Success is in the Attitude

16 Apr

My childhood evolved from the East End of London, an area often synonymous with crime, poverty and inequality. A salad bowl of multiculturalism though it’s done nothing to halt the mushrooming divide between the rich and poor. 

It is here I learnt the real value of education. It never failed to dawn on me that it was the key to break through the ills of our society. Education opens the doors of opportunity that no other skill can provide. I credit its influence in laying the foundation for my own development. 

If education is the building block of social mobility then attitude is surely its cement. It impressed upon me the importance of having goals and ambition. Prosperity is as much a state of mind as of economics. You can change the way you think by changing what you see, hear, and read. I’m indebted to my old library, it presented a wealth of knowledge that otherwise would not have been possible. 

I recently came across a study that delivered a staggering reality of today’s gulf in literacy rates. In middle-class neighborhoods the ratio of books per child is 13 to 1, whereas in low-income households it is just 1 age-appropriate book per 300 children. Books are a valuable resource for any child, but how more so in the most deprived of areas. Reading is an essential component of learning that can lead to unlimited opportunities for success. 

One day I picked up a book by an author whose life and struggles was as much an inspiration as his literary talent. It was his attitude of perseverance against all odds that was remarkable. Allow me to recollect that story with you. 

During the 19th century, there was a young man who aspired to be a writer. Everything seemed to be against him. He had never been able to attend more than 4 years of school. His father had been thrown in jail because he couldn’t pay his debts and this young man often went by hungry. 

He got a job pasting labels on jars of shoe polish in a rat-infested warehouse, working ten-hour days, earning just six shillings a week (about £12 in today’s money). He slept at night in a dismal attic room with guttersnipes from the slums of London. He was a voracious reader but had little confidence in his ability to write. So much so that he sneaked out in the dead of night to mail his first manuscript so nobody would laugh at him. Story after story was refused. 

The great day came when one was accepted. Though he wasn’t paid a shilling for it, one editor had praised him. One editor had given him recognition. So thrilled was he that he wandered aimlessly around the streets with tears rolling down his cheeks. The praise, the recognition he received through getting one story in print changed his whole life. If it hadn’t been for that encouragement, he might have spent his entire life working in rat-infested factories. You may have heard of that boy. His name was CHARLES DICKENS! 

Charles Dickens went on to make a colossal contribution to English literature. He was the quintessential author of his time. His epic stories are unforgettable, take Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol or A Tale of Two Cities. The latter is one of the top selling books of all time. 

We can learn a thing or two from Dickens. It’s that storms will come, but it’s how you deal with them that determine either victory or defeat. Though he endured appalling conditions as well as loneliness and despair, his attitude was inexhaustible. 

Unlike Dickens, we’re somewhat privileged to have access to that priceless commodity, education. Whatever the conditions may be in our society, we too can turn setbacks in to stepping stones. Education is what gives the opportunity; an attitude of Patience, Persistence and Perspiration, is what gets you there. 

I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape – Charles Dickens 

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2 Responses to “Success is in the Attitude”

  1. Sentinel May 29, 2010 at 1:13 am #

    Wow, I have only just read this and must say thanks. It’s amazing to think that the great Charles Dickens came from a background of such austerity. I’d always assumed he was born into money and wrote as a hobby.

    Attitude really is everything.

    • Atticus May 29, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

      Indeed, Dickens toiled against the unfortunate circumstances that ensued in his life, especially the travails of poverty and hardships in his early childhood. He was staring down the barrel owing to reasons beyond his control, as most of us have at some stage, but he had the courage to keep trying, to keep persevering against all attitude that was inexhaustible. It’s that lesson which is our take away from this example. It doesn’t cost anything to just T-R-Y : )

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