Energy is force of character, inward power. It imports such a concentration of the will upon the realization of an idea as to impel it onward over the next gigantic barrier, or to crush every opposing force that stands in the way of its triumph. Energy knows of nothing but success. It will not hearken to the voice of discouragement; it never yields its purpose. Though it may perish beneath an avalanche of difficulties, yet it dies contending for its ideal.
There is, perhaps, no mistake of a young man more common than that of supposing that, in the pursuits of life, extraordinary talents are necessary to one who would achieve more than ordinary success. There is no greater genius than the genius of energy and industry, It wins the prizes of life, which appeared destined to fall to those brilliantly constituted minds, who, to an artificial observer, seemed to be the favored sons of fortune. But they lacked energy, and in that want lacked all. Energy of temperament, with a moderate degree of wisdom, will carry a man farther than any amount of intellect without it. It gives him force, momentum. It is the active power of character, and, if combined with sagacity and self-possession, will enable a man to employ his power to the best advantage in all the affairs of life. Hence it is that men of mediocre power, but impelled by energy of purpose, have often been able to accomplish such extraordinary results.
The men who have most powerfully influenced the world have not been so much men of genius as men of strong convictions and enduring capacity for work, impelled by irresistible energy and invincible determination. 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. There is a proverb which says that “the strong man and the waterfall channel their own path.” The energetic leader of noble spirit not only wins a way for himself, but carries others with him. His very act has a personal signification, indicating vigor, independence, and self-reliance, and unconsciously commands respect, admiration, and homage. Such intrepidity is the attribute of all great leaders of men.
There is a difference between resolution and energy. Resolution is the purpose, energy is the quality, and it is possible to possess much resolution with comparatively very little energy. Energy implies a fixed, settled, and unswerving purpose; but resolution may vary its inclination a thousand ways and embrace a thousand objects, keeping up, perhaps, an air of steadiness and determination, while, in reality, nothing may be accomplished. There is observable the same difference between resolution and energy as there is between kindness and goodness—kindness being displayed by occasional acts of good-will, whilst goodness exists always, by a principle of love. Do not make the mistake of confounding energy with rashness. Energy is a Bucephalus, guided by the hand of an Alexander. Rashness is a Mazeppa’s fiery steed, unbridled and unrestrained, bearing its rider over hill and dale to probable destruction. The former is power guided by wisdom; the latter is power goaded to action by blind impulse.
Energy, to reach its highest development, must be controlled by wisdom. Many men now pining under discouragement have expended energy sufficient for the highest success. But they have failed of their reward because they have not sought counsel at the lips of wisdom. Rash enterprises impetuously begun hurry them on to ruin. True energy is ever the same; but the energy of many men is impulsive. It is to-day a destroying, roaring torrent; yesterday it was a stagnant pool. An accidental circumstance will call out every power of their soul, and for a season they will excel themselves and startle their friends. But they speedily expend their force, and lapse into stupid somnolency, till aroused by some bugle-blast of excitement. Such minds accomplish, but little. They lose more in their slumbers than they gain in their fitful hours of action. The calm, steady energy of the snail, slow as are its movements, is better calculated to produce results than the spasmodic leaps of the hare. Hence, in the formation of character, it is of the utmost importance to cultivate a steady, uniform, unyielding energy. The quiet energy that works to accomplishment is what rules the world. There is more energy shown in quietly doing your duty through years of patient toil than to rush with great clamor at the obstacles of life, only to relinquish the attempt if success does not immediately crown the effort. The game of life is won less by brilliant strokes than by energetic yet cautious play.
Energy of character has always a power to make energy in others. The zealous, energetic man unconsciously carries others along with him. His example is contagious, and compels imitation. He exercises a sort of electric power, which sends a thrill through every fiber, flows into the nature of those about him, and makes them throw out sparks of power. But such men are but few; and for one man that appears on the stage of human affairs that can rule events there are thousands who follow. The earnest men are so few in the world that their very earnestness becomes at once the badge of their nobility; and as the men in a crowd instinctively make room for one who seems to force his way through it, so mankind every-where open their ranks to one who rushes valiantly toward some object lying beyond them.
Man is but a feeble being, but he belittles his high estate unless he puts forth his exertion, and forms a commendable and heroic resolution not to permit life to pass away in trifles, but to accomplish something in spite of obstacles. At difficulties be not dismayed. We may magnify them by weakness and despondency, when an heroic spirit would have put them to flight. There are cobble-stones in every road and pebbles in every path. All have cares, disappointments, and stumbling-blocks. It were well to remember, though, that sobs and cries, groans and regrets are of no avail, but that high resolves and courageous actions may with safety be relied on to do much to lighten life’s load. He who never grappled with the emergencies of life knows not what power lives in the soul to repel the rude shocks of time and destiny, nor is he conscious how much he is
“Blest with a kindly faculty to blunt
The edge of adverse circumstances.”
All traditions current among young men that certain great characters have wrought their greatness by an inspiration, as it were, grows out of a sad mistake. There is no inspiration so potent for good as the inspiration of energy. There are none who wrest such conquests from fame as those earnest, determined minds, who reckon the value of every hour, and rely on their own strong arm to achieve their ambitious resolves. You can not dream yourself into a character; you must hammer and forge yourself one. But remember, there is always room for a man of force, and he makes room for many. It is a Spanish proverb that “he who loseth wealth loseth much; he who loseth a friend loseth more; but he who loseth energy loseth all.” It is folly for a man or woman to sit down in mid-life discouraged. True, it is a severe test of character calmly to reflect that life has thus far proved a failure, but it does no good to abandon one’s self to despair. With energy and God’s blessing it is possible they may yet win a glorious victory. God in his wisdom has seen fit to so ordain that life with all shall be a scene of labor. To make the most of it, it is necessary to make the aim high and noble, the energy unflagging. No matter how apparently solid the foundations on which we stand, it often happens that by the remission of labor and energy, poverty and contempt, disaster and defeat steal a march upon prosperity and honor, and overwhelm us with remorse and shame.
It is energy that makes the difference in, men. It is the genius of persevering energy that carries so many men straight to the goal of success. It is energy that sheds the light of hope on pathways that had been lost save for that, and thus enables so many men and women to persevere therein. It is energy that calls upon all—and calls upon you—to rouse yourself. Would you make a success of life? Would you acquire fortune or renown? It bids you take heart and hope for the best. It bids you walk in the paths of patience, to do with all your might what you have marked out as necessary to do. It bids you pursue it with resolution and vigor.
A young man is, in the true sense of the word, the architect of his own fortune. Rely upon your own strength of body and soul. Remember that the man who wills it can go almost anywhere or do almost any thing he determines to do. You must make yourself, or come to nothing. You must win by your own exertions, and not wait for some one to come to your assistance. Take for your star self-reliance, faith, honesty, and industry. Keep at the helm, and, above all, remember that the great art of commanding is to do a fair share of the work yourself. The greater the difficulty the more the glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests. The soul of every great achievement is energy; but enervation and indolence sap its life, and doom the man to obscurity and ill-success. Men of feeble action are accustomed to attribute their misfortune to what is termed ill luck. They envy the men who climb the ladder of eminence, and call them lucky men and men of peculiar opportunity. This is a vain and foolish imagination. Energy produces good fortune and success, while enervation breeds misfortune and ill luck.
Fortune, success, fame, position are never gained but by determinedly and bravely persevering in any course until the plans are finally accomplished. In short, you must carry a thing through if you want to be any body or any thing, no matter if it does cost you the pleasure of society, the thousand pearly gratifications of life. Stick to the thing and carry it through. Believe you were made for the matter, and that no one else could do it. Put forth your whole energies. Be awake; electrify yourself; go forth to the task. Learn to carry it through, and you will be a hero. You will think better of yourself. Others will think better of you. The world in its very heart admires the stern, determined doer. It sees in him its best sights, its brightest objects, its richest treasures. Proceed with energy, then, in whatever you undertake. Consider yourself amply sufficient for the deed, and you will succeed.
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