Ismail Musa – Assessments

As a Man Thinketh
Assessment by Ismail Musa (Nigeria)

1. What is the main idea that the author is trying to convey in the book?

The main idea that James Allen is trying to convey in the book is that man is made or unmade by his thought. He writes that “man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thought”. What this suggests is that what we’ll become is the aggregate of all our thoughts. All that is happening in our life is because of the thought that we harbor. Everything including our jobs; our relationships; our joy; our breakthrough and victories; our defeats is a product of our thought.

Allen philosophy is that we are responsible for our thought and our thought ultimately determines our destiny. He teaches that once we understand this ideal, we can use it to purposefully develop ourselves and increase our fortunes in life.

We must understand that we are in control of our thought, that if we misgovern our thought we shall end up a weak personality and that if we rightly guide our thought we shall build a noble personality and our life will be filled with love, success and harmony. Our thought is a powerful tool that we wield! We must learn to use it wisely.

2. What were the seven ideas which were personally most important to you and why? List these seven ideas followed by an explanation after each one as to why it was important to you. Use personal examples from your own life.

1. Our Thought shapes our character and actions.

I have always held the view that a man is good or bad because he has resolved to be so. No man is good or bad by chance or by accident.

The principle of cause and effect is as absolute and undeviating even in the covert realm of thought just as it is in the world of visible and material things. Our character is the sum of our thought. Each of our thinking, just as plants sprout from a seed and could not exist without the seed, our character springs from the seed of our thought and could not exist without it. Our action could be termed the smoke from the fire of our thought.

We can see a man’s character in what he believes and in what he does. Therefore, if his actions and beliefs originate in his thoughts, then his character also originates and emanates from his thinking. It is not by chance that someone comes to possess a noble character or a base character. Character is a result of our habitual thinking.

B. Men are master of their circumstances.

We see that character manifests itself in our circumstances. Therefore, it can be said that the outer condition of our lives always accurately reflects our inner condition. If we believe that we are victims of circumstances that we can’t control, then these circumstances will impede our progress. But once we realize the creative power of our thoughts and once we realize that our circumstances grow from seeds that we plant and tend, then we can become the rightful masters of ourselves. It is important to believe that good thoughts and actions produce good circumstances; bad thoughts and actions produce bad circumstances. If we are keen about improving our circumstance, we must be ready to improve our thoughts.

C. Our thoughts cannot be kept a secret.

We usually imagine that our thoughts are secret, but they are not. Our thoughts are apparent to all because our thoughts determine our habits. Once someone looks at our circumstances, they’ll know what kind of thought life we lead. We do not need a mind reader to determine the thought of a person, but with in no time, the thought will manifest in his acts or utterances.

D. All that we achieve and all that we fail to achieve is the direct result of our own thoughts.

I believe that the world is a mirror; that it gives back to every human the reflection of his own thought. Allen is trying to make us understand that we literally have the power to shape our own destiny – our own lives. Anyone that has become successful has done so because he/she has taken control of his thoughts. Taking control of our thought is the most important and difficult step to success. It takes a great deal of concentration. To achieve great things we must concentrate our creative thought and energy to the end we seek.

The major reason why many have failed in life is that they first thought failure before they set out to seek what they desired. They allowed fear, worry and doubt to undermine their confidence. We can build our character and circumstances by a determination to direct all our thoughts towards our goals. Since I realized the above principle I have resolved to always look forward to greater success in all I do. This principle has worked for me and I believe that its application is universal. As a firm believer in God I strongly believe that I get what I desire when I harmonize my wishes and prayers with my thoughts and actions.

E. Diseases and health are rooted in our thought.

I have always had a dislike for drugs, needle and syringe. So I avoid every illness that would take me to a doctor. I have read many treatises on self healing and spontaneous healing and I learnt that the mind is a great therapy for the cure and prevention of illness. I have developed a mind therapy that works effectively for me- freeing the mind from every thought of illness.

What Allan is getting at in “As a Man Thinketh” is that people who live in fear of disease are the people who get it and that: “A sour face does not come by chance; it is made by sour thoughts.” Allen teaches that diseases and well-being are ingrained in thought. That when a man harbors thought that are sickly, fearful and worrisome, he is prone to illness. Many developed allergy and phobia for things or matter merely, because they have strong aversion for such. Obviously, the mind has been programmed or wired to accept or see these things as they are perceived. The moment the mind ceases to entertain dislike for the agents of this allergy and phobia, the body becomes strong and pure. Allergies and phobias have not only adversely affected the health of many people, but have also impeded their progress in life.

There are several people around me who suffer hypertension. One thing that is common with them is that they suffer attack whenever their mind is filled with worries and they gain good health when they maintain calm disposition. Equally, our thoughts also have direct effect on our aging process. A cheery disposition will mark the face with brightness. Those who live rightly will have their golden years blessed with tranquility. However, those who spend their thought energy in envy fear and doubt will witness premature aging. The best physician for any health issue is a cheerful thought. Those who live with thought of ill-will, envy, cynicism and suspicion usually sail along despair and frustration. We can be assured of peace if we think peaceful thought towards ourselves and others.

F. Our purpose in life is a focus of our thought.

Can a man embark on a journey without a destination in mind? Not a right thinking person would do such. A man who lives his life without purpose is like a man who embarks on a journey without a destination in mind. Many people walk through life without a clear purpose, and this condition will eventually bring despair. It is Allen’s view that those who have no purpose are destined to failure, unhappiness and loss.

We may ask what is so important about life purpose. The answer is that our purpose is a catalyst and focus of our thought. It is our purpose that shapes our thought and drives us towards accomplishment. Our purpose may be the pursuit of spiritual ideal or the pursuit of a mundane object. The most important thing is to get our purpose defined and persistently focus our thought without a flinch. We must not allow our drive towards our purpose to be impeded. Instead, we must maintain a resolve to reach our goal. As we confront and surmount the hurdles that stand between us and our goals, our personality is energized. As we strengthen your personality, we are putting ourselves in a position to achieve greater successes.

G. Our thought can be developed by efforts and practice.

Just as we can develop our physical body through physical training, we can strengthen weak thought through mind training. The first step is to acknowledge own weakness and believe that this weakness can be converted to strength by effort and practice of creative thinking. The best approach to train our thought is to discard aimlessness and weakness and learn to focus our attention on success. We must recognize every failure as a temporary setback on the path of achievement. If we succeed in training our thought we shall begin to think strongly and attempt every creative task fearlessly and masterfully. We must dismiss fear and doubt, because these thoughts usually lead to failure. Doubt and fear drain the strength from rightful thinking, obstruct focus, and destroy the power to accomplish. In all of our endeavors, there are efforts and results. The success of our results is always tied to the degree of our efforts. Our accomplishments are the fruits of our effort and they are quality thoughts taken to completion.

The training of our thought is very important because our destination in life is determined by the rightness or wrongness of our thought.

3. How will these ideas or lessons help you in a practical way, both in your daily personal life and in helping you to create a better world? If so, how?

This book is an inspiration. I have been greatly inspired by the ideals enunciated in the book. I believe that these ideal will also be useful to those around me. I am committed to the propagation of these ideals. By so doing I will also be living my life around these ideals. I know I cannot change the ways others think or what they choose to do, but I can do my greater bit.

4. Quotes: Are there any statements which the author made that particularly got your attention? If so, please quote them and comment as to why they were important to you.

“A man’s weakness and strength, purity and impurity, are his own and not another man’s. They are brought about by himself and not by another; and they can only be altered by himself, never by another. His condition is also his own, and not another man’s. His sufferings and happiness are evolved from within, as he thinks, so is he; as he continues to think, so he remains.”

I realized long ago that my problems are strictly mine. That I do not blame them on anyone, the environment, government policy or a star as it customarily believed in many African societies.

5. Is there anything in the book that you do not understand or are unclear about, or are there ideas which you disagree with and, if so, why?


6. Did the book contain exercises for the reader to complete? If so, did you complete all of the exercises and did you find them helpful?


7. Was there anything you read in the book that you would like to comment on that was not covered in the previous questions? If so, please comment.


Please rate the following questions on a scale from 1 to 10. Ten is good and one is poor.

A. How interesting was it to read? 10
B. How helpful were the contents? 10
C. How easy was it to understand? 10
D. Would you recommend it to others? 10
E. What is the overall rating you would give it? 10



Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Assessment by Ismail Musa (Nigeria)

1. What is the main idea that the author is trying to convey in this book?

The revolving idea in this Richard Bach’s metaphorical novelette is the importance of seeking a higher and deeper purpose for life even if the larger society finds the aspiration absurd and the ideals threatening to age long traditions and customs of the people. The story tells that life is not all about existence and subsistence, but a voyage of discovery of a path to perfection. That in order for an individual to seek this higher purpose and attain perfection, he /she must break away from society’s established limitation

This short story tells about the life of a young Seagull, Jonathan Livingston Seagull who seeks to be different from other members of the flock. The daily preoccupation of the flock is going to search for food and fighting. Life to them is nothing more than the practice of scrambling for food and snatching up fish from fishing boats. But Jonathan sees something different about life. He thought life should not be just scrambling for foods and fighting, but that there should be a higher purpose for life. For Jonathan life is about flight. Flying is his obsession, for he sees it to be more meaningful and honourable than scrambling for fish head. Flying like all other symbols in this novelette is a parable with deeper meanings. Flight here is a symbol of something that develops the individual rather than meeting the daily needs or temporarily gratifying the senses. Most gulls don’t bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight — how to get from shore to food and back again. Jonathan’s idea of flight is such that he could at top speed snatch the most difficult fish out of water and he is ready to give everything to achieve this perfect flight. In his quest to attaining this perfect flight he experiences several failures and disappointment, but he is never deterred.

The book teaches men and women about the meaning of life, that we are created to aspire and reach for excellence in whatever we do and in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. I have also learned that there is a price to be paid for excellence and that excellence requires constant practice. It also counsels men and women that in their quest for excellence they may also experience failure or meet brick-walls that may break their spirit and force them to forget their dreams. That man in the quest to stand out and be different from other members of the society may stir consternation on the part of those around him, but he must ignore every prompting of doubt or defeat and hold tenaciously to his pursuit of excellence.

2. What were the seven ideas which were personally most important to you and why? List these seven ideas followed by an explanation after each one as to why it was important to you. Use personal experience from your own life.

a. Never give up on your belief.

I have always held this view that self belief is a positive tonic that helps people grow beyond their dreams. Jonathan spends all his time in searching for the meaning and purpose for life. He is convinced that life is more meaningful than mere scrambling for foods. He finds the meaning of life to be pursuit of perfect flight. However, his success in finding the meaning of life does not bring him any honour, but causes him scorn and to be ostracized and banished from the flock. Jonathan remains resolute in his quest for the real purpose of life and continues to practice flying. He never gives up on what he believes in even when he stumbles and falls, which for a seagull brings disgrace and dishonor. Believing takes constant practice. Jonathan continued to practice his flight even in the face of adversity. Through practice and conviction Jonathan attained success and also gets others to share his belief. Men and women must always bear in mind that their resolution to success is more important than any other one thing and that unless they undertake more than they possibly can do, they will never do all they can do.

This idea is very important to me as it played out in my journey through life. When I left High School I took up a job in a factory as a storekeeper. I had with me in the store other boys who also had just left High School. Our duty was beyond storekeeping, we were made to do other menial jobs like cleaning the factory, loading and offloading of goods onboard trucks. The job was so menial and servile that I thought there should be a better purpose to life than this life in the factory. My colleagues and friends were contented with this job as they felt that it was the only means to their sustenance. Their dream was to rise to become foremen and achieve increase in pay. I felt that I could build a better future for myself and impact the society if I get a University degree. I tried to persuade my friends to look this direction, but they could not see life beyond the factory. I later became an object of ridicule and subject of pranks before my colleagues and friend. They felt that University education was not for people in the lower class like us, that our place was in the factory and in the market places. I resigned from the job barely a year after I took up the employment to prepare for my entrance examinations. I could recall when I approached the Production Manager to tell him of my intention to quit the job to pursue my dream. He was full of disappointment and expressed his desire to keep me in the factory. He told me he had great plans for me because of his relationship with my father who had also worked in the factory. I resolved that nothing could make me stay on in the job. Few years after I left my colleagues were retrenched and shown the way out of the factory. Here I am today with a career and a greater purpose for life. I have achieved this feat today, because I believe yesterday that I could make it up and I greatly believe that I can shoot higher.

b. Learning Love and Forgiveness.

Jonathan is successful in finding his own meaning of life, he returns to the flock that once banished him, and helps the young gulls to find their purpose of life. This is the climax of this novelette and the most inspiring part. “You don’t love hatred and evil…you have to practise and see the real gull, the good in every one of them, and to help them see it themselves” Jonathan exudes love and forgiveness. He does not hold grudges or hostility towards those that banished him from the flock, but on the contrary, he learns to love, forgive and lead them out of their darkness. To forgive and love those who have mistreated you is even more difficult than finding the true meaning of life, but Jonathan is able to manage his emotion and act out these esteemed values. “To err is human, to forgive, divine”. My grandmother taught me in my childhood to love and forgive other kids when they offended me. I could recall the occasions when he ask me to share my food or snacks with other kids who had wronged me. The willingness to forgive is a sign of spiritual and emotional maturity. It is one of the great virtues to which we all should aspire. Imagine a world filled with individuals willing both to apologize and to accept an apology. There is no problem that cannot be solved among people who possessed the humility and largeness of spirit and soul to do either or both when needed.

c. All gulls (men) are free but only limited by their thought.

Maynard Gull is enslaved and limited by his thought. He thinks he cannot fly. “You don’t understand my wings.” But Jonathan tells him “Maynard Gull, you have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, nothing can stand your way. It is the law of the Great Gull (God), the law that Is.”

There are many Maynard out there who believe that success is hinged on the conditions and circumstances they are born into or find themselves. This is not true, but they have made it rule or reality by what they have conceived in their mind. Truly, there is no limit to our values or to our capabilities. Every innovation, breakthrough or success starts from the mind or thought just as every failure starts from the mind or thought. The automobile, the submarines, the space rockets, the stealth bombers all first existed in the imagination or thought of men and women before ever they became facts and realities. The law holds true of everything in life. I believe that there is nothing that is rightly desired that cannot be brought into being through creative thought. There is nothing I have truly desired that I have not got and even those that I have not attained I believe that I will. The few years I have spent on earth I have learnt and understood that any wage I asked of life, life would pay me. I dare to ask for a great wage. The rule is “whatever you conceive, you can achieve”. Every man and woman has enough capacity to make much of a success. The capacity or ability of any man or woman to succeed or achieve flight lies entirely within.

d. Excellence or success requires constant practice and objective review of achievement.

Jonathan never allowed what happened to him to weigh him down, but accepts his fate and continues to practice flying repeatedly. Repeated practice, unflinching resolves to succeed and continued efforts teach him a lot. With each passing day, he learns new skills and challenges what he has learnt before. He is deeply engaged in active pursuit of perfection as he works very hard to master the arts of flying. For him flying (life) presents a million different possibilities and he his willing to explore them. Without worrying about the attendant risks, and even at great cost of his health he keeps trying different techniques and review his performance in order to learn more and reach where he desires.

I have learnt a lot from this idea. I have realized that there is the need for me to continually seek knowledge, ways to bolster my capacity and make a periodic review of my achievement in life to ensure that they match my ambition.

e. Learning from setbacks and failure

Jonathan is not willing to accept defeat. Though, he accepts his mistake and failings, but also accepts that sooner or later he will get it right.

f. Remain humble even when you transcend conformity.

Jonathan Livingston is portrayed as a very humble being, who wants to share what he knows, but does not wish to be given any extra credit for it, or to be held in high esteem because of this. According to him, he is living his true destiny and being what he is, what he needs to be. This does not call for any reverence or any special treatment by others. Life is not just about being recognized, or achieving things valued by society. It is about living the way you wish to live, it is about working for what matters to you, and what you want to achieve.

g. Mentor others to achieve excellence.

Jonathan is a worthy example of a mentor and leader who desires for others what he desires for himself. He teaches other Gulls the need to discover the truth that they may aslo be set free from limitations. He teaches by active participation and leads by good examples.

Jonathan teaches Fletcher the same ideas that Chaing had taught him. He taught that precision flying, that is, reaching perfection in some area, was just one more step towards our true nature which is in the image of the Great Gull (God).
Jonathan taught that we must set aside all of the things which limit us in our quest for excellence. Eventually, Jonathan moves on to a higher level of consciousness and raise Fletcher enough to take his place as an inspired, powerful teacher.

This is so important to me as one of my many objectives is to be mentored by the best hands and brains. I also desire to mentor others to become great teachers.

3. How will these ideas or lessons help you in practical way, both in your daily personal life and in helping you to create a better world? If so, how?

The book offers an abstract notion of life and how it should be lived. I believe that some of the principles in book are apt, applicable and adaptable to our daily personal life. The ideas in the book have made me to sit back, think and wonder about the true meaning of life and what I want to achieve. I have committed myself to making a list of the ideas in the book and checking them against my values and daily activities. I intend to register the principles I have accepted in my subconscious and apply them in my daily dealings. I will preach these values to others and ensure that I and the persons around me live them out.

4. Quotes: Are there any statement which the author made that particularly got your attention? If so, please quote them and comment as to why they are made important to you.

“It’s strange. The gulls who scorn perfection for the sake of travel go nowhere slowly. Those who put aside travel for the sake of perfection go anywhere instantly.”

The statement points to the fact that we must spend our time on constructive engagement and shun frivolities. It counsels me that if I am to attain freedom and expand my opportunities I must shun the fancies of the world to seek knowledge and understanding of the world. On the contrary, if I scorn knowledge I may remain ordinary and stagnated.

“But you can Jonathan. For you have learned, one school is finished, and the time has come for another to begin.”

The above statement is valid and important as it reinforces the idea that there no end to learning. At every stage in life man must continue to learn. Not even age is limitation to learning. A man starts dying the moment he stops learning. For man to find the purpose of life he must continue to learn to improve himself.

5. Is there anything in the book that you do not understand or are unclear about, or are there ideas which you disagree with and, if so why?


6. Did the book contain exercises for the reader to complete? If so, did you complete all of the exercises and did you find them helpful?


7. Was there anything you read in the book that you would like to comment on that was not covered in the previous questions? If so, please comment.


Please rate the following questions on a scale from 1 to 10. Ten is good and one is poor.

A. How interesting was it to read? 10
B. How helpful were the contents? 10
C. How easy was it to understand? 10
D. Would you recommend it to others? 10
E. What is the overall rating you would give it? 10