Plays round the head, but comes not to the heart;
One self-approving hour whole years outweighs
Of stupid starers, and of loud huzzas;
And more true joy Marcellus exiled feels
Than Caesar with a senate at his heels.
—W. J. Colville
Very few people care to question the desirability of success in life, and yet many doubtless differ as to what constitutes real success. Some view success from the standpoint of the accumulation of material wealth; others see success in political or social preferment; still others in public recognition of literary or artistic ability. One person might attain to all these varying possibilities of life and yet not be really successful. Real success must be measured by a standard other than by the possession of any or all the things previously mentioned. A truly successful life carries with it something more than the possession of riches or any worldly recognition.
The elements of success are inherent in every individual. The possibility of greatness is latent in every soul, and greatness may take on one phase or another, resulting in one or manifold expressions. That few people do really become great or attain to real success in life is not because they are lacking in possibilities, but because they refuse to follow the highest dictates of their own conscience, or because they are too lazy, either mentally or physically. It is hard to make some people realize that success must be attained through their own efforts; they think that luck or chance is going to bring about a condition whereby they will profit.
Now, the way of life is a straight and narrow one, and the man or woman who refuses to recognize it as such cannot hope to attain to any real or lasting success, because success in life has for its foundation the development of character. If there is lack of character, there can be no permanent success. People without character have sometimes the shadow, that is, certain external evidences of success, but if you could look behind the masks of life you would find that they were deficient in the substance. All is not gold that glitters. All is not success that seems to be success.
If young men starting out in life with a business or a professional career ahead of them could rightly discern some of the real requirements of life, and turn their minds to the accomplishment of certain definite action whereby they would develop their latent power and mental faculties wherewith to use that power, the true way of success would then lie open to them.
Let us consider some of the elements which make for success: First of all, the development of the love-nature which results in kindness of thought, of word, and deed. It is just as easy to be kind, to think kindly and to act kindly as to think unkindly or act disagreeably, and the effect on one's own mind, as well as on the minds of others, is far more beneficial. It makes life easier to live and more worth the living. Sometimes we forget this one great essential of character and become impatient and fault-finding with others. When we do this we are placing an obstruction in the way of success.
Besides kindness there is another element: faith; faith in the people we have to deal with, faith in human nature. If we do not have faith and trust in people, we are making it harder for them to have faith and trust in us. The thought we have in mind concerning them is what, sooner or later, they must feel, and it must result in an action in their minds which will call out the doubt and lack of faith we had in them, making them faithless to us as well as to others. How can a man have faith in himself and faith in his fellow man if his interests are centered wholly in himself? We want to think of people always as we would have them be; in order to inspire them with faith we must have faith in them. We must believe in them and show them by our words and actions that we do believe in them. This will call out the best side of their natures, and will help them in a true way.
Having once started to do a thing, faith in one's own power and ability to accomplish the desired end is a necessary qualification to success. Hope, too, is an inspiring element tending to keep the mind cheerful and bright, impressing other minds and making everything easier of accomplishment. Much depends on clearness of mental vision—the faculty of perceiving things in their true relations and of judging them according to their value.
Many people, with the very best intentions, make the mistake of seeing things as they would have them to be, taking no account of the difficulties which lie in the way, and when confronted by them lose hope and courage and are turned back. The result of this is that they lose faith in themselves, and other people lose faith in them, thereby making the second undertaking harder because of failure in the first.
In all success there must be integrity of thought. This will find expression in just deeds. Integrity of thought is that quality in the life of man which seeks to know and understand things as they are, putting aside prejudice and bigotry, that the vision may not be dimmed, that the mind may see clearly, and so, through clear vision, can act rightly. Integrity of thought and of purpose causes man to adjust himself to his environment, and thus establish true relations between himself and his fellow man, for a man's influence is determined by the clearness and integrity of his thought and the directness and energy of his action. As the mind thinks clearly, it is better able to act with decision, as clear thought finds its effective conclusion in what one accomplishes in the outer world.
Besides clearness of vision, let there be perseverance. A thing may be difficult to do, far more difficult than was expected in the beginning, yet that is no reason why it should be relinquished; in fact, it is the greater reason why it should receive all the energy of mind and body to carry it to its final completion. "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." This was the injunction of one who knew far more about the mysteries and struggles of life than we do. He who turns away from anything because it is hard to do will never succeed to any marked degree in anything he may undertake. But let him persevere, regardless of obstacles, and in doing thus he will strengthen his character and call out real courage. When a man puts his hand to the plow, he should feel, first of all, that it is the right thing to do; and he should courageously face any and every obstacle. Having brought the undertaking to a successful termination, it will be easier for him to succeed in his next.
Sometimes everything looks dark. You have faith in the thing you want to accomplish; you have faith in the people about you; yet outer circumstances seem to conspire against you. This is the time for courage, this is the time to reinforce courage with hope. It is well, then, to remember that the great things in life do not come to us without effort; that it is only as we use energy, as we persevere, as we keep working day after day, that we accomplish that which we ardently desire. We fritter away our force when we try to do two or more things at the same time. When the mind is engaged in one direction, and the hands in another, the mind and body both become tired. The man who keeps his mind centered upon whatever he has before him to do, will do it more easily and better because of that mental attitude. Remember, therefore, in the darkest hour, courage, hope, and perseverance are the qualities which will bring ultimate success.
When we desire a thing greatly we should be willing to work for the accomplishment of the desire. The working for it should be a pleasure, and should not be considered as a burden, or even as a duty, but as a blest privilege. What greater privilege can one have than to see the manifestation of his own ideals, to see the things that he has wrought out in his own mind taking form in the world about him? There is nothing degrading or mean about labor, so long as that labor is unselfish, so long as that labor is going to benefit the world. It makes no difference whether a man tills the ground, or builds houses, or engages in mercantile life, whether a man is an artist or a day-laborer, his work is honorable if he gives it his honest thought and does not try to avoid the responsibilities coming to him.
No matter what position a man may occupy in life, he is of use in that station and should occupy it until he can fill a better one, and he can never fill a better one until he has made himself, in a sense, proficient in that one. He can make himself most proficient by doing his work in the best possible way, each day trying to do it better than the day before, gaining a little here and a little there. Through following this course he makes himself a necessity to his fellow man. No matter what one does, he can do it best by entering into the spirit of the thing, by looking at the calling, whatever it may be, as one that is honorable and upright, and by doing the work cheerfully and well. The more cheerfulness and concentration we put into the things we do, the easier we will find them to do, and the greater satisfaction we will get and also give to others.
"The talent of success is nothing more than doing what you can do well, and doing well whatever you do without a thought of fame. If it comes at all, it will come because it is deserved not because it is sought after."
A really successful life must, without doubt, be the result of thorough application to whatever calling one follows; therefore, anything which tends to divert attention from the real issues retards success and interferes with individual development. As a maxim to be followed with undeviating persistence there are few better than "Mind your own business." That the world follows this to any marked degree is not as yet apparent. If people could realize how many heartaches, how much sorrow and mental distress, could be averted by attending strictly to their own business, it would not take the world long to see the blessings flowing from such a method, and it would become the usual and not the unusual course.
Concentration of mind is needful for the accomplishment of any definite object, but there can be no concentration when the individual mind is prying into the life of another to find something which may tend to belittle or bring the condemnation of the world into that other life. There are characteristics of the animal nature which are not easily overcome in the life of man. The cunning of the fox, the instincts of the jackal and the vulture, are only too apparent in what is called Christian civilization. That which is hardly commendable in the animal is infinitely less edifying in man. Scandal-mongers, slanderers, and inquisitive "busy-bodies" are the prototypes of the lowest instincts of the animal race, and are more of a menace to the welfare of a community than thieves; for as Shakespeare truly says:
But he that filches from me my good name,
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.
The poisoned and evilly disposed mind that makes a business of retailing gossip cannot be trusted in any emergency; friendship with such a mind loses all its real meaning and of loyalty there is none. There may be honor among thieves, but there is no honor in the heart of a slanderer, and the evolution of such a life must come through the bitter experiences always brought by willful disobedience to every known law of right. Said Buddha: "The words of a slanderer are like sand thrown when the wind is contrary; they return upon the slanderer himself, and a virtuous person cannot be harmed."
There are many phases of minding other people's business to the detriment of one's own, some seemingly very harmless, yet all tending to destroy the real usefulness of the offender. They who are continually looking for and expecting favors from others cannot be said* to be attending strictly to their own business. This method may seemingly advance selfish ends, but cannot bring permanent good because true development comes only through rightly directed personal effort.
Much valuable time is spent in giving advice to others that is neither needed nor desired. Were the same time spent in living an example of superior wisdom, it would prove more effective than many words of advice. Freedom is essential to the highest growth and development of the individual; and it is absolutely necessary, in order to be free, to respect the rights of others. There need be no selfishness involved in this attitude which tends to individualize the life. Whenever a demand is made by others, minding one's own business does not in any way interfere with doing them good by lending a helping hand.
Questioning the motives of others is another phase of minding other people's business, and a lack of generosity in this respect too often reveals the same underlying motive attributed to others by the self-appointed critic.
From true individualization will flow the larger social life; the ideals of the few, when practically applied, eventually become the ideals of the many. There is no conflict between real individualism and real socialism; they are the two halves of one truth. Individual and economic freedom must go hand in hand in order to bring about better social conditions in the world.
No individual stands alone. He is an integral part of society, and the real law never works for the benefit of any one individual to the exclusion of all others. The law works to bring about the larger good to humanity; thus the individual, in turn, enters into the larger, the happier life because of the good that has come to the many.
The man, then, who has made the greatest success in life is the one who has been the greatest benefactor to the race, is the one who receives the love of the many. It is only as he has given of himself to the many that the many in turn give to him. A man may have an abundance of this world's goods, but without the love and respect of his fellow man his life is a barren one. It can in no way be considered a success. The real riches of life are not made up of material accumulation, but consist in the development of all the qualities necessary to the well-being of man, and these are the things that in turn bring him into touch with his fellow man, so that he is able in a sympathetic way to enter into the lives of many, understanding their needs and knowing how he can best be useful to them.
The man who has succeeded in doing this is the truly successful man, is the man who will never know want—want of love, friendship, or respect, or want of any material thing; because he has sought and found God's kingdom. Having come into the inner kingdom, and being also in true relation to the outer kingdom, he has not only an abundance within, but that inner abundance finds true outer expression. True it is he is not weighted down by vast accumulations bringing with them untold responsibilities, for it is well to remember right here that vast material wealth brings with it tremendous responsibilities, responsibilities that are not always recognized, but which, nevertheless, exist, and only as they are fulfilled does it become possible for the rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is a state of peace and harmony—peace and harmony in one's own mind, and peace and harmony with the rest of mankind; and if one is not living up to the requirements of life, but shirking its responsibilities, there can be no such peace and harmony.
Individual success, then, must never be considered apart from its effect upon society. If the effect of any given course of action by the individual proves beneficial to society, then there must be a corresponding benefit or success to the individual. So, the wise course for the individual to follow in each and all of his undertakings is to ask himself two questions: First, what is going to be the effect of my action upon the lives of people with whom I am associated? Second, what is going to be the effect of it upon my own life? When he has decided that the effect will prove to be good upon others, the second is easy to answer. That which is good to the many, must of necessity be good for the individual. In the highest and truest sense, real success can never come to any one who puts the accomplishment of mere personal ends in advance of the greater good he might do to the world at large. Real success in life is attained through losing sight of the personal self and working for the realization of some great and good end which will benefit and uplift humanity in a physical, or a moral, or an intellectual way.
Selfishness is that false quality in man which breeds suspicion of other men, and the suspicion in the mind of the selfish man will call out suspicion in the minds of others toward him, thereby making it the less possible for him to become really successful. The truly upright man can never be selfish. He may desire his own good, he may desire an abundance of this world's good, but he will not desire them at the expense of others; for in the pathway to success one can never expect to' reach the goal through the failure of someone else. The world may think differently, but the world is not right. The man who makes the greatest success is the one who is thoroughly mindful of other people's interests, realizing that his own good is inseparably bound with the good coming to others with whom he may be associated. He will be considerate and fair in all his dealings. He will realize that justice and honor are the true basic principles for a successful life, and this sense of justice and honor in him will appeal to the minds of those he is associated with, and will be recognized, doing away with suspicion or anything that could act to the man's detriment. The real success of life is not what an individual accomplishes for himself, but the good he has been able to bring to others. A life which has been devoted to the acquisition of wealth, knowledge, or even spiritual development, for a purely personal gain, is a life that has been wasted. In seeking to find itself it has been lost in the tangle of personality. Man may have wealth and be successful, if he is using the wealth that has been entrusted to his care in a wise and judicious way, by helping others to help themselves—not by accumulating and hoarding for the sake of accumulation or any personal end. Man may be successful in the field of knowledge, but only as he seeks to impart some of his own knowledge to those less developed than himself, and through the giving he receives a still greater store of knowledge.
One may become successful in life without a thoroughly intellectual knowledge of the laws of life by being intuitively led into conformity to law. Nevertheless, the one who has an intellectual understanding of law, as well as an intuitive perception, is better equipped for a successful life. He then has reason for his inner faith. He knows intellectually that discordant, inharmonious results come from a violation of law, and he is led to ask himself the question as to how he has violated it. Getting at the causes, he is able to adjust himself in a way entirely satisfactory to his own mind. This process of readjustment is most essential. Excessive friction and inharmony show a lack of adjustment to environment and that a thorough readjustment is necessary. Therefore, the great process of life is to adjust one's life in accord with law, and when changes and new developments come, to bring about a readjustment so that through the perfect balance of life will come the real joy of living. Because, success that does not bring with it a joy in life and a joy in doing cannot be considered real success—at least it is only partial. The really successful man is the one who delights in his work, and who gets a thorough satisfaction from the many other things in the world about him.
One who would be successful is going to profit by understanding the true relation between the inner and outer worlds. He shall see that all outer things exist because of inner causes; that his own product, be it what it may in the world, is an expression of his own mind and thought. In order, therefore, to have that expression perfect and harmonious without, the inner cause, his own mind and thought must be thoroughly harmonious. By doing away with friction in the inner he avoids friction in the outer. Thus he consciously works from cause to effect.
The real elements of success are not so much in one's environment as in one's own mind. A man must look there, then, for the real cause of success in life, and not to chance, luck, environment, or any external thing.
To sum up, the elements of success might be enumerated as follows: a study of the inner law of life, and a study of the expression of that law in the outer world. The results flowing from such knowledge would be integrity, honor, clear insight, courage, perseverance, concentration of mind, and, over and above all, the great soul-qualities, faith, hope, and love, that cannot be pictured by mind nor expressed by words, but which all may feel and all may give expression to if they will do so. For they are latent as living force and power in the lives of all men: faith in God, faith in the power given us which comes from God, faith in our fellow men, faith, in fact, that everything is working together for our good, and the good of all; hope that will fill the mind with brightness, that will cause us to turn away from the gloom and despondency of life, that will bring gladness to our hearts, making our very faces radiate with the truest joy. Thus, our hope and faith may find abiding places in the minds of many. And a love receiving God in the soul, knowing God in the inmost, will bring us in vital touch with God in the lives of others; a love so wise and all embracing that kindness will flow to every living and moving thing; a love that will tend to bring God's kingdom here and now that His will may be done on earth even as it is done in heaven.
The individual who realizes the truth contained in these things will be the one who is the most eminently successful in life, whose life will become one unending joy.
More from Charles Brodie Patterson
- Canadian New Thought author
- Born in Nova Scotia in 1854 and died on June, 22nd 1917