Display Of Energy
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
As already remarked, energy is displayed in promptness. When Ledyard was approached by a member of the African Association and asked when he would be ready to start for Africa, he replied immediately "Tomorrow morning." It is such prompt decision and energetic activity that wins many of the prizes of life. Unless a man can decide with the flash of a thought, and act with equal despatch, there is no hope for him at the junctures of life where great issues meet. Napoleon is said to have won the battle at Arcola with twenty-five horsemen. "I seized a moment of lassitude, gave every man a trumpet, and gained the day with this handful. Two armies are two bodies which meet and try to frighten each other a moment of panic occurs, and that moment must be turned to advantage. Every moment lost gives an opportunity for misfortune." And he declared that he beat the Austrians because they never knew the value of time and prompt decision. Indeed, the successes of Napoleon were all won by that ability of his to seize an issue on the flash of thought and turn it to immediate and tremendous advantage.
The prime quality that is needed in men of activity, is a fine enthusiasm born of energy and the consciousness of power. No great things can be done without such enthusiasm. It is a trait that is seen wherever great work is done. In the silence of the study, in the presence of the thunders of war, on the platform before a "sea of upturned faces," in the harrowing anxieties of business life, in the petty annoyances and amid the drudgeries of every-day life, everywhere it is the same enthusiasm that conquers all and wins all. Conspicuous ability, fine talent, accomplishments of whatever sort, are all elements of power; but they are often rendered helpless and useless from the lack of enthusiasm. No man is so poor as he who has expended or lost his enthusiasm. To such a man the greatest hope and usefulness is past, and past forever. Thousands. of men are endowed with fine abilities ; they may be possessed of great learning and accomplishments, but they fail because they have no energy and no enthusiasm. Their brilliant gifts are lost to the world and themselves, because there is no fire in the engine, and therefore it cannot run. Nothing will insure a man against the lack of deep interest and thrilling earnestness in the work that he performs. It was enthusiasm that won for Luther his high place in history. It was enthusiasm which attracted Agassiz to the trackless forests of the Amazon and the pictured rocks. of the Alps. It was enthusiasm in the pursuits of science that enabled Michael Faraday to resist the temptation to accumulate a fortune, as a practical chemist, instead of devoting his life and efforts to the pursuit of truth for truth's sake. Enthusiasm is indeed one of the elements of a heroic spirit.
The lack of enthusiasm has ruined many an enter-prise. It explains much of the failure among business men and those engaged in professional life. Men put no force into their work. They have no heart in. it. They do the perfunctory duties of a profession, but their enthusiasm and their heart is elsewhere centered. Such men fail, as they ought to fail, in the presence of the crises and at the turning points of their career. Such men are always looking for outside help. They join organized societies, they cultivate friendship with those more powerful and more influential than themselves. They seek the artificial helps of various associations, to accomplish what only devotion to duty and enthusiasm can accomplish. They rely on everything else but self. They seek to supply the lack of enthusiasm by some false method or false standard of attainment. It would be well for the mass of mankind to learn that enthusiasm and self-confidence will carry a man farther than a letter of recommendation. If men would be content to do the work their talents fit them for, depending on their own efforts and their own high resolutions, and not upon some outside help, there would be much less unhappiness, much less failure, much less useless endeavor, in this world of work.
Energy also displays itself in quietness. "The more noise the less power," reads one of the principles of mechanics, and it is just as true of the physical and intellectual efforts of man. The great workers work quietly, often in obscurity. The world does not know that a great genius has labored, and that tremendous energy has been exerted, until it sees it in the results accomplished by years of toil. The meditations of a Newton, the calculations of a Kepler, the discoveries of a Faraday, the inventions of a Galileo and a Herschel are never heralded to the world by the sound of trumpets and cymbals. Often-times the world does not know that a hero has lived, until he has died and passed from the stage of action. Indeed a great man must always labor unseen and unhonored for half a century before he can stand for a decade upon the mountain top. The greatest general America has ever known, was noted for his quietness and modesty of demeanor. The hero of a score of battles could hardly be distinguished by dress or manner, from the meanest soldier in the ranks, and U. S. Grant was never known to boast of a single deed of his. Washington was no less quiet, no less self-composed and no less retiring than Grant, but where Washington tread there thrones trembled, there the powers of tyranny were rebuked and silenced. The man who could marshal victory out of an army of farmers at Boston; who could outwit the brilliant generalship of a Burgoyne and a Cornwallis; who could successfully resist for eight long years the whole war-power of Great Britain, with a mere handful of determined patriots, was necessarily a great man, but there were no signs of greatness in the manner or daily speech of the "Father of his Country." America's greatest poet, in whom the energies of genius burned with marvelous vigor, was simple and quiet and tender as a child. Longfellow possessed great genius, great learning, great power ; but he bore about him no visible signs of that power. His life was as quiet as a summer evening. The author of those tender songs that have thrilled the heart of the world could not boast. He could not exhibit, even to the eye of his friend, the pent-up energies of a poet's heart. The marvelous power of great poetic genius was as quiet as the smooth-running rods and wheels of the famous Corliss engine. The great Gladstone, to whom the world has just listened as he announced freedom to long oppressed Ireland, is a quiet, dignified, kind-hearted man. He goes from the turmoil and strife of the political arena, where he is the greatest man of modern times, to the quiet home-life of Hawarden, where he is the greatest romp among his grand-children. The man who can bear on his shoulders. the burdens of English state and thrill the English-speaking race with melodious eloquence, is a man of power. But in that silver tone, in that quiet, kindly face there is no trace of the thunderbolt or of the earthquake. And thus we might go on "counting o'er earth's chosen heroes," and we should find them all earnest, determined, resolute men, who go to the great tasks of their lives, to pour out almost superhuman energies with the ease and quietness which is only born of power. The man who groans at a difficulty, sobs at a disappointment, cries out to the neighborhood every time he puts forth an effort, is like the man whom Sam Jones recently described : "When I hear some men speak or see: them work, they remind me of a river steamboat, with a very large whistle and a very small boiler, so that every time the. whistle blows the boat stops."
It is the misfortune of many persons to begin life with too many helps and too much assistance. They expect to rise and to achieve high station in life ; but being accustomed to praise and great attentions from the first, they do not know how to meet the rugged realities of life when these outward stimulants. are withdrawn. The fact is, adversity is often a blessing in disguise. The road to success is more often than otherwise through desperate difficulty. It is rough work that hardens the muscles ; it is rough wrestling with difficulty that strengthens the mind, so it is sometimes the "school of adversity" that graduates the ablest pupils. There is such a thing as having too many books, too many teachers, too much training, too much assistance in the work of life. Mere hardships and mere poverty will make a man neither strong nor good. They may make him unspeakably wretched and degraded. It is only when adversity and poverty rouse a man to effort and set on fire his slumbering energies, that they become a blessing to a man. Spread a keg of powder over a space ten feet square, and it will explode with a harmless flash; but imprison it in a rock, and it will blow forty tons of granite to atoms. So do fine abilities sometimes fracture the imprisoning bonds, of adversity. Two men once listened to a fine musician, who had risen high in the profession, but had not yet achieved the highest art. One said to the other, " She sings well but lacks some-thing and in that something, everything ; if I were single I would court her ; I would marry her ; I would maltreat her ; I would break her heart ; in six months she would be the greatest singer in Europe." So, often, the strong trials of life arouse the energies that would otherwise be feeble and useless.
Energy then should be cultivated to the highest degree ; we should accustom ourselves to act with decision, promptitude and firmness. The habit of acting with energy should be cultivated from childhood. A child should never be allowed to dawdle over his tasks. Better do one thing a day with promptness and despatch, than a hundred things with half-hearted effort. A man who seeks to be a successful man should never allow himself to drone. It is only in the habit of eager active labor, that a man can hope to accomplish the best things for himself and for the world. Work, in and of itself, is a vexatious and a useless burden. Efforts put forth to kill time are efforts wasted. It is only when we work. with a purpose in view, and work with eagerness, enthusiasm and joy that we can accomplish anything worthy of the name of success.