Exploring Ourselves

Elias Lieberman, a New York Times columnist and Vice President of the Poetry Society of America, points out that:

“Henrik Ibsen, the famous Norwegian playwright whose powerful social dramas have stirred so much discussion, makes this interesting comment in his autobiography: ‘When I see a clerk behind the counter or a common laborer in the mines, I look upon him as a Lincoln or a Beethoven in the making. Indeed, he may possess the potentialities of a transfigured genius or a saint, a martyr, or a hero… a poet or a statesman.’

“For lack of ambition, vision, and especially perseverance, many persons are content to remain negligible fractions of their possible selves.

“I do not stress opportunity, although it is an important factor in achieving what the world calls ‘success,’ because men and women with vision and the courage to keep going under difficulties somehow attract opportunities as a magnet attracts iron filings.

“It must be pointed out as a psychological truism that the average person utilizes only a pitifully small part of his mind-power during his lifetime. Our minds are gold mines which give up their treasures only to those who have confidence in themselves and are willing to work hard. Neglect is fatal as well as wasteful. For want of a little directed effort, a student is content to receive a passing mark when he might be outstanding. A clerk with uncultivated abilities remains a routine subordinate when, with the help of further study and by using his evenings to advantage, he might aspire to an important post calling for initiative and specialized knowledge.

“Too often in such cases, self-pity follows — a debilitating emotion which must never be encouraged.”

Why should a person feel self-pity when his opportunities are as great as anyone else’s?

The trouble comes from a lack of exploring ourselves, our environments, and our opportunities.

If a person doesn’t like what he’s getting from life, he should examine what he’s giving. He’ll find that the getting and the giving generally match up pretty well. Today, there are millions who could have so much more, know so much more, if they would just explore their potentialities for greater service.

If they would but learn that anyone who contributes to prosperity must prosper in turn and that you can’t get rich without enriching others.

In answer to this, you’ll occasionally hear an uninformed person say, “Well, what about the big-shot crooks, the gamblers, the overlords of crime in this country? They make millions!” Do they? Maybe for a while — but check off the list and see how they wind up. They wind up with a bomb wired to their car’s starter, a load of buckshot in the back of the head, in prison, or in exile. That kind of so-called success doesn’t last. And even if it did, from a tangible standpoint, this kind of individual rots out from the center and dies as miserable as he lived. He’s to be pitied, even as he’s hunted and rooted out.

Everything we could possibly want can be ours — if we’ll make up our minds to go after it through our own potential.

If you like adventure and lots of surprises, start exploring that last great unexplored continent on earth — your own mind and abilities.

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