pressure and they take every opportunity for easing the strenuousness of their lives. This is why humorous plays, comic operas, and vaudeville performances generally, no matter how foolish, silly, or superficial are always well patronized.
Half the misery in the world would be avoided if people would make a business of having plenty of fun at home…
“Now for Rest and Fun.” “No Business Troubles Allowed Here.” These are good home-building mottoes.
When you have had a perplexing day, when things have gone wrong with you and you go home at night exhausted, discouraged, blue, instead of making your home miserable by going over your troubles and trials, just bury them; instead of dragging them home and making yourself and your family unhappy with them and spoiling the whole evening, just lock everything that is disagreeable in your office.
I know a man who casts such a gloom over his whole family, and so spoils the peace of his home by insisting upon talking over all his business troubles that his wife and children fairly dread to see him come home, because, when they see the thunder-cloud on his face, they know that their fun for the evening will be spoiled.
Just resolve that your home shall be a place for bright pictures and pleasant memories, kindly feelings toward everybody and, as Mr. Roosevelt says, “a corking good time” generally. If you do this, you will be surprised to see how your vocation or business wrinkles will be ironed out in the morning and how the crooked things will be straightened.
Make a business of trying to establish a model home, where every member of your family will be happy, bright, and cheerful. Fill it with bright, cheerful music. Physicians are employing music more and more because of its wonderful healing properties. If there are no musicians in your family, get a graphophone, a piano-player, or some other kind of automatic musical instrument. There is nothing like music to cheer up and enliven the home and to drive dull care, the blues and melancholy away.
Music tends to restore and preserve the mental harmony. Nervous diseases are wonderfully helped by good music. It keeps one’s mind off his troubles, and gives nature a chance to heal all sorts of mental discords.
You will find that a little fun in the evening, romping and playing with the children, will make you sleep better. It will clear the physical cobwebs and brain-ash from your mind. You will be fresher and brighter for it the next day. You will be surprised to see how much more work you can do, and how much more readily you can do it if you try to have all the innocent fun you can.
We have all felt the wonderful balm, the great uplift, the refreshment, the rejuvenation which have come from a jolly good time at home or with friends, when we have come home after a hard, exacting day’s work, when our bodies were jaded and we were brain-weary and exhausted. What magic a single hour’s fun will often work in a tired soul! We feel as though we have had a refreshing nap. How a little fun releases us from weariness, and sends a thrill of joy and uplift through the whole being!
Laughter is as natural a form of expression as music, art, or work of any kind. We cannot be really healthy without a lot of fun.
There is something abnormal, something wrong in the parent who is annoyed by the romping, the playing, the laughter of children. The probabilities are that his own childlife was suppressed. The man who would not grow old must keep in touch with young life.
Do not be afraid of playing in the home. Get down on the floor and romp with the children. Never mind the clothes, the carpets, or the furniture. Just determine that you will put a good lot of fun into your life every day, let come what will.
Have all the fun you can at the table. It is a place for laughter and joking. It is a place for bright repartee. Swallow a lot of fun with your meals. The practice is splendid…
The meal time ought to be looked forward to every member of the family as an occasion for a good time, for hearty laughter, and for bright, entertaining conversation. The children should be trained to bring their best moods and say their brightest and best things at the table. If this practice were put in force it would revolutionize American homes and drive the doctors to despair.
I know a family in which joking and funny story telling at meals has become such and established feature that it is a real joy to dine with them. The dinner hour is sure to afford a jolly good time. There is a rivalry among the members of the family to see who can say the brightest, wittiest thing, or tell the best story. There is no dyspepsia, no nagging in this family.
A few hours of sunshine will do for plants what months of cloudy weather could never do. It is the sunshine that gives the delicate, inimitable tint of beauty to fruit and flower. We all require mental sunshine.
I have been in homes that were so somber and sad and gloomy that they made me feel depressed the moment I entered them. Nobody dared to say his soul was his own, and to laugh out loud was regarded almost as a misdemeanor. If the children made any noise they were told to stop, sit down, hush up, or be quiet. Everybody who attempted to have a little fun was promptly squelched. One felt, even though it was not seen, that this sign was everywhere about the house: “No joking allowed here Laughter forbidden No romping or playing here Life is too short and too serious a matter for such frivolity. Besides, the furniture might be scratched, bric-a-brac might be broken, or the children’s clothes soiled or rumpled.”
A little while ago I was a guest in the home of a large family where the mother was of the nervous, fretful, trouble-borrowing kind of women, who neither enjoys herself nor will let others enjoy themselves. There was scarcely five minutes during my stay that she was not correcting, repressing, scolding, or nagging one of the children. It did not seem to make any difference what they were doing, she would tell them not to do it. If a child stood in an open doorway or near an open window, she was sure he would “get his death of cold.” He must not eat this, he must not make a noise, he must not play; he must not do this, and he must not do that.
She kept on repressing her children in this manner throughout the evening, until they were very nervous and fretful. The result of this constant repression is that there is not a really normal child in the family. There is a sort of hungry, unsatisfied look in the faces of every one of them. They give one the impression that they long to get away from their mother and to let themselves out in laughter and play to their heart’s content.
It is worse than cruel, it is a crime to crush the childhood out of any life, to suppress the fun-loving instinct, which is as natural as breathing, for no wealth or luxuries in later life can compensate for the loss of one’s childhood.
We have all seen children who have had no childhood. The fun-loving element has been crushed out of them. They have been repressed and forbidden to do this and that so long that they have lost the faculty of having a good time. We see these little old men and women everywhere.
Children should be kept children just as long as possible. What has responsibility, seriousness, or sadness to do with childhood? We always feel indignant, as well as sad, when we see evidences of maturity, overseriousness, care or anxiety in a child’s face, for we know some one has sinned somewhere.
The little ones should be kept strangers to anxious care, reflective thoughts, and subjective moods. Their lives should be kept light, bright, buoyant, cheerful, full of sunshine, joy, and gladness. They should be encouraged to laugh and to play and to romp to their heart’s content. The serious side of life will come only too quickly, do what we may to prolong childhood.
One of the most unfortunate things I know of is the home that is not illuminated by at least one cheerful, bright, sunny young face, that does not ring with the persistent laughter and merry voice of a child.
No man or woman is perfectly normal who is distressed or vexed by the playing of children. There was something wrong in your bringing up if it annoys you to see children romping, playing, and having a good time.
If there is a pitiable sight in the world, it is that of parents always suppressing their children, telling them not to laugh, or not to do this or that, until the little things actually lose the power of natural expression. Joy will go out of the life when continually suppressed.
The first duty we owe a child is to teach it to express itself, to fling out its inborn gladness and joy with as much freedom as the bobolink when it makes the whole meadow glad with its song. Laughter, absolute abandon, freedom, and happiness are essential to its health and success. These are a part of its nature. It cannot be normal without them.
Suppression of the fun-loving nature of a child means the suppression of its mental faculties. The mind will not develop normally under abnormal conditions. There is every evidence in a child’s nature that play is as necessary to its normal, complete development as food, and if the fun-loving faculties are suppressed, the whole nature will be strangled. Play is as necessary to the perfect development of a child as sunshine is to the perfect development of a plant. The childhood that has no budding and flowering, or only a partial unfolding of its petals, will have nothing but gnarled and pinched fruitage. The necessity for play in the very beginning of a child’s development is shown by the fact that the instinct to play is so strong in all young life, including the entire animal kingdom.
Most homes are far too serious. Why not let the children dance and play to their heart’s content? They will get rubs enough, knocks enough in the world; they will get enough of the hard side of life later. Resolve that they shall at least be just as happy as you can make them while at home, so that if they should have unfortunate experiences later, they can look back upon their home as a sweet, beautiful, charming oasis in their life; the happiest spot on earth.
Let them give vent to all that is joyous and happy in their natures, and they will blossom out into helpful men and women instead of sedate, suppressed, sad, melancholy natures. Spontaneity, buoyancy, the bubbling over of animal spirits are worth everything in one’s education. Children who are encouraged in self-expression of their play instinct will make better business men, better professional men, better men and better women in any walk of life. They will succeed better and have a better influence in the world than those who are repressed.
Only the happiest children can make the happiest and most useful citizens. You cannot give children too much heart sunshine, too much love. They thrive on fun. It is their normal food and the home is the place above all others where they should get an abundance of it. Some one has said that if you want to ruin your children let them think that all mirth and enjoyment must be left on the threshold when they come home at night. When once the home is regarded only as a place in which to eat, drink, and sleep, the work is begun which often ends in degradation.
Children who have no childhood often develop hard, cold, unsocial dispositions which are a great handicap to their success later in life.
A happy childhood is an imperative preparation for a happy maturity. The disposition, the cast of mind, the whole life tendencies are fixed in childhood. An early habit of cheerfulness—the fun-loving habit-has a powerful influence over the mature man and his career.
A happy childhood is the best possible protection against ill-health, unhappiness and failure; the best possible protection against development of handicapping peculiarities, idiosyncrasies, and even insanity. A large percentage of the people in the insane asylums did not have a happy childhood.
It is of immense importance to teach children to avoid unpleasant, disagreeable, soul-harrowing books. Keep them from reading morbid stories, morbid descriptions of crime and misery in the newspapers. Do not let these black pictures etch their hideous forms into their tender, sensitive minds.
Children should be taught the art of getting enjoyment out of the common things of life. This will prevent the development of a restless tendency, a disposition always to think that they would be happier if they were only somewhere else, under other conditions.
If you want your children to be well, strong, and happy, try to cultivate the sense of humor, the fun instinct, in them just as much as possible. Teach children to laugh at their misfortunes and to see the ludicrous side of unpleasant things which cannot be avoided or ignored. …
I once knew a little girl who was so happy that she asked her mother if she could say Good-morning to God. She used to say Good-morning to the sun, and she naturally thought, and rightly, that she ought to say Good-morning to her Creator.
All the members of the mental family, all our faculties, are dependent upon their harmony for their helpfulness and efficiency. If they are unhappy their efficiency is seriously impaired. …
On the other hand, whatever tends to encouragement, to cheerfulness and good humor, whatever brightens hope and brings good cheer, multiplies their efficiency.
There is no other one thing which so buoys up the faculties and refreshes the whole man as good, innocent fun. The enormous success of the theatrical business is based largely upon the instinctive demand in human nature for amusement.
When this demand in us is gratified, the whole man is improved, enlarged; is more healthy, more efficient, more normal; but when it is denied, as it was among many of the Puritans in our early history, there is a famine in the nature, the faculties shrivel, and the whole character deteriorates.
It is a great thing to encourage fun in the home. There is nothing like a fun-loving home. It keeps children off the street, it discourages vice and all that is morbid. The fun-loving faculties in many children are never half developed; hence the melancholy traits, the tendency to sadness, moroseness, morbidness, which we see in men and women everywhere. These are not normal. They are indications of stifled, suppressed, dwarfed natures.
Many parents have a great idea of being stern, not realizing that suppression means strangling growth, stifling aspiration, dwarfing ideals. There can be no real growth, enlargement of faculties, where there is no freedom of expression.
The child that has been trained to be happy, that has been allowed free expression to his fun-loving nature, will not have a sad or gloomy disposition. Much of the morbid mentality which we see everywhere is due to stifled childhood.
It is a most unfortunate thing for a boy to look upon his father as a taskmaster instead of a companion; to dread meeting him because he always expects criticism or scolding from him.
Some fathers constantly nag, find fault, and never think of praising their sons or expressing any appreciation of their work, even when they do it well. Yet there is nothing so encouraging to a boy, especially if he finds it hard to do what is right, as real appreciation of his effort.
The possibilities of thought training are infinite, its consequences eternal, and yet few take the pains to direct their thinking into channels that will do them good, but instead leave all to chance, or rather to the myriad of circumstances that buffet and compel our mental action if counter-effort be not made.
The difference between our thought and an ordinary tool is that we must do something with it. We cannot lay it down and say we shall strike no blow. We must think, and every thought is a blow that forges a part of our lives. Let us, therefore, resolutely determine to turn thought to good use, to the best use, and then stiffen our will to carry out that determination.
Before one can do much toward controlling thought, there must be realization of its power and importance, not mere acceptance of a statement. You must feel, you must be convinced, that a bad thought harms you, that a good thought helps you. There must be no playing with fire and a careless feeling that it matters little if you are off your guard part of the time. You must know in your inmost consciousness that thought alone is eternal, that it is the master of your fate, and that the thought of every moment has its part in deciding that fate. You must feel that proper control of your own thoughts will cause all good things to come naturally to you, just as all bad things will be your portion if you misuse your God-given powers. Such realization must come through consideration of proved facts.
People do not like to work for a pessimist. They thrive in a cheerful, optimistic atmosphere, and will do more and better work there than in one of discouragement and depression. The man who talks his business down cannot possibly do so well as the man who talks his business up. The habit of talking everything down sets tile mind toward the negative side, the destructive side, instead of toward the positive and creative, and is fatal to achievement. It creates a discordant environment. No man can live upward when he is talking downward.
A most injurious and unpleasant way of looking for trouble is fault-finding, continual criticism of other persons. Some people are never generous, never magnanimous toward others. They are stingy of their praise, showing always an unhealthy parsimony in their recognition of merit in others, and critical of their every act.
A farmer in Alabama eight or ten years ago, subject to lung trouble, had a hemorrhage while ploughing one day, and lost so much blood that he was told by his physician that he would die. He merely said that he was not ready to die yet, and lingered for a long time, unable to get up. He gained strength, and finally could sit up, and then he began to laugh at anything and everything. He persisted in his hilarity, even when well people could see nothing to laugh at, and gained constantly. He became robust and strong. He says he is sure that if he had not laughed continually he would have died.
A great many people have brought sick, discordant bodies back into harmony by “the laugh cure”…
Some people are incapable of strong, deep conviction; they are all surface, and liable to be changed by the opinions of everybody else. If they resolve upon a certain course, their resolution is so superficial that the first obstacle they strike deflects them. They are always at the mercy of the opposition, or of people who do not agree with them. Some people are shifty and unreliable; they lack strength of decision, positiveness of resolution.
All that you dream of, all that you yearn for and long to be, will be within your reach if you have the power to affirm sufficiently strong, if you can focus your faculties with sufficient intentness on a single purpose. It is concentration upon the thing you wish that brings it to you, whether it is health, money, or position. Constantly affirm that which you wish, hold it persistently in the thought, concentrate all the power of your mind upon it, and when the mind is sufficiently positive and creative the desired thing will come to you as certainly as a stone will come to the earth, when left free in the air, through the attracting influence of gravitation. You make yourself a magnet to draw the condition you wish.
Few people are well-balanced, well-rounded. A great many have splendid ability in certain lines, good education, fine training, and yet have some deficiency in their make-up which cripples the dwarfs the results of their whole life and utmost industry.
The average person thinks the imaginative person amounts to nothing. He is called a crank. Dreamers are looked upon as impractical people, mere theorists; but oftentimes our dreamers have proved infinitely more practical than those who have laughed at them, for the world’s dreamers have given us the most practical things we have. The dreamers have ameliorated the hard conditions of the race, hare lifted us above commonness and emancipated us from drudgery.
Oh, what does the world not owe to its dreamers, to its cranks, to its theorists?
Great characters have been made possible because men and women saw greater men and women in themselves than actually existed.
We are beginning to see that imagination is not mere fantasy of the brain, but that in it lives the ideal in it are generated the great models and the potencies which make their realization possible.
If the imagination of a child can be rightly directed, its future happiness and success can be assured; but a perverted imagination may bring misery and gloom untold.
The training of the imagination of a child so as to form the habit of producing beautiful pictures instead of hideous ones, perpetually inspiring images instead of demoralizing ones, and thus harmony instead of discord, would be of more value to him than to give him a fortune.
The imagination, wrongly used, is one of our worst foes.
Our destiny changes with our thought; we shall become what we wish to become, do what we wish to do, when our habitual thought corresponds with our desire.
“The divinity that shapes our ends” is in ourselves; it is our very self.
That imperious “must” which compels the actor to do his level best, whether he feels like it or not, is a force which no ordinary pain or physical disability can silence or overcome. Somehow, even when we feel that it is impossible for us to make the necessary effort, when the crisis comes, when the emergency is upon us, when we feel the prodding of this imperative, imperious necessity, there is a latent power within us which comes to our rescue, which answers the call, and we do the impossible.
I know of an actor who suffered such tortures with inflammatory rheumatism that even with the aid of a cane he could not walk two blocks, from his hotel to the theatre; yet when his cue was called, he not only walked upon the stage with the utmost ease and grace, but was also entirely oblivious of the pain which a few moments before had made him wretched. A stronger motive drove out the lesser, made him utterly unconscious of his trouble, and the pain for the time was gone. It was not merely covered up by some other thought, passion, or emotion, but it was temporarily annihilated; and as soon as the play was over, and his part finished, he was crippled again.
General Grant was suffering greatly from rheumatism at Appomattox, but when a flag of truce informed him that Lee was ready to surrender, his great joy not only made him forget his rheumatism but also drove it completely away—at least for some time.
To the Test
We do not know what we can bear until we are put to the test.
Many a delicate mother, who thought that she could not survive the death of her children, has lived to bury her husband and the last one of a large family, and in addition to all this has seen her home and last dollar swept away; yet she has had the courage to bear it all and to go on as before.
When the need comes, there is a power deep within us that answers the call.
When in Deadwood, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, I was told that in the early days there, before telephone, railroad, or telegraph communication had been established, the people were obliged to send a hundred miles for a physician. For this reason the services of a doctor were beyond the reach of persons of moderate means. The result was that people learned to depend upon themselves to such an extent that it was only on extremely rare occasions, usually in a case of severe accident or some great emergency, that a physician was sent for. Some of the largest families of children in the place had been reared without a physician ever coming into the house. When I asked some of these people if they were ever sick they replied, “no, we are never sick, simply because we are obliged to keep well. We cannot afford to have a physician, and even if we could, it would take so long to get him here that the sick one might be dead before he arrived.”
[Cured by Responsibility]
Chronic invalids have been practically cured by having great responsibilities thrust upon them. By the death of some relative or the loss of property, or through some emergency, they have been forced out of their seclusion into the public gaze; forced away from the very opportunity of thinking of themselves, dwelling upon their troubles, their symptoms, and lo! the symptoms have disappeared.
Thousands of business and professional men and women are so active during the day, live such strenuous, unnatural lives, that they cannot stop thinking after they retire, and sleep is driven away or only induced after complete mental exhaustion. These people are so absorbed in the problems of their business or vocations that they do not know how to relax, to rest; so they lie down to sleep with all their cares, just as a tired camel lies down in the desert with its great burden still on its back.
Solutions Through Sleep
Great mathematicians, scientists and astronomers have many times been surprised to find very difficult problems that their reason could not elucidate during the day solved without apparent effort during sleep.
Imagine yourself an attorney pleading the cause of your health. Summon up every bit of evidence you can possibly find. Do not give away your case to your opponent. Plead it vigorously with all the strength you can command.
You will be surprised to see how your body will respond to such mental pleading; such robust, vigorous, healthy affirmative argument.
Confidence is a powerful factor in health. We should thoroughly believe in our ability to keep ourselves well by healthful, harmonious, happy thinking.
Every individual is a float in a sea of thought, where currents are running in every direction. When we are subject to all sorts of opposing influences, conflicting thought currents, we soon come to grief in this turbulent sea, if we do not know the laws of the mental chemistry. We must know how to neutralize our enemy thoughts by applying their antidotes. We must be able to master our moods, to direct our thoughts, and thus protect our lives from all evil influences within and without.
One of the great problems in establishing wireless telegraphy was the neutralizing or getting rid of the influence of conflicting currents going in every direction through the atmosphere. The great problem of character-building, life building, is to counteract, to nullify conflicting thought currents, discordant thought currents, which bring all sorts of bad, injurious suggestions to the mind. Tens of thousands have already solved this problem. Everyone can apply mental chemistry, the right thought-current to neutralize the wrong one.
He is a fortunate man who early learns the secret of scientific mental culture, and who acquires the inestimable art of holding the right suggestion in his mind, so that he can triumph over the dominant note in his environment when it is unfriendly to his highest good.
There is nothing truer than that “we can make ourselves over by using and developing the right kind of thought forces.”
The fact that a man believes implicitly that he can do what may seem impossible or very difficult to others, shows that there is something within him that makes him equal to the work he has undertaken.
Faith unites man with Infinite, and no one can accomplish great things in life unless he works in oneness with the Infinite. When a man lives so near to the Supreme that the Divine Presence is felt all the time, then he is in a position to express power.
Not long ago a young man whom I had not seen for several years called on me, and I was amazed at the tremendous change in him. When I had last seen him he was pessimistic, discouraged, almost despairing; he had soured on life, lost confidence in human nature and in himself. During the interval he had completely changed. The sullen, bitter expression that used to characterize his face was replaced by one of joy and gladness. He was radiant, cheerful, hopeful and happy.
The young man had married an optimistic wife, who had the happy faculty of laughing him out of his “blues” or melancholy, changing the tenor of his thoughts, cheering him up, and making him put a higher estimate on himself. His removal from an unhappy environment, together with his wife’s helpful, “new thought” influence and his own determination to make good, had all worked together to bring about a revolution in his mental make-up. The love-principle and the use of the right thought-force and had verily made a new man of him.
I have been as much refreshed by a good, hearty laugh, by listening to wholesome stories and jokes, by spending an evening with friends and having a good time, as by a long, sound night’s sleep; and I look back upon such experiences as little vacations.
Anything that will make a man new, that will clear the cobwebs of discouragement from his brain and drive away fear, care and worry, is of practical value.
We should not look upon fun and humour as transitory things, but as solid, lasting, permanent medicinal influences on the whole character.
Why should not having a good time form a part of our daily programme? Why should not this enter into our great life-plan?
Fun is the cheapest and best medicine in the world for your children as well as for yourself. Give it to them in good large doses. It will not only save you doctor’s bills, but it will also help to make your children happier, and will improve their chances in life.
Lack of Play
Everywhere we see men and women discontented and unhappy because of the lack of play in their early life. When the young clay finally hardened it was unable to respond to a joyful environment.
Happy recreation has a very subtle influence upon the mental faculties, which are emphasized and heightened by it. How our courage is strengthened, our determination, our ambition, our whole outlook on life changed by it. There seems to be a subtle fluid from humour and fun which penetrates the entire being, bathes all the mental faculties and washes out the brain ash and debris from the exhausted cerebrum and muscles. We have all experienced the transforming, refreshing, rejuvenating power of good, wholesome fun.
Are not some people so unfortunately constituted that they are unable to remember pleasant, agreeable things? When you meet them they always have some sad story to tell, something that has happened to them or is surely going to happen. They tell you about the accidents, narrow escapes, losses and afflictions they have had. The bright days and happy experiences they seldom mention.
Pushing to the Front
How to get what you want
Rising in the World / Architects of Fate