Self-Help by Samuel Smiles was a somewhat difficult read to me because of the time period it was published in. There were many unfamiliar words that were used that made me lose Smiles’ train of thought, though I wrote them down in my annotations. And some of the points seemed all over the place, while others were repeated just as The Secret by Rhonda Byrnes. The main ideas I got from reading these three chapters is that 1) being patient and actually working towards your goals will pay off, 2) anything someone else does you can do too, and 3) the home environment we grow up in shapes our lives.
In Chapter I: Self-Help –National and Individual, Smiles states we are where we are now through the thinking and actions of men. He pushes the idea that you don’t necessarily need to be a genius in order to do great work. To become successful in something you just need to push yourself and keep working at it. He kept repeating the idea that “a man perfects himself by work more than reading” (Smiles 22). And that the greatest contributors we know to science, literature, and art have mainly come from poor and humble beginnings– some with not much of an education. Smiles believes it is the difficulties these people have faced that have helped them fuel their work (Smiles 22-23). Outside of academics, what we do in our daily lives also plays a part in how successful we are.
In Chapter IV: Application and Perseverance, Smiles directly talks about the genius being. He says genius can be defined only as common sense intensified (Smiles 91). These individuals constantly work on the same ideas in order to fully grasp it, but they are also susceptible to their own share of hardships as anyone else is. This can be anything from having your years work of calculations being accidentally caught on fire like Isaac Newton or finding only bits and pieces of your 200 drawings because Norwegian rats chewed through them like John Audubon had (Smiles 96-97). Although frustrating, if they had given up at those points we wouldn’t see the hand they had in science and art respectively today. “To know how to wait is the great secret to success” (De Maistre 94). Another important idea in this chapter is “any man can do what any other man has done” (Dr. Young 96).
The extra chapter I chose to read was Chapter XII: Examples –Models. This chapter focuses again on how action will get you to where you want to be, but also how this is instilled in us as children, and how we are able to continue this cycle in our adult life. When we were younger we did many things because we saw the adults in our lives doing it. Seeing things leaves more of an impression than hearing and reading. We have always been led by example. As adults we need to surround ourselves with others just like us, or that are “better” than us. And we need to keep in mind that we are better off alone rather than be in bad company. Smiles says “good rules may do much, but good models far more; for in the latter we have instruction in action” (307).
I agree with this idea of surrounding yourself with like people because with them you won’t find that you are deterring from any goals you have set to achieve. You will also have others that will inspire you and motivate you to keep pushing forward when things get tough. Overall I believe this text was better than The Secret by Rhonda Byrnes because it’s more realistic and can be seen as relatable. The author Samuel Smiles is basically trying to push people to do what they want to do. He tells the stories of others so you won’t feel alone and he doesn’t make any promises that are out of reach.