Self-Investment, Orison Swett Marden; book summary

Dr. Marden is one of the founding fathers of the personal development movement and the founder and first publisher of Success Magazine.  He wrote many books back in the late 19th century and early 20th century.  What I like about reading books that are older, is that the same things that applied then, apply now, they just had a different spin on them.  Also, I like the fact that some of the material is outdated and made sense for the time, but to see how far we have come as a society is interesting as well.

This book summary is comprised of the chapter titles and a few of my notes from the chapter.  Also, each chapter begins with a quote and these also provide a nice takeaway for you.  I believe the chapter title itself gives you a nice nugget that you can apply today to get be all that you can.

Chapter 1:  If you can talk well.  A good conversationalist is one who has ideas, who reads, thinks, and who has therefore something to say–Sir Walter Scott.

  • Nothing embarrass and bores the average man so much as a girl who has to be entertained. (Authors notes, I like it so I highlighted, I would a guy or a girl :))
  • Good reading will not only broaden the mind and give new ideas, but it will also increase ones vocabulary.

Chapter 2: Put beauty in your life.  Beauty is God’s handwriting.  There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy, and not pain, around us–Emerson.

  • What is the best education? Once asked of Plato.  “It is, that which gives to the body and to the soul all the beauty and all the perfection of which they are capable.”
  • There is no investment which will give such returns as the cute of the finer self, the development of the sense of the beauty the sublime and the true, the development of qualities, that are crushed out or strangled in the mere dollar chaser.
  • If we sin to beautify the outer, we must first beautify the inner, for every thought and every motion shapes the delicate tracings of our face for ugliness or beauty.  Inharmonious and destructive attitudes of mind will warp and mar the most beautiful creatures.

Chapter 3:  Enjoying what others own.  If you are not wealthy yourself, be glad somebody else is, and you will be astonished at the happiness that will result to your self–Rev Dr. Charles F. Aked.  I would rather be able to appreciate things I cannot have than to have things I am not able to appreciate.

  • The secret of happiness is in a cheerful, contented mind.  “He is poor who is dissatisfied; he is rich who is contented with what he has, and can enjoy what others own.”

Chapter 4:  Personality as a success asset.  There is something about one’s personality which eludes the photographer, which the painter can’t reproduce, which the sculptor cannot chisel.  The subtle something which everyone feels, nut which no one can describe, which no biographer ever put down in a book, as a great deal to do with one’s success in life.

  • Secretiveness repels as much as frankness attracts.
  • Be open with others.

Chapter 5:  How to be a social success.  The power to please is a great success asset.  It will do for you what money will not do.  It will other give you capital which your financial assets alone would not warrant.  People are governed by their likes and dislikes.  We are powerfully influenced by a pleasing, charming personality.  A persuasive manner is often irresistible. Even judges on the bench feel its fascination.

  • The best way to draw people to you is to make them feel that you are interested in them.  You must not do this for effect.  You must be really interested in them, or they will detect the deception.
  • If you wear a bull-dog expression, if you go about looking sour and disagreeable, you must not wonder that you are not popular with your employees or other people. Everybody loves a pleasant face.
  • There is only one way to win love, and that is to love.

Chapter 6:  The miracle of Tact.  Talent is something, but tact is everything. Talent is no match for tact; we see its failure everywhere.  In the race of life, common sense has the right away.

  • Tact is an extremely delicate quality, difficult to define, hard to cultivate, but absolutely indispensable to one who wishes to get on in the world rapidly and smoothly.
  • The personality of a physician has a great deal to do with his success, and with the chances of his patients.
  • There is no better discipline in the world than to force ourselves to be sociable and interesting to those for whom we do not care.

Chapter 7: I had a friend.  Oh Friendship!  Of all things the most rare, and therefore most scare because most excellent, whose comforts in misery are always sweet, and whose counsels in prosperity and are ever fortunate–Lilly.

  • Life is to be fortified by many friendships, said Sydney Smith.  To love and to be loved is the greatest happiness of existence.
  • True friendship says CC Colton, is like sound health; the value of it is seldom known until it be lost.
  • I know lost of people who have plenty of friends, but they are not the kind that help or elevate them.  They have chosen downward, instead of upward.
  • Friendships must be cultivated.  It cannot be bought, it is priceless.  If you abandon your friends for a quarter of a century or more while you are buried in your pursuit of wealth, you cannot expect to go back and find them where you left them.  Did you ever get or keep anything worthwhile without an effort equal to its value?

Chapter 8:  Ambition. The youth who does not look up will look down, and the spirit that does not soar is destined to grovel.  Whoever is satisfied with what he does has reached the culminating point, He will progress no more.

  • No one ever amounts to much who does not take himself in hand and force himself to do the things that is best for him in the end, not the pleasantest or the easiest.
  • Everything depends on ambition.  The moment it becomes weak all the life standards drop with it.  One must keep the ambition lamp ever trimmed and burning brightly.
  • It is dangerous to dally with ambition killing influences.
  • Nature allows us to keep only what is in constant use.
  • When the desire, the ambition, comes fresh and strong with zeal and enthusiasm, it is easy, but after we have postponed it a few times, we find ourselves less and les inclined to make the necessary effort or sacrifice to attain it, because it does not appeal to us with the same emphasis as at first.
  • Do not allow ambition to cool.  Make up your mind that you cannot and will not spend your life being half satisfied.
  • The expanding man is always dissatisfied with his accomplishments, is always reaching out for something larger, fuller, and completer.
  • Men often fail because of impatient ambition.
  • The heights of great men reached and kept, Were not attained by sudden flight, But they, while their companions slept, Were toiling upward in the night.
  • Anything that will give us a glimpse of ourselves, that will awaken us to our possibilities, is invaluable.
  • Most people die with the largest percentage of their possibilities still undeveloped.
  • Constantly ask yourself, If others can do them, why cant I?

Chapter 9.  Education by Reading.  Books are the windows through which the soul looks out–H.W. Beecher.

  • Most of us manage somehow to find time for the things we love.  If one is hungry for knowledge, if one yearns for self-improvement, if one has a taste for reading, he will make the opportunity.
  • Where the heart is, there is a treasure. Where the ambition is, there is time.
  • It’s not the number of books, says Professor William Matthews, “which a young man reads that makes him intelligent and well-informed, but the number of well chose ones that he has mastered, so that every valuable thought of them is a familiar friend.”

Chapter 10.  Discrimination in Reading.  Cultivate the habit of reading something good for ten minutes a day.  Then minutes a day will in twenty years make all the difference between a cultivated and an uncultivated mind, provided you read what is good. I mean by the good the proved treasures of the world, the intellectual treasures of the world in story, verse, history, and biography–Charles W. Eliot, Ex-President of Harvard University.

  • Read books that make you look up, which inspire you to be a little bigger man or woman, to amount to a little more in the world.
  • Read books that make you think more of yourself and believe more in yourself and in others.

Chapter 11.  Reading to Spur Ambition. I know of nothing els which will enlarge ones ideals and lift ones life standards more than the study of the lives of great and noble characters, the reading of biographies of great men and women. Abroad, it is impossible for me to avoid the society of fools.  In my study, I can call up the ablest spirits., the learnedest philosophers, the wisest counsellors, the greatest generals, and make them serviceable to me–Sir William Waller.

  • Cotton Mathers “Essay to do Good” influenced the whole career of Benjamin Franklin, we are told.

Chapter 12.  The Self-Improvement Habit, A great Asset.  A boy is better unborn than untaught–Gascolgne.  It is ignorance that wastes, it is knowledge that saves, an untaught faculty is at once quiescent and dead–N.D. Hillis.   The plea that this or that man has no time for culture will vanish as soon as we desire culture so much that we begin to examine seriously into our present us of time–Matthew Arnold.

  • Education as commonly understood, is the process of developing the mind by means of books and teachers.  When educations is neglected, with by a reason of lack of opportunity, or because advantage was not taken of the opportunities afforded, the one remaining hope is self-improvement.
  •  Opportunities of self-improvement surround us, the helps to self-improvement are abundant, and in this day of cheap books, free libraries, and evening schools, there can be no good reason for neglect to use the facilities for mental growth and development which are so abundantly supplied.
  • The trouble with a great many people is they are not willing to make present sacrifices for future gain.
  • The secret of power is use.  Ability will not remain with us, force will evaporate the moment we cease to something with it.

Chapter 13.  The raising of values. Destiny is not about thee, but within, Thyself must make thyself.

  • Of course it hard and painful, and it takes lots of stamina to undergo the processes that produce the finest products, but would you prefer to remain a rough bar of iron or a horseshoe all of you life?

Chapter 14.  Self Improvement Through Public Speaking.

  • Do not be afraid to rise to put a motion or to second it or give your opinion on it.  Do not wait until you are better prepared.  You never will be.
  • The hardest thing for a public speaker to overcome is self-consciousness.

Chapter 15.  What a Good appearance will do.  The apparel oft proclaims the man–Shakespeare.  As a general thing an individual who is neat in his person is neat in his morals–H.W. Shaw.

  • Two chief factors in good appearance cleanliness of the body and comeliness of the attire.
  • Cloths don’t make the man, but good cloths have gout many a man a good job.
  • From every point of view it pays well to dress well.

Chapter 16.  Self Reliance.

  • The greatest service a teacher can render a pupil is to train them to depend on themselves, to trust his own powers. If the youth does not practice self-reliance, the man will be a weakling, a failure.
  • Power is self developed, self-generated.  We cannot increase the strength of our muscles by sitting in a gymnasium and letting another exercise for us.
  • Where ether is no struggle, there is no growth, no character.
  • Self reliance has the best substitute for friends, influence, capital, a pedigree, or assistance.  It has mastered more obstacles, overcome more difficulties, carried through more enterprises, perfected more inventions, than any other human quality.

Chapter 17.  Mental Friends and Foes.  We can make our minds art galleries of beauty or chambers of horror, we can furnish them with anything we please.

  • Ideas, thoughts, like everything else, attract what is akin to them. The thoughts which dominate in the mind will tend to drive out their opposites.  Optimism will drive out pessimism.  Cheerfulness will tend to drive out despondency, hope, discouragement.

I hope you found this book summary helpful and inspiring.  Please share with me your thought on this summary.

To your success and your future.




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One response to “Self-Investment, Orison Swett Marden; book summary”

  1. Karthikeyan A R Avatar
    Karthikeyan A R

    Thanks for your summary. It’s useful

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