The Positive Psychology of Success | Motivational Podcasts

Welcome to the Inspirational Living podcast, brought to you in part by Book of Zen, inspirational fashion for a better world. Learn more at BookofZen.com. Today’s reading was edited and adapted from The Psychology of Success by Newton N. Riddle, published in 1909.

There are elements of genius in every man and woman that if awakened and trained will enable them to do something worthwhile. There are stores of energy and ambition in every brain that if unlocked and given expression in action will supply the force necessary to bring things to pass.

There are germs of goodness and divinity in every soul that if quickened by love and wrought into character will enable them to live a clean, self-respecting, moral life. Awaken the genius, unlock the energies, quicken the divinity in a person, change them from negative to positive, combine their intellect, energy, and con- science in harmonious expression, and you have given to that person the positive psychology of success.

What is Success? What constitutes success? If we are to see things alike, we must have the same viewpoint. Briefly, success is the accomplishment of anything attempted. But we must get a larger view of the subject. We must measure success first from the viewpoint of the individual, and second from their relation to society.

We must measure success in the individual not wholly by their objective achievements in the few years that belong to the earth life, but in the light of the fact that the influence of their life extends far into the future. We must measure the success of the individual as related to humanity, not merely by their personal influence upon their family, their neighbors, and their age, but in the light of heredity, social evolution, and humanity’s relation to God and eternity.

We have lacked perspective in our current view of success. Much that we have called success has really been failure. To do much work and accomplish little is not success. To pile up a fortune out of other people’s earnings without producing any real wealth is not success. To acquire wealth or fame, or to accomplish some great undertaking at the expense of health, conscience, or character is not success. To win out in business or profession, yet neglect wife and children, soul growth, or civic duties, is not success.

How, then, shall we measure success? By the honest work done; by the money earned or wealth produced; by the knowledge acquired, culture attained, and character realized; by the joy experienced and the happiness given to others; by the influence exerted and the service rendered in harmony with the law of human progress.

If success includes material prosperity, soul growth, and service to others, there must be some way devised to attain all of these at the same time. There is a very generally accepted idea that if one gives themselves fully to their vocation and succeeds in material things, they must neglect the spiritual. This idea is fundamentally wrong.

The activities necessary for material prosperity, if prompted by unselfish motives, instead of being restrictive to moral and spiritual growth, are conducive to such growth. The fact that most persons who give themselves wholly to their work become so engrossed in it that they fail in moral and spiritual attainment, is no proof whatsoever that such a result is necessary.

It is all a question of motive. The effects of any act are determined largely by the motive that prompts it and the mental and emotional states that occur during the activity. If we act from selfish motives, every such activity, no matter how noble its purpose or worthy its end, will inhibit soul growth and tend to narrow and contract the life; whereas if we act from selfless love, no matter how simple or menial the act, it is conducive to moral and spiritual attainment.

One may preach the gospel or engage in the most noble of callings, actuated by selfish motives, and in these worthy activities become narrow, irritable, and spiritually inert; or one may sweep streets and clean alleys for a livelihood, actuated by pure love, the thought of service, and glory of the Divine, and out of these menial activities develop a beautiful soul and ripen an exalted character.

The main object of my talk today involves method. It is easy to tell folks what to do and what not to do; but how to do it is another thing. All of the essential elements for success might be mentioned in a single breath; but what good would it do without the knowledge of how to acquire these elements?

Let’s begin by acknowledging that God works through personalities. Behind every great reformation (social, political, and religious) has been a personality. The history of the world’s progress is a history of great personalities. And in every happy home there is a personality, a loving wife, a kind husband. Look about you and wherever you find true success, in public or private life, in the church, the schoolroom, the business, the office, the factory, the shop, or the home, you will find that the secret of the success is in a personality.

The problem before us, then, is how to build a strong, harmonious, winning, exalted personality. Before we begin the building of a personality, we must clear away certain false notions relative to the causes of success and failure and lay a few foundation stones.

First, get out of your head the notion that success depends upon opportunity or environment. True, these are necessary for the expression of energy or talent; but the primary causes of success or failure are in the individual. Law reigns throughout all of our relations and activities. There is no realm of caprice. Cause and effect are inseparably related. Things do not happen without an adequate cause. The laws of affinity and of natural selection are as active and unerring in the realms of mind, society, and business, as in the mineral kingdom and natural world.

Get rid of the idea that the world owes you a living. True, you are not responsible for being here, but neither is the rest of humanity responsible either, except your immediate parents; therefore the world owes you nothing. We live in a bountiful country, one that has given you birth, protection, food, clothing, a home, friends, education, and opportunity for development, happiness, service, and success. You are the debtor. It will take all the rest of your natural life to square yourself and meet your just obligations.

Get ready. Go to work. Be all you can and do all you can in the development of self and in promoting the progress of humanity.

Learn to take advantage of your neighbors and get the best of them. Now, don’t be shocked by this statement. Let me explain. In every respectable person you know there are desirable traits of character. In every loving friend there are qualities that you need. Take advantage of your associations with these good people, select the best there is in their natures, and embody their virtues in yourself.

Never mind their faults. You have enough of your own. You will find what you are looking for. You will embody what you recognize and admire; therefore look for the elements of success and admire and cherish the virtues of your friends. Let’s say man moves next door to me and says, “I am going to watch you. I am going to find all your weak points and detect your meanness.” My reply is, “All right, neighbor. I am going to watch you. I hope to discover your strong points; the secret of your success, and your elements of goodness.”

Each of us finds what we look for, with the result that he embodies the worst of me, and weakens himself. But I embody the best of him and add to my character.

Put away the desire to get something for nothing. It is fundamentally wrong. It belongs to the psychology of crime. It is excusable in idiots and children, but to the normal, mature mind it is illogical. In a world where cause and effect balance each other, something for nothing is impossible. Every gift, whether of wealth, intelligence, love, confidence, favor, or opportunity, carries with it an equivalent obligation. Even the gift of salvation implies a life of service in return.

If you would succeed start out in life with the idea of earning your own way, paying for what you get, and giving value received. All things whatsoever a person has are theirs in trust only, and those who fail to give back to the world the equivalent of what has been entrusted to them are not a success.

Don’t depend upon luck, accidental opportunities, or games of chance. Drifting ships often make long journeys, but seldom reach the desired harbor. Would you succeed, have a purpose, decide early in life what you are going to do, then work with a method.

Don’t try to do everything or know everything. This is the age of the specialist. Mr. Jack-of-all-trades is out of a job. Dr. Know-it-all is a charlatan. The person who can do one thing well is in great demand. The professional who knows everything about their specialty is equipped for life work. Concentrate your energies and talents upon something worthwhile. Master it. Stay with it and you will win out.

Don’t be afraid of hard work. Activity gives life, inertia death. Well-directed effort develops power, capacity, courage, self-reliance, virtue, mind, and character. Idleness or a life of ease begets weakness, carelessness, indifference, stupidity, vice, and worthlessness. Constitutional laziness is a worse handicap in the race of life than chronic heartburn or diabetes.

Study the personal habits of the men and women who have made history. Get close to those who are winning fame or fortune in art, literature, science, business, or profession and you will find that EVERY WINNER IS A WORKER. Genius consists largely in the disposition and capacity for persistent hard work. As Thomas Edison once said, “Genius is 2 per cent inspiration and 98 per cent perspiration.”

Dismiss the notion that selfishness is essential to success. Selfishness is suicidal. The person who lives for “self” suffers much, dwarfs their soul, accomplishes little, and dies a failure. The person who lives to serve has found the secret of success, true happiness, soul growth, and eternal life.

If you would be happy, if you would win out in the battles of life, renounce your selfish desires, enter a worthy vocation, and render the largest service possible to your age and generation. Take no thought of self except to improve. Do all the good you can, to everyone you can, in every way you can, and no matter how humble your position in life, or how busy your days, you will grow mentally, morally, and spiritually.

Learn to take advantage of opportunity. This is the corner-stone of success. Get away from the old idea that opportunity knocks once and only once at every person’s door. Opportunity is knocking all the time. Every moment, every situation, position, and condition of life is an opportunity. Yes, even every calamity, misfortune, and disappointment bring with them compensating opportunities, if we are only wise enough to see and take advantage of them.

Remember, it does not matter where you are, who you are, or what you are doing (what your heredity, environment, or vocation is), opportunity is yours. Right where you are is a splendid place to begin to build a strong, harmonious, and winning personality.

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