Make a Start

“When one thinks of the thousands who have succeeded without even a ghost of a chance, we in this glorious age of progress ought to feel ashamed. My friend, are you discouraged? Do you think your lot is hard That times are not like they used to be, or that you have no chance? Let me urge you to stand up in the strength of your own vitality, and resolve with all the power in your being that there will be one more light, one more guide-post, one more successful life; that, if someone has to fail, that someone shall not be you.

There isn’t a profession that hasn’t been glorified by someone who at first was no greater than you. I care not what your occupation may be, you can make such a start, and follow that start with such a future, and such a life, that you will have immortalized your name, and made for yourself a monument that will reach the sky.

Don’t wait until you are a Napoleon before you begin. You might as well wait until you become a skillful swimmer before going into the water. It’s waiting to do something great, or waiting to make up your mind, or waiting to get good and ready, that finds people getting old without a purpose.

All the magnificent conflicts, defeats and victories, and nearly all the preparation, come after the start. The start is the supreme moment-the supreme test of strength.

Thousands are standing on the bank shivering instead of jumping in and becoming warm by their own activity in the water. Thousands never start because they are afraid they can’t make a go of it. Thousands more never start because they don’t see ahead to the reward. And thousands never start because they think they haven’t been offered enough for their services.

One reason is as bad as another. What difference does it make to the dead person whether they were killed intentionally or by accident? What difference does it make why one doesn’t start if they never do?

Are you disheartened? Are you afraid to make a start for fear that you will fail, and your subsequent condition be worse than your first? Such feelings are common to all successful women and men, for they have all had their misgivings at times. But every person has success within themselves, and to start is to win half the battle. A start toward usefulness is a start that no one has ever yet made in vain. Every person and every genius in all history started before they could actually do the thing. We learn by doing, and we learn in no other way.”

-George H. Knox

A Defeated General

“Defeat is bitter. Bitter to the common soldier, but trebly bitter to his general. The soldier may comfort himself with the thought that, whatever the result, he has done his duty faithfully and steadfastly, but the commander has failed in his duty if he has not won victory, for that is his duty. He has no other comparable to it. He will go over in his mind the events of the campaign. ‘Here,’ he will think, ‘I went wrong; here I took counsel of my fears when I should have been bold; there I should have waited to gather strength, not struck piecemeal; at such a moment I failed to grasp opportunity when it was presented to me.’ He will remember the soldiers whom he sent into the attack that failed and who did not come back. He will recall the look in the eyes of the men who trusted him. ‘I have failed them,’ he will say to himself, ‘and failed my country!’ He will see himself for what he is, a defeated general. In a dark hour he will turn in upon himself and question the very foundations of his leadership and manhood. And then he must stop! For if he is ever to command in battle again, he must shake off those regrets, and stamp on them, as they claw at his will and his self-confidence. He must beat off these attacks he delivers against himself, and cast out the doubts born of failure. Forget them, and remember only the lessons to be learned from defeat. They are more than from victory.”

-William Slim