The Industrious Spirit | Self-Development Podcast

Motivational Podcast Transcript: Welcome to the Inspirational Living podcast. Remember that you can also listen to a fireside chat version of our podcast on YouTube. To subscribe to our YouTube channel, visit

On today’s podcast, we will once again deliver an adaptation from Frederick Douglass’s classic lecture entitled Self-Made Men, which was first delivered in 1859.

Today, I would like to talk with you about success and the industrious spirit. Industry is the superficial and visible cause of success, but what is the cause of industry? When answering this question one element is easily pointed out, and that element is necessity.

William Thackeray very wisely remarked that all people are about as lazy as they can afford to be. They are not only as lazy as they can afford to be, but I have found many who are a great deal more so. We all hate the task master, but all people, however industrious, are either lured or lashed through the world — and we should be a lazy, good-for-nothing set, if we were not so lured and lashed.

Necessity is not only the mother of invention, but the mainspring of exertion. The presence of some urgent, pinching, dire necessity, will often not only sting a person into marvelous exertion, but into a sense of the possession of powers and resources which else had slumbered on through a long life, unknown to the individual and never suspected by others. A person never knows the strength of their grip till life and limb depend upon it. Something is likely to be done when something must be done.

If you wish to make your child helpless, you need not cripple them with a bullet or bludgeon, but simply place them beyond the reach of necessity and surround them with ease and luxury. This experiment has often been tried and has seldom failed. As a general rule, where circumstance does the most for us, there we will do least for ourselves; and where we do the least, we ourselves are the least. Our doing or not doing makes or unmakes us.

In your own search after true character go not to those delightful latitudes where (quote) “summer is blossoming all the year long,” but rather to the hardy, coldest, and flintiest parts of the country; where, for six months of the year, the earth is covered with snow and ice — there you will find the highest type of American character, both physical and intellectual.

The primary condition upon which we may have (and retain) power and skill, is exertion. Nature has no use for unused power. She abhors a vacuum. She permits no preemption without occupation. Every organ of the body and mind has its use and improves by use. “Better to wear out than to rust out,” is sound philosophy, as well as common sense.

Nature tolerates no halfness. The individual who wants hard hands must not, at sight of the first blister, fling away the spade, the rake, the broad ax or the hammer; for the blister is a primary condition to the needed hardness. To abandon work is not only to throw away the means of success, but it is also to part with the ability to work. To be able to walk well, one must walk on, and to work with ease and effect, one must work on.

Thus the law of labor is self-acting, beneficent, and perfect — increasing skill and ability according to exertion. Faithful, earnest, and protracted industry gives strength to the mind and facility to the hand. Within certain limits, the more that a person does, the more they can do.



The Living Hour