From the Archives: Improving Yourself and Your Outlook

Self-Improvement as an Asset, 1907

Education is power. No matter how small your salary may be, every bit of valuable information you pick up, every bit of good reading or thinking you do, in fact everything you do to make yourself a larger and completer man or woman, will also help you to advance. I have known boys who were working very hard for very little money to do more for their advancement in their spare time, their half-holidays, by improving their minds, than by the actual work they did. Their salaries were insignificant in comparison with their growth of mind.

I know a young man who jumped in one bound from a salary of five thousand to ten thousand dollars, largely because of his insatiable effort at self-improvement. His great passion seemed to be to make the largest and completest man possible.

This young man is a good example of the possibility of reputation to help one on in the world. Everybody who knew him, knew that he was determined to make something of himself. It did not make any difference if his fellow employees wanted to throw their time away, he didn’t. They soon found that it was of no use to try to tease him away from his reading or studying, for he had set his mind toward the future. He had no idea for being a little, small, picayune man. He had a passion for enlargement, for growth. Those who worked with him were very much surprised at his rapid advancement; but there was a good reason for every bit of it. While they were spending their evenings and money trying to have a good time, he was trying to educate himself by a rigid course of self improvement.

Everywhere we see young men and young women tied to very ordinary positions all their lives simply because, though they had good brains, they were never cultivated, never developed. They never tried to improve themselves, did not care to read anything. Their salaries on a Saturday night, and a good time, are about all they see; and the result the narrow, the contracted, the pinched career. Men and women who have utilized only a very small percentage of their ability—not made it available by discipline and education—always work at a great disadvantage. A man capable, by nature, of being an employer, is often compelled to be a very ordinary employee because his mind is totally untrained.

The Good Will Habit, 1908

The habit of holding the good will, kindly attitude of mind toward everybody has a powerful influence upon the character. It lifts the mind above petty jealousies and meannesses; it enriches and enlarges the whole life. Wherever we meet people, no matter if they are strangers, we feel a certain kinship with and friendliness for them, greater interest in them, if we have formed the good will habit. We feel that if we only had the opportunity of knowing them, we should like them.

In other words, the kindly habit, the good will habit makes us feel more sympathy for everybody. And if we radiate this helpful, friendly feeling, others will reflect it back to us.

On the other hand, if we go through life with a cold, selfish mental attitude, caring only for our own, always looking for the main chance, only thinking of what will further our own interests, our own comforts, totally indifferent to others, this attitude will, after a while, harden the feelings and marbleize the affections, and we shall become dry, pessimistic, and uninteresting.

Try this year to hold the kindly, good will attitude toward everybody. If your nature is hard you will be surprised to see how it will soften under the new influence. You will become more sympathetic, more charitable toward others’ weaknesses and failings, and you will grow more magnanimous and whole-souled. The good will attitude will make us more lovable, interesting, and helpful. Others will look upon us in the same way in which we regard them. The cold, crabbed, unsocial, selfish person finds the same qualities reflected from others.

How much better it is to go through life with a warm heart, with kindly feelings toward everybody, radiating good will and good cheer wherever we go! Life is short at most, and what a satisfaction it is to feel that we have scattered flowers instead of thorns, that we have tried to be helpful and kind instead of selfish and churlish.

The world builds its monuments to the unselfish, the helpful, and if these monuments are not in marble or bronze, they are in the hearts of those whom their inspirers have cheered, encouraged, and helped.

All of us, no matter how poor we may be, whether we have succeeded or failed in our vocations, can be great successes in helpfulness, in radiating good will, good cheer, and encouragement.

Everybody can be a success in the good will business, and it is infinitely better to fail in our vocation and to succeed in this, than to accumulate great wealth and be a failure in helpfulness, in a kindly, sympathetic attitude toward others.

The habit of wishing everybody well, of feeling like giving everybody a Godspeed, ennobles and beautifies the character wonderfully, magnifies our ability, and multiplies our mental power.

We were planned on lines of nobility; we were intended to be something grand; not mean and stingy, but large and generous; we were made in God’s image that we might be God-like.

Selfishness and greed dwarf our natures and make us mere apologies of the men and women God intended us to be. The way to get back to our own, to regain our lost birthright, is to form a habit of holding the kindly, helpful, sympathetic, good will attitude toward everybody.

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