Success by Lord Beaverbrook (Part 1 of 4)

[amazon-product align=”right” alink=”0000FF” bordercolor=”000000″ height=”240″ region=”us” tracking_id=”varsblah-20″]1612030165[/amazon-product]“Like all human affairs, success is partly a matter of predestination and partly of free will. You cannot make the genius, but you can either improve or destroy it, and most men and women possess the assets which can be turned into success.”

Everyone has different definitions of success. But what we all share is the desire for it. Success is what it takes to truly satisfy our minds. It gives us personal power, mastery over life, and the knowledge that we are creating something of value.

The three pillars of success are:

  1. Judgement – This is the “supreme quality” in the affairs of the world. Around it are other qualities like “the capacity to read the hearts of men, to draw an inexhaustible fountain of wisdom from every particle of experience in the past, and turn the current of this knowledge into the dynamic action of the future”.
  2. Industry – Since we aren’t born hardworking or lazy, industry needs to be developed and applied. This happens best through concentration (“the handmaiden of success”).
  3. Health – We can’t think clearly or work hard if our health is poor. That’s why this is the foundation of both judgement and industry. We need to work our bodies in moderation (too much can be as bad as too little) to promote good health.


“[A] man should be able to practise courage without arrogance and to walk humbly without fear. If he can accomplish the feat he will reap no material reward, but an immense harvest of inner wellbeing… He will have joined Justice to Mercy and added Humility to Courage, and in the light of this self-knowledge he will have attained the zenith of a perpetual satisfaction.”

Everyone also has different definitions of happiness. But contrary to popular belief, happiness and success are not inextricably linked. We may fail but remain happy (because “the spiritual and inner life is a thing apart from material success”). We may also succeed but stay miserable (because “a rampant ambition can be a torture”).

The three secrets of happiness are:

  1. To do justly – Justice, the easiest virtue to acquire, can be described as “honesty in practice and in intention”. It goes beyond fear of the law or the realisation that crime doesn’t pay because it’s a mental habit to honour your agreements and always be fair.
  2. To love mercy – Mercy can be described as a feeling of tenderness “springing out of harsh experience, as a flower springs out of a rock”. Anyone who’s had a tough time achieving success will easily sympathise with the underdog and lend a helping hand. However, mercy must be looked at with justice so it doesn’t turn into “weakness or folly”.
  3. To walk humbly – This is the hardest quality to master because it seems to go against our desire for success. Achievement (especially through “courage and conquest”) may attract arrogance. But we must never despise or look down on others. We must give credit where it’s due always avoid jealousy (“the passion which tears the heart”).


“Every man who believes in luck has a touch of the gambler in him, though he may never have played a stake. And from the point of view of real success in affairs the gambler is doomed in advance.”

Some critics believe the three pillars of success are missing the fourth pillar of luck. Yes, it’s luckier to be born rich than to be born poor, but the belief that people are inherently lucky is a dangerous delusion. It’s wrong to say that “success goes to those on whom Fortune smiles and defeat to those on whom she frowns” because it’s what we do with what we get that counts: “Far different will be the mental standpoint of the man who really means to succeed. He will banish the idea of luck from his mind. He will accept every opportunity, however small it may appear, which seems to lead to the possibility of greater things.”


“In this fierce turmoil of the modern world, [man] can only keep his judgement intact, his nerves sound, and his mind secure by the process of self-discipline, which may be equally defined as restraint, control, or moderation.”

Self-control is hard to find in a world of instant gratification. But we need to control our addictions and overindulges, no matter what they are for. This is especially true of technology: “Science has created vast populations and huge industries… Invention gives these gifts and compels man to use them. Man is as much the slave as the master of the machine.” Given that this book was written almost 100 years ago, I think it’s about time we took our lives back.

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