Success by Lord Beaverbrook (Part 4 of 4)

[amazon-product align=”right” alink=”0000FF” bordercolor=”000000″ height=”240″ region=”us” tracking_id=”varsblah-20″]1612030165[/amazon-product]Last week, in the third part of this review, we covered the balance of courage, the danger of fear, the beauty of depression, the purpose of failure, and the trouble with consistency.


“Prejudice is a mixture of pride and egotism, and no prejudiced man, therefore, will be happy.”

Prejudice destroys judgement and is the sign of a narrow mind.  Yes, it can be beneficial in preserving tradition, but it prevents us from embracing change. Getting rid of prejudice is like breaking “an iron ring which binds the mind”. It’s about getting over the sense of “us versus them”, whoever “they” happen to be.


“[Happiness] is the result of material surroundings and a state of the inner mind. It is, therefore, in some form or another, at once the consequence of achievement and a sense of calm.”

Being calm has many benefits in business and in life. That’s why we should all pursue a state of calm instead of constantly striving for greater achievements. We should also make time for our interests, whether in public service or art. Our lives will be much better if we do.


“He who buys Success, reads and digests its precepts, will find this inspiring volume a sure will-tonic… It will put such spring and go into him that he will make a determined start on that road which, pursued with perseverance, leads onwards and upwards to the desired goal – SUCCESS.”

Lord Beaverbrook wrote a weekly series of articles for a major newspaper almost 100 years ago. The articles were so popular that he eventually turned them into this book. Since they were never meant to appear as one manuscript, the material sometimes gets repetitive and some of the chapters don’t fit well with the rest. But, as a whole, this book is nicely put together.

Success was written specifically for British men at the start of their careers. Beaverbrook advised them to “succeed young and retire as young as you can”. That’s basically what he did. After publishing his first newspaper at 13, he went on to build a powerful media empire. He was close friends with Winston Churchill, published scandalous details of King Edward VIII’s affair, and gave his son the control of two newspapers as birthday gifts. I guess Rupert Murdoch isn’t so unique after all!

Beaverbrook, who was knighted at 32, believed success was only for the young. “A man who has not succeeded in the field before middle-age comes upon him,” he writes, “will never succeed in the fundamental sense of the term. An honourable and prosperous career may, indeed, lie before him, but he will never reach the heights. He will just go on from year to year, making rather more or rather less money, by toil to which only death or old age will put a term.” I completely disagree. Yes, it’s better to start sooner when you have the flexibility to bounce back from your mistakes, but there’s no reason why you can’t succeed at any stage. Maybe things were different in his time, but nowadays it’s never too late to try.

He also believed that athleticism was a “hopeless career” that ended in “failure, satiety, or impotence”. Since modern athletes make a fortune, it seems he’s wrong again. But he’s not. All he’s saying is that sport isn’t everything. An athlete shouldn’t believe that “in kicking a goal he has won the game of life”. Beaverbrook is also warning against athletes who think they’ll be stars in everything they do, which isn’t always the case. Ultimately, we can still enjoy sport, as long as we don’t take it too far: “Play tennis or golf once a day and you may be famous; play it three times a day and you will be in danger of being thought a professional – without the reward.”

I found his attack on Monte Carlo quite amusing. It’s probably come a long way from the days of “three badly lighted tennis courts complete with thirty splendidly furnished casino rooms”, but his thoughts on luck are still true. Take the lottery. The media loves to publicise stories of those who strike it rich (like the Scottish couple who won £161m million and were silly enough to go public) but ignores the fact that so many spend what little money they have and never win. And nobody points out that what the lottery collects in sales more than pays for the jackpot and other prizes. “The laws of games of chance are as inexorable as those of the universe,” Beaverbrook writes. “A skilful player will, in the long run, defeat a less skilful one; the bank at Monte Carlo will always beat the individual if he stays long enough.” And since there’s no skill in winning the lottery, perhaps playing is not smart. Yes, you can do it for fun, but it should never be your only plan for financial freedom.

This isn’t to say luck doesn’t exist; it’s just not quite luck as we know it. “[Certain] men possess a kind of sixth sense in the realm of speculative enterprise,” Beaverbrook writes. “These men, it is said, know by inherent instinct, divorced from reasoned knowledge, what enterprise will succeed or fail, or whether the market will rise or fall… But, in truth, they have absorbed, through a careful and continuous study of events both in the present and the past, so much knowledge, that their minds reach a conclusion automatically, just as the heart beats without any stimulus from the brain.” He concludes: “Nothing except Judgement and Industry, backed by Health, will ensure real and permanent success. The rest is sheer superstition.”

Ultimately, this book can be summed up in three words: everyone can succeed. It doesn’t matter if you’re poor because “no bar has been set there to prevent poverty rising to the heights of wealth and power, if the man were found equal to the task”. It doesn’t even matter if you’re uneducated because “the ladder of education is rapidly reaching a perfection which enables a man born in a cottage or a slum attaining the zenith of success and power”.

We live in a world of unlimited opportunity. What will you do with it?

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