One of my favorite all-time books is Samuel Smiles’s 1859 Self-Help. It is an inspiring essay on what amazing things people can accomplish if they apply some very simple virtues, like perseverance, energy, and self-discipline. It includes numerous real-life stories from giants in medicine, politics, philosophy, mathematics, science, business, economics, fine arts, and many other areas of human life. If you haven’t read it, you should. And read it with your kids too.
To whet your appetite, here is the closing paragraph for the first chapter, entitled “Self-Help—National and Individual”:
In fine, human character is moulded by a thousand subtle influences; by example and precept; by life and literature; by friends and neighbours; by the world we live in as well as by the spirits of our forefathers, whose legacy of good words and deeds we inherit. But great, unquestionably, though these influences are acknowledged to be, it is nevertheless equally clear that men must necessarily be the active agents of their own well-being and well-doing; and that, however much the wise and the good may owe to others, they themselves must in the very nature of things be their own best helpers.