The Foundation of Success

The average mortal seems to meet with unhappiness in one of two ways. The first is that he seems to fail to get what he desires. The second is that he seems to succeed in getting it. Some people are unhappy for the first reason. Others are unhappy for the second. Many, doubtless, are unhappy for both. But that mankind is more or less unhappy, whether it succeeds or whether it fails in achieving what it sets before itself to accomplish, is everywhere admitted.

The outlook for mankind, then, from the standpoint of human desires, ambitions, and activities is a somewhat cheerless one. This is so universal a teaching of experience that it forms the burden of one of the oldest books in the world, and of some others that have since been written. "Whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy," says the Preacher; and he adds almost immediately, "Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do: and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun." The Preacher's trouble, it is clear from the context, was that while he was able to and did obtain everything that it occurred to him to long for, the upshot, as told in the dirgelike refrain which breaks in at intervals throughout his soliloguy, was, "This also is vanity."

It is more difficult, perhaps, to note the connection between material success and unhappiness than between the absence of success and unhappiness. But, although the setting may be different, the experience of the Preacher, who was king in Jerusalem, is surely common enough, if not indeed universal. There is probably no single person who has not gained a momentary belief of pleasure and satisfaction through the attainment of something which has long been an object of desire. In his case, however, as inevitably as in that of the king and preacher, the satisfaction gives place to satiety, to be followed, in monotonous sequence, by boredom, perhaps loathing, and oftentimes despair.

Enjoy 1 free Sentinel article or audio program each month, including content from 1898 to today.

"By the word of their testimony"
September 20, 1924

We'd love to hear from you!

Easily submit your testimonies, articles, and poems online.