In 1859, Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, which you might say caused a stir.
But that same year saw another book published that triggered an even greater surge of interest, discussion, and awakening: Samuel Smiles’ Self-Help.
The public devoured Smiles’ book. It sold more than 200,000 copies the first year. It out sold Darwin’s book — even Darwin bought it – – and was instantly translated into other languages. It made the author a celebrity. From that point on, he was considered a type of coach to the dreamers of the world.
But Smiles was no dreamer. He was a hard working Scottish author and government reformer who believed struggle was necessary to develop character. He didn’t believe in positive thinking but in positive doing.
In his 1905 autobiography, he wrote –
“My object in writing out Self-Help, and delivering it at first in the form of lectures, and afterwards rewriting and publishing it in the form of a book, was principally to illustrate and enforce the power of George Stephenson’s great word – PERSEVERANCE.”
George Stephenson was a focused dreamer who created the world’s first public inter-city railway line to use steam locomotives. What carried Stephenson on to greatness was the word Smiles admired the most: perseverance.
According to Smiles, hard work, discipline, and focus were tickets to success. It was how you “self helped” yourself in the world.
Too many people today are afraid of work and too easily willing to quit.
I’ve learned that struggle can be not only good, but even great.
When I’m in the gym, struggling to lift heavy iron weights, it’s the struggle that builds my muscles. If I lift donuts, my muscles aren’t challenged and don’t grow.
When I was first learning how to write songs and perform my own tunes, I told my coaches not to take away my struggle. I knew that wrestling with the new skills was how my body and mind were going to create new neural pathways and lead me to my own discoveries.
But not all struggle is necessary, and may in fact be a clue to alter your course.
When I was driving across the city to run an errand, I got a flat tire. That was struggle I didn’t see in any way was helping me. So I looked at the deeper significance and decided it meant I was to skip the errand for that day.
In other words, you get signals through life to proceed, pause, or even stop.
I’ve often called it The Red Flags Theory.
When you go in the right direction, you get green lights to proceed. Things go smoothly. There’s a flow.
But when you are about to do something that is off path, you get a yellow flag. Maybe the engine light on your car comes on. It’s a signal to pause and reflect.
And when a red flag appears — like a flat tire on the way out — you have to literally stop and assess your direction.
But none of this says struggle is bad.
“Struggle” is a path to manifesting what you want.
It just depends on your mental attitude to the work at hand.
When I write blog posts like this one, I “struggle” to articulate and communicate my message. It doesn’t mean I hate the process or want to quit. It means I care and want to get this right.
It’s an acceptable struggle.
It’s simply part of my process.
In creating my seventh music album, I went through lots of struggle.
Writing, rewriting, rehearsing, tweaking, performing, takes, retakes, dubbing, over dubbing, editing, mixing, mastering and more – all could be considered “struggle.”
But it’s simply “the work” that attracted the result I intended: my seventh album, titled Reflection.
It’s only struggle if you are resisting the work; if you are OK with what needs done, it’s simply process.
As I wrote on my Facebook page recently at https://www.facebook.com/drjoevitale —
“When you resist doing what you know needs done, it is difficult. Find a mental way to enjoy it, and just do it, and it is easy.”
Samuel Smiles worked hard and gave us a book that is still relevant today. I imagine he “struggled” some in writing it. He certainly struggled in getting it published, as his first books were considered failures and his most famous book, Self-Help, was rejected by the first publishers to see it — one of whom regretted it a decade later and told the author so over dinner.
Birth of all kind involves struggle.
Once you accept struggle, it is no longer struggle.
As Smiles wrote in Self-Help, “Nothing that is of real worth can be achieved without courageous working.”
Now get to work.
PS – My new album on CD – complete with a beautiful printed book revealing all of the lyrics and including photos of me and the band – is at the printer right now. It will be a limited edition collectible, because I am only printing a small quantity of 1,000 to offer to my friends (like you). It will sell to others for $21.95 but if you go and pre-order it right now, you can have it for only $9.95 (plus shipping, of course). That’s well over half off. That’s only a dollar a song. For less than ten bucks, you can change your life through sound *and* get a collectible new album and booklet, too. Plus I will include a surprise gift when we ship the new album to you later this month. (You will love it.) May I send it to you? Just go see http://www.reflectioncd.com (There’s no struggle involved in ordering it.) 🙂
PPS – Check out Miracles Coaching to better understand and implement the ideas I express here.
What’s a key to self-help, self-improvement or self-development?
Meet Ace Pepper.
Ace is the most upbeat, revved up and amped up guy I know. He absolutely loves making amplifiers for musicians.
I’ve seen people in love with their work before – from plumbers to postal workers to electrical repair people — but Ace Pepper takes the passion award.
The man is plugged in. He lives to make amps and does for famous musicians. I met him at a guitar show I attended with Pat O’Bryan. I liked Ace’s energy and was curious to what made him so contagiously happy.
I didn’t see Ace for almost a year, though. When one of my amps started to whistle when it was supposed to hum, I thought of Ace. Pat and I went to see him, my old amp in tow.
Ace gave me an hour lesson in how amps are built.
It was exciting.
It was in-depth.
It was intense.
I didn’t understand any of it.
But the guy’s boyish enthusiasm for his work was riveting.
I ended up hiring Ace to make me the amp of all amps.
I told Ace I wanted something so astonishing that Bruce Springsteen would hear the legend of it and contact me, wanting to buy it.
Now here’s where this gets interesting.
I don’t know how to use a professional amp. Oh, I know how to plug a guitar cable into it and turn it on. But Ace’s amps have a dozen dials, multiple plug-in holes, and wires coming out of the back of it. He makes amps that would challenge Tesla. Having him build me a professional custom-made amp was asking him to build me a car I couldn’t drive.
And that’s a secret to self improvement.
I told Ace I wanted him to build me an amp that I would “grow into.”
What I meant is this: I’ll learn how to use the amp once I have it. I’ll experiment, ask questions, make mistakes and grow. I’ll stretch myself into a comfortable fit.
This is true of virtually anything you want to learn.
Set an intention and then start working/playing/learning to grow into it.
Same with singing.
I don’t sing. Never used to, anyway. But I decided to do something huge and daring – not knowing exactly how I would accomplish it – and announced one day I would put on a one-man theatrical show called “Mr. Fire’s Wonder Show: An Evening of Magic, Music and Miracles.”
Talk about establishing a goal I’d need to grow into!
Well, the Law of Attraction kicked in and I started to attract the people and coaches I need to make that goal come true.
I stumbled into a vocal coach by the name of Guy Monroe. The guy is a-maz-ing. He’s also amped up about his work.
He took me under his wing, coached me with his vocal and verbal methods, and terrific upbeat energy, and I’m now singing Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Harry Chapin and more.
Recently I startled myself by singing Glen Hansard’s wonderful song, Falling Slowly, from the movie Once. I didn’t think I had a shot at getting close to the song, as it has such vocal extremes in it, from soft to shrill.
But Guy coached me, encouraged me, and I went for it.
I not only sang it, but I sang it pretty darn good.
Of course, I’m no Glen Hansard, but I’m an excellent Joe Vitale.
I’m proud of myself for daring something worthy and learning how to sing, accelerating my guitar playing, and getting an amp I have no idea how to use — yet.
Again, if you want to know a secret to self-help and self-improvement, re-read this post.
And then set a big, bold, daring goal for yourself, based on your passion.
It will help you “amp it up”.
PS – You’ll notice that a key to growing fast and achieving your dreams with the Law of Attraction and more, is to have a coach. Listen to my interview with the Miracles Coach of 2009 by clicking right here. It’s another secret to self-improvement and self-help. Go for it!