Have you ever heard of Orison Swett Marden? I’ll confess I had not. Upon consulting Uncle Google I discovered he was born in 1848 in a place called Thornton Gore, New Hampshire, a place so humble it is no more. Three years after his birth, Orison’s mother died. Another four years after that, his father also died as the result of an accident. Thus, at the tender age of seven, Orison became an orphan.
Shortly thereafter Orison’s childhood appeared to be over as he became a “hired boy” working for a number of families in exchange for his keep. Most of us in the western world in this day and age find it difficult to imagine a seven- year old having to get out and work. Most of us will attest that’s it’s pretty difficult to get the modern seven-year old off the computer let alone having to labour day in and day out.
I suppose such an experience could have defined Orison – and not in a good way. He could have been bitter and resentful for the hand life dealt him. At the very least he could easily have faded into obscurity. Yet Orison was not destined to merely remain a farm hand. In fact the fountain of all knowledge, Wikipedia, notes, “Marden’s young manhood was marked by remarkable energy and unbroken achievement.” We learn that, by his early thirties, Orison had undertaken university studies in the areas of science, arts, medicine and law before going into the hotel business.
Why, I hear you ask, the interest in Mr. O. S. Marden? Because I came across this quote from him:
"Deep within you dwell those slumbering powers;
forces that would revolutionise your life if
aroused and put into action."
This thought quite grabbed me, not least because most of us, if expecting some sort of revolution, figure such radical change will come from external sources. The Cinderella-waiting-for-someone-to-come-and-set-her-free scenario springs to mind. Yet Orison Marden thought otherwise. He raises the theory that revolution comes from within and all that’s required is to arouse those “slumbering powers” hidden deeps within us.
On reading more about O.S.M. I discovered that, as a teenager, he’d been inspired by the writings of Scottish author Samuel Smiles. This jovial sounding man had written (and self-published) a book called Self Help that extolled the virtues of hard work, thrift and perseverance. Marden took these principles to heart and applied them to his own life. It clearly helped him push on through several failed businesses. It perhaps also helped him recover from the setback of narrowly escaping a hotel fire in nothing but his nightshirt, in which he lost over 5,000 pages of manuscripts.
The loss of all that work also did not deter. In fact O.S.M went on to write over fifty books and leaflets and to found SUCCESS magazine, a publication that still exists to this day, albeit in digital form. His book Pushing to the Front (1894) helped inspire people such as Theodore Roosevelt, William Gladstone, Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. He’s considered to be something of a founding father in the field of self-help and motivation.
And my point? Perhaps it lies in this question: what are your slumbering powers? And how, as we sit on the eve of a new year, do each of us wake these powers up and start a revolution – to effectively make our lives count while we live and breathe?
I admit to not having read Pushing to the Front to find out. But perhaps a clue lies in a quote from another famous author, Ralph Waldo Emerson, who says:
"To accomplish excellence or anything outstanding, you must listen to that whisper which is heard by you alone."
So as 2018 arrives let me encourage you to take some time to listen out for whispers. I know I will be. And, in doing so, who knows? We might just start a revolution.
Coming soon. . .