Napoleon Hill

The Master Key to Success


Tenth Principle: Learning from Adversity and Defeat




Our tenth visit brings us to one of the strangest of the 17 principles of success, because it is the principle which makes it possible for you to convert into an asset, every adversity, every disappointment, every defeat and every failure you meet with from now on the remainder of your life.


Yes, the principle of learning from adversity makes it possible for you to transmute all your past failures and mistakes into an asset, which will help you achieve outstanding success in the future.


At the very outset of this visit, I wish to call your attention to an important fact, which may give you immediate possession of the great master key to success.


Namely, that your positive mental attitude is the only means by which you may convert adversities, defeats and the failures, into assets.


It seems to have been intended, that everyone should experience adversities, defeats and even failures, as a part of nature's method of disciplining people to learn how to take possession of their own minds.


But the creator very wisely provided everyone with the means for converting these experiences into benefits of a priceless value.


The means being our privilege of maintaining and directing a positive mental attitude.


Despite the benefits, which we may get from adversities and unpleasant experiences of every nature, no one desires to meet with these experiences.


Once you learn that adversities can be made to pay dividends, you will acquire the habit of looking for that seed of an equivalent benefit in each such experience with which you meet.


My first illustration concerns a man of whom you may have heard. And I have no doubt you have eaten some of the food which he produced and marketed throughout the nation as a result of an adversity which would have stopped most men cold.


The man was Milo C Jones who owned a small farm near Fort Atkinson Wisconsin, on which he made only a fair living, until he was stricken down with double paralysis, which deprived him of every portion of his body except his brain.


In this hour of his greatest adversity, Milo C Jones used his mind, took possession of it for the first time in his life perhaps and out of that mind came the idea of raising hogs and converting them into little pig sausage.


And on that same farm, where previous to that adversity he made only a mere living, he found the seed of an equivalent benefit that compensated him for the loss of the use of his body and lived to see little pig sausage yield him a huge fortune.


Isn't it strange, that so often people have to be cut down by a failure and defeat, before they learned that they have minds capable of mastering all of their problems.


My next illustration is based on an adversity of a man whom we all know, because he was President of the United States. And his name was Franklin D Roosevelt, who was stricken in the prime of his life with polio, which destroyed the use of his legs.


Instead of sitting on a street corner with a tin cup and some red pencils as many another might have done under similar circumstances, Franklin D Roosevelt transmuted his affliction into a buildup of his self-reliance and lifted himself to the highest position available to mankind anywhere on this earth. Got that position and held it until he passed on. Held it longer than had any previous president.


Verily I tell you what all the enthusiasm at my command, that you may find in your adversities the necessary challenge to inspire you on to success, such as you never would have known without these experiences.


Right here, may I remind you of the great importance of following the principle of a positive mental attitude, because this is the principle you will need most in converting unpleasant experiences into assets.


My next illustration involves a very intimate personal experience of my own, which began when my mother passed on. I was eight years of age. I know that the loss of one's mother at any age, usually is regarded as an irreparable loss, which offers no possible benefits.


But even in the loss of loved ones, we may find that there is a seed of an equivalent benefit.


I found that seed in one of the most wonderful persons I have ever known, when my father brought home my new mother. It was she, who inspired me to prepare myself for the opportunity I was to receive later in life, when I met Andrew Carnegie and received from him the Commission to organize the world's first practical philosophy of personal success.


Had it not been for the loss of my mother, I would not now be having this visit with you and my books would not now be serving to help millions of people throughout the world to find their places in life.


Nothing is ever so bad or so unpleasant that it may not yield some benefit, if we keep a positive mental attitude toward the experience and make it a habit to look for that seed of an equivalent benefit.


This of course involves the application of that important success principle of personal Initiative.


Now I come to an illustration which involves our great American Way of life and all the personal freedom and opportunities we enjoy under our way of life.


And it begins with our defeat of the British in 1778. Probably every British believed that the loss of the American colonists was an irreparable loss, which offered no possible benefits. Yet you and I know that if we had not defeated the British and made ourselves rich and powerful, the British Empire probably would have been wiped out in World Wars 1 or 2.


We know also that although the British Empire survived those two wars, it was our financial help which saved the British from starvation and bankruptcy. So today every British should give thanks for the defeat of Lord Cornwallises armies because that defeat finally became the means of survival of the British Empire.


My next illustration brings us face to face with an adversity, which involves you and I and every other person now living.


I have reference to the trend in this and all other countries to rob individuals of their rights of personal freedom. A trend which is in direct violation of the obvious purpose of the Creator to give every individual the privilege of freedom of thought and action.


There is something, that you are I can do about this common trend to rob us of our rights of personal freedom.


We cannot turn it back entirely by our individual efforts, but we can and we should do something about it where it affects us individually and where we know what we can do and how we can do it.


Of course you will ask, what can I do to influence a world trend?  And I shall answer by saying, there is something definite that you can do. You can refuse to accept this common trend and take full possession of your own mind, thus fulfilling your personal responsibility to your Creator.


Remember those two sealed envelopes I mentioned in a previous visit. One of them is labelled, riches you may enjoy by taking possession of your own mind. Very well, you have a responsibility to yourself, your loved ones, your Creator, to take possession of your own mind and to direct it to aims of your own choice.


This responsibility is yours and no one else can rob you of it or fulfil it for you. You also have a responsibility to your country, which has given you our great American Way of life, our great system of free enterprise, which is so designed as to provide one with every possible motive for taking possession of his own mind and writing his own ticket in life.


It is definitely a part of the overall plan of the universe, to give man the benefit only of those blessings he recognizes, embraces and uses constructively.


Tie your arm to your side and take it out of use and nature rebels immediately by causing the arm to atrophy, wither and become useless.


Neglect to keep in contact with your friends and to cultivate them and you lose them.


Show indifference to the patrons from whom you earn your living or the employer who pays your wages, and very soon you find yourself without a market for your services.


It is an inevitable law of nature, that you lose that which you do not use.


And of course this applies to the use of your own mind the same as to everything else.


And we, who so often vowes that we are citizens of the richest the greatest and the most powerful nation civilization has yet produced, will do well to remember this law, through which we lose, that which we do not properly use.


In this visit, I have brought you what may be a surprise or even a shock, by introducing this great principle of profiting by adversity.


If you are ready for this principle you will embrace it at once and never again as long as you live, will you brood over unpleasant experiences without knowing full well ,that your efforts could be better employed by searching for that seed of an equivalent benefit which is available in those experiences.


Now before I conclude this visit, I shall give you this assignment, which if you carry it out sincerely, may well bring you a new birth of opportunity, such as you never dreamed of experiencing.


Go back into your past experiences, study each adversity and failure you may have experienced, and look for that seed of an equivalent benefit you had not before discovered. And you may find yourself richer than you believed yourself to be.


And now until our next visit, just remember, nothing can be called failure until you accept it as such.

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