In the moral world there is nothing impossible if we can bring
a thorough will to do it.
It is firmness that makes the gods on our side.
Stand firm, don't flutter.
People do not lack strength they lack will.
Perpetual pushing and assurance put a difficulty out of
countenance and make a seeming difficulty give way.
When a firm, decisive spirit is recognized, it is curious to
see how the space clears around a man and leaves him room and
"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
"_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
"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
"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
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
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.
To think we are able is almost to be so--to determine upon attainment,
is frequently attainment itself. Thus, earnest resolution has often
seemed to have about it almost a savor of omnipotence. The strength of
Suwarrow's character lay in his power of willing, and, like most
resolute persons, he preached it up as a system.
Before Pizarro, D'Almagro and De Luque obtained any associates or arms
or soldiers, and with a very imperfect knowledge of the country or the
powers they were to encounter, they celebrated a solemn mass in one of
the great churches, dedicating themselves to the conquest of Peru. The
people expressed their contempt at such a monstrous project, and were
shocked at such sacrilege. But these decided men continued the service
and afterward retired for their great preparation with an entire
insensibility to the expressions of contempt. Their firmness was
absolutely invincible. The world has deplored the results of this
expedition, but there is a great lesson for us in the firmness of
decision of its leaders. Such firmness would keep to its course and
retain its purpose unshaken amidst the ruins of the world.
At the battle of Marengo the French army was supposed to be defeated;
but, while Bonaparte and his staff were considering their next move,
Dessaix suggested that there was yet time to retrieve their disaster, as
it was only about the middle of the afternoon. Napoleon rallied his men,
renewed the fight, and won a great victory over the Austrians, though
the unfortunate Dessaix lost his own life on that field.
What has chance ever done in the world? Has it built any cities? Has it
invented any telephones, any telegraphs? Has it built any steamships,
established any universities, any asylums, any hospitals? Was there any
chance in Caesar's crossing the Rubicon? What had chance to do with
Napoleon's career, with Wellington's, or Grant's, or Von Moltke's? Every
battle was won before it was begun. What had luck to do with Thermopylae,
Trafalgar, Gettysburg? Our successes we ascribe to ourselves; our
failures to destiny.
A vacillating man, no matter what his abilities, is invariably pushed to
the wall in the race of life by a determined will. It is he who resolves
to succeed, and who at every fresh rebuff begins resolutely again, that
reaches the goal. The shores of fortune are covered with the stranded
wrecks of men of brilliant ability, but who have wanted courage, faith
and decision, and have therefore perished in sight of more resolute but
less capable adventurers, who succeeded in making port. Hundreds of men
go to their graves in obscurity, who have been obscure only because they
lacked the pluck to make a first effort, and who, could they only have
resolved to begin, would have astonished the world by their achievements
and successes. The fact is, as Sydney Smith has well said, that in order
to do anything in this world that is worth doing, we must not stand
shivering on the bank, and thinking of the cold and the danger, but jump
in and scramble through as well as we can.
Is not this a grand privilege of man, immortal man, that though he may
not be able to stir a finger; that though a moth may crush him; that
merely by a righteous will, he is raised above the stars; that by it he
originates a good in the universe, which the universe could not
annihilate; a good which can defy extinction, though all created
energies of intelligence or matter were combined against it?
A man whose moral nature is ascendant is not the subject, but the
superior of circumstances. He is free; nay, more, he is a king; and
though this sovereignty may have been won by many desperate battles,
once on the throne, and holding the sceptre with a firm grasp, he has a
royalty of which neither time nor accident can strip him.
What can you do with a man who has an invincible purpose in him; who
never knows when he is beaten; and who, when his legs are shot off, will
fight on the stumps? Difficulties and opposition do not daunt him. He
thrives upon persecution; it only stimulates him to more determined
endeavor. Give a man the alphabet and an iron will, and who shall place
bounds to his achievements! Imprison a Galileo for his discoveries in
science, and he will experiment with the straw in his cell. Deprive
Euler of his eyesight, and he but studies harder upon mental problems,
thus developing marvelous powers of mathematical calculation. Lock up
the poor Bedford tinker in jail, and he will write the finest allegory
in the world, or will leave his imperishable thoughts upon the walls of
his cell. Burn the body of Wycliffe and throw the ashes into the Severn;
but they will be swept to the ocean, which will carry them, permeated
with his principles, to all lands. _The world always listens to a man
with a will in him._ You might as well snub the sun as such men as
Bismarck and Grant.
Hope would storm the castle of despair; it gives courage when
despondency would give up the battle of life. He is the best doctor
who can implant _hope_ and courage in the human soul. So he is the
greatest man who can inspire us to the grandest achievements.
"Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,
Which we ascribe to heaven; the fated sky
Gives us free scope; and only backward pulls
Our slow designs when we ourselves are dull."
"How much I could do if I only tried."
Next: Guard Your Weak Point