Notes from ‘The Laws of Success’

These are my notes from The Laws of Success by Sterling W. Sill. This is an older book and copies are hard to come by. I love Sterling W. Sill’s writing. He writes to motivate others to higher levels of success. He stresses the importance of reading, writing, pondering and personal development. I’ve written previously about a great speech he once gave called ‘Bottles and Books.’

All of these notes are direct quotes from the book.


No activity prospers in the face of misrule, disorder, or anarchy.

The Lord said, “I will put my law into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them.” (Hebrews 10:16) It seems to me that this puts the Lord into the role of being our greatest political officer, as well as the head of the church. We are told that during the millennium he will establish a perfect theocracy upon this earth, with himself as the head of the government as well as the head of the church. The church and the state will then be combined, and he will rule forever, not only as Lord of lords, but also as Kings of kings.

The primary function of every individual is to discover and obey all the laws. The doctor, to be effective, must learn the laws of medicine. The successful agriculturalist must learn the laws of farming. He should know that if he plants his seed in a good seedbed and practices the laws having to do with fertilization, cultivation, and irrigation, and also has some knowledge of weed and insect control, he may hope to be a successful farmer. To effectively counsel his many clients, a lawyer may need thousands of law books; he must make himself familiar with all the laws affecting his clients’ welfare.

You will also be aware of other necessary laws so that you can write your own book describing for your personal benefit some of the powerful laws that you may not presently be using. 

Then God gave Moses the great rules of conduct by which, if obeyed, this earth might become God’s paradise. These great laws, known as the Ten Commandments, furnish the fundamental basis on which all order, progress, success, happiness, and beauty must rest.

Suppose we were to write our own book of laws for successful living. It would be of little actual consequence whether our occupation is law or medicine or selling or life.

We might ask ourselves such questions as what do we think about the Golden Rule, or honesty, or fairness, and then require ourselves to give well-thought-out, practical, written answers that we are wholehearedly committed to follow.

We can learn a great deal by what we read. These ideas may be stamped more deeply into our minds when we think about them, write them down, and practice them.

A person who is temperate, industrious, just, and valiant and who uses all of his virtues and develops a great, lofty mind and an active body, fortune will pour her whole cornucopia of wealth, honor, and worldly goods.

“Man was intended to be rich,” said Emerson.

Our achievements today are but the sum total of our thoughts of yesterday.

We often see potentially great salesmen who give many reasons why they cannot succeed. They think they have a lack of ability, or they are worried because of finances. They fill their minds with negative thoughts. How foolish and shortsighted is such counsel! In the first place, it is not true. Most of the great accomplishments in the world have been made under tremendous difficulty.

[Poem] I bargained with life for a penny, only to find dismayed. That anything I had asked of life, Life would have paid.

There’s a social “lever” that we call reputation. What multiplied power and greatly increased strength it gives us if we have earned the right to have people think of us as persons of unquestioned integrity who are fair under all circumstances. Regardless of the consequences. A man of genuine character can carry a social battleship over a mountain with strength to spare.

We should remember everything that everyone does for us, but we should quickly forget that which we do for them.

Our most important responsibility in life is to develop ourselves.

If we want someone to invite us to his house for dinner, we invite him first to our house to dinner. 

[Poem] Here lies the body of William Jay –
He died defending his right of way.
He was right, dead right, as he sped along.
But he is just as dead as if he’d been wrong.

There is an old axiom that points out that the Lord always fits the back to the burden. There seems to be a psychological mechanism in each of us that makes sure that every effort we make is compensated for; and frequently, when nature wants to make us great, she gives us some difficulty to strengthen our muscles or some deficiency to promote our resourcefulness.

Mr. Emerson says that we should “work every hour, paid or unpaid; see only that you work, and you cannot escape the reward.”

Edison was once asked how he accomplished so much. He said, “It is very simple. You and I each have eighteen hours a day in which we may do something. You spend that eighteen hours doing a number of different unrelated things. I spend it doing just one thing and some of my work is bound to amount to something.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote two essays on this subject. One is entitled “Power” and the other “Wealth.” The main theme in each is concentration. He said, in effect, “Stop all miscellaneous activities. Do away with distractions, other duties, property cares, chores, errands, diverting talents, and flatteries – all are distractions which cause oscillations and make a good poise and a straight course impossible.” Distractions always untune us for the main purpose of our lives. Emerson said, “The one prudence in life is concentration; the one evil is dissipation.”

We are being conditioned every minute by a multitude of forces. Walt Whitman once wrote, “A child went forth each day and became what he saw.”

We can condition our personalities to where we love every part of our jobs.

We ought to be continually aware of the great law of consequences that says that no wrong ever goes unpunished, and for every evil thing that we do as well as for every righteous thing that we do, there must be a natural and appropriate consequence. 

Everyone believes in planing, but how frequently we do not have the courage to follow through and allow some little thing to throw us off the track. When we allow our plans and determinations and enthusiasms to break down, our whole character and personality is adversely affected, and what great value is lost thereby!

We ought to be constantly aware of the necessity in our lives of fighting down the commonplace.

[Quoting Plutarch] “It was for the sake of others that I first commenced writing biographies, but I find myself proceeding and devoting myself to this study for my own sake. The virtues of these great men serve as a sort of looking glass into which I may see how to adjust and adorn my own life. I am thus enabled to receive and retain images of the best and worthiest characters and also to free myself from any ignoble, base, or vicious traits.

Every seeker after success would do well to study Shakespeare and see the interplay of personality traits through the crosscurrents of reason, emotion, and other areas of human nature.

Fortunately we need not have all of the experiences personally. We can learn a great deal from the experiences of others. The laws governing success and failure are about the same in application in each of us. Books of science, business, the professions, and religion are filled with the experiences of countless people who have lived before us. They have learned the most valuable truths and made the most serious errors, many of which have been written down for our enrichment and practical benefit, and in every case we are free to accept the good and reject the bad.

Another fantastic power is called imagination, whereby we can take the individual elements of the success of others and put them together in new combinations.

The person who feels that the world owes him a living always has an unhappy time trying to collect it. However, the one who feels that the welfare of the community is his responsibility will get his contribution back increased manyfold.

We become successful by design; we become shirkers, buck passers, and beggars by default.

We may have fifty personalities, but we make only one impression.

Every person should have some machinery set up for an occasional self-analysis where he attempts to see himself as others see him.

It is reported that in becoming a millionaire, Andrew Carnegie made thirty-eight other people millionaires. As he worked himself up, he took along with him his suppliers, his partners, and others with whom he did business.

We ought to give more thought to ways and means of getting ourselves into greater magnetic influence of great individuals, great ideas, and the spirit of great accomplishment. This may be done in many ways, such as personal association with the right kind of people, reading biographies, the study of great literature.

Our emotions might be compared to the engines of our automobiles. Usually we do not look under the hood until the car stops or begins to sputter, but at that late day, when we try to find and correct the problem, we frequently do not know what we are looking for.

Some time ago, a national magazine conducted a survey in which it was found that 75 percent of all people hate their jobs. If they just hated one job the solution would be simple, for they could quit that job, and start one that they enjoyed. But, if we ourselves are sick, then we may not like the second job any better than the first, and the third may have just as many failings as the second.

Anybody can have a good record for a month, but it’s the man who keeps on month after month, year after year, taking all the annoyances and setbacks in his stride, that makes a successful life.

It says that the way to growth is activity, whereas the way to death is idleness.

When things are really clicking for us, we seldom get tired, and we can then accomplish many times the work we previously did. Fatigue is caused not by work but by worry, frustration, and resentment. The kite always rises against the wind, not with it. The strongest oak tree of the forest is from the sun, but the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and scorching sun. A great oak struggling in the wind sends down a stronger root upon the windward side.

If one makes no effort to gain knowledge, he is immature. The adult may have within himself a hidden emotional urge to leave books alone. In his unconscious mind he may still be fighting out one of the major battles of his childhood, and he may be settling the issue now as he tried to settle it in his school days.

If we think the same kinds of thoughts that went through the brain of Thomas Edison or Henry Ford or William Shakespeare or the apostle of Paul or Jesus of Nazareth, we will then tend to think a little more as they did. By this process of modification, we can send ourselves from the bottom to the top of life, or we can come from the top down to the bottom.

Those who qualify for the celestial kingdom will be entitled to live forever with God. Every good thought we think modifies our lives. Every time we do a good deed, we are changed. Every time an emotion, good or bad, runs through our hearts, we are changed, and we will never be the same again.

In view of the magic motive power within ourselves, it seems unbelievable that many people should spend their lives trying to be successful and yet not have definite, well-defined, clear-cut daily, weekly, and monthly goals. This should be accompanied by a written record against which their daily performance may be measured.

“Genius is the power to visualize the objective.”

One of the great differences between success and failure is that the successful person focuses on the objective, whereas the unsuccessful person focuses on the present and sees nothing of great importance in the future. The unsuccessful person sees only obstacles in his opportunities, while the successful one sees opportunities in his obstacles.

Through effective record keeping, so that we know what the facts are and what makes us successful and what makes us unsuccessful, we can eliminate the ineffective and concentrate on these procedures that have a proven success record, and thus we can increase our effectiveness many times. If we keep accurate accounts of our work and learn to effectively measure and evaluate our efforts, we can learn to effectively measure and evaluate our efforts, we can lift our success to any desired level. This is the essence of progress.

In our work every day, we should watch and practice our control – time control, idea control, enthusiasm control, industry control, accomplishment control, and so forth.

Of course, at the top of the list is the person who does his own work, on his own initiative, following his own plans which he himself has drawn and initiated, and who in addition stimulates others.

If we miss just one day’s growth, that is a day that is completely lost, and we can never make it back.

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