The Eight Pillars of Prosperity (Energy) – James Allen

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Now on to today’s reading, which was edited and adapted from The Eight Pillars of Prosperity by James Allen, published in 1911.

Energy is the working power in all achievement. Inert coal it converts into fire, and water it transmutes into steam; it vivifies and intensifies the commonest talent until it approaches genius, and when it touches the mind of the dullard, it turns into a living fire that before was sleeping in inertia.

Energy is a moral virtue, its opposing vice being laziness. As a virtue, it can be cultivated, and the lazy person can become energetic by forcibly arousing themselves to exertion. Compared with the energetic individual, the lazy person is not half alive. Even while the latter is talking about the difficulty of doing a thing, the former is doing it. The active person has done a considerable amount of work before the lazy soul has roused themselves from sleep. While the lazy person is waiting for an opportunity, the active individual has gone out, and met and utilized half a dozen opportunities. They do things while others are rubbing their eyes.

Energy is one of the primary forces: without it nothing can be accomplished. It is the basic element in all forms of action. The entire universe is a manifestation of tireless energy. Energy is, indeed, life, and without it there would be no universe, no life. When a person has ceased to act, when the body lies inert and all the functions have ceased to act, then we say that someone is dead; and in so far as a person fails to act, they are that far dead.

Humanity (mentally and physically) is framed for action, and not for swinish ease. Every muscle of the body (being a lever for exertion) is a rebuke to the lazy soul. Every bone and nerve is fashioned for resistance; every function and faculty is there for a legitimate use. All things have their end in action; all things are perfected in use.

This being so, there is no prosperity for lazy people, no happiness, no refuge, and no rest. For them, there is not even the ease which they covet, for they at last become a homeless outcast, a troubled, harried, despised person, so that the proverb wisely puts it that “The lazy one does the hardest work”, in that, avoiding regular labor, they bring upon themselves the hardest lot.

Energy misapplied is better than no energy at all. The active person who applies their abounding energy to bad ends will bring upon themselves such difficulties, pains, and sorrows, that will compel them to learn by experience, and at last re-fashion their base of action. At the right moment, when their mental eyes open to better purposes, they will turn round and cut new and proper channels for the outflow of their power, and will then be just as strong in the good as they formerly were in the bad.

Energy is power, and without it there will be no accomplishment; there will not even be virtue, for virtue does not only consist of not doing evil, but also, primarily, of doing good. There are those who try, yet fail through insufficient energy. Their efforts are too feeble to produce positive results. Such persons are not vicious, and (because they never do any deliberate harm) are usually spoken of as good people that fail. But to lack the initiative to do harm is not to be good; it is only to be weak and powerless. The truly good person is the one who (having the power to do evil), chooses to direct their energies in ways that are good.

Energy is the informing power in all doing in every department of life — whether it be along material or spiritual lines. The call to action, which comes from the lips or pen of every great teacher in every school of thought, is a call to us to rouse our sleeping energy, and to do vigorously the task at hand. Even the teachers of contemplation and meditation never cease to rouse their disciples to exertion in meditative thought.

The advice of one of the Great Teachers to his disciples, “Keep wide awake”, tersely expresses the necessity for tireless energy if one’s purpose is to be accomplished, and is equally good advice to the salesperson as to the saint. “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”, and liberty is the reaching of one’s fixed end. To get more energy we must use to the full that which we already possess. Only to the person that puts their hand vigorously to some task does power and freedom come.

“Still waters run deep,” and the great universal forces are inaudible. Where calmness is, there is the greatest power. Calmness is the sure indication of a strong, well-trained, patiently disciplined mind. The calm person knows their business, be sure of it. Their words are few, but they tell. Their schemes are well planned, and they work true, like a well-balanced machine. They see a long way ahead, and make straight for their object.

Calmness (as distinguished from the dead placidity of languor) is the acme of concentrated energy. There is a focused mentality behind it. In agitation and excitement the mentality is dispersed. It is irresponsible, and is without force or weight. The fussy, peevish, irritable person has no influence. They repel, and do not attract. They wonder why their “easy going” neighbor succeeds, and is sought after, while they, who are always hurrying, worrying, and excessively striving, is avoided. Their neighbor, being a calmer individual (not more easy going but more deliberate) gets through more work, does it more skillfully, and is more self-possessed. This is the reason for their success and influence. Their energy is controlled and used, while the other person’s energy is dispersed and abused.

Energy, then, is the first pillar in the temple of prosperity, and without it, there can be no prosperity. No energy means no capacity; there is no self-respect and independence. Amongst the unemployed will be found many who are unemployable through sheer lack of this first essential of work energy. Physically flabby and mentally inert, they are every day becoming more so and making themselves more unfit to work, and therefore unfit to truly live.

The energetic individual, of course, may pass through temporary periods of unemployment and suffering, but it is impossible for them to become one of the permanently unemployed. They will either find work or make it, for inertia is painful to them, and work is a delight; and they who delight in work will not long remain unemployed.

Remember that energy is a composite power. It does not stand alone. Involved in it are qualities which go to the making of vigorous character and the production of prosperity. Mainly, these qualities are contained in the four following characteristics: 1. Promptness 2. Vigilance 3. Industry 4. Earnestness

Promptness is a valuable possession. It begets reliability. People who are alert, prompt, and punctual are relied upon. They can be trusted to do their duty, and to do it vigorously and well. The worker who is ever procrastinating, and is always behind time, becomes a nuisance, if not to themselves, to others, and their services come to be regarded as of little economic value. In ordinary business channels, alacrity is a saving power, and promptness spells profit. It is doubtful whether a confirmed procrastinator ever succeeded in business. I have not yet met one, though I have known many who have failed.

Vigilance is the guard of all the faculties and powers of the mind. It is the detective that prevents the entrance of any violent and destructive element. It is the close companion and protector of all success, liberty, and wisdom. A lack of vigilance is shown in thoughtlessness and in a general looseness in the common details of life. Thoughtlessness is another name for folly. It lies at the root of a great deal of failure and misery. No one who aims at any kind of usefulness and prosperity can afford to be asleep with regard to their actions and the effect of those actions on others and reactively on themselves.

It is for this reason that the cultivation of good manners plays such an important part in all civilized society. If you carry about with you a disturbing or disagreeable mental defect, it will work its poison upon your affairs. Its corrosive influence will eat into all your efforts, and disfigure your happiness and prosperity, as powerful acid eats into and disfigures the finest steel.

On the other hand, if you carry about an assuring and harmonious mental excellence, those about you will be influenced by it. They will be drawn towards you in good-will, often without knowing why, and that good quality will be the most powerful one in all your affairs, bringing you friends and opportunities, and greatly aiding in the success of all your enterprises. It will even right your minor bad habits; covering a multitude of faults.

We receive at the hands of the world according to the measure of our giving. For bad, we get bad; for good, good. For defective conduct, indifferent influence and imperfect success; for superior conduct, lasting power and consummate achievement. We act, and the world responds. When the foolish person fails, they blame others, and see no error in themselves; but the wise individual watches and corrects themselves, and so is assured of success.

Industry brings cheerfulness and plenty. Vigorously industrious people are the happiest members of the community. They are not always the richest, if by riches is meant a superfluity of money, but they are always the most lighthearted and joyful, and the most satisfied with what they do and have, and are therefore the richer, if by richer we mean more abundantly blessed. Active people have no time for moping and brooding, or for dwelling selfishly upon their ailments and troubles.

Things most used are kept the brightest, and people most employed best retain their brightness and buoyancy of spirit. Things unused tarnish quickest; and the time killer is attacked with ennui and morbid fancies. To talk of having to “kill time” is almost like a confession of imbecility; for who, in the short life at their disposal, and in a world so flooded with resources of knowledge, with sound heads and good hearts, can’t fill up every moment of every day usefully and happily — for such an active person, if they refer to time at all, it is to the effect that it is all too short to enable them to do all that they would like to do.

Industry also promote health and well-being. The active person goes to bed tired every night; their rest is sound and sweet, and they wake up early in the morning, fresh and strong for another day’s delightful toil. People who make themselves useful to the community, receive back from the community their full share of health, happiness, and prosperity. They brighten the daily task, and keep the world moving. They are the gold of the nation and the salt of the earth.

“Earnestness”, said a Great Teacher, “is the path of immortality. They who are in earnest do not die; they who are not in earnest are as if dead already.” Earnestness is the dedication of the entire mind to its task. We live only in what we do. Earnest people are dissatisfied with anything short of the highest excellence in whatever they do, and they always reach that excellence.

There are so many that are careless and half-hearted, so satisfied with a poor performance, that the earnest ones shine apart in their excellence. There are always plenty of “vacancies” in the ranks of usefulness and service for earnest people. Such people are scrupulous, conscientious, and painstaking, and cannot rest at ease until the very best is done; and the whole world is always on the lookout to reward the best. It always stands ready to pay the full price (whether in money, fame, friends, influence, or happiness) for that which is of surpassing excellence, whether it be in things material, intellectual, or spiritual.

Whatever you are — whatever job you do — you can safely give the very best to the world without any doubt or misgiving. Earnest people make rapid progress both in their work and their character. It is thus that they live, and (quote) “do not die”, for stagnation only is death, and where there is continued progress and ever ascending excellence, stagnation and health are swallowed up in useful activity and life.

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