Self Reliance and Other Essays: Ultra Condensed Cliffnotes #15

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Below are my personal notes of Self Reliance and Other Essays. These highlights were what I used to write my personal development book, Wiser Next Week, a condensation of many different self improvement books


  • The thought is always prior to the fact, all the facts of history preexist in the mind as laws. Each law in turn is made by circumstances predominant and the limits of nature give power to but one at a time. A man is the whole encyclopedia of facts. The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.
    • The student is to read history actively and not passively, to esteem his own life the text and books the commentary 
  • The human mind wrote history, and this must read it
  • Of the universal mind each individual man is one more incarnation
  • Every reform was once a private opinion
  • The world exists for the education of each man. 
  • “What is history but a fable agreed upon?” Emperor Napoleon
    • All history become subjective, in other words, there is properly no history, only biography
  • Common souls pay with what they do, nobler souls with that which they are
  • Those men who cannot answer by a superior wisdom these facts or questions of time, serve them. Facts encumber them, tyrannize over them and make the men of routine the men of sense in whom literal obedience to facts has extinguished every spark of that light by which man is truly man. But if the man is true to his better instincts or sentiments and refuses the dominion of facts, as one that comes of a higher race, remains fast by the soul and sees the principle, then the facts fall aptly and supply into their places, they know their master. 

Self Reliance: 

  • Your goodness must have some edge to it, else it is none. Be willing to take a stand
  • It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion, it is easy in the solitude to live after our own, but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude
  • Do your work, and I shall know you. Do your work and you shall reinforce yourself.
  • A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Speak what you think now in hard words and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict everything you said today. To be great is to be misunderstood ( Be willing to self examine yourself)
  • Every true man is a cause, a country and an age, requires infinite spaces and numbers and time fully to accomplish his design and posterity seem to follow his steps as a train of clients.
  • Man postpones or remembers, he does not live in the present, but with reverted eye laments the past or heedless of the riches that surround him, stands on tip toes to foresee the future. He cannot be happy until he too lives with nature in the present, above time
  • Power ceases in the instant of repose: it resides in the moment of transition from a past to a new state
  • If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises, they lose all hear. If the young merchant fails, men say he is ruined. A sturdy lad, who in turn tries all the professions in successive years and always like a cat, falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls. He feels no shame in not studying a profession, for he does not postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one chance, but a hundred. With the exercise of self trust, new powers shall appear. And that moment he acts from himself, tossing the law, the books, idols and customs out of the window, we pity him no more, but thank and revere him and make his name dear to all history. 
  • As men’s prayers are a disease of the will, so are their creeds a disease of the intellect All men plume themselves ( feels self satisfied ) on the improvement of society and no man improves (pluralistic ignorance)
  • Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other. It undergoes continual change

If these brief notes, peaked your interest in Self Reliance and Other Essays , you can check it out on Amazon here.

And be sure to check out my book, Wiser Next Week.

12 thoughts on “Self Reliance and Other Essays: Ultra Condensed Cliffnotes #15

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