By William Walker Atkinson;
It is with some hesitation that we bring ourselves to write this little book, entitled “The Secret of Success.” Not that we are not in sympathy with the subject – not that we do not believe that there is a “Secret of Success” – but because there has been so much written on the subject of “Success” that is the veriest twaddle – masses of platitudinous wordiness – that we hesitate to take the position of a teacher of Success. It is so easy to fill pages of paper with good advice – it is so much easier to say things than to do them – so much easier to formulate a code of precepts than to get out into the field of active endeavor and put into practice the same percepts. And, you may imagine why we hesitate to assume a role which would lay us open to the suspicion of being one of the “do as I tell you, and not as I do” teachers of the Art of Success. But there is another side of the question. There is, besides the mere recital of a List of Good Qualities Leading to Success – a list with which every schoolboy and reader of the magazines is acquainted – a Something Else; and that Something Else, is a suggestion that the Seeker for Success has a Something Within himself which if expressed into activity and action will prove of great value to him – a veritable Secret of Success, instead of a code of rules. And, so we propose to devote this little book to unfolding our idea of what this Something Within is, and what it will do for one who will unfold it and thus express it into action. So, therefore, do not expect to find this book a “Complete Compendium of Rules Conducive to Success, Approved of and Formulated by the Successful Men of the World who became acquainted with these Rules only after they had Attained Success, and consequently had Time and Inclination to Preach to Others.” This is not a book of that sort. It is Quite Different. We hope you will like it – it will do you good in any event. All people are striving and seeking Success. Their idea of Success may differ, but they have all agreed upon the desirability of Attainment. “Attainment”‐that is the word, which embodies the essence of that which we call Success. It is the “Getting‐There” idea – the idea of Attainment – of Reaching the Goal for which we set out. That is the story – Attainment. Many men and women have endeavored to point out the way to Success, and while some have rendered valuable service to those who were following them on the Path of Attainment, yet none have been able to tell the whole story of Success. And this is not to be wondered about, for the reason that on the road to Success each and every individual must be, in a measure a law unto himself, or herself. No two temperaments are exactly alike – Nature delights in variety; no two sets of circumstances are precisely the same – infinite variety manifests here also. And so it would be folly to attempt to lay down rules of universal application, which would surely lead all to the great goal of Success. One has but to look around him on all sides and see THE SECRET OF SUCCESS – BY WILLIAM WALKER ATKINSON 3 the different needs of the different individuals composing the crowd, in order to recognize the futility of any attempt to lay down lines of universal instruction on this subject. Each and every man who has succeeded has done so in a different way – generally along some original lines of action – in fact, the faculty or characteristic known as Individuality, seems to have played an important part in the success of the majority of persons who have attained it. And Individuality renders those possessing it to a marked degree to be likely to depart from any set of rules or laid‐out courses of action. And so, it may be stated as a general principle that each must work out his own Success along the lines of his own Individuality, rather than by following any set rule or line of conduct. In view of what we have just said, it may seem strange that feeling as we do we have ventured to write a little book entitled “The Secret of Success,” –particularly as we have started the said book by declaring the impossibility of laying down any set rules on the subject. This may seem like a paradox, but a little examination will show you that it is not so. It is true that we believe that each and every person must work out his own Success, along the lines of his own Individuality, instead of along some cut‐and‐dried plan. And right here is where the “Secret of Success” comes in. “Along the lines of his own individuality,” we have just said – then it must follow that one must possess Individuality before he may work along its “lines. “And in the measure that he possesses Individuality, so will he possess the first prerequisite to Success. And that is what we mean by “The Secret of Success” – INDIVIDUALITY. Every person possesses dormant and latent Individuality – but only a few allow it to express itself. The majority of us are like human sheep trotting along complacently after some self‐ assertive bellwether, whose tinkling bell serves to guide our footsteps. We have absorbed the notion somehow that these bellwethers possess the sum and substance of human knowledge and power, and ability to think – and instead of unfolding our own dormant powers, and latent possibilities, we allow them to remain in obscurity, and we trot along, jogitty‐joggity‐jog after our pet bellwether. People are very much like sheep in this way – they are obedient and imitative animals, and rather than assume the responsibility of directing their own footsteps, they wait until someone takes the lead, and then away they stampede after him. Is it any wonder that the leaders claim the choicest pickings for themselves, and allow the flock to get only the scrubby grass? Not a bit of it – they have earned the choice bits by reason of lock of Individuality and Initiative on the part of those following them – in fact, they were chosen as leaders because of this self‐assertive, and self‐directive quality. If they had stood back in a modest, mild manner, they would have been pushed aside by the flock that would disclaim them as leaders, in favor of others who knew how to push to the front. Now, in this little book we shall not endeavor to awaken a spirit of “bellwetherism” in you, nor to urge you to strive to lead the flock – there is nothing in the mere leading of people other than vainglory and petty self‐satisfaction. The desirable thing is to possess sufficient Individuality and Initiative to be your own bellwether – to be a law unto yourself, so far as other THE SECRET OF SUCCESS – BY WILLIAM WALKER ATKINSON 4 men are concerned. The great men – the strong men – care nothing for the flock, which so obediently trots along after them. They derive no satisfaction from this thing, which pleases only inferior minds, and gratifies only petty natures and ambitions. The big men – the great spirits of all ages – have derived more satisfaction from that inward conviction of strength and ability which they felt unfolding into activity within themselves, than in the plaudits of the mob, or in the servility of those imitative creatures who sought to follow in their footsteps. And, this thing called Individuality is a real thing. Inherent in each of us, and which may be developed and brought into activity in each one of us if we go about it right. Individuality is the expression of our Self – that Self which is what we mean when we say “I”. Each of us is an Individual – an “I” – differing from every other “I” in the universe, so far as personal expression is concerned. And in the measure that we express and unfold the powers of that “I”, so are we great, strong and successful. We all “have it in us” – it depends upon us to get it out into Expression. And, this Individual Expression lies at the heart of the “Secret of Success”. And that is why we use the term – and that is what we shall tell you about in this little book. It will pay for you to learn this “Secret”.