Laugh and Live | Douglas Fairbanks Self-Development Tips

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Today’s reading was edited adapted from the book Laugh & Live by Douglas Fairbanks, published in 1917.

There are many essentials to success, but there is one that is of such importance that without it all the others fall away. The individual who wins success is invariably compelled to do the great work allotted them by something within that tells them that they can. They may not know exactly what it is, but they know they possesses it, and are able to act on that faith, accomplishing things which seem utterly impossible to other people.

This inner determination, once firmly implanted in one’s nature, cannot be destroyed or conquered. And this element is energy — energy of mind, which rules the body. But where does this energy come from? How do great minds generate this glorious means of self-propulsion? The answer is that in a healthy body, it is inherent from birth, and proper care of the body therefore accentuates within their minds the will to do.

The successful young person must start with a positive, generous viewpoint, a good constitution, and an active mind. Energy is the natural outpouring of a healthy body. It must be directed, it must be controlled, the same as any other living force.

Not only is energy a necessity to the winner, but it must grow and become a natural quality. It does not stand after years of abuse. It does not spring up in the night after a long season of neglect and ill-health. All of us possess it in varying ways. That fact ought to convince us that we can get hold of ourselves and build up that which nature has given us, rather than allow it to die away.

We all have a certain amount of energy . . . thus shouldn’t we all be successes? We might to a certain extent, but that doesn’t mean that we shall all get rich in the money sense of the word. When I say: “Why shouldn’t we all be successes?” I do not mean that everybody in the world must be greedy for cash, nor for power and position. I do not mean that we should be selfish and eager to take everything away from the other person.

On the contrary, I mean that, with energy, we shall be successful according to our brain tendency. We must “take stock” of ourselves. Done rightly that alone will inspire success. Now, if we are a little farther along on the way towards sane living and the ability to laugh, and we know that after this struggle is over the battle is won, we then must use the powers that self-analysis gives us — to fight.

Energy is like steam — it cannot be generated under the boiling point. In other words, half-heartedness never produced it nor made it a practical working tool. We must be energetic in order to augment energy. We must have confidence along with it . . . the more the merrier. The greater the confidence in ourselves, the greater the energy which brings it about.

Some minds naturally feel confident. These are the lucky ones, the slender few who have grasped life’s meaning at the start by “taking stock” before they were threatened with defeat. Success comes to them as easily as rolling off the proverbial log. They come sweeping along, conquering, sure of themselves, confident, aspiring, true to their inner selves, ready for work, unafraid of experiences, and sure of a smile when the clouds are darkest.

This does not mean that these successful people have exceptional ability. If that were the case, I would not waste time either in reading or writing about the matter. If I didn’t feel that we were potentially able to become successes and possessed the elements of victory in our present make-up, not another moment would I spend on the subject.

The very simplicity of the use of energy proves to us that it is a quality bubbling forth in the least of us and the strongest. It only needs to be put to work and it becomes self-strengthening. Living in the open air, sleeping out of doors, taking the proper exercise, looking positively upon life, believing in ourselves, are all parts of the sane existence which leads to success and laughter — for if we never learn to laugh, we will never learn to live.

We must not forget that there can be more than one use made of energy. In the same way that electricity might be misused, so might energy be placed in the wrong service. We must not waste any time, therefore, in getting this energy of ours worked into enthusiasm . . . enthusiasm for our life work, for our fellow citizens, for the zest of life.

We must throw ourselves into the battle and carry the standard. We must leap to the front, not waiting for the other person to show the way. Spend your enthusiasm freely and be surprised at how it thrives on usage. Enthusiasm (being produced by energy) must of necessity depend largely upon that.

Now, the question is, how shall we guard and keep fresh this element within ourselves? To begin, we must know that the body is producing this quality. Like the steam engine, we must keep the fires going by exercise, positive thinking, and sincerity of purpose. We are the engineers. Our hand is on the throttle. Sharp turns lie ahead but our eyes look forward fearlessly.

We must also remember that out of energy and enthusiasm comes something else that must not be neglected … in fact it must be cultivated and guarded from the very beginning . . . laughter. The mere possession of energy and enthusiasm makes us feel like laughing. We want to leap and jump and dance and sing. If we feel like doing so, don’t let us be afraid to do it. Get out in the air and run like a child. Jump ditches, vault fences, swing the arms! Never fail to get next to nature when responsive to the call. Indeed, we may woo this call from within ourselves until it comes to be second nature.

When we rise in the morning, let us be determined that we will start the day with a hearty laugh. Laugh because you are alive, laugh with everything. Let yourself go. That is the secret — the ability to let one’s self go! If you follow this religiously you will be surprised how successful the day will be. Everything gives way before it. There is one thing in this good old world that is positively sure — happiness is for all who strive to be happy — and those who laugh are happy.

Everybody is eligible — you — me— the other guys and gals. Happiness is fundamentally a state of mind — not a state of body. And mind controls. Indeed it is possible to stand with one foot on the inevitable “banana peel” of life with both eyes peering into the Great Beyond, and still be happy, comfortable, and serene — if we will but so much as smile.

It’s all a state of mind, I tell you — and I’m sure of what I say. That’s why I have taken up my proverbial fountain pen. Do you ever laugh? I mean do you ever laugh right out loud — spontaneously — joyfully. Well, if you don’t, you should. Start off the morning with a laugh and you needn’t worry about the rest of the day.

I like to laugh. It’s a tonic. It braces me up — makes me feel alive! — and keeps me in prime mental condition. Laughter is a physiological necessity. The nerve system requires it. The deep, forceful chest movement in itself sets the blood to racing thereby livening up the circulation — which is good for us.

Perhaps you haven’t thought of that? Perhaps you didn’t realize that laughing automatically re-oxygenates the blood — your blood — and keeps it healthy. It does all of that, and besides, it relieves the tension from your brain.

Laughter is more or less a habit. To some it comes only with practice. But what’s to hinder practicing? Laugh and live long (if you have a thought of dying) — laugh and grow well (if you’re sick and despondent) — laugh and grow fat (if your tendency is towards the lean and cadaverous) — laugh and succeed (if you’re glum and “unlucky”) — laugh and nothing can faze you, not even the Grim Reaper, for the person who has laughed their way through life has nothing to fear of the future. Their conscience is clear.

Wherein lies this magic of laughter? For magic it is — a something that manufactures a state of felicity out of any condition. We’ve got to admit its charm; automatically and inevitably a laugh cheers us up. If you are bored, with nothing to do, just laugh — that’s something to do, for laughter is synonymous with action, and action dispels gloom, care, trouble, worry, and other negative feelings.

Real laughter is spontaneous. Like water from the spring it bubbles forth as a creation of mingled action and spontaneity — two magic potions in themselves, the very essence of laughter, the unrestrained emotion within us!

Why not try it out? The experiment won’t hurt you. All we need is will power, and that is a personal matter for each individual to seek and acquire for themselves. Many of us already possess it, but many of us do not. Take the average person on the street for example. Watch them go plodding along — no spring, no elasticity, no vim and vigor. How can they laugh when the pep in their step is all gone?

What we need is spirit! Energy — the power to force ourselves into action! For us there is no hope unless we will take up physical training in some form that will put us in normal physical condition — after that everything simplifies itself. The brain responds to the new blood in circulation and thus the mental processes are ready to make a fight against the inertia of stagnation which has held us in bondage.

And, mind you, physical training doesn’t necessarily mean going to a gym or hiring a professional trainer. One doesn’t have to make a mountain out of a mole-hill. Get out in the fresh air and walk briskly — and don’t forget to wear a smile while you’re at it. Don’t over-do. Take it easy at first and build on your effort day by day. A little this morning — a little more tonight.

The first chance you have, when you’re sure of your wind and heart, get out upon a country road, or a city park. Then run, run, run, until you drop exhausted upon some grassy bank. Then laugh, loud and long, for you’re on the road to happiness. Try it now — don’t wait. Today is the day to begin.

Activity makes for happiness as nothing else will, and once you stir your blood into little bubbles of energy you will begin to think of other means of keeping your bodily house in order. Unless you make a first effort, the chances are you will do very little real thinking of any kind — we need vitality to think.

Think what an opportunity we miss when stripping down for the night, if we fail to give our bodies a round of exercise. It is so simple, so easy, and has so much to do with our sleep each night and our work next day that to neglect to do so is a crime against nature. And laugh! Man alive, if you are not in the habit of laughing, get the habit. Never miss a chance to laugh out loud. Smiling is better than nothing, and a chuckle is better still — but out and out laughter is the real thing.

Try it now! And after you’ve done it, analyze your feelings. I make this prediction — if you once start the habit of exercise, and couple with it the habit of laughter, even if only for one short week — you’ll keep it up forever afterwards.

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All transcripts from our self-development podcasts are edited adaptations of the original work and copyrighted by LivingHour.org.