Prosperity Chapter VII
How To Increase Your Ability
Prosperity Chapter VII:
A prominent business man says that the best contract he ever got was
one he lost.
Why? Because it set him to investigating the cause of the loss, to
investigating himself, to finding the weak places in himself and in his
business methods. It was the lost contract that led him to the discovery
that he was not using more than half the ability he actually possessed.
Most people rob themselves of success and fortune by mistaken ideas about their ability.
They are like a young stenographer who told me that if she had the
ability to become an expert in her line, she would go to evening school,
study nights, and do everything she could to improve her education and
to develop herself in all possible ways.
But as she was sure that she had only a very moderate share of ability,
she was convinced that there was no use in trying, and that she must be
satisfied with an ordinary position. In other words, she believed that
her ability was a fixed quantity; something which could not be enlarged
or diminished, which she could not change in any respect any more than
she could change the color of her hair or of her eyes.
Now, the idea that our ability is an invariable quantity, fixed by
heredity, or by some immutable law which we can neither understand nor
control, is one of the most unfortunate that could take possession of
anyone's mind. And nothing could be farther from the truth, for, as a
matter of fact, human ability is a very variable and a very elastic
quantity. It can be expanded almost indefinitely, or contracted, in a
great many ways.
Human ability is like an accordion, which the player sometimes draws
out to its full extent, and again closes completely. For instance, you
can close up your accordion by wrong thinking until but a mere fraction
of your possible ability is available, or you can open it up by right
thinking and make every bit of it count in making your work, your life, a
Multitudes of people go through life with their actual ability so
cramped, so muzzled and suffocated by their negative, destructive mental
attitude, their doubts, fears, worries, superstitions and preconceived
ideas, their lack of courage, their lack of faith in themselves and in
their mission, that they make but a very small percentage of it count in
their life work, even when they make a supreme effort to do so.
Everywhere we see men and women, hard workers, who do not
accomplish a tenth of what they could accomplish, with half the effort
and half the time they now expend, if they would only keep their minds
in a positive, creative condition, and face life in the right way.
While the development and sharpening of the different mental
faculties is the first essential to the increase of our natural ability,
it is a mistake to think that all of our ability expansion is dependent
It doesn't matter what amount of natural ability you have, if it is
unavailable, bottled up by your pessimism, your doubts, your fears, your
cowardice and lack of faith, it is useless to you.
If you had a valuable gold mine on your property, and, instead of
clearing away all obstructions to get at the ore you should add a lot
more, your gold mine wouldn't add one particle to your available wealth.
Potentially you had an immense fortune, but so far as you were
concerned it might just as well not be there, for you derived no benefit
from gold you could not get at and exchange for the good things of life
that you desired.
It is just the same with your ability. If instead of doing everything
in your power to make it available, to give it outlet, you shut it up
within you, covering it over with all sorts of mental obstructions, it
will never expand," will never yield you anything.
assurance, faith in one's mission, enthusiasm in one's work, optimism,
courage, joy, open up the ability accordion wonderfully. Fear, anger,
envy, prejudice, jealousy, worry, smallness, meanness, selfishness,
- O.S. Marden
The majority of people are in the position of a man who went out to
water his garden, but inadvertently stepped on the hose, shutting off
the water supply. He had a big hose and was very much annoyed, very much
disappointed, because he was getting only a mere dribble of water when
he had every right to expect — and should get: — a liberal flow. Water
was at the source in abundance, ready to supply his needs; only one
thing was at fault, the man himself was pinching his supply, limiting it
to a miserable drizzle. He was standing on the hose and didn't know it.
That is literally what all who are living in grinding poverty are
doing. They are pinching their supply by stepping upon the hose through
which plenty would come to them. They are stopping the flow of
abundance that is their birthright, by their doubts, their fears, their
unbelief; by visualizing poverty, thinking poverty, acting as if they
never expected to have anything, to accomplish anything, or to be
Many of us think if we only had some other person's talent or
opportunities; if we only had the advantages of some other fellows near
us; if only we were superbly equipped with facilities for our particular
work, that we would do wonderful things. Now, the Creator never sent
anyone into this world without equipping him with just the tools
required for the job He meant him to do, the job which He qualified him
in every respect to do. He didn't sharpen the tools for us, because if
He had done that He would have deprived us of the very thing that is
designed for our expansion and growth.
It is by drawing out all that is in us, by bettering our work each
day, by overcoming obstacles, clearing away the rubbish and mental
debris that evoke our growth, and always reaching up to the attainment
of our highest ideal, that, day by day, we unfold layer after layer of
the wealth of ability that is enfolded in every human being, no matter
what his apparent disabilities or handicaps.
Helen Keller is, perhaps, one of the most remarkable examples the
world has ever seen of the power of the determined soul to overcome
everything that stands in the way of its complete development. Deaf,
dumb, and blind at the age of eighteen months, what opportunity was
there for a human being so handicapped to do anything of value in the
world; to become anything other than a despair to herself, a hopeless,
helpless burden on her relatives?
Yet out of her world of darkness the indomitable spirit within
evolved a being of such remarkable ability and power that there are few
today who are rendering greater service to humanity than this woman who,
apparently, at the outset of life was hopelessly handicapped. She is a
wonderful illustration of the truth that there is no limit to man's
development, and no insuperable obstacles to his development except
those he himself puts in his way.
The eagle is the mightiest and most powerful of all the feathered
tribe. It can fly higher and remain longer on the wing than any other
bird. Yet if this monarch of the air were held captive, tied by one of
its feet to a huge ball or heavy weight, it could not fly as high as a
barnyard fowl. No matter how strong its natural instincts to soar into
the heavens, it could not move from the earth.
Now, like the eagle, man was made to fly high, to do great things,
but multitudes of people spend their lives doing little things instead
of the big things they are capable of doing because of something which
chains their ability and holds them down in an inferior position.
There is a vast amount of unproductive ability in the great failure
army today, which was never given an opportunity to fulfill the purposes
for which the Creator meant it. Some of the most pitiable instances of
spoiled lives I know of are those of men and women of middle age who
really have the ability to do something large and grand, but who have
failed to do so because of their unwillingness to make sacrifices in
youth for the sake of their ambition. Love of ease enchained their
faculties and held them prisoners until their ambition died and they
lost even their desire to fly.
"The perpetual taunting and haunting of unsatisfied ambition, the
consciousness that one has the ability to do the bigger thing, but is
obliged to do the lesser because one did not early in life persist in
following the path that led to the bigger; to feel cramped and limited
in a little seven-by-nine situation in middle life or later, when one
knows that he has the natural ability to fill an infinitely bigger
place, is a hell on earth."
- Orison Swett Marden
Prosperity Chapter VII , continued...
Some people are tied down by bad physical or mental habits, which
make it impossible for them to put their best selves into their work.
There is a constant leakage of energy and vital force, resulting from
preventable causes, which hinders their progress at every step and
makes their ability unavailable. Others are held down by character
traits or peculiarities of disposition which handicap all their success
qualities and neutralize their efforts to advance. A quick temper, a
jealous, envious disposition, lack of faith and self-confidence,
vacillation, bashfulness, timidity, carelessness, inaccuracy and a host
of other faults and weaknesses seriously hamper the development of their
ability and act like weights in holding them down when they are eager
to go up higher.
Whatever causes inharmony in the mind robs us of power and hinders our
advancement. If you would gain control of all your resources and
increase your ability, avoid as you would poison everything that tends
to make you negative, — worry, anxiety, jealousy, envy, fear, cowardice,
the whole family of depressing, despondent thoughts. They are all
confessions of weakness, and may be summed up as power destroyers.
Every fit of the blues, every unhappy thought, every feeling of
discouragement, of despondency, every doubt, every fear, is a crippler
of ability. In other words, our ability is extremely sensitive to our
moods, to our mental condition generally.
When we don't feel like it, when we are out of sorts, when for one
reason or another we feel blue, discouraged, despondent, full of doubt
and anxiety, our ability is very much contracted. On the other hand,
when we are in good trim, when our minds are harmonious, not anxious or
worried about anything, it is enormously, expanded. That is, all the
positive, uplifting, encouraging, cheerful emotions and feelings expand
or increase our ability, while all of the negative, depressing,
discouraging, gloomy ones contract or lessen it.
This shows that after we have done everything in our power to
increase our ability by education, by training for our special work, by
sharpening and improving our natural gifts and faculties in every
possible way, we can yet so contract or expand it by our mental
attitude, that it is safe to say nine-tenths of its availability depends
upon our state of mind at any given time.
We all know how our ability is enlarged by a sublime self-confidence,
an unwavering faith, and how it is lessened by the lack of faith in
ourselves, by self-depreciation, by timidity, and lack of courage.
You know how much bigger a man you are, how much more capable of
planning and doing things, when your courage is up and you believe in
yourself, than when you are blue and discouraged. You know from
experience that your consciousness of ability expands so you feel as
though you could tackle almost anything. Make this your habitual state
of mind and your ability will always be available, always at its
On the other hand, hold a poor opinion of yourself, refuse to assume
responsibility, always berate yourself and belittle your powers, and if
you had the natural ability of a Plato you would never amount to
anything. This sort of mental attitude holds down more real ability,
keeps more deserving merit in mediocre positions, than perhaps any other
handicap in the gamut of human disabilities.
Multitudes who have excellent mental endowments and splendid traits
of character remain practically nobodies all their lives because of
timidity, a sense of inferiority, a doubting, self-depredating attitude
toward themselves. Others with half their natural ability forge ahead,
make fortunes, attain places of power and influence, while they remain
in poverty and obscurity.
Everywhere in life the timid, retiring, self-effacing man is placed
at a tremendous disadvantage, mentally, socially and in a business and
professional way. People may be sorry for him, they may pity him, and
his friends may say he has great ability and splendid traits of
character; but this is not enough. Lacking self-confidence, push,
assurance, the courage to demonstrate his ability to the world, he will
not win out in anything in a large way. His mean opinion of himself will
neutralize a large percentage of his real ability.
Every man has more ability than he thinks he has, more than he ever
uses ordinarily. Under the impulse of a strong motive, a new stimulus to
exertion, or having a great responsibility thrust upon us, being put in
a situation where we must either sink or swim, there isn't one among us
that wouldn't respond to the demand and unfold an amount of ability
which we never before dreamed we possessed.
Some men's ability lies so deep that they are never at their best
except in a great crisis. Then the giant in them is unshackled, and
great powers, of which they themselves were ignorant, are unlocked
Responsibility is a great ability developer. We often see a
good example of this when a young man is taken into partnership in a
large concern. His initiative, his executive force, his courage, all the
ability-expanding qualities, are so strengthened by the stimulus of
promotion that he goes ahead and does things that he did not dream he
could ever accomplish when he was an employee.
"Our ability is as
sensitive to our moods, our feelings, our mental attitudes, as the
mercury is to the changes of the weather or a weather-vane is to the
currents of air."
Now, taking him into partnership did not add to his latent ability at
all, but it gave him more confidence in himself, and the fact that he
is put on his mettle to make good in the new position compels him to
draw on his ability to the limit, and he does make good. Never side-step a responsibility. It is throwing away an opportunity to enlarge your ability.
If an Edison should invent an instrument by means of which it would
be possible for men and women to increase their natural ability fifty
percent, there is no price we would not be willing to pay for such an
instrument. Yet there isn't a man or woman, a boy or girl, living today
who can't do this by right thinking, facing life the right way, and
using the opportunities that are at hand.
Right where you are, no matter what your environment, whatever
your disadvantages or handicaps, you have enough ability to make you a
success in whatever you desire to do; to lift you out of lack and
poverty and make you a millionaire.
Expand your ability; do everything that will enable you to stretch
your accordion to its limit, and you will be amazed at what you can
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