Artists, Writers & The Habit of Work | Achieving Greatness Podcast

Welcome to the Inspirational Living podcast. I would like to start today by thanking again all of you who have purchased our book: Evergreen: 50 Inspirational Life Lessons. We have just sold out of our first print run of this heirloom quality hardcover book. But you can still order a custom-made copy for an upcoming birthday present or a copy for yourself. To place an order, please visit

Today’s reading has been edited and adapted from the book entitled Work, by Hugh Black, published in 1903…..

THE place of habit in life can hardly be overestimated. Habit works a groove for us into which we fall easily, and in which we move swiftly, so that the great bulk of our actions are done automatically, and the whole trend of our life is established. Habit cuts a pathway from the brain through the nerve-centers, until after a time a thing is done almost mechanically.

We do not stop to think how we will walk when we want to go anywhere. We have laboriously acquired the art of walking, till it is done without any conscious attention. This law extends its sway over every region of life. We have gone on doing acts and making judgments along a certain line till it could be foretold what we will do on any.

No wonder that all moral philosophers make much of the importance of the formation of habits. It is the way character is formed, and life is molded, and destiny is fixed. What can match it for importance? It is by habit that the senses are exercised; by habit that the body is developed; by habit that the mind is colored and shaped; by habit that the soul communes and grows in grace; by habit that each of us is made the person we are.

Even natural disposition, of which we make so much when we speak of heredity, is only a tendency till habit takes it and sets it and hardens it and drives it to a settled goal. Habit is the process by which acts and thoughts and feelings are organized into life. There is nothing that is outside of this law in business or art or morality or religion.

The musician is not made otherwise than by playing music, nor the just person otherwise than by doing just deeds, says Aristotle. And it is not merely in such specialized lines that a habit reveals itself. It touches us all along the line, never leaving us at any point, but ceaselessly making its mark. Everything counts, registering its effects in the mysterious region of nerve-cells and fibers, and has its corresponding result on mind and character.

William James closes a chapter in his book on psychology with a passage which I cannot refrain from quoting, because for one thing he is speaking from a strict scientific standpoint, and because it presents both the hopeful and destructive sides of the power of habit.

He writes, “As we become drunkards by so many separate drinks, so we become saints in the moral, and authorities and experts in the practical and scientific spheres, by so many separate acts and hours of work. Let no young person have any anxiety about the upshot of their education, whatever the field may be. If you keep faithfully busy each hour of the working day, you may safely leave the final result to itself.

You can with perfect certainty count on waking up some fine morning to find yourself one of the competent ones of your generation in whatever pursuit you may have singled out. Know this truth in advance. The ignorance of it has probably engendered more discouragement and faintheartedness in people embarking on arduous careers than all other causes put together.”

Apart from the ambition to become competent, the value of assiduous and faithful and regular work is that it accumulates moral force, which not only tells by success in a particular occupation, but gives steadiness and backbone to the whole character.



The Living Hour