How to Take Control of Your Life & Opportunities

Podcast Transcript: Welcome to the Inspirational Living podcast. I’d like to start today by thanking our new patrons, including: Natosha Ford, Rebecca Cohen, Brad Joniec, Lou Page, and Philip Ellis. Coming up this weekend on Our Sunday talks, an exclusive series for our patrons, we will be discussing Love Letters from God. To become a patron and gain access to our provocative series on spirituality and spiritual growth, please visit

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

Success can’t be analyzed in a laboratory, but it is definable — for success is simply the result of doing your best. More than your best is impossible. Less than your best is inexcusable. No one in heaven nor earth asks you, nor expects you, to travel beyond the road of your capacity. But your life will not be pleasing to anyone, if the result of your endeavor represents less than the exercise of the fullness of your ability.

The world called you. You had no choice.  You had to obey the summons of Nature. Why, you do not know, nor does anybody else know. Will you sink, float, or swim? Will you sit, walk, or run? While you are not responsible for your birth, you are responsible for your life.

No matter what your station, or how great or how little may be your natural ability, you (more than anyone else) are in command of yourself; and, while you may not be able to scale the mountain before you, you can (unless you are crippled) establish yourself upon a foothill of success. If this hill represents the highest eminence possible for you to attain, then, when you stand upon it, you have reached the pinnacle of attainment for you.

The monument of success is but a collection of little successes, a gathering together of small things well done. If you stand in the majesty, and dignity, and glory of your personality, with your feet planted upon the material earth and your eyes looking into the sky of opportunity, fail not to realize that (so long as the sun shines or the rain descends, so long as there is day or night) you, not others, are in command of your wonderful majesty.

Is there, or can there be, a road which will carry its followers to success and will protect them against disaster? I think not; and, if there were, half of those traveling it would not know enough to follow it. Neither I nor anybody else can tabulate the real causes which lead to failure, or present any rule which, if followed, will carry one to success.

At the same time, there are certain fundamental principles which successful people follow and which failures ignore. I asked a number of people of marked success (who collectively represent the leading businesses, trades, and professions) to answer this question: “What one cause, more than any other, do you think is responsible for the majority of failures?”

One hundred and eighty-seven replies were received. The answers were too scattered to establish a law of failure-making. Still, a recapitulation of the result should be of practical use to those who would succeed and avoid failure.

Thirty-six of the people gave lack of judgment as the principal cause of failure; thirty-three named extravagance; twenty-seven, laziness; twenty-three, lack of ability; eighteen, bad habits; eighteen, lack of perseverance; fourteen, lack of experience; fourteen, speculation; twelve, lack of energy; twelve, lack of integrity; eleven, carelessness; eleven, desire to make money rapidly; and ten, dishonesty. The others expressed opinions that were not as definite, yet they were similar in meaning.

To sum up, then, I think we can infer from these answers that the principal cause of success is an undying determination to win, backed by a constant willingness to do the hardest kind of work. And the cause of most failures (except where there is incompetency or lack of opportunity) is pure and simple laziness, which does not permit you to use your natural energy but tempts you to loaf and to float.

OPPORTUNITY never carries a torch. It travels on byways and along side-streets. It makes no noise. No trumpet sounds its approach. It passes along in the quiet of the starless night. It makes no effort to meet anyone. It never extends a welcome. It minds its own business. But it is ever ready to grasp the hand held out to it, to be a permanent guest in the House of Progress.

Opportunity is in the very air we breathe; it is on the main street, and on the side street, and it inhabits the alley. It may not be as cordial to one person as to another, and it may seem to ignore some districts and occupations; but it is there, everywhere, below the surface, if not above the ground.

Opportunity cannot be seen, unless you are looking for it. To many it seems to be a stranger, and thousands are looking for it and never find it. But it is not the fault of Opportunity. The seeker is often to blame. If opportunity does not appear to be where you are, don’t change your environment, but hunt all the more diligently for it.

If, after persistent search, you cannot locate it, then consider a change of base. But remember that where you are may be the best place for you to stay, and it is the best place for you anyway until you see light ahead. Don’t plunge from the shadows of the present into the darkness of the future. Stay where you are (even though there seems to be not even reflected Opportunity around you), until you are able to place your finger upon the Opportunity of elsewhere.

You know the “outs” of the place you occupy. Because you are there, you see all the disadvantages of your environment. Most likely you magnify your troubles and imagine much that isn’t so. The unexplored (the place you have not seen) shines by the light of your imagination. The blurs of dissatisfaction may look like stars of hope which lead out into the great unknown: the untried Land of Opportunity expected but not materialized.

Discouragement and Opportunity are on the same street. There never were two avenues with both sides alike. Good and bad travel on the same highway. Disaster and success are often mated. Opportunity is not always surrounded by Opportunity, but may be hiding in the midst of disaster.

Opportunity may be near at hand, and is just as likely to be close by as far off. It hasn’t any special abiding-place. It inhabits the shop as well as the office. Go after it. Don’t wait for it, for it seldom arrives of its own volition. It will not come to meet you. You must meet it. Hunt for it, and you may not find it; but you will not find opportunity, if you don’t hunt for it.

And, as you hunt, remember that LUCK is the result of chance. Success is the product of intention. What is luck? I don’t know, and I don’t know anybody who does know. But luck exists. It is no use to deny that it is a power for good or for evil. The unsuccessful person claims that luck is against them, and holds luck responsible for their shortcomings. The successful person refuses to recognize luck, because, if they did, it would shock their conceit.

Luck seems to be everywhere and nowhere. It comes from the land of mystery, circulates like an irresponsible comet, dissolves itself, and disappears. It follows no beaten track, and obeys no law. Its composition is unknown; its ways are unreliable. No chemist has analyzed luck, no sheriff has caught it, and no jailer has confined it. Sometime somebody will dissect it, and then the world will understand it, but not now, or near now.

No matter if luck plays an important part on the stage of business (or of any other kind of endeavor), it should not, it must not, be depended upon. If you wait for luck, you are pretty sure not to meet it. The ship never comes in to the loafer on the dock.

Don’t depend upon luck. Of all the fool things in the world of folly, taking stock in luck is the most foolish, most idiotic, most disastrous. Better to try to foretell the weather by pitching pennies for rain or for shine than depend upon that orbitless asteroid which floats in its trackless space and goes by the name of luck.

Luck does not distribute itself with common fairness, and it seems to have little judgment or sense of proportion; but, if you study it, and tabulate it, you may find that it more frequently visits those who can use it than those who are too lazy to do anything with it. Many people are asleep when luck knocks at their door, or are too indolent to get up to let it in.

Luck may call upon you, but it will not come in unless you go out and grasp it, pull it toward you, tie it down! Cursing your luck will not make luck your friend. Envying other people’s luck will not encourage luck to call upon you. Figure on getting along without luck, and yet be ready to use luck if it comes your way.

Waiting for luck diminishes your character and dwarfs your courage. Don’t think about it. Don’t wait for it. Don’t depend upon it. Forget it. Mind your business. Move on as though there were not any luck anywhere, and you had never heard of it. But if you get a glimpse of it, grab it; make it your servant, not your master. Luck uncontrolled is more dangerous than gunpowder, the riskiest thing to be found on the Road to Success.

IN the arithmetic of life, it is ability plus opportunity that equals true success. Either one without the other is but a line of zeros. Ability may be likened to the seed which is capable of producing a dwarf or giant tree. The result of its planting is dependent as much upon the soil (and the opportunity which it has), as upon the inherent or natural composition of the seed itself.

The little successes of life may be likened to the seed which is sown or scattered and raked into the soil. The great accomplishments are the result of deeply planted seeds which grow in a solid foundation: one strong enough to support a product which endures.

Although opportunity is more definite than luck, and is apparently governed by more distinguishable laws, it cannot always be corralled and is at times elusive. It is an undeniable fact that equal opportunity does not present itself with apparent fairness.

During the push and pull of life, remember that “push” gets you somewhere, because it comes from within (from you), while “pull” is from without and you have no clear title to it. “Pull” is a risky sort of an asset. It is like over-mortgaged property unreliable and insecure. You may have a “pull” without knowing it, but more often you think you have it when you don’t.

“Pull” and luck are disreputable members of an unhealthy family. They cannot be depended upon. Nobody knows exactly what they are, and few can use them to advantage. Most successful people push themselves into accomplishment — for “push” is always ready to serve you, while “pull” is like a will-o’-the-wisp. Now you have it, and now you don’t.

“Push” is another word for energy, for self-confidence, for working ambition, the kind that keeps you on the firing-line, that is both cautious and aggressive. Let “pull” take care of itself. If it comes to you, and you can honestly use it, well and good, but don’t go gunning for it. Forget about it. Keep on pushing. Push yourself, push your better self, push your ability. Push onward and forever upward.

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