How Success is Won | Motivation by Bernarr Macfadden

Podcast Transcript: Welcome to the Inspirational Living podcast. If you are looking for some inspiring, life changing, beach reading for this summer, don’t forget to check out our book Evergreen: 50 Inspirational Life Lessons. Purchase your copy today at

Today’s reading has been edited and adapted from the book How Success is Won by Bernarr Macfadden, published in 1904.

Life’s greatest hurdles are encountered in our struggle for success. Though there are a few general principles that can be used as a guide, no person can tell another exactly how to succeed. Each one must work out their own salvation in this regard.

The greatest successes are achieved by bringing out individual capacity or talents. Human beings who simply work by rule, who can only transmit that which has been impressed upon them by others, can never attain more than ordinary success. It is by developing one’s personality, by bringing out your individual characteristics, that superior abilities are attainable.

Some say that I have been successful. Early in life I determined to accomplish certain results, and to a limited extent I have succeeded. Even greater successes, I believe, are still in store for me.

I am indebted to no school or college. I was educated in the school of experience. It is there that we learn lessons that are indelibly impressed upon our minds, and this practical knowledge is needed every day of our lives.

There is entirely too much theory in the ordinary methods of preparing human beings to cope with life’s realities. The value of so-called higher education as a means of preparing one for life’s great work is indeed to be questioned, unless it is taken with a full understanding of its deficiencies.

I started with nothing but a strong determination. At first I did not even have health, and because finally I was able to do the work outlined in my early ambitions, my life has been called a success. Many talk of this as though it were unusual. But the greatest successes are always attained by those who must struggle from the lowliest beginnings. It is only by beginning in this manner that you are able to develop the abilities that are essential in the making of a great success.

If one desires to reach the top of a high mountain, you do not attempt to jump to the summit in one leap. You climb slowly, step by step. If your efforts are expended temperately and wisely, your strength increases as you ascend. The difficulties you meet develop the strength, courage, and determination that are needed to cope with the greater difficulties that are to come.

When you start at the bottom, with no backer and no capital, you are in the primary class of that great school of experience. There you have all the opportunities in the world to develop. That practical school called “Experience” sends forth no graduates. The school term never ends. It is continuous from childhood to death, and it is only those who are able to learn its great and valuable lessons who truly succeed.

The whole world is before you. Life is exactly what you make it. If gifted with health and strength, and an ordinary degree of intelligence, you are your own master. You can mold and develop yourself mentally and physically according to your own individual desires.

My message today is sent forth with the hope that it will enthuse you who are struggling at the bottom of the ladder of life, and that it may help you to understand that the greatest rewards are easily within reach of those who are willing to struggle on persistently, with a definite and unswerving aim continuously in view.

In the strongest terms, I want to emphasize the importance of interest in your work. I maintain that without it success was never achieved by anyone. The one straight road to success is to learn to love your business. You can do best that which you love best. If you have started in a business which you cannot learn to love, then you should go into some other business. You will never succeed in our age of competition unless you can find real pleasure in your work.

The mere making of money is not a sufficient incentive. You must find your highest enjoyment in the task itself. No person who works along that line can fade. That is my judgment based on my own experience and observation.

Determination, persistence, attention to detail, in fact nearly every necessary characteristic in accomplishing results in any sphere of life, depends upon love for your work.

LEARN TO LOVE YOUR WORK AND DON’T BE A LAGGARD IN LOVE! Let that sentence ring in your ears day after day, year after year, as you struggle toward life’s great goal, SUCCESS, and remember to immediately make a change if you are unable to love your work. Do not become a machine, a mere mechanical device that works in an aimless fashion, accomplishing only essential duties and losing all thought for the future.

Put your personality, your brains, your complete energies into your endeavors. You must be able to so concentrate your efforts as actually to become absorbed. There can be no concentration, there can be no material advance, until your interest is aroused. “The person who can lose themselves in their work is the one who will succeed best,” declares Elbert Hubbard.

Life is to a certain extent like the games we play in our youth. The occupation you select is a great game that lasts all through life, and your success absolutely depends on how intensely interested you can become. No matter what may be the nature of your occupation, arouse some interest in it. Try to do it better than your colleagues or competitors. Try to devise some means whereby the work may be performed more quickly, easily, or effectively.

Use your brains, no matter how your time may be occupied! Brains are useful in any sphere of life, even in digging ditches. The drill, plow, the back-hoe, were all devised by laboring people who used their brains, by individuals interested in their work.

If you are engaged in an occupation in which you cannot become interested, make a change quickly. Do not consider the matter for a day. Stop at the earliest possible moment, and search for something that will interest you. You may lose for the time being. You may have to suffer because of such a hasty action, but in the end you will be magnificently rewarded.

Search for interesting work, for interesting work really means play, means ability on your part to concentrate your every effort in your chosen field. Success never was attained under any other circumstances.

It has often been said that “life is just what we make it.” Though this may be an exaggeration, usually we are the makers of our own joys and sorrows. “Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone,” is a quotation that has been repeated again and again. It contains a world of truth. It teaches also a valuable lesson to the individual.

Your troubles assume the importance that you give them; no more, no less. If you are inclined to laugh them off, if you make light of them, they will affect you lightly. Stop making mountains out of molehills. If you have any troubles, laugh them off. Make light of them. Don’t allow yourself to be “blue” and glum because of their influence. The problems they present will be more difficult to solve under such circumstances.

Cultivate the laughing habit. Get all the joy from life you can. Some very dignified individuals imagine that it shows a lack of refinement to laugh heartily. Don’t be a dignified fool. Throw dignity to the winds, and cultivate the laughing habit. And, above all, laugh when none but yourself knows how much quiet heroism there is in the outburst. But, just the same, don’t ever, under any circumstances, pet yourself with the notion that you are a hero. If the world doesn’t discover your heroism, let the world remain in ignorance.

Lastly, let me remind you that character must stand behind and back up everything you do. Many people may question the truth of the claim that true success must have a basis of unswerving integrity. These cynics or doubters will point to so-called successful men and women who possess little or no integrity, to those whose greedy natures are insatiable, and who care but little by what means they satisfy their grasping desires.

But this is not true success. It does not bring satisfaction. It does not mean happiness. Those who are capable of stooping to such methods are narrow in mind and stunted in conscience, and full and complete happiness can never stir their souls.

Honesty pays as an actual business investment. Not only does it pay because of the personal satisfaction that it brings, because of the increased happiness that comes with a free conscience, but it pays financially.

No matter what your desires may be, in order to be successful, you must adhere for a long period to a particular kind of work; you must continue your efforts in one special sphere. If you are dishonest this is difficult. With some careless employer detection may be deferred for a long time, but it must come, and when it does appear you are compelled to move on and start again at the bottom.

There may be occasions when a dishonest act will enable you to reap a rich reward. I care not how much you may gain financially by this divergence from the path of rectitude; you have sold yourself cheaply. No price can adequately compensate you for your loss. The reputation for unswerving integrity, to have it known that you are beyond price, that you cannot be bought, that you will not be turned aside a hair breadth for a dishonest financial reward, is a capital so high in value that it cannot be measured.

Start out in your life work with strong convictions, firm principles. Let no experience deter you from your belief in the ultimate value of following to the closest detail the path along which they lead. If you possess the capacity for happiness, if you possess the principles of true manhood or womanhood, and commit a crime against the dictates of your conscience, but little mental satisfaction remains for you thereafter.

If you have been able to crush out all that is best in your nature, if that particular element of your character called conscience has been eliminated, may Heaven pity you, for you are the dross of the world. The hog that wallows in the mire possesses superior characteristics to the human being who goes through life without high principles for a guide.

It makes not a particle of difference whether you are a factory worker, salesperson, business manager, or waiter — you should start in life with unswerving determination to be just and honest to all.

It actually pays in the end to follow out the Golden Rule of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, for then the true principles that lead to real success (to the satisfying happiness that no amount of money can ever buy) are surely within your reach.

Success that is true and satisfying comes only with honesty of purpose. Make your convictions strong! Stand by them! Fight for them. Unswerving integrity will make a foundation for your career as hard and immovable as adamantine, and though you may struggle in the darkness for a time, never for one moment doubt that light shines for you ahead. Success — real, true success— must ultimately be yours.

If a physical foundation is added to your unswerving purposes you cannot fail, for with constant endeavor (and the clearness of mind that comes to those who are fully alive, and alert, and awake), the glimmers of light in the form of opportunity will be in every case clearly discerned.

Success comes to those whose efforts are diligent and continuous, to those who are guided by strong convictions, firm purposes, and unswerving integrity. Let your ambitions, your enthusiasms, your life be guided in this manner, and you will rise and ultimately accomplish your desires. You will reap the rewards of your efforts, with absolute certainty.

Subscribe to the Inspirational Living Podcast at iTunes & Stitcher

Inspirational Podcasts Stitcher
Subscribe Inspirational Podcast

All transcripts from our motivational podcasts are edited adaptations of the original work and copyrighted by