Samuel Smiles Quotes

Samuel Smiles, 1812 – 1904

Born: 23 December 1812, Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland, UK
Died: 16 April 1904, Kensington, London, England, UK

Smiles was the second of eleven children, he left school at 14 and apprenticed with a doctor, which allowed him to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh. He practiced medicine but became more interested in politics and became the editor of the Leeds Times from 1838 to 1842 and became secretary of the Leeds Parliamentary Reform Association, an organization that supported the Chartist goals but eschewed violent tactics. He also supported women’s suffrage and free trade in his editorials. In 1842 he became secretary of the Leeds and Thirsk Railway, later moving to the South Eastern Railway and became fascinated by the virtue of hard work. He wrote and spoke on the subject, culminating in his magnum opus Self Help in 1859. He also wrote a number of biographies, mostly of successful business men.

Samuel Smiles quotes:

A place for everything, and everything in its place.
    Samuel Smiles – Thrift (1875)

All life is a struggle…. Under competition the lazy man is put under the necessity of exerting himself; and if he will not exert himself, he must fall behind. If he do not work, neither shall he eat.
    Samuel Smiles

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. But all play and no work makes him something worse.
    Samuel Smiles

An intense anticipation itself transforms possibility into reality; our desires being often but precursors of the things which we are capable of performing.
    Samuel Smiles – Self-Help; with Illustrations of Character and Conduct (1859)

England was nothing, compared to continental nations, until she had become commercial — until about the middle of the last century, when a number of ingenious and inventive men, without apparent relation to each other, arose in various parts of the kingdom, succeeded in giving an immense impulse to all the branches of the national industry; the result of which has been a harvest of wealth and prosperity, perhaps without a parallel in the history of the world.
    Samuel Smiles – Lives of the Engineers (1862)

Enthusiasm … the sustaining power of all great action.
    Samuel Smiles

Even happiness itself may become habitual. There is a habit of looking at the bright side of things, and also of looking at the dark side. Dr. Johnson has said that the habit of looking at the best side of a thing is worth more to a man than a thousand pounds a year. And we possess the power, to a great extent, of so exercising the will as to direct the thoughts upon objects calculated to yield happiness and improvement rather than their opposites.
    Samuel Smiles – Self-Help; with Illustrations of Character and Conduct (1859)

Example teaches better than precept. It is the best modeler of the character of men and women. To set a lofty example is the richest bequest a man can leave behind him.
    Samuel Smiles

He who never made a mistake never made a discovery.
    Samuel Smiles – Self-Help; with Illustrations of Character and Conduct (1859)

Heaven helps those who help themselves is a well-tried maxim, embodying in a small compass the results of vast human experience. The spirit of self-help is the root of all genuine growth in the individual; and, exhibited in the lives of many, it constitutes the true source of national vigour and strength. Help from without is often enfeebling in its effects, but help from within invariably invigorates. Whatever is done for men or classes, to a certain extent takes away the stimulus and necessity of doing for themselves; and where men are subjected to over-guidance and over-government, the inevitable tendency is to render them comparatively helpless.
    Samuel Smiles – Self-Help; with Illustrations of Character and Conduct (1859)

Hope … is the companion of power, and the mother of success; for who so hopes has within him the gift of miracles.
    Samuel Smiles

Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.
    Samuel Smiles

I would not have any one here think that, because I have mentioned individuals who have raised themselves by self-education from poverty to social eminence, and even wealth, these are the chief marks to be aimed at. That would be a great fallacy. Knowledge is of itself one of the highest enjoyments. The ignorant man passes through the world dead to all pleasures, save those of the senses…Every human being has a great mission to perform, noble faculties to cultivate, a vast destiny to accomplish. He should have the means of education, and of exerting freely all the powers of his godlike nature.
    Samuel Smiles – Self-Help; with Illustrations of Character and Conduct (1859)

I’m as happy a man as any in the world, for the whole world seems to smile upon me!
    Samuel Smiles

If there were no difficulties there would be no success; if there were nothing to struggle for, there would be nothing to be achieved.
    Samuel Smiles

It is a mistake to suppose that men succeed through success; they much oftener succeed through failures. Precept, study, advice, and example could never have taught them so well as failure has done.
    Samuel Smiles

It is energy — the central element of which is will – that produces the miracle that is enthusiasm in all ages. Everywhere it is what is called force of character and the sustaining power of all great action.
    Samuel Smiles

It will generally be found that men who are constantly lamenting their ill luck are only reaping the consequences of their own neglect, mismanagement, and improvidence, or want of application.
    Samuel Smiles

Knowledge conquered by labor becomes a possession — a property entirely our own.
    Samuel Smiles

Labor is still, and ever will be, the inevitable price set upon everything which is valuable.
    Samuel Smiles

Life will always be to a large extent what we ourselves make it.
    Samuel Smiles

Lost wealth may be replaced by industry, lost knowledge by study, lost health by temperance or medicine, but lost time is gone forever.
    Samuel Smiles

Man cannot aspire if he looked down; if he rise, he must look up.
    Samuel Smiles

Men cannot be raised in masses as the mountains were in he early geological states of the world. They must be dealt with as units; for it is only by the elevation of individuals that the elevation of the masses can be effectively secured.
    Samuel Smiles

Men must necessarily be the active agents of their own well-being and well-doing they themselves must in the very nature of things be their own best helpers.
    Samuel Smiles

Men who are resolved to find a way for themselves will always find opportunities enough; and if they do not find them, they will make them.
    Samuel Smiles

Mere political reform will not cure the manifold evils which now afflict society. There requires a social reform, a domestic reform, an individual reform.
    Samuel Smiles

National progress is the sum of individual industry, energy, and uprightness as national decay is of individual idleness, selfishness, and vice.
    Samuel Smiles

No laws, however stringent, can make the idle industrious, the thriftless provident, or the drunken sober.
    Samuel Smiles – Self-Help; with Illustrations of Character and Conduct (1859)

Nothing is more common than energy in money-making, quite independent of any higher object than its accumulation. A man who devotes himself to this pursuit, body and soul, can scarcely fail to become rich. Very little brains will do; spend less than you earn; add guinea to guinea; scrape and save; and the pile of gold will gradually rise.
    Samuel Smiles – Self-Help; with Illustrations of Character and Conduct (1859)

Nothing of real worth can be obtained without courageous working. Man owes his growth chiefly to the active striving of the will, that encounter with difficulty which he calls effort; and it is astonishing to find how often results apparently impracticable are then made possible.
    Samuel Smiles

Practical wisdom is only to be learned in the school of experience. Precepts and instruction are useful so far as they go, but, without the discipline of real life, they remain of the nature of theory only.
    Samuel Smiles

Progress however, of the best kind, is comparatively slow. Great results cannot be achieved at once; and we must be satisfied to advance in life as we walk, step by step.
    Samuel Smiles

Riches do not constitute any claim to distinction. It is only the vulgar who admire riches as riches.
    Samuel Smiles

The apprenticeship of difficulty is one which the greatest of men have had to serve.
    Samuel Smiles

The battle of life is, in most cases, fought uphill; and to win it without a struggle were perhaps to win it without honor. If there were no difficulties there would be no success; if there were nothing to struggle for, there would be nothing to be achieved.
    Samuel Smiles

The crown and glory of life is Character. It is the noblest possession of a man, constituting a rank in itself, and an estate in the general goodwill; dignifying every station, and exalting every position in society. It exercises a greater power than wealth, and secures all the honour without the jealousies of fame. It carries with it an influence which always tells; for it is the result of proved honour, rectitude, and consistency — qualities which, perhaps more than any other, command the general confidence and respect of mankind.
    Samuel Smiles – Self-Help; with Illustrations of Character and Conduct (1859)

The duty of helping one’s self in the highest sense involves the helping of one’s neighbors.
    Samuel Smiles

The experience gathered from books, though often valuable, is but the nature of learning; whereas the experience gained from actual life is one of the nature of wisdom.
    Samuel Smiles

The experience to be gathered from books, though often valuable, is but of the nature of learning; whereas the experience gained from actual life, is of the nature of wisdom. And a small store of the latter is worth vastly more than a stock of the former.
    Samuel Smiles

The highest culture is not obtained from the teacher when at school or college, so much as by our ever diligent self-education when we become men.
    Samuel Smiles

The iron rail proved a magicians’ road. It virtually reduced England to a sixth of its size. It brought the country nearer to the town and the town to the country…. It energized punctuality, discipline, and attention; and proved a moral teacher by the influence of example.
    Samuel Smiles – Self-Help; with Illustrations of Character and Conduct (1859)

The principal industrial excellence of the English people lay in their capacity of present exertion for a distant object.
    Samuel Smiles

The Railway [is] now the principal means of communication in all civilized countries. It has enhanced the celerity of time, and imparted a new series of conditions to every rank of life.
    Samuel Smiles – Men of Invention and Industry (1884)

The reason why so little is done, is generally because so little is attempted.
    Samuel Smiles

The spirit of self-help is the root of all genuine growth in the individual.
    Samuel Smiles – Self-Help; with Illustrations of Character and Conduct (1859)

The very greatest things — great thoughts, discoveries, inventions — have usually been nurtured in hardship, often pondered over in sorrow, and at length established with difficulty.
    Samuel Smiles

The work of many of the greatest men, inspired by duty, has been done amidst suffering and trial and difficulty. They have struggled against the tide, and reached the shore exhausted.
    Samuel Smiles

They who are the most persistent, and work in the true spirit, will invariably be the most successful.
    Samuel Smiles

To set a lofty example is the richest bequest a man can leave behind him.
    Samuel Smiles

We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery.
    Samuel Smiles – Self-Help; with Illustrations of Character and Conduct (1859)

We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery.
    Samuel Smiles – Self-Help; with Illustrations of Character and Conduct (1859)

When typhus or cholera breaks out, they tell us that Nobody is to blame. That terrible Nobody! How much he has to answer for. More mischief is done by Nobody than by all the world besides.
    Samuel Smiles

Wisdom and understanding can only become the possession of individual men by travelling the old road of observation, attention, perseverance, and industry.
    Samuel Smiles

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