Daily Success Habits by Nathaniel C. Fowler

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Today’s reading was edited and adapted from Beginning Right (How to Succeed) by Nathanial C. Fowler, published in 1916.

LIFE has three seasons: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. What you did yesterday overlaps into today, and what you do today is carried over into tomorrow. Which is the most important of the three? No single one of them, because any one by itself is incomplete.

If you did your duty yesterday, the work of today becomes easier to accomplish. If you attend to the work of today, tomorrow will be open to you and its duties will not be so difficult to perform. While each day has its place — yesterday, today, and tomorrow — inattention to any one of those days will materially affect the life and action of the remaining two.

You cannot recover yesterday. It has passed out of your life forever. If it was a day of mistakes, they must be corrected today or tomorrow. The importance of today is not vested wholly in today. It is in tomorrow as well. Today is yours. Tomorrow may be. Unless you anticipate the morrow today, tomorrow you will not have tomorrow well in hand.

Individuals of great accomplishment do not consider any one day as all-important. They do today’s work not wholly because it is of today, but because it will affect tomorrow. Regret yesterday if you will. Be sorry for your backsliding. You may have lost a day. If you have, you must make it up today and tomorrow.

There is more in tomorrow for you than there is in today, for tomorrow extends indefinitely into your future, while today closes with the setting sun. Everything you do, be it much or little, marks a dot on the chart of your life and extends into the immeasurable future. If it does not connect with the dot of tomorrow, you have missed a connection which might have led to success.

Render unto today the requirements of today, but so do your work that there will be no dividing gulf between today and tomorrow; for, if there is, you will have to spend much extra time building a bridge over which you are not likely to cross.

Sow the seed of today, so that it will grow in the morrow. The crop of no single day, even though it may seem sufficient, is enough to give you a profitable harvest. The well-rounded person, the individual who has made their mark, who is respected in their community, is the one who lives both for today and tomorrow; who feels their responsibility; and who connects everything they do with the good things which they have previously accomplished and with the better things which they hope to attain in the future.

The men and women of failure are the ones who are self-satisfied, who feel that when a duty is done it is finished (that they may cross it off their slate and begin something new, forgetting about the past).

Continuity is one of the principal elements in the composition of success. No one thing stands out by itself. Its value is in its connection with other things — a harmonious blending together of experience and activity, of the past, the present, and the probable future.

YESTERDAY is past. Today is here. Tomorrow may never arrive. You have been responsible for the past; you are responsible for the present; and the future is dependent, not altogether upon itself, but largely upon what you do today.

Great people in every department of activity do the work of today today. They do not put off until tomorrow what belongs to today, nor do they overwork today that they may rest tomorrow. They apportion their work and their play in a sane and sensible manner.

If you have a disagreeable task to perform (one which is likely to require all of your energy), complete it today, if you can. If you do not, you will think about it today and labor over it tomorrow. You will make two days’ work of one. Things undone which ought to be done are done twice. Any attempt to postpone that which should be attended to now means harder work tomorrow and more work the day after tomorrow.

Doing it now stands for economy and for peace of mind, for real rest and happiness. If there is any one thing above all others which predisposes your employer in your favor, it is the finishing of your duties on time or ahead of time.

Someone once asked a great business person to what they attributed their success. Instantly they replied: “Doing what I have to do, or what I should do, at the earliest convenient moment.”

Do you remember the old adage: ”Procrastination is the thief of time.” It is more than that. Procrastination is the highway worker who gets in your way and hinders you from progressing, who keeps you always in the rear rank of accomplishment.

Do it now. Do it at once. Refuse to postpone anything which cannot be carried over without loss. Systematize your time. Allot work for each hour, if possible, and do that work at the prescribed time, always remembering that even this principle may be overworked and overdone.

Some people are altogether too prompt. They crowd tomorrow’s work into today. They rush, they hustle. They wear themselves out unnecessarily. Judgment must be used here as in every other action of life. However, if you cannot follow the principle exactly, you would better lean toward doing too much now than too little now.

Rest comes after accomplishment, not before it. The mere thinking about what you have to do tires you, even though you may be reclining under the trees listening to the babbling brook. No person of character, no successful individual, ever rested when they had something to do. They did their work first, and then enjoyed a well-earned diversion.

Do it now, if you can. Today is yours. Tomorrow your opportunity may be lost. You may plan, and feel optimistic of result, but you can never be sure of the future. Don’t wait and “trust to luck.” It is not a safe thing on which to pin your faith. The present moment is surely yours. Take it while you have it and make the most of it. It will never come again. Do it now!

And, as you going about fulfilling the day’s work, remember the importance of being decisive. If you are right, and if you know that you are right and can prove it, don’t compromise, don’t quibble. The world is full of not-sure and don’t-care people, who are afraid of themselves and of everybody else.

I am not asking you to be disagreeably independent and to force your opinions upon others, even when you are right — for the practice of diplomacy is to be commended. There is, however, a vast difference between habitually setting yourself aside (agreeing with the opposite party), and maintaining honest and vigorous independence.

When you are asked a question, be prepared, if possible, to answer “yes” or ”no,” and not “I think so.” If your employer is successful, they are definite and positive; and, while he or she will not tolerate undue interference on the part of an employee, they admire the person who knows and who isn’t afraid to say that they know.

Of course, at times, you can’t be either positive or definite; but, in the majority of cases, you can stand for or against a thing and be sure that you either can or can’t do a thing. Your employer may ask you to perform a certain task, and ask how long it will take you. It is better to say — if you are sure of yourself — “I will have it done at two o’clock” than to remark, “I’ll try to get it finished by two o’clock.”

If you are not sure, set the time ahead, giving yourself plenty of allowance. Say to your employer, “I will have it done at four o’clock.” Then, if you finish it at two, so much the better. It is a part of your duty to understand yourself and your capacity. The better you know yourself, the better off you will be.

Realize, if you can, your ability and your limitations, and keep within the prescribed lines. Try to know, rather than to think. When you are sure, say so emphatically. Don’t compromise and don’t quibble about it. By taking this stand you will create a reputation for yourself, and people will depend upon you, pro- vided, of course, that you “make good” on your promises.

If you are sure of yourself, you will make others sure of you. Have definite ideas about life and things in general. Don’t straddle the fence. Take a stand and stick to it (provided you are not “pig-headed” and are open to convincing). When you are sure, however, don’t be afraid to say so.

When you are not sure, admit it openly but not weakly. Don’t be known as a “namby-pamby,” and don’t cultivate morbid modesty. Don’t change your opinions with the wind. If you know that you are right, maintain your position until evidence is presented that you are wrong.

Positive men and women succeed, even though they are wrong at times. You can’t be right always. Don’t fall into the error of feeling that you can make friends by agreeing with everybody — but don’t make a specialty of disagreeing. Friends worthwhile have backbone and appreciate it in others. Create for yourself a strong foundation and keep off the shifting sands.

Now, let’s move on to the importance of being tactful. I am not suggesting that you shelve your independence, that you say “no” when you mean “yes” and “yes” when you mean “no.” I am not advocating subservience to all things and to all people.

I have no patience with the person who has not a mind of their own or who is too cowardly to express it. There is no place in this world of ours for the individual whose mind is located outside of their head, and who is controlled by others. Individuality is impossible without independence, but there is a vast difference between carrying a personal chip on one’s shoulder, daring people to knock it off, and legitimate diplomacy or what is commonly called tact.

Remember that all people do not think as you do, and it’s a mighty lucky thing for them and for you that there is a difference of opinion. You have a right to your opinions, but (unless it is a question of honesty, of morality, of right and wrong) I should not advise you forever to flaunt those ideas and conclusions in the faces of others and to antagonize your friends, acquaintances, and business associates.

When it is merely a matter of opinion, when you are as likely to be wrong as to be right, when others are justified in differing from you, it would be well for you to remember that what you think is not necessarily right or best, and that what others think is as likely to be true as anything which you may evolve from your own individual mind.

You should use tact and not antagonize, take as well as give, and be as willing to be convinced that you are wrong, as you are to make others believe that you are right.

Tact is a business commodity, and the right kind of tact is not dishonesty. There is no use in forcing your opinion upon others, unless what you think is so thoroughly grounded in the right that you can feel sure that others as well as you will be benefited by it.

Ninety per cent of antagonism (ninety per cent of the remarks which cut and wound) are not because of right or wrong, but because of conceit, of an unwillingness on the part of many to realize that it is not worthwhile to use a dollar’s worth of gunpowder to bring down a cent’s worth of game.

Every day things occur in the office which are of no vital consequence, which are not questions of right and wrong. You can tactfully meet them, or you can antagonize your co-workers. Be tactful and courteous. Tact backed by courage wins on every field of strife. Tact without courage (tact without a willingness to stand your ground when it is worthwhile to do so) is not independence; it is sheer foolishness. Use your shoulders, not for the carrying of chips, but for a burden worthy of your strength.

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