Reaching Higher

Bill Abbate

Now and then, you can find treasure in the wisdom of a historic figure. This wisdom is in the form of a quote from a great American. Let’s look at the secret it provides for becoming one of the few at the top of society.

The father of American literature

There is nothing quite like the feeling of coming across a piece of wisdom that speaks volumes throughout the ages.

While reading one of my favorite books, Thoughts on the Business of Life, I came across the following words from none other than Mark Twain, one of my favorite writers.

“The miracle, or the power, that elevates the few is to be found in their industry, application, and perseverance under the prompting of a brave, determined spirit.” Mark Twain (1835–1910)

Twain worked hard to earn his well-deserved reputation as one of America’s best and most beloved writers. He was proclaimed America’s greatest humorist, with books written by many authors about his life. The well-known author William Faulkner considered Twain, “the father of American literature.”

Twain was a remarkable man, an entrepreneur, and known for his many lectures. He was an early solo performer of humorous talks, a forerunner to modern stand-up comedy!

Twian led a storied life, with jobs ranging from a riverboat pilot, prospector, printer, newspaper reporter, lecturer, author, and publisher. A little-known fact about twain is he served in the militia during the civil war for two weeks before his regiment disbanded. He soon headed west away from the war.

Let’s look a little closer at this gem of a quote and how it applies to life today.

The miracle formula for becoming one of the few

Twain’s quote contains what I consider to be a secret formula for success and achievement. It tells you exactly how to elevate yourself to become one of the top few. Let’s break the quote into three parts:

  • Industry
  • Application
  • Perseverance under the prompting of a brave, determined spirit

1. Industry

The first requirement that elevates you to the upper echelon is to be industrious. To be industrious in this sense means to be diligent and hard-working.

Sure, you can buy all of the books and read the articles on the “easy way” or the “lazy way” to success. But the only one becoming successful from them is taking your money if they are even successful at all. Unfortunately, too many people waste time looking for shortcuts to success rather than putting their energies into becoming successful.

Mankind is on this earth to work. Even scripture confirms this by saying:

“By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:19 NLT

Who am I to argue with God? You can try to find the easy way, but I think I’ll take a pass on that!

There is no shame in diligently doing the hard work required to become one of the few.

2. Application

Joined to the first requirement of being industrious to become one of the few is application. Application simply means “the action of putting something into operation.” (Oxford Languages dictionary) It is taking what you know and what you are learning and making use of it.

While industry is the willingness to work hard, application is doing the work.

How you do the work depends on what it is, but the main point is you begin taking action and moving forward. Take the first step, no matter how small, then the next, and continue taking as many steps as you must to make it happen.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Mark Twain (1835–1910)

3. Perseverance under the prompting of a brave, determined spirit

The final part of Twain’s secret to becoming one of the few, works hand in hand with industry and application. It is the willingness to keep going. To not give up or quit. To take the leap while being determined to make it happen regardless of circumstances, obstacles, and anything else that may be in the way.

To reach the top, you must first be willing to work hard while doing the actual work with a spirit of never giving up. This takes real character and courage. Courage to stand and fight, push ahead, and go over, under, around, or through any obstacle. It is to know you will only lose if you give up!

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” Mark Twain (1835–1910)

Final thoughts

As with most worthwhile things, Twain’s secret to elevating yourself to one of the few is easy to understand but not always easy to do. However, it is the formula for great achievement in life.

Twain prefaced his three steps with:

“The miracle, or the power, that elevates the few is to be found in …”. Mark Twain (1835–1910)

While many will stand by and think it is a miracle when you get to the top, you know the truth. You know it took the power of industry, application, and perseverance under the prompting of a brave, determined spirit, don’t you?

To become one of the few, act on Twain’s wisdom and never look back. You know you can do it. All you need is the courage and perseverance to achieve it!

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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA

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