Fundamental to success in any vocation whatever is self-confidence. Unless a man believes firmly in his ability to succeed he can not achieve much. And, unfortunately, the tendency of many people is to personal underestimation. Looking about them, in fact, the generalty of men fix their gaze wonderingly on some outstanding figure in their line of work, some acknowledged leader.
"I wish I could do what he has done," they say to themselves. "But it is of course impossible. He had advantages I have never had. He was better endowed by inheritance than I, enjoyed a better education. Mine is a pigmy mind compared with his. He is a born genius. That is why he has prospered."
This is the attitude consciously or unconsciously taken by most people. Nor is it surprizing, in view of the belittling influences to which many are subjected from their earliest days. In childhood, their natural aptitudes unstudied, they are pitchforked into a rigid educational system making next to no allowance for individual trends. Parents and teachers, finding them "misfits" in such a system, but not appreciating the desirability of modifying the system, combine not so much to help them as to fill their minds with ideas of inferiority.
They are reproached for their "dullness." Other children who happen to fit better into the school curriculum are extolled as superior beings certain to travel fast and far, while they, the inferiors, lag behind.
Later the terrible teachings of the heredity fanatics impinge upon them with crushing force. They now know what is the matter with them. If they did not get along in school and they unmistakably did not; it was because they were born in some degree mentally defective. The best they can hope for is to earn a difficult living in a subordinate role. Thus influenced to disbelieve in themselves they are fated to mediocrity and obscurity unless a happy chance intervene as it often does to awaken them to a belated realization that they can accomplish more than they have thought possible.
Otherwise they continue to flounder, continue futilely to marvel at their more successful fellows more successful largely for the reason that they have refused to acknowledge inferiority, and have, through good fortune and ill, clung to the belief that they have it in them to succeed.
"I can and I will," has been the creed of the victorious, whatever their origin, whatever the blessing or the blight of their heredity. With "I can and I will" they have climbed to the heights, even despite the handicap of a family history that would fill an eugenist with dismay.
"Of course there are limits," as the wise William James once pointed out. "The trees don't grow into the sky. But the plain fact remains that men the world over possess amounts of resource which only very exceptional individuals push to their extremes of use." This doctrine of unused resources, of hidden powers, accessible to all if all would but learn to make use of them, is indeed one of the most important of modern psychological findings. And it is not based on theory merely.
It is borne out by an abundance of facts of every-day observation and by the results of scientific researches which go to show, more specifically, that there is in the depths of every person's mind what may figuratively be described as both a storehouse wherein are lastingly preserved all of life's experiences, and also a factory for the creation of ideas. Psychologists call this wonderful region of the mind the subconscious, and for the past quarter of a century many of them have been industriously exploring it.