The Loch Ness Monster (Nessie to her friends and fans)
The World’s first self-help book was written in the Victorian era by Samuel Smiles. His brutal, down-with-fun-shut-up-and-get-on-with-it attitude made it a bestseller. Success was the aim, study and hard work the tools and failure was your fault! Smiles showed the working class how they could succeed with hard work and perseverance. A bestseller of its time, how does it stand up today?
#1 Tough Love
He was not the hugs and kindness type. He believed heaven helps those who help themselves. Success or failure was all up to you. In his view, difficulty separated the weak from the strong, trouble improved character, and if you failed to achieve you only had yourself to blame.
#2 Never Give Up
He said: “The battle of life is, in most cases, fought uphill and to win it without a struggle were perhaps to win it without honor.” He showed that many millionaires were self-made men who had started out from humble beginnings. He used the examples of the potter Josiah Wedgwood and the engineer George Stephenson to show how mistakes were often what led to success and how hard work could triumph over difficulty. The message was clear – if they could do it, so could you.
#3 Hard Work
He said that there was no shame in being poor, the only shame was not doing anything about it. Success was there for the taking, if you had the drive to succeed: “He who has lost all, but retains his courage, cheerfulness, hope, virtue, and self-respect, is still rich.” There was no shortcut or secret to success. It was simply endless hard work.
#4 No Time For Fun
He hated the ‘mania for frivolity and entertainment’. Eating and drinking, any little treat, even the act of reading came in for severe criticism from Smiles. They were all just a pointless waste of time and money when you could be helping yourself by…you’ve guessed it – working!
#5 A Women’s Place
He was not inclusive of women. His view on the women is illustrated by his example of a wife who makes sacrifices for her husband’s career. He admires her quote explaining her actions that: “I will never have it said that Ann Denman ruined John Flaxman for an artist.” Never mind what Ann Denman may have wanted to be!
Smiles had a big vision – to help men to help themselves, and so improve society. But he took doing it yourself to a whole new level – he even frowns on people for accepting help as to him success didn’t mean as much unless you got there by yourself. A product of the Victorian age, his is a rather masochistic way of helping yourself, but if you feel it would do you good, you can read his book here: