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Conduct Of Life

( Originally Published 1907 )

"RESOLVE is what makes a man manifest;

not puny resolve, not crude determinations, not errant purpose but that strong and indefatigable Will which treads down difficulties and danger, as a boy treads down the heaving frost lands of winter; which kindles his eye and brain with a proud pulse-beat toward the unattainable. Will makes men giants." Ik Marvel.

The thing that is, and creates human power, as the author remarks in " Business Power," is the Will. Theoretically, the Will is the man. Practically, the Will is just a way the man has of being and doing. The Will is man's inherent nature-tendency to act — to do something. This tendency to act in some way must act on itself — take itself in hand, so to speak, in order that it may act intelligently, continuously, and with a purpose. Will is itself power; but unfolded, con-trolled and directed power in man is Will self-mastered, not man-mastered nor nature-mastered. The man-mastered and nature-mastered Will goes with the motive or impulse which is strongest. The self mastered Will goes with the motive which the self makes greatest, and with mere impulse in very slight degree so far as the life of intelligence is concerned.

The self-mastered Will can do anything — within reason; and reason in this connection should be conceived in its highest human sense. The function of Will is like that of steam. It must be powerful, under control, and properly directed. The power of Will may be developed, but only through controlled and directed action. The control may be acquired, but only through willed and directed action. The direction may be determined, but only through willed and con-trolled action. When Will is self-developed, self-mastered, self-directed, it only needs proper application to become practically all-powerful.


In the conduct of life every form in which the normal Will manifests itself is demanded for success. These forms are: The Persistent Will; The Static Will ; The Impelling Will ; The Dynamic Will ; The Restraining Will; The Explosive Will; The Decisive Will.

The Static Will, or Will in reserve, constitutes original source of energy. As heat, light, and life are rooted in the sun, so are varied Volitions sent forth from this central seat of power, exhibiting the Dynamic Will.

The Explosive Will illustrates the mind's ability for quick and masterful summoning of all its forces. The sudden rush of the whole soul in one compelling deed seems sometimes next to omnipotence.

Persistence of Will involves " standing," sto stare sistere, and " through" per; "standing through." The weakness of otherwise strong men may be revealed in life's reactions. " Having done all, to stand," furnishes many a deciding test. This phase of Will is not exhausted in the common saying, " sticking to it," for a barnacle sticks, and is carried hither and thither

"This One Thing I Do"

on a ship's bottom. Persistence involves adherence to a purpose clean through to a goal.

The abiding mind necessitates the Impelling Will. The Impelling Will suggests an ocean " liner," driving onward, right onward, through calm and storm, for a determined goal. Sixty years of that kind of direct motion must summon Will to all its varied activities.

It is curious, too, that the noble quality of Will-power observed in impelling persistence, depends upon the paradox of restraint. An engine without control will wreck itself and its connected machinery. The finest racing speed is achieved under bit and mastery. In man the power that drives must hold back. The supremest type of man exhibits this as a constant attitude. Success in life depends upon what the writers call the Will's power of inhibition. Here we have the Restraining Will.

At times the character of Will is also manifest in its ability to forbid obedience to a thousand appealing motives, and even to bring all action to a full stop and " back water," in order to a new decision, a new immediate or ultimate goal. Hence life is full of demands for quick decisions and resistless massing of resources squarely upon the spur of exigency. This suggests the Decisive Will.

Such are some of the forms of Will which are required for the conduct of affairs, whether ordinary or extraordinary. Even a slight analysis of the matter would seem to suggest that there can be no tonic like the mental mood which resolves to will.

Here is a treatment from deepest laboratories of the soul insuring health. A purposeful mind says, sooner

or later, " I RESOLVE TO WILL." After a time that phrase is in the air, blows with the wind, shines in star and sun, sings with rivers and seas, whispers with dreams of sleep and trumpets through the hurly-burly of day. Eventually it becomes a feeling of achievement saturating consciousness. The man knows now the end, because all prophecies have one reading. He has begotten the instinct of victory.

It is not as a blind man, however, that he walks. His ineradicable conviction sees with the eye of purpose. If his purpose is approvable at the court of conscience, all roads lead to his Rome.


Men fail for lack of Some Aim. Their desires cover the entire little field of life, and what becomes theirs does so by accident. Multitudes of people are the beneficiaries of blundering luck.

Everywhere Some Aim would make "hands" fore-men, and foremen superintendents ; would conduct poverty to comfort, and comfort to wealth ; would render men who are of no value to society useful, and useful men indispensable.

The man who is indispensable owns the situation. The world is ruled by its servants. The successful servant is king.

But better than Some Aim, which, because it need be neither long-headed nor long-lived, is a player at a gaming table, is One Aim, by which all fortune is turned schoolmaster and good fortune is labeled "reward by divine right." The true divine right of kings is here alone.

The soul that resolves to will One Aim makes heavy and imperious call on the nature of things.

For, while many understand that the individual must needs adjust himself to life, few perceive the greater law, that life is forever engaged in a desperate struggle to adjust itself to the individual. It is but required of him that he treat life with some degree of dignity, and make his election and plea sure by putting mind in the masterful spell of some One ultimate Aim to which all things else shall be subordinated.

Some Aim has luck on its side; One Aim has law.

Some Aim may achieve large things, and occasionally it does; One Aim cannot fail to make the nature of things its prime minister.

Life does not always yield the One Aim its boon in exact terms of desire, because men often fall at cross-purposes with endowment; but life never fails to grant all the equities in any given case.

In the long run every man gets in life about what he deserves. The vision of that truth embraces many things which the objector will not see. The objector mistakes what he desires for what he deserves.

Hence the importance of self-discovery in life's con-duct. It is probably true that every man has some one supreme possibility within his make-up. The purposeful Will usually discovers what it is.

Buried talents are always " fool's gold."

One thing settled — the Ultimate Aim — and talents begin to emerge by a divine fiat.

The revelation of power may, indeed, be made while Will roams in quest of a purpose, but, that purpose found, Will looks for its means and methods; and discovers them within.

William Pitt was in fact born with a definite aim in life. "From a child," says a recent writer, " he was made to realize that a great career was expected of him, worthy of his renowned father. This was the keynote of all his instruction."

General Grant is said to have been called " Useless Grant" by his mother. He discovered himself at Shiloh, after some pottering with hides and leather which was not even preliminary. But Grant always " stuck to the thing in hand," so far as it was worth while doing so. When war brought his awareness of self to the point of definite meaning, he found every detail and the largest campaigns eminently worth the while of a Will which had at last uncovered its high-way. " The great thing about him," said Lincoln, " is cool persistency of purpose. He is not easily excited, and he has got the grip of a bulldog. When he once gets his teeth in, nothing can shake him off."

The One Aim is always a commentary on character. It is not difficult to see why life needs Some Aim. Why it should concentrate upon One Aim suggests the whole philosophy of human existence. Nero had One Aim, and it destroyed the half of Rome. Alexander the Great had One Aim, and he died in a debauch. The One Aim may involve selfishness, crimes, massacres, anarchy, universal war, civilization hurled to chaos. One Aim assassinated Garfield, ruined Spain, inaugurated the Massacre of Saint Bartholomew, gave birth to the "unspeakable Turk," devised a system of enmity against existing orders and institutions, threatens to throw Europe into revolutionary carnage, and, in a thousand ways, has power to light the pyre of civilization's destruction. One Aim is no more descriptive of Heaven than it is of Hell.

The climax of Will, therefore, is possible under moral considerations alone. Character, which is the sum total of a man's good (moral) qualities, furnishes a third phrasing for Will's purpose, the Righteous Aim.


Will with Righteous Aim creates character. Character, with Righteous Will, creates Noblest Aim. Character, with Noblest Aim, creates Righteous Will.

The relation between the man, the aim, the Will, is dependent and productive. There is really no high justification for One Aim if it be not best aim. Life is ethical. Its motives and its means and its achievements justify only in aims converging to its utmost moral quality.

It is here that possession of Will finds explanation, as elsewhere remarked. Below man there is no supreme sovereignty of Will; all is relative and reflex. But this sovereignty furnishes its reason in moral self-development, in moral community-relations, in moral oneness with Deity.

So true is it that righteousness alone justifies the existence of the human Will, that the finest development of the power comes of its moral exercise. Above the martyr who founds a material government the world places with eager zeal that soul who establishes by his death a kingdom of religion.

The Static Will furnishes energy in abnormal life. The Explosive Will murders. The Persistent Will may exhibit in obstinacy and national crimes. The Impelling Will is sometimes hugely reckless. The Restraining Will has its phases in " mulishness " and stupidity. The Decisive Will is frequently guilty of wondrous foolhardiness. Idiocy, insanity, senility, savagery and various forms of induced mania represent the Will in disorder, without a master, and working pathos fathomless or tragic horror.

If, then, we ask, "Why One Aim in life?" the names of Socrates, Buddha, Charlemagne, Alfred the Great, William of Orange, Gladstone, Washington, Wilberforce, Lincoln, may be offset by those of Caligula, the Medici, Lucretia Borgia, Philip the Second. Asking, " Why the Righteous Aim," troop before the mind's expanding eye all holy heroes and movements i' the tide o' time"; and no counterpoise appears, for all is great, all is good.

Moral purpose, however, is no prestidigitator. The Will, set on all good things for ultimate goal, is still merely the mind's power of self-direction. All requisites for strong Will anywhere are demands here. Inasmuch as the moral aim involves the whole of life, Will, making for it, requires the ministry of cultivated perceptions : seeing things as they are, especially right things ; developed sensibilities : sensitive toward evil, capacious for good; a large imagination: embracing details, qualities, consequences, reasons and ultimate manifold objects; active, trained and just reasoning faculties: apprehending the incentive, utility and inspiration of truth; and deep and rich moral consciousness: nourishing the Will from inexhaustible fountains of legitimate self-complacency.

In other words, the moral Will, which alone is best Will, demands of its owner constant and adequate consideration, of plan, of means, of methods, of immediate and ultimate end.

The successful conduct of life is always hinged upon " This one thing I do." Where such is really the law of conduct, the world beholds an aroused soul. " The first essential of success," said a great bank president, " is the fear of God."

A live man is like a factory working on full time. Here is creation; every power at labor, every function charged with energy, huge action dominating the entire situation, and yielding valuable products. This man puts his body into the thing in hand, mightily confident. His mental being does not detail itself off in "gangs," but swarms at it with that tirelessness which makes enthusiasm a wonder. His intuitions flash, impel, restrain, urge resistlessly, decide instantly —presiding genii of limited empires. Reasoning faculties mass upon questions vital, and hold clear court, till justice be known. If he be right-souled man, he emerges, Will at the fore, from Decalogue and Mountain Sermon daily, squaring enterprise with the Infinite.

The whole man, swinging a great Will, conserves himself.

Why must there be discussions on selfishness and self-interest? A sound soul is always a best soul. A selfish soul is never sound. But a sound soul must continue sound. Altruism begins with the self. Society needs the whole man — all there is of him, and always at his best. Hence the nature of things makes it law that a man shall endeavor to make the most of himself in every way which is not inimical to soundness. This is the first principle of holiness — wholeness — soundness. As that is worked into conduct, the second principle appears — Service.

For the service of a sound soul the Universe will pay any price.

And here again emerge some old and common rules. It is function of Will to resolve on preservation of bodily health, mental integrity and growth, and moral development. In the eye of that high resolution no detail is without importance. A trained Will regards every detail as a campaign.


Power of Will is an accretion. Force is atoms actively aggregated. The strong Will is omnivorous, feeding upon all things with little discrimination. Pebbles, na less than boulders, compose mountains. The man who cannot will to stick to trifles and bundle them into importants, is now defeated. The keynote of success is drudgery.

Drudgery stands at every factory door, and looks out of every store window. If drudgery be not some-where in a book, it is not worth the reading. Inspiration stands tip-toe on the back of poor drudgery. The antecedents of facile and swift art are the aches and sorrows of drudgery. The resistance of angels col-lapses only after Jacob has found his thigh out of joint, and yet cries : " I will not let thee go ! " Jesus had to climb even Calvary.

An English Bishop said truly : " Of all work that produces results, nine-tenths must be drudgery." Really great poets, prose-writers and artists verify this remark. Edmund Burke bestowed upon his speeches and addresses an immense amount of painstaking toil. Macaulay's History cost almost incalculable labor. The first Emperor of Germany was an enormous worker. Indeed, taking the world " by and large," labor without genius is little more incapable than genius without labor.

Kepler, the astronomer, carried on his investigations with prodigious labor. In calculating an opposition of Mars, he filled ten folio pages with figures, and repeated the work ten times, so that seven oppositions required a folio volume of 700 pages. It has been said that " the discoveries of Kepler were secrets extorted from nature by the most profound and laborious research."

It was the steadiness of Haydn's application to his art which made him one of the first of modern musicians. He did not compose haphazard, but proceeded to his work regularly at a fixed hour every day. These methods, with the extremest nicety of care in labor, gave him a place by the side of Mozart, who, while possessed of the genius of facility, was nevertheless thoroughly acquainted with drudgery.

And there can be no drudgery without patience, the ability to wait, constancy in exertion with an eye on the goal. Here is a complex word which readily splits into fortitude, endurance and expectation. It is kaleidoscopic in its variations. In the saint's character patience is a lamb; in that which builds an industry or founds an empire, it is a determined bulldog.

" Genius is patience," said Davy ; " what I am I have made myself." Grant was patient : " Once his teeth got in, they never let go." The assiduous Will is first principle in achievement, whether of men or nations. The indefatigable purpose is prophet of all futures.

But the "King on his Throne" (your Will) is no dull monarch of obstinacy. Reason defies inertia. "We say that Will is strong whose aim," remarks Th. Ribot, " whatever it be, is fixed. If circumstances change, means are changed ; adaptations are success-fully made, in view of new environments; but the centre toward which all converges does not change. Its stability expresses the permanency of character in the individual."

All things come to the net of this rational indefatigability. As Carlyle says of Cromwell : " That such a man, with the eye to see, with the heart to dare, should advance, from post to post, from victory to victory, till the Huntington Farmer became, by whatever name you might call him, the acknowledged strongest man in England, requires no magic to explain it. For this kind of man, on a shoemaker's bench or in the President's chair, is always 'Rex, Regulator, Roi'; or still better, ' King, Koenig,' which means Canning, Ableman."

And this same adaptive pursuit of the main thing has made of Cromwell's and Carlyle's England the First Power in Europe. As William Mathews has said: " The 'asthmatic skeleton' (William III.) who disputed, sword in hand, the bloody field of Landon, succeeded at last, without winning a single great victory, in destroying the prestige of his antagonist (Louis XIV.), exhausting his resources, and sowing the seeds of his final ruin, simply by the superiority of British patience and perseverance. So, too, in the war of giants waged with Napoleon, when all the great military powers of the continent went down before the iron flail of the 'child of destiny,' like ninepins, England wearied him out by her pertinacity, rather than by the brilliancy of her operations, triumphing by sheer dogged determination over the greatest master of combination the world ever saw."

It was identically this that led, in American history, to the surrender of Cornwallis to Washington, and to the last interview with Lee, a great soul, an heroic Christian fighter, a consummate " Can-ning man, Able-man."

To a Will of this sort defeats are merely new lights on reason, and difficulties are fresh gymnastics for development of colossal resolve, and discouragement's are the goading stimuli of titanic bursts of energy.

"By means of a cord, which passes from his artificial hand up his right coat-sleeve, then across his back, then down his left coat-sleeve to the remainder of his left arm, an American editor has achieved success. He is enabled to close the fingers of his artificial hand and grasp his pen. By keeping his left elbow bent, the tension of the string is continued, and the artificial fingers hold the pen tightly, while the editor controls its course over the paper by a movement of the upper arm and shoulder. By this means, without arms, he has learned to write with the greatest ease, and more rapidly and legibly than the average man of his age who has two good hands. For ten years, he has written with this mechanical hand practically all of the editorials, and a very large amount of the local and advertising matter that has gone into his paper."

" Suppose," said Lord Clarendon to Cyrus W. Field, talking about the proposed Atlantic Cable, " you don't succeed? Suppose you make the attempt and fail your cable is lost in the sea then what will you do? " " Charge it to profit and loss, and go to work to lay another."

To suppose the iron Will to fail is to suppose a contradiction of terms.

Perhaps no historic character has more perfectly illustrated this element of success than William of Orange, to whom Holland the Wonderful owes more than to any other son in her brilliant family. " Of the soldier's great virtues," writes Motley, " constancy in disaster, devotion to duty, hopefulness in defeat no ever possessed a larger share. That with no lieutenant of eminent valor or experience, save only his brother Louis, and with none at all after that chieftain's death, William of Orange should succeed in baffling the efforts of Alva, Requesens, Don John of Austria, and Alexander Farnese men whose names are among the most brilliant in the military annals of the world is in itself sufficient evidence of his war like ability."

These men, great and world-famed, were, however, men only. They were but Intellects working with the " King on his Throne." It is a statement which points every other man to his ultimate goal that they achieved through that common endowment, power of Will.

The conduct of life hinges on the strength and quality of Will more than any other factor. The cry for " opportunity " is essentially weak ; opportunity crowds upon the imperious Will. The mediocrity of men is too largely of their own creation.

Gladstone, with large faith in the " commoners," said truly :

"In some sense and in some effectual degree, there is in every man the material of good work in the world ; in every man, not only in those who are brilliant, not only in those who are quick, but in those who are stolid, and even in those who are dull."

Every normal educated man, deep in his heart believes that by the proper conduct of his life he can be-come great— or at least win a measure of success that puts him far ahead of the mediocre millions. But as " rest and inertia" is the law of matter, he gradually gives in to this law and is shackled by it. He be-comes, speaking " in the large," too lazy to forge on toward the higher goals. It is here that incessant use of will power is required..

" The education of the will should be begun, contradictory as it may seem, by assuring yourself you can do what you wish to do, and assuring yourself on the principles of auto-suggestion. Of course no amount of will-power can accomplish impossible aims. .. By `what you wish to do' we mean the ambitions proper to your intelligence and place in life. Not to set yourself an impossible task, is half the battle. A mighty will with no intelligence behind it is foiled everywhere ; and without scruple it becomes a menace to the world's peace. So ` choose right,' and move forwards."

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