How to Succeed, or Stepping-Stones to Fame and Fortune

CHAPTER XV.

WILL-POWER.

In the moral world there is nothing impossible if we can bring
a thorough will to do it.
–W. HUMBOLDT.

It is firmness that makes the gods on our side.
–VOLTAIRE.

Stand firm, don’t flutter.
–FRANKLIN.

People do not lack strength they lack will.
–VICTOR HUGO.

Perpetual pushing and assurance put a difficulty out of
countenance and make a seeming difficulty give way.
–JEREMY COLLIER.

When a firm, decisive spirit is recognized, it is curious to
see how the space clears around a man and leaves him room and
freedom.
–JOHN FOSTER.

“Do you know,” asked Balzac’s father, “that in literature a man must be either a king or a beggar?” “Very well,” replied his son, “_I will be a king._” After ten years of struggle with hardship and poverty, he won success as an author.

“Why do you repair that magistrate’s bench with such great care?” asked a bystander of a carpenter who was taking unusual pains. “Because I wish to make it easy against the time when I come to sit on it myself,” replied the other. He did sit on that bench as a magistrate a few years later.

“_I will be marshal of France and a great general_,” exclaimed a young French officer as he paced his room with hands tightly clenched. He became a successful general and a marshal of France.

“There is so much power in faith,” says Bulwer, “even when faith is applied but to things human and earthly, that let a man but be firmly persuaded that he is born to do some day, what at the moment seems impossible, and it is fifty to one but what he does it before he dies.”

There is about as much chance of idleness and incapacity winning real success, or a high position in life, as there would be in producing a Paradise Lost by shaking up promiscuously the separate words of Webster’s Dictionary, and letting them fall at random on the floor. Fortune smiles upon those who roll up their sleeves and put their shoulders to the wheel; upon men who are not afraid of dreary, dry, irksome drudgery, men of nerve and grit who do not turn aside for dirt and detail.

“Is there one whom difficulties dishearten?” asked John Hunter. “He will do little. Is there one who will conquer? That kind of a man never fails.”

“Circumstances,” says Milton, “have rarely favored famous men. They have fought their way to triumph through all sorts of opposing obstacles.”

“We have a half belief,” said Emerson, “that the person is possible who can counterpoise all other persons. We believe that there may be a man _who is a match for events_,–one who never found his match,–against whom other men being dashed are broken,–one who can give you any odds and beat you.”

The simple truth is that a will strong enough to keep a man continually striving for things not wholly beyond his powers will carry him in time very far toward his chosen goal.

At nineteen Bayard Taylor walked to Philadelphia, thirty miles, to find a publisher for fifteen of his poems. He wanted to see them printed in a book; but no publisher would undertake it. He returned to his home whistling, however, showing that his courage and resolution had not abated.

In Europe he was often forced to live on twenty cents a day for weeks on account of his poverty. He returned to London with only thirty cents left. He tried to sell a poem of twelve hundred lines, which he had in his knapsack, but no publisher wanted it. Of that time he wrote: “My situation was about as hopeless as it is possible to conceive.” But his will defied circumstances and he rose above them. For two years he lived on two hundred and fifty dollars a year in London, earning every dollar of it with his pen.

His untimely death in 1879, at fifty-four, when Minister to Berlin, was lamented by the learned and great of all countries.

We are told of a young New York inventor who about twenty years ago spent every dollar he was worth in an experiment, which, if successful, would introduce his invention to public notice and insure his fortune, and, what he valued more, his usefulness. The next morning the daily papers heaped unsparing ridicule upon him. Hope for the future seemed vain. He looked around the shabby room where his wife, a delicate little woman, was preparing breakfast. He was without a penny. He seemed like a fool in his own eyes; all these years of hard work were wasted. He went into his chamber, sat down, and buried his face in his hands.

At length, with a fiery heat flashing through his body, he stood erect. “It _shall_ succeed!” he said, shutting his teeth. His wife was crying over the papers when he went back. “They are very cruel,” she said. “They don’t understand.” “I’ll make them understand,” he replied cheerfully. “It was a fight for six years,” he said afterward. “Poverty, sickness and contempt followed me. I had nothing left but the _dogged determination_ that it should succeed.” It did succeed. The invention was a great and useful one. The inventor is now a prosperous and happy man.

Napoleon was a terrible example of what the power of will can accomplish. He always threw his whole force of body and mind direct upon his work. Imbecile rulers and the nations they governed went down before him in succession. He was told that the Alps stood in the way of his armies,–“There shall be no Alps,” he said, and the road across the Simplon was constructed, through a district formerly almost inaccessible. “Impossible,” said he, “is a word only to be found in the dictionary of fools.” He was a man who toiled terribly; sometimes employing and exhausting four secretaries at a time. He spared no one, not even himself. His influence inspired other men, and put a new life into them. “I made my generals out of mud,” he said.