The weakling goes no farther than his first failure; he lags behind, and subsides into a life of discontent and vain regrets; and so by this winnowing process the number of the athletes is restricted to few, and there is clear space in the arena for those who determinedly press on.
There can hardly be found a successful man who will not admit that he was made so by failure, and that what he once thought his hard fate was in reality his good fortune. Success can not be gained by a hop, skip, and a jump, but by arduous passages of gallant perseverance, toilsome efforts long sustained, and, most of all, by repeated failure; for the failures are but stepping-stones, or, at the worst, non-attainment of the desired end before the time.
If success were to crown your efforts now, where would be the great success of the future? It is the brave resolution to do better next time that lays the substrata of all real greatness. Many a prominent reputation has been destroyed by early success. Too often the effect of such success is to sap the energies.
Imagining fame or fortune to be won, future efforts are remitted; relying on the fame of past achievements, the fact is overlooked that it is labor alone that renders any success certain; and so by the remission of labor and energy, disgrace or failure awakens him from his delusive dreams; but, alas! in how many instances the awakening comes too late!
There is no more prolific source of repining and discontent in life than that found in looking back upon past mistakes. We are fond of persuading ourselves and others that had others acted differently our whole course in life would have been one of unmixed success instead of the partial failure that it so often appears.
If we would only look on past mistakes in the right spirit—in the spirit of humility, and with a desire to learn from past errors—it would be well; but the error men make in this review is in attributing the failures to circumstances instead of to character. They see the mistakes which lie on the surface, but fail to trace them back to the source from whence they spring. The truth is, that even trifling circumstances are the occasions for bringing out the predominant traits of character. They are tests of the nature and quality of the man rather than the causes of future success or failure.
None can tell how weighty may be the results of even trivial actions, nor how much of the future is bound up in our every-day decisions. Chances are lost, opportunities wasted, advisers ill-chosen, and disastrous speculations undertaken, but there is nothing properly accidental in these steps. They are to be regarded as the results of unbalanced characters, as much as the cause of future misery.
The disposition of mind that led to these errors would certainly, under other circumstances, have led to different, but not less lamentable results.
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