The One Who Can

Rags-to-riches, repeat

The One Who Can
What is will-power, looked at in a large way, but energy of character? Energy of will, self-originating force, is the soul of every great character. Where it is, there is life; where it is not, there is faintness, helplessness, and despondency.
"Let it be your first study to teach the world that you are not wood and straw; that there is some iron in you." Men who have left their mark upon the world have been men of great and prompt decision. The achievements of will-power are almost beyond computation. Scarcely anything seems impossible to the man who can will strongly enough and long enough.
One talent with a will behind it will accomplish more than ten without it, as a thimbleful of powder in a rifle, the bore of whose barrel will give it direction, will do greater execution than a carload burned in the open air. — Orison Swett Marden
What endeavour would you undertake if you knew you couldn’t fail? To christen our multi-day exploration of will, smash open this popular-yet-powerful question.
Orison Swett Marden lost his mother at age three and his father at age seven. As an orphan and 'hired boy,' he worked for five successive families earning his keep.
In his teenage years, he came across a self-improving book by Samuel Smiles. He valued the book as if it were "worth its weight in diamonds" and committed the words to memory.
From this moment, he aspired to exit poverty. He spent his twenties working in hotels while earning degrees in law, science, and medicine.
In his thirties, he became a hotelier and wrote feverishly on how success is achieved. Then at 44, a fire took everything he had—his clothes, his hotel, his great manuscript. One of his employees described the event as follows.
Over five thousand pages of manuscripts – the fruit of all the spare time he had been able to snatch from nearly fifteen crowded years of business life – had gone up in smoke...
Having nothing but his nightshirt on when he escaped from the fire, he went down the street to provide himself with necessary clothing. As soon as this had been attended to, he bought a twenty-five-cent notebook, and, while the ruins of the hotel were still smoking, began to rewrite from memory the manuscript of his dream book.
Now broke, Marden rented the cheapest room he could find. He wrote without rest. Within a few weeks, he had submitted two complete manuscripts for publication.
He’d write over 50 books in his career. Counted among his devoted readers were Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, Prime Minister William Gladstone, and the industrialists Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and J. P. Morgan. His self-improving magazine circulated with a half million subscribers.
This is a man who lived the rags-to-riches tale not once, but twice. In the subsequent lessons, we’ll use his book “Iron Will” to explore the most powerful trait any man or woman can ever possess: the ability to do what one commits to do.
There is no chance, no destiny, no fate, Can circumvent, or hinder, or control The firm resolve of a determined soul. Gifts count for nothing; will alone is great; All things give way before it soon or late.
What obstacle can stay the mighty force Of the sea-seeking river in its course, Or cause the ascending orb of day to wait? Each well-born soul must win what it deserves. Let the fool prate of luck. The fortunate Is he whose earnest purpose never swerves, Whose slightest action or inaction serves The one great aim. — Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Story From

Orison Swett Marden Collection