Following on from yesterday’s post on searching for a lost voice, and still feeling a need for greater clarity in my thinking, I reached for a book from my bookshelf that always gives me sustenance and hope.
Wake Up And Live! by Dorothea Brande is a book first published in 1936 which I bought 35 years ago for 70p from the Staffs Book Shop in Lichfield (which is sadly no more).
It now seems to be out of print so ,while copies can still be found on the net, a new paperback edition can set you back $375.48 at Amazon.Com.
Thankfully, this being the sharing caring digital age, I’m not about to make a fortune selling my tatty volume on e-bay as anyone interested in reading it can do so for free by downloading a PDF copy that some kind soul has uploaded for mass consumption.
This individual has done a noble public service as this is a book that ,while a little dated , will probably never reach a sell by date since the sound advice contained in the pages is so down to earth and practical.
Unlike so many books in the field of self-help, it does not carry any hidden religious agenda – it doesn’t require the reader to have faith in a higher being; the only faith you need is a belief in yourself.
“Act as if it were impossible to fail” is the one recurring axiom- a philosophy that demands a degree of self belief (some might say self-delusion) which is crucially underpinned by discipline and perseverance. At the heart of her formula for success are twelve disciplines that she followed herself – this are listed on the back flap of the book and are as follows:
Her advice is given on the basis that she followed these disciplines and they worked for her. In her introduction she details how they “revolutionised her life”. Instead of procrastinating and labouring over her writing with little to show for her efforts she lists what she wrote in the two years following her discovery: “three books (the first two in just two weeks less than the first year, and both successful in their different fields), twenty-four articles, four short stories, seventy-two lectures, the scaffolding of three more books; and innumerable letters of consultation and professional advice sent to all parts of the country”.
Of course in the grand scheme of things, the Chicago-born author achieved a relatively modest degree of success – she died in 1948 aged 55 and only one of her books (Becoming A Writer) is currently still in print. But Wake Up And Live! was a big hit in its day. It sold over two million copies in 1937 and a story based on its underlying philosophy became a much-loved Twentieth Century Fox musical starring Alice Faye and Jack (‘Tin Man’) Haley.
A major strength of the book is that Brande is not prescriptive about how she defines success. It does not contain instructions on how to get rich quick or set out ways to become famous overnight. The implicit message is that we all know deep down in our hearts when we are truly fulfilling our potential and the formula she proposes encourages everyone to take steps to putting ideas and beliefs into practice.
Above all, this means rejecting the comforting, yet ultimately deadening, routines we can so easily slip into and embracing a more dynamic way of living that combines rigorous self-discipline while allowing oneself to be constantly open to new ideas and experiences.
Most personal growth books advocate auto-suggestion and positive thinking as a route to genuine change and Wake Up And Live! is no exception. It stands apart from the competition, however, because it is written in plain English and you get the strong impression that Brande felt compelled to write this book out of genuinely altruistic motives.
The final chapter is entitled ‘….And the best of luck!’ and concludes with the words: “Success, for any sane adult, is exactly equivalent to doing his (sic) best. What that best may be, what its furthest reaches may include, we can discover only by freeing ourselves completely from the Will to Fail”.
You better believe it!