The Courage to Be Successful | Herbert Edward Law

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Now, let’s move on to today’s reading, which has been edited and adapted from The Power of Mental Demand, and Other Essays by Herbert Edward Law, published in 1916.

COURAGE is the fundamental fact of success. It makes us strong in doing what we have resolved upon. Courage gives persistence, banishes weakness, displaces vacillation with steadiness of purpose, resolves doubt. It makes hesitancy and irresolution impossible. It sends us armed with confidence on our road to success.

Confidence and the expectation of success draw to us all the qualities and mental forces which contribute to success. Courage, therefore, is the vital element of success. A lack of courage creates mental difficulties; it constructs obstacles and barriers; it makes that seem impossible which, with the exercise of courage, will be entirely possible.

A lack of courage creates an expectation of failure, and draws to us all the mental elements that contribute to failure. It destroys our confidence in ourselves and in our purpose. It makes impossible that forceful, resolute attitude which compels success. An absence of courage in relation to accomplishment is the most vital human defect. It is a moral vacuum which draws into it all that is mean, small, contemptible, shrinking, vacillating, weakening, demoralizing and destroying. It annihilates every noble impulse.

Courage creates a resolute, influential, strong character, a determined will and a commanding force. It secures respect for our aim, and confidence and interest in our purpose. Many people failing to cultivate courage, wrongly ascribe their failure to acquire the things they weakly desire to causes outside of themselves. I say, weakly desire, because strong desire is not possible without courage.

A desire which resolves itself into a command, draws out the strength of all our mental forces and shapes all the physical conditions and surrounding influences favorable to achievement. Courage dares to command. There is nothing that will so overwhelm a person with disgrace and humiliation as a lack of courage.

In every walk of life, it is so vital to have courage for duties, for achievements — for living — that, lacking it, there is no depth of failure in which we might not descend. There is no heritage of infamy so black as the taunt of cowardice — for courage is will power; it is determination that is unflinching. It is the power that achieves. Cowardice, on the other hand, is predetermined failure.

Courage, even physical courage, is not merely the absence of fear of bodily harm or suffering. Courage is a positive quality, a continuing force. The effort which attempts and fails, and makes no second attempt, is not a display of courage, but of its opposite. Courage is never conquered; it never gives up; it never admits defeat; it never apologizes; it never puts the blame of failure on something else.

Courage is persistence; courage is pluck. Courage is luck, because with courage, success and the achievements we desire are brought into existence — wrung as it were from fate or chance.

Courage is the resolution to conquer. It is not a mere expression in words; its characteristic expression is in action. It requires courage to exercise the patience that gives the mental forces rest, that arranges them and directs them steadily, thoughtfully, deliberately. Courage is the basis of intelligent action, unyielding because it makes yielding unnecessary by the direction and exercise of all the principles which it brings.

Courage surrounds itself with successful forces in the same way that a resolute and skillful commander brings to bear all of their intelligence, skill, and effort for the protection and strengthening of their position. Courage implies thoroughness, forethought, deliberation, tact. Courage is identified with actions rather than words.

Mere vague talk of success, of application, of resolution, of steadfastness is not evidence of courage. Courage is a quiet force that does not talk of itself, but which never thinks of victory as impossible. Courage brings to bear the fullest intelligence and an unyielding and an unceasing effort until the aim has been achieved.

The person who persists in a purpose, steadfastly and resolutely, and does not relinquish it until achieved, exhibits a courage as high and even more arduous than the soldier who risks their life in a conflict of arms. It is a moral courage of a sustained kind, on that requires a stronger measure of personal force, oftentimes, than the sudden or even heroic risk of one’s life or physical safety.

Courage in its highest degree is manifested in persistence and energy, with calmness and patience, exercised in the achievement of a great purpose. To be courageous means both to dare and to do.

The antithesis of courage is fear — cowardice. Fear makes you doubt the likelihood of the success of your enterprise. It weakens your arm for the blow. It narrows your mental forces. It draws to you all that is weak and vacillating. It creates doubt where doubt should not exist. It leads you to apologize and explain, first to yourself, and then to others, why you do not succeed.

Fear drives you to reason yourself into believing that it is your love of luxury, of comfort, of friends, or something else, which compels you to abandon your effort before you have achieved your end. A slave to fear, you complain of conditions; you whine at fate. It is fear which prompts you to belittle others in the hope that thereby your own lack of courage will not be discovered.

The harboring of fear is destructive of the power of putting forth effective effort. It paralyzes the exercise of force. It unconsciously but subtly impresses itself on every one with whom you come in contact. These thought forces, whether of fear or courage, are just as potent as words expressed.

It is not always possible to analyze or even to demonstrate these thought forces of fear or courage. But they are felt and have their conscious or unconscious influence and effect on those about you — a potent influence in spite of yourself.

The man or woman who says, “I will go and try, but don’t expect me to succeed,” cultivates all the force of fear and abandons all the force of courage. Such a person prepares for failure just as absolutely as another prepares for success. It is just as impossible to be strong and courageous, when you are constantly saying to yourself, “I cannot do this, I must fail, it’s impossible,” as it is to really desire something and yet make no effort to accomplish it.

Cowardice in the business arena is the only real obstacle of serious importance that successful people have to contend with. When it is once removed — when courage takes its place — every stroke adds to your strength and brings accomplishment visibly nearer. Courage saves the friction of fretting; it gives freedom from worry; it gives contentment to the mind because it promises, and its promises are valid and certain.

Fear destroys the high spirit, the ambition, the commanding power that goes out from us, shaping and forming that which is worthy, and stimulating, and inspiring. Fear or courage is the element that determines the fate of our fortunes. The decision as to which one it shall be, rests with ourselves.

Courage includes resolution and brings about the fulfillment of the things resolved upon. No slavery is so absolute as the slavery of fear; no shackles so heavy as those which fear forges. No losses are so heavy as those which fear piles up. Courage is the casting out of fear. Fear and courage are the determining influences in both individual and world progress.

The courageous person unhesitatingly pushes forward where others tremble, falter, and hesitate. Fear is a negative force; courage a positive influence. Fear robs you of every vital instinct, and the power to think and to feel noble impulses. It condemns you to associate with all that is weak, poor, and undesirable.

Clear, determinate thinking is of the highest value, but it is only possible to the courageous mind. Avoid regular association with people weak and uncertain in thought, for they will be incoherent in purpose and doubtful in resolve. Avoid also those who lack courage, who are hesitating, doubtful, uncertain in their action — those who fear to push out.

Be resolute in following your own plans. Have the courage of your convictions. When you once start out, do not allow yourself to be changed from your course either by the doubting argument of others or by the timorous influences of your own mind. If these fear-thoughts come to you (these courage destroying elements), throw them off.

Make it a practice never to think of anything unfavorable to your undertaking. Say to yourself, “I will be brave and I will accomplish this thing; I will think of nothing else but its accomplishment; I will refuse to think of it in connection with the thought of fear, or doubt of its outcome; I will call upon my mental forces for the strength of courage, for the power of persistence; I will be successful because I desire to be, because I have resolved to be, because I refuse to be unsuccessful. I know the power of my courage and I will use it; I have confidence in that power and I will rely upon it.”

Remember that you are a force and a law in yourself. The moment you allow anyone else to influence you against your own good thought, that is when you lose control of the faith in yourself which inspires courage and carries with it all those forces which courage creates.

The moment you allow yourself to be swerved in your course, to begin acting on another person’s thought, you desert the courage and resolution of your own mind, which alone are the forces that can sustain and carry you to achievement.

Be absolutely free from fear of every kind — fear of want, fear of poverty, fear of sickness, fear of anything. Such fear saps your strength at the very outset of effort. It arises from doubt of ability in yourself. And it causes more failure and inefficiency than anything else, because it has become a fixed habit of thought in the minds of millions of men and women.

Fear of all kinds must be banished from your mind. Fear has neither good nor noble results. It does not relieve your mind from strain or labor. On the contrary, it fills it with worry and fretfulness. It destroys mental forces which are of the greatest use to you. It does not stimulate you to action but paralyzes energy. It does not surround you with those physical conditions which are favorable to success, since it makes the accumulation of wealth impossible. It does not surround you with the opportunities for extending your influence, since it weakens or destroys in you the very basis of influence and power.

Fret and worry are the moth and rust that corrupt our strength, and fear is the thief that breaks through to steal our purpose. Whenever you find fear trying to gain an entrance, repulse it by a resolute attitude of mind and a strengthening of purpose. The power of individual accomplishment is only faintly recognized by the majority of men and women. It is only a man or woman here and there who understands their tremendous possibility.

To believe you can do a thing and to have the courage to steadily, confidently, and persistently live up to that belief, is to go far and achieve much. There may be difficulties and obstacles, but resolute courage will overcome them as nothing else can. Courage destroys the injurious and opposing forces by supplanting them with forces that serve us. There is thus a double gain.

Courage is the basis of happiness; courage wins honor and respect; courage makes friends for us; courage brings contentment; courage is the best guarantee of good judgment; courage instills truth; courage brings patience; courage meets and overcomes adversity.

Courage gives life, makes failure impossible, gives self-reliance, develops influence, gives forcefulness and power to thought, implants a love for labor, is the boon companion of energy.

A brave mind is impregnable to assault. To believe a business or an undertaking impossible is a sure way to make it so; impossibilities like threatening dogs fly past those who are not afraid of them. Nothing that is of real value will you ever achieve in this life, without courageous labor.

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