The Science of Being Great | Wallace D. Wattles

Podcast Transcript: Welcome to the Inspirational Living podcast. If you’re the kind of person who watches TV or surfs the internet right before bed, I might suggest adjusting your nightly habits. Studies have shown that television and computers should be avoided up to 30 minutes before going to bed, as they can interfere with a good night’s sleep. It’s much better to relax with an inspirational book before falling asleep, a book that will put you in a positive frame of mind — one that is beneficial to your subconscious.

That’s where our new hardcover book comes in. Evergreen: 50 Inspirational Life Lessons is the perfect bedside reading to guide you into a night of relaxing, refreshing, and inspirational sleep. To learn more, please go to

Now, onto today’s reading, which has been edited and adapted from The Science of Being Great by Wallace D. Wattles, published in 1911.

THERE is a Principle of Power in every person. By the intelligent use and direction of this principle, you can develop your own mental faculties. Each one of us has an inherent power by which we may grow in whatsoever direction we please, and there does not appear to be any limit to the possibilities of our growth. No person has yet become so great in any faculty but that it is possible for someone else to become greater. The possibility is in the Original Substance from which we are made. Genius is Omniscience flowing into humanity.

Genius is more than just talent. Talent may merely be one faculty developed out of proportion to other faculties, but genius is the union of humanity with the Divine in the acts of the soul. Great men and women are always greater than their deeds. They are in connection with a reserve of power that is without limit. We do not know where the boundary of the mental powers of humanity is; we do not even know that there is a boundary.

The power of conscious growth is not given to us alone and may be developed and increased by any individual. We alone can train and develop ourselves. We alone among the animals have this power, and we have it to an apparently unlimited extent.

The purpose of human life is growth, just as the purpose of life for trees and plants is growth. Trees and plants grow automatically and along fixed lines. We can grow, as we will. Trees and plants can only develop certain possibilities and characteristics; we can develop any power, which is or has been shown by any person, anywhere. Nothing that is possible in spirit is impossible in flesh and blood. Nothing that humanity can think of is impossible in action. Nothing that we can imagine is impossible of realization.

Humankind is formed for growth, and we are under the necessity of growing. It is essential to our happiness that we should continuously advance.

Life without progress becomes unendurable, and the person who ceases from growth must either become an imbecile or insane. The greater and more harmonious and well-rounded our growth, the happier we will be.

There is no possibility in any person that is not in every individual; but if they proceed naturally, no two people will grow into the same thing, or be alike. Every person comes into the world with a predisposition to grow along certain lines, and growth is easier along those lines than in any other way. This is a wise provision, for it gives endless variety. It is as if a gardener should throw all their bulbs into one basket; to the superficial observer they would look alike, but growth reveals a tremendous difference.

So of men and women, they are like a basket of bulbs. One may be a rose and add brightness and color to some dark corner of the world; one may be a lily and teach a lesson of love and purity to every eye that sees; one may be a climbing vine and hide the rugged outlines of some dark rock; one may be a great oak among whose boughs the birds shall nest and sing, and beneath whose shade the flocks shall rest at noon, but everyone will be something worthwhile, something rare, something perfect.

There are undreamed of possibilities in the common lives all around us in a large sense; there are no “common” people. In times of national stress and peril the slack-dressed loafer at the corner store and the town drunkard become heroes and statesmen through the quickening of the Principle of Power within them. There is a genius in every man and woman, waiting to be brought forth.

A century ago, every village had its great man or woman; someone to whom all went for advice in time of trouble; someone who was instinctively recognized as being great in wisdom and insight. To such a person, the minds of the whole community turned in times of local crisis; they were tacitly recognized as being great. They did small things in a great way. They could have done great things as well if they did but undertake them; so can any person; so can you.

The Principle of Power gives us just what we ask of it. If we only undertake little things, it only gives us power for little things; but if we try to do great things in a great way, it gives us all the power there is.

There are two mental attitudes that we may take. One makes us like a football. It has resilience and reacts strongly when force is applied to it, but it originates nothing; it never acts of itself. There is no power within it. People of this type are controlled by circumstances and environment; their destinies are decided by things external to themselves. The Principle of Power within them is never really active at all. They never speak or act from within.

The other attitude makes the person like a flowing spring. Power comes out from the center of them. They have within them a well of water springing up into everlasting life; they radiate force. The Principle of Power in them is in constant action. They are self-active. “They have life in themselves.”

No greater good can come to any man or woman than to become self-active. All the experiences of life are designed by Providence to force men and women into self-activity; to compel them to cease being creatures of circumstances and master their environment.

In our lowest stages, we are the child of chance and circumstance and the slave of fear. Our acts are all reactions resulting from the impingement upon us of forces in our environment. We act only as we are acted upon; we originate nothing. But the lowest individual has within them a Principle of Power sufficient to master all that they fear; and if they learn this and become self-active, they become as one of the gods.

The awakening of the Principle of Power within is the real conversion; the passing from death to life. It is when the dead hear the voice of the Divine spirit and come forth and live. It is the resurrection and the life.

Nothing was ever in any person that is not in you; no person ever had more spiritual or mental power than you can attain, or did greater things than you can accomplish. You can become what you want to be.

YOU are not barred from attaining greatness by heredity. No matter who or what your ancestors may have been or how unlearned or lowly their station, the upward way is open for you. There is no such thing as inheriting a fixed mental position; no matter how small the mental capital we receive from our parents, it may be increased; no person is born incapable of growth.

Heredity does count for something. We are born with subconscious mental tendencies; as, for instance, a tendency to melancholy, or cowardice, or to ill temper; but all these subconscious tendencies may be overcome. When the real individual awakens and comes forth, you can throw them off very easily. Nothing of this kind need keep you down. If you have inherited undesirable mental tendencies, you can eliminate them and put desirable tendencies in their places.

An inherited mental trait is a habit of thought of your father or mother impressed upon your subconscious mind; you can substitute the opposite impression by forming the opposite habit of thought. You can substitute a habit of cheerfulness for a tendency to despondency; you can overcome cowardice or ill temper.

Any faculty, power, or talent you possess, no matter how small or rudimentary, may be increased; you can multiply the brain cells in a particular area until it acts as powerfully as you wish. It is true that you can act most easily through those faculties that are now most largely developed; you can do, with the least effort, the things which “come naturally”; but it is also true that if you will make the necessary effort you can develop any talent.

You can do what you desire to do and become what you want to be. When you fix upon some ideal and proceed with persistence and faith, all the power of your being is turned into the faculties required in the realization of that ideal; more blood and nerve force go to the corresponding sections of the brain, and the cells are quickened, increased, and multiplied in number. The proper use of your mind will build a brain capable of doing what your mind wants to do.

The brain does not make the individual; the individual makes the brain. Your place in life is not fixed by heredity. Nor are you condemned to the lower levels by circumstances or lack of opportunity. The Principle of Power in you is sufficient for all the requirements of your soul. No possible combination of circumstances can keep you down, if you make your personal attitude right and are determined to rise.

The power, which formed humanity and purposed it for growth, also controls the circumstances of society, industry, and government; and this power is never divided against itself. The power which is in you is in the things around you, and when you begin to move forward, the things will arrange themselves for your advantage.

Each one of us was formed for growth, and all things external were designed to promote our growth. No sooner do you awaken your soul and enter on the advancing way than you find that not only is God for you, but nature, society, and your fellow men and women are for you also; and all things work together for your good if you obey the law of continued growth.

There is a Principle of Power in you. If you use it and apply it persistently, you can overcome all heredity, and master all circumstances and conditions and become a great and powerful personality.

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