A “success” address which may prove inspiring to the youthful mind. Advises an early decision on a wise, definite aim in life, and cites many examples of men and women who have conquered themselves and attained success by exercising will power in the face of great obstacles.
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WHAT YOU CAN DO WITH YOUR WILL POWER
RUSSELL H. CONWELL
First digital edition 2017 by Gianluca Ruffini
I. SUCCESS HAS NO SECRET
II. THERE IS A DEPLORABLE TENDENCY
III. THE BIOGRAPHY OF THAT GREAT PATRIOT
IV. IN A SMALL TOWN IN WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS
Other writers have fully and accurately described the road, and my only hope is that these hastily written lines will inspire the young man or young woman to arise and go.
RUSSELL H. CONWELL
I. SUCCESS HAS NO SECRET
Success has no secret. Her voice is forever ringing through the market-place and crying in the wilderness, and the burden of her cry is one word: WILL. Any normal young man who hears and heeds that cry is equipped fully to climb to the very heights of life.
The message I would like to leave with the young men and women of America is a message I have been trying humbly to deliver from lecture platform and pulpit for more than fifty years. It is a message the accuracy of which has been affirmed and reaffirmed in thousands of lives whose progress I have been privileged to watch. And the message is this: Your future stands before you like a block of unwrought marble. You can work it into what you will. Neither heredity, nor environment, nor any obstacles superimposed by man can keep you from marching straight through to success, provided you are guided by a firm, driving determination and have normal health and intelligence.
Determination is the battery that commands every road of life. It is the armor against which the missiles of adversity rattle harmlessly. If there is one thing I have tried peculiarly to do through these years, it is to indent in the minds of the youth of America the living fact that when they give WILL the reins and say “DRIVE” they are headed toward the heights.
The institution out of which Temple University, of Philadelphia, grew was founded thirty years ago, expressly to furnish opportunities for higher education to poor boys and girls who are willing to work for it. I have seen ninety thousand students enter its doors. A very large percentage of these came to Philadelphia without money, but firmly determined to get an education. I have never known one of them to go back defeated. Determination has the properties of a powerful acid; all shackles melt before it.
Conversely, lack of will power is the readiest weapon in the arsenal of failure. The most hopeless proposition in the world is the fellow who thinks that success is a door through which he will sometime stumble if he roams around long enough. Some men seem to expect ravens to feed them, the cruse of oil to remain inexhaustible, the fish to come right up over the side of the boat at meal-time. They believe that life is a series of miracles. They loaf about and trust in their lucky star, and boldly declare that the world owes them a living.
As a matter of fact, the world owes a man nothing that he does not earn. In this life, a man gets about what he is worth, and he must render an equivalent for what is given him. There is no such thing as inactive success.
My mind is running back over the stories of thousands of boys and girls I have known and known about, who have faced every sort of a handicap and have won out solely by will and perseverance in working with all the power that God had given them. It is now nearly thirty years since a young English boy came into my office. He wanted to attend the evening classes at our university to learn oratory.
“Why don’t you go into the law?” I asked him.
“I’m too poor! I haven’t a chance!” he replied, shaking his head sadly.
I turned on him sharply. “Of course, you haven’t a chance,” I exclaimed, “if you don’t make up your mind to it!”
The next night he knocked at my door again. His face was radiant and there was a light of determination in his eyes.
“I have decided to become a lawyer,” he said, and I knew from the ring of his voice that he meant it.
Many times, after he became mayor of Philadelphia he must have looked back on that decision as the turning-point in his life.
I am thinking of a young Connecticut farm lad who was given up by his teachers as too weak-minded to learn. He left school when he was seven years old and toiled on his father’s farm until he was twenty-one. Then something turned his mind toward the origin and development of the animal kingdom. He began to read works on zoology, and, in order to enlarge his capacity for understanding, went back to school and picked up where he left off fourteen years before. Somebody said to him, “You can get to the top if you will!”
He grasped the hope and nurtured it, until at last it completely possessed him. He entered college at twenty-eight and worked his way through with the assistance that we were able to furnish him. To-day he is a respected professor of zoology in an Ohio college.
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