Monday, January 14, 2008

Realize Our Ambition and Opportunities: Light up the FIRE!

“HOW'S the boy gittin' on, Davis?" asked Farmer John Field, as he watched his son, Marshall, waiting upon a customer. "Well, John, you and I are old friends," replied Deacon Davis, as he took an apple from a barrel and handed it to

Marshall's father as a peace offering; "we are old friends, and I don't want to hurt your feelin's; but I'm a blunt man, and am goin' to tell you the truth. Marshall is a good steady boy, all right, but he wouldn't make a merchant if he stayed in my store a thousand years. He weren't cut out for a merchant. Take him back to the farm, John, and teach him how to milk cows!"

If Marshall Field had remained as clerk in Deacon Davis's store in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where he got his first job, he could never have become one of the world's merchant princes.

But he went to Chicago and saw the marvelous example around him of poor boys who had won success, it aroused his ambition and fired him with the determination to be a great merchant himself. "If others can do such wonderful things," he asked himself, "why can’t I?"

Of course, there was the making of a great merchant in Mr. Field from the start; but circumstances, an ambition-arousing environment, had a great deal to do with stimulating his latent energy and bringing out his reserve force.

It is doubtful if he would have climbed so rapidly in any other place than Chicago. In 1850, when young Field went there, this marvelous city was just starting on its unparalleled career. It had then only about eighty-five thousand inhabitants.

A few years before it had been a mere Indian trading village. But the city grew by leaps and bounds, and always beat the predictions of its most sanguine inhabitants. Success was in the air.

Everybody felt that there were great possibilities there.

Many people seem to think that ambition is a quality born within us; that it is not susceptible to improvement; that it is something thrust upon us which will take care of itself. But it is a passion that responds very quickly to cultivation, and it requires constant care and education, just as the faculty for music or art does, or it will atrophy.

If we do not try to realize our ambition, it will not keep sharp and defined. Our faculties become dull and soon lose their power if they are not exercised. How can we expect our ambition to remain fresh and vigorous through years of inactivity, indolence, or indifference?

If we constantly allow opportunities to slip by us without making any attempt to grasp them, our inclination will grow duller and weaker.

"What I most need," as Emerson says, "is somebody to make me do what I can." To do what I can, that is my problem; not what a Napoleon or a Lincoln could do, but what I can do.

It makes all the difference in the world to me whether I bring out the best thing in me or the worst, — whether I utilize ten, fifteen, twenty-five or ninety per cent of my ability.

Everywhere we see people who have reached middle life or later without being aroused. They have developed only a small percentage of their success possibilities. They are still in a dormant state.

The best thing in them lies so deep that it has never been awakened. When we meet these people we feel conscious that they have a great deal of latent power that has never been exercised. Great possibilities of usefulness and of achievement are, all unconsciously, going to waste within them.

Some time ago there appeared in the newspapers an account of a girl who had reached the age of fifteen years, and yet had only attained the mental development of a small child.

Only a few things interested her. She was dreamy, inactive, and indifferent to everything around her most of the time until, one day, while listening to a hand organ on the street, she suddenly awakened to full consciousness.

She came to herself; her faculties were aroused; and in a few days she leaped forward years in her development. Almost in a day she passed from childhood to budding womanhood. Most of us have an enormous amount of power, of latent force, slumbering within us, as it slumbered in this girl, which could do marvels if we would only awaken it.

A blacksmith in a flourishing western city, was in middle life, before his latent power was aroused. He is now sixty, the owner of the finest library in his city, with the reputation of being its best-read man, and one whose highest endeavor is to help his fellow men.

What caused the revolution in his life? The hearing of a single lecture on the value of education. This was what stirred the slumbering power within him, awakened his ambition, and set his feet in the path of self-development.

I have known several men who never realized their possibilities until they reached middle life.

Then they were suddenly aroused, as if from a long sleep, by reading some inspiring, stimulating book, by listening to a sermon or a lecture, or by meeting some friend, — someone with high ideals, — who understood, believed in, and encouraged them.

It will make all the difference in the world to you whether you are with people who are watching for ability in you, people who believe in, encourage, and praise you, or whether you are with those who are forever breaking your idols, blasting your hopes, and throwing cold water on your aspirations.

The chief probation officer of the children's court in New York, in his report for 1905, says: "Removing a boy or girl from improper environment is the first step in his or her reclamation."

The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, after thirty years of investigation of cases involving the social and moral welfare of over half a million of children, has also come to the conclusion that environment is stronger than heredity.

Even the strongest of us are not beyond the reach of our environment. No matter how independent, strong willed, and determined our nature, we are constantly being modified by our surroundings.

Take the best born child, with the greatest inherited advantages, and let it be reared by savages, and how many of its inherited tendencies will remain? If brought up from infancy in a barbarous, brutal atmosphere, it will, of course, become brutal.

The story is told of a wellborn child who, being lost or abandoned as an infant, was suckled by a wolf with her own young ones, and who actually took on all the characteristics of the wolf, — walked on all fours, howled like a wolf, and ate like one.

It does not take much to determine the lives of most of us. We naturally follow the examples about us, and, as a rule, we rise or fall according to the strongest current in which we live.

The poet's "I am a part of all that I have met" is not a mere poetic flight of fancy; it is an absolute truth. Everything — every sermon or lecture or conversation you have heard, every person who has touched your life — has left an impression upon your character, and you are never quite the same person after the association or experience.

You are a little different, — modified somewhat from what you were before, — just as Beecher was never the same man after reading Ruskin.

Some years ago a party of Russian workmen were sent to this country by a Russian firm of shipbuilders, in order that they might acquire American methods and catch the American spirit.

Within six months the Russians had become almost the equals of the American artisans among whom they worked. They had developed ambition, individuality, personal initiative, and a marked degree of excellence in their work. A year after their return to their own country, the deadening, non-progressive atmosphere about them had done its work.

The men had lost the desire to improve; they were again plodders, with no goal beyond the day's work. The ambition aroused by stimulating environment had sunk to sleep again.

Our Indian schools sometimes publish, side by side, photographs of the Indian youths as they come from the reservation and as they look when they are graduated — well dressed, intelligent, with the fire of ambition in their eyes.

We predict great things for them; but the majority of those who go back to their tribes, after struggling a while to keep up their new standards, gradually drop back to their old manner of living. There are, of course, many notable exceptions, but these are strong characters, able to resist the downward-dragging tendencies about them.

If you interview the great army of failures, you will find that multitudes have failed because they never got into a stimulating, encouraging environment, because their ambition was never aroused, or because they were not strong enough to rally under depressing, discouraging, or vicious surroundings.
Most of the people we find in prisons are pitiable examples of the influence of an environment which appealed to the worst instead of to the best in them.
Whatever you do in life, make any sacrifice necessary to keep in an ambition-arousing atmosphere, an environment that will stimulate you to self-development.
Keep close to people who understand you, who believe in you, who will help you to discover yourself and encourage you to make the most of yourself.

This may make all the difference to you between a grand success and a mediocre existence. Stick to those who are trying to do something and to be somebody in the world, — people of high aims, lofty ambition. Keep close to those who are dead-in earnest. Ambition is contagious.

You will catch the spirit that dominates in your environment. The success of those about you who are trying to climb upward will encourage and stimulate you to struggle harder if you have not done quite so well your-self.

There is a great power in a battery of individuals who are struggling for the achievement of high aims, a great magnetic force which will help you to attract the object of your ambition.

It is very stimulating to be with people whose aspirations run parallel with your own. If you lack energy, if you are naturally lazy; indolent, or inclined to take it easy, you will be urged forward by the constant prodding of the more ambitious.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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