As A Man Thinketh
Assessment by Nwoye Franklin
1. What is the main idea that the author is trying to convey in the book.
The main idea the author was trying to convey in the book is that man’s thought is the supreme power that determines the direction of his life; that man is the maker of himself, by the virtue of thoughts which he chooses and encourages, that mind is the master-weaver both of the inner garments of character and the outer garments of circumstances. Ultimately, that man can change his life by changing his thoughts.
2. What were the seven ideas which were personally most important to you and why? List these ideas followed by an explanation after each one as to why it was important to you. Use personal examples from your own life.
a. Our thought defines our character
The author made me to understand that man is defined by his thoughts which manifest in his character. That man is the maker of his character, the molder of his life, and the builder of his destiny. That man is made or unmade by himself.
Personally, I have come across a handful of experiences which illustrates this fact. Sometimes when I am troubled emotionally by one and two things, I spend a lot of time worrying and thinking over the issue at hand. Though I do this in the secrecy of my room, everybody tend to notice a change in my behavior when they have encounter with me at such times. Even though I try as much as possible to mask my troubles, it still finds expression in my character.
More so, I have met friends who behave violently at times. They strive to control this violent behavior in them but ultimately fail. On close examination and interaction, I got to discover that these people have had hard times in their lives, some rather violet, these turn out to the defining moments of their lives. They tend to hold on to such experiences long afterwards.
They react to it rather than overcome it. They feel the need to always be battle ready because they think such thing is about to happen again. Usually, I notice this in people from shattered homes or exposed to child abuse and molestation. I have also met people who always think about catching fun all the time. They are always occupied with thoughts of fun; partying, clubbing, hanging out, etc. This manifests in their character- they are never serious with anything they do. They don’t have the patience to complete any task and are unhappy when faced with serious task; they just want to get away.
b. What befalls us is as result of how we think and act.
Here, the author made it clear that our character draws upon us consequent circumstances. As he astutely put it, ‘thought and character are one, and as character can only manifest and discover itself through environment and circumstances, the outer conditions of a person’s life will always be found to be harmoniously related to his inner state”.
When I am about to meet a new person especially a person of substance, I make up my mind that it is going to be a rewarding encounter. I ginger my mind that, even though I have been told stories of how harsh, strict and unfriendly that person is, I believe that mine is going to be different. I take all those warnings as caution to prepare well, but my inner beliefs are not affected. Fortunately enough, my case is always positively different. An encounter that readily comes to mind was during my fourth year in the University, we were given the privilege to choose a lecturer of our choice to supervise our undergraduate project work. I had a lot of lecturers in mind, especially those whom I have encountered previously and am sure they would be happy to work with me. But looking at it critically, I wanted someone with vast experience and knowledge, and who would actually make me work hard to learn. Only one person was in this category. He was a professor which means he has a lot of experience and knowledge. He was also aged, which means he can be a good father figure to me, a counselor and adviser. Moreover he took us on a course on project report writing. On the other hand, he was the strictest principled, no-nonsense person I have ever met. I went ahead to choose him because I wanted to work and learn from him. I wanted to know how he came to be so successful in his chosen field. When I told my mates, one person’s pen fell from his hands in shock. They found it hard to believe that someone could actually choose such a tenacious man to supervise him. They were quick to point out all the so called ”negatives” they knew of the man, but to me, they were what I wanted except his purported unfriendly approach to things. I thought to myself that I was going to make friends with him, and to be able to do so, I will have to work extra hard and exceed his expectation. The rest is history because now, we are not only good friends, he is my academic father and I recently told him that he is my mentor and he liked it. In this case, my thought was positive, my belief strong, and my character throughout our encounter was outstanding and the circumstance had no option than to change for good.
I have also known certain students who think a lecturer is bad, they then exhibit nonchalance in his classes and he in turn make things very difficult for them, sometime they even have to repeat the course.
c. Disease and health are rooted in thought
The body, as the author made me to understand, is the servant of the mind. It obeys the operations of the mind, whether they are deliberately chosen or automatically expressed. At the bidding of unlawful thoughts the body sinks rapidly into disease and decay, and vice versa.
The author made me to understand that you are what you think. Think health and you shall have it, think disease, and it shall be yours. The people who live in fear of disease are the people who get it. I have a very interesting experience in this regard. My genotype is AA, and as such am predisposed to suffer mostly from malaria fever, but nearly immune to other tropical diseases. However, I always thought that malaria won’t be a serious problem to me; in fact I believed I can get sick only once in 2-3 years and for years this has been the case.
But, for my father, he believes he has typhoid fever within him. He goes for regular check up at the slightest sign of discomfort. He always takes drugs. In fact if two days passes by without him taking drugs, he literally starts feeling uneasy and complaining. Right now at home, we laugh at him that he brings sickness upon himself because we believe that is the effect of his thoughts. My mum on the other hand, never believes in sickness and she hardly falls ill. The only time she was ever hospitalized was when she removed appendicitis.
I guess I have a task here to change my father’s thoughts about sickness. I will have to give him a copy of the book as a present.
d. To accomplish our purpose, we must focus our thoughts to it
According to the author, “until thought is linked with purpose, there is no intelligent accomplishment”. He meant to tell us that our thought is an indispensible tool in the accomplishment of our purpose. That we should make our purpose, once well defined, the centralizing point of our thoughts, and only then can we be able to cast out fear and doubts. We should make our purpose our supreme duty and should devote ourselves to its attainment, not allowing our thoughts to wander away into ephemeral fancies, longings and imaginings.
I have always wanted to excel in all my undertakings, especially my academics. When I was newly admitted into the university, I had a purpose to graduate with a certain grade. After my first semester, the result was not that encouraging, and I found myself a bit behind my aim. I discovered I had not concentrated my efforts and thoughts in line with my purpose. I corrected the defect. I focused all my energy, strength, effort and thoughts towards the attainment of this goal, and by my third year, I was already past the mark. I had to raise the stake higher since I still had two years left.
This idea was also seen in practice when I had to organize Igbo Day celebrations in my school in 2010. Everything seemed not to be working according to plan, that I felt we couldn’t meet our target. Until we harmonized our efforts, focused all our attention, energy, thoughts and resources to just that one purpose, we made significant progress in a very little while. We exceeded our expectation at the end of it all. The applicability of this idea cannot be overemphasized.
e. Man’s achievement or otherwise, is as a result of his own thoughts.
The author sounded it out that there are no such elements as luck or chance, or fortune. We are what we are, where we are, and have what we want, all by our thoughts. All that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thought. And that in order to achieve anything worthwhile, or to make progress, one must be ready to make sacrifice. As he puts it, “he who would accomplish little need sacrifice little; he who would accomplish much, must sacrifice much. He who would attain highly must sacrifice greatly”.
Taking an illustration from my school days again, during preparation for examinations, I do spend long hard hours studying. In fact, I start intensive preparation for exams exactly one month away from its commencement. I make it a point of duty to go through every course I was to write at least three times before the commencement of exams. When exams finally commence, I still spend long hours, mostly at nights, preparing for the course of the next day. I read it, practice it, memorize it, and even recite it, because at this stage, I can actually have nearly everything pictured mentally. I can spend the whole night studying, taking short breaks intermittently to rest. But during this same period, I see some of my classmates indulging in extracurricular activities- watching or playing football, basketball for hours unending, chatting away idly, and even sleeping all through the night. Initially, I used to wonder why all that? Are we not in the same class? Do we not all have the same exams to write on same day? I later got my answers. During group interactions, they make certain remarks about our (my friends and I) spending so much time studying, that all they wanted was just a pass in the course. The difference is that; I study hard to make a distinction in every course, they study just to pass. In essence, we make different levels of sacrifice to achieve different ends, and it works perfectly. Although some of them end up failing outrightly because they have refused to aim high enough.
f. We live our dreams
Here, the author suggests that every big venture, every big idea starts as a dream, and that there is nothing wrong in dreaming big. “Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become. Your vision is the promise of what you shall one day be; your ideal is the prophesy of what you shall at last unveil”.
“The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. Dreams are the seedlings of reality”.
After I read the book “Think Big” by Ben Carson, I saw the need to change my perspective in life. I literally started dreaming big in all my endeavors. I felt I cannot settle for little or mediocre standards. I felt that if I must think, then I must think big indeed. Right now, looking back at where I came from and where I am now, I see a lot of progress and each day brings me closer to my dreams. I just graduated from the University and with good grades, I consider that a giant step towards the realization of some of my biggest dreams – I dream of making exploits in the academic and business world. I am already living my dreams so far.
g. Serenity, like wisdom is precious – more desirable than fine gold.
Serenity, according to the author is the supreme reward of pure thoughts and actions. Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom. Calmness liberates one from worry, grieve, fume and fuss. It is a product of mastery of self control and steadfastness. It gives a feeling of inner strength, tranquility, and purity. It is a most desirable trait because “humanity surges with uncontrolled passion, is tumultuous with ungoverned grief, is blown about by anxiety and doubt. Only the wise man, only he whose thoughts are controlled and purified, makes the winds and the storms of the soul obey him”.
Personally, I feel inner peace and calmness whenever I accomplish a task or achieve my goal. I feel better, happier and more energetic. Generally I feel at peace with myself and my environment. But, if there is anyone whom I know that enjoys calmness of spirit, that person must be my grandfather. Although he is aged, he looks very strong, calm, and peaceful. It is always fun to be around him because it seems nothing bothers him even when people around are worried and anxious over something, he remained poised, peaceful and calm, never allowing their expression to upset him. I really admire this in him, among other qualities.
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?
“As a Man Thinketh” is honestly a breakthrough in the sphere of the human mind. Its relevance in my daily personal life and in my quest to make the world around me a better place is endless. The ideas contained in the book are thought-provoking and life changing.
The book brought my attention to the endless possibilities within my grasp only if I can direct my thoughts towards the right direction. I learnt in the book to guard and control my thoughts in other to manifest desirable circumstances. In my daily personal life, I will always be conscious of my thoughts because thought defines character, and a man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.
I will practically apply this truth, that I am the master of my thought, the molder of my character, and the maker and shaper of my conditions, environment, and destiny. I will also strive hard to make other people realize this truth by tracing their characters and establishing its connection to their inner most thoughts.
I will watch, control and alter my thoughts tracing their effects upon myself, upon others and upon my life and circumstances, linking cause and effect by patient practice and investigation.
Furthermore, I am now aware that whatever befalls me is as a result of how I think and act. Since thought and character are one, and as character can only manifest and discover itself through environment and circumstance, the outer conditions of my life is always in harmony to my inner state.
Practically, instead of whining and complaining about the circumstances around me, I will accept them as the direct result of my thoughts and thus enable me exert greater control over such circumstances. What happens to me is not as important as how I react to it.
I will strive to help others realize that following the innermost desires, aspirations, thoughts, by which they allow themselves, they at last arrive to their fruition and fulfillment in the outer conditions of their lives – thoughts defines circumstances. Good thoughts and actions can never produce bad results; bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results.
At last, I have confirmed that the body is the servant of the mind, that disease and health, like circumstances, are rooted in thought; out of a clean heart comes a clean life and a clean body, out of a defiled mind proceeds a defiled life and a corrupt body.
I will daily live by these guiding principles, make others realize this also, especially the sick, that “if you would perfect your body, guard your mind, if you would renew your body, beautify your mind. Thoughts of malice, envy, and disappointment, despondency, rob the body of its health and grace”.
I have also learnt that until thought is linked with purpose, there is no intelligent accomplishment. That they who have no central purpose in their life fall an easy prey to petty worries, fears, troubles and self-pitying, all of which are indications of weakness, which lead to failure, unhappiness and loss.
Daily, I will persistently put away aimlessness and weakness and begin to think with purpose so as to enter the ranks of the strong ones who only recognize failure as one of the pathways to attainment, who think strongly, attempt fearlessly, and accomplish masterfully. I will conquer failure by casting out all forms of doubt and fear.
I will daily conceive a legitimate purpose in my heart, write it down, and set out to accomplish it. I will make this purpose the centralizing point of my thoughts. I will encourage my friends to do same, emphasizing its results.
I will accept responsibility for all actions; my achievements and failures, because “all that a man achieves and all that he fails to achieve is the direct result of his own thoughts”. I will also learn to make worthy sacrifices in the quest to make progress or achieve anything worthwhile bearing in mind that, “he who would accomplish little need sacrifice little, he who would achieve much must sacrifice much. He who would attain highly must sacrifice greatly”.
I will consistently cherish a beautiful vision, a lofty ideal in my heart, believing that one day I shall realize it. I will encourage people not to be afraid of dreaming big. Rather they should dream lofty dreams because as you dream, so shall you become. Your vision is the promise of what you shall one day be; your ideal is the prophesy of what you shall at last unveil.
Above all else, I will strive daily to develop control of myself by guarding my thoughts. Self control is strength and right thought is mastery, calmness is power. I will guard myself on how I react to circumstances, events and people. I will develop inner calmness and peace of mind by not allowing anything to bother me unnecessarily knowing that I am 100% in charge of myself and my circumstances through the right application of my thoughts.
There were so many statements made by the author that were very important to me, in fact the book is full of such quotes. But I will present selected important ones.
a. “Not what he wished and prays for does a man get, but what he justly earns. His wishes and prayers are only gratified and answered when they harmonize with his thoughts and actions”.
This is a very significant statement because it is the basis of what is called “unanswered prayers/requests”. People consistently deceive themselves by believing that their prayers are not being answered, whereas the truth is that they have failed to realize that their thoughts and actions are not congruent with their prayers and wishes. So, in order to get what we pray for or what we wish for, we must first of all align our thoughts and actions with our prayers and wishes.
b. “Men are anxious to improve their circumstances but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound. The man who does not shrink from self crucifixion can never fail to accomplish the object upon which his heart is set”.
This quote is particularly important to me because I have witnessed it in action. I have a cousin who is striving to overcome poverty. He goes to church regularly, attends all sorts of prayer and counseling hoping for a miraculous breakthrough but all to no avail. On closer examination, I discovered that the real cause of his problem was himself; the type of business he’s doing. He is a businessman who deals on motor parts, specializing on Land rovers, Vesper, Tractor and Tata truck parts. The truth of the matter is that these brands of vehicle are outdated in this part of the world, hence no longer popular. Statistically, you may get just one out of five-hundred persons who use any of these brands. Worse still, you can find such only among the older generation. The trend has changed and he has simply refused to change with the trend. This may probably be due to the ‘pains’ associated with change; learning trade in the modern brands. He wants to improve his life, but is unwilling to improve himself, because he shrinks from self-crucifixion. He feels he is too old to stoop low to learn new line of trade, but I think the benefits far outweigh the sacrifice.
c. “A man cannot directly choose his circumstances, but he can choose his thoughts, and so indirectly, yet surely, shape his circumstances”.
The statement clarifies the fact that we have only one way to determine and control what befalls us, and that is by controlling our thoughts. Since we cannot obviously decide what we encounter in life and when we encounter it, we can actually choose our thoughts carefully and deliberately, hence shape our circumstances.
d. “Thought is the fount of action, life and manifestation; make the fountain pure, and all will be pure”.
Just as the stream gets dirty when its source is defiled, so does the human body get sick and diseased when the thoughts are impure. This is also true about his whole being; character, circumstances and environment. In other to sanitize ourselves, we must first sanitize our thoughts because out of a clean heart comes a clean life and body.
e. “The will to do springs from the knowledge that we can do”.
In other to accomplish anything, we must be convinced that we can do it. We must have the knowledge required to do it, and from this knowledge comes the willingness to do it.
f. “In all human affairs, there are efforts, and there are results. The strength of the effort is the measure of the result”.
This shows that the result we get is determined by the degree of effort we put in. To achieve great result, we must make great efforts. Our result is directly proportional to the efforts we put in.
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?
There is nothing in the book that is confusing, and I do not disagree with any of the ideas.
6. Did the book contain exercise for the reader to complete? If so, did you complete all of the exercises and did you find them helpful?
No, the book did not contain exercises for the reader to complete.
No, the questions covered my analysis and understanding of the book.
A. How interesting were the contents? 10
B. How helpful were the contents? 10
C. How easy was it to understand 9
D. Would you recommend it to others? 10
E. What is the overall rating you would give it? 10
Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Assessment by Nwoye Franklin (Nigeria)
1. What is the main idea that the author is trying to convey in the book?
The main idea the author was trying to convey in the book is that of self discovery: which entails finding a reason to live – to learn, to discover and to be free. The most important thing in living is to reach out and touch perfecting in that which we most loved to do, finding that perfection and showing it forth for others to benefit from.
a. Self discovery
As noted earlier, self discovery is the main theme of the book. The author made me take a look into myself to discover who I am, why I am living, what I am capable of doing and what I cannot. He urged me to discover who I am, what I love to do, what makes me happy; discover a reason to live, find and follow a meaning, pursue a higher purpose for life.
In my own personal life experience, I had a hard time choosing a career to pursue in life. While in secondary school, I was a very good student, but I was confused as to which course to study in higher institution. I had so many options and opinions from family and friends, ranging from Medicine, Chemistry, Engineering, Pharmacy, and Law. The vast array of choice made it harder for me. I visited my Guidance and Counselor, who helped me discover myself. I looked within myself, what I loved to do, what catches my fancy and what I would be happy doing for life without getting bored.
I noticed for the first time how much I am in tune with nature; plants and animals, gardens and clean environments; how the three basic life necessities of food, shelter and clothing is yet to be met especially in this part of the world, and the vast array of opportunities that is in this sector. On closer self examination, I opted to go into agriculture, and since then, my life has not remained the same.
Furthermore, the author pointed out that I am limited only by my thoughts, my fear of failure and rejection; limited by words like can’t, wont; never and other such negatives. If I can actually believe that there is no limit to what I am capable of achieving, conquer my fear, then perfection would be within my reach. My only limit is myself.
I can achieve any goal I set my mind upon only if I believe. I can, if I think I can.
This particular point has played out in my life in uncountable occasions. But of particular note was when I was the leader of my Tribe in my University days. Towards the end of my tenure, as was the custom, we had to organize a week-long program to celebrate our rich cultural heritage as a people, which culminates in the day of my official handover ceremony, the Igbo day, as we call it; it happened that we had limited resources of both man-power and finance. We set up a committee to spear-head the preparation, but the committee lacked interest and proper motivation so I had to relieve them of the duty at the eleventh hour. I personally took up the task alongside few of my executives. We started out with virtually nothing order than a burning desire to accomplish our mandate. We quickly brainstormed on how to raise the necessary fund and devised means to beat the date. We went to work immediately, we started the fund rising within ourselves and were astonished by how much we realized. This gave us a very big boost of motivation. The long and short of the whole story was that we not only succeeded in beating our deadline, we far exceeded our expectation, setting a record of the most outstanding Igbo Day ever celebrated in our school. We believed we can, and we did.
Even in my academics, I have exceeded my expectation when I believed that there is no limit to what I can achieve.
Finally, the author enjoined me never to accept the ordinary because I am actually extra ordinary, I am very unique and there is no other person living anywhere in the whole world like me, and I should endeavor to live out this innate uniqueness is everything I do daily.
Another important idea pointed out by the author is the persistence principle, which was clearly illustrated in the early parts of the book. When we are consumed by passion, and we are convinced that our cause is right and just, the author persuades us to persist on that right cause no matter what. Sure, there will be obstacles and barriers, moments when we will question the rationality of our desire, the appropriateness of our cause, moments when to yield and bend seems the best and easiest thing to do, but we are urged never to quit, because winners never quit, and quitters never win. We should try again, again and again; never giving up or giving in to pressures. It is said that nothing good comes easy, even gold passes through fire in order to be purified.
Personally, the principle of persistence has won me more laurels than any other single principle. In my academic pursuit, for example, there were moment when I felt like giving up; throwing in the towel seemed the easiest thing to do, but just hanging on a little longer was enough to see me through. Specifically, there was one particular semester during which everything seemed to be going wrong, my parents who were my sponsors found it extremely hard to carter for my needs in school. I tried so many options, friends, family, and even pals, all to no avail. I felt like quitting, deferring the semester. The thought of quitting was very foreign to me; I couldn’t imagine being out of school and missing a whole semester just because of finance. I never believed money could limit me from doing whatever I wanted. I pressed on and on until I got aid from a least expected source, and amazingly, my parents bounced back in a short while. Had I given up, it would have been a near disaster. I have come to learn in life, that one is pressured to give up when he is not so far away from his goal, a stone throw perhaps. So if I could hang on a little longer, that is the price I must pay for success.
Persistence and determination seem to be closely related, but to me there is a clear line between both. Determination, to my understanding is a person’s desire to achieve ones set goal, to hit ones target or to reach ones aim more than anything else. When one is consumed by such burning desire, such iron-clad determination to succeed he does not recognize failure nor rejection nor anything else order than that which he seek, and often than not he gets it. For one to posses such determination, one must have love for that which he desire or embark on, for instance Jonathan Seagull loved flying more than anything else, and he learnt it.
I have applied the principle of determination a number of times in my life. I had a setback gaining admission into the University when I finished my secondary school. Even though I passed the entrance examination, the Universities Matriculation Examinations (UME) conducted by Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) with high scores, I failed to gain admission twice. Although on one occasion, I was offered admission into another school which I tentatively filled out as a second choice, but I declined because it was a state owned University, but I was determined to go to a Federal University, and not any Federal University, but a Federal University of Agriculture. I stretched myself to the limits, made good grades in the examination, took post-UME test in my desired school, backed it up with prayers and lo and behold, it worked. My name was first name in the Admission list for my department. My determination paid off.
Presently, I am determined to pursue a career in the academic field and I aim to bag a PhD before I clock 29, and subsequently become a professor soon afterwards. It demands a lot of hard work and sacrifice, and I am ready to pay the price to attain excellence.
d. Perfection is not a destination, but a process
The author made me to realize and understand that perfection is not a destination, a particular place in a particular point in time, but a continuous process which can last throughout one’s life time. No matter how well we have learnt to do something, no matter our expertise in a particular task, there is still room for improvement, modification and innovation. In other words, we must continue to learn new things throughout our life time or else we become stagnant and outdated like an old structure. From the book and from my personal life experience, I have come to realize that learning is fun and the strive for perfection is not without its turns; ups and down, but one must always be ready to overcome. The fun of learning stems from the fact that the mind gets enlightened and excited, throwing up bursts of energy as new findings are made and the hitherto unknown is finally conquered. This euphoric feeling motivates the mind to strive to know more, it rouses one’s curiosity.
I also came to realize that one of the ways to make learning fun is to share knowledge with others whom you have similar interests with. It is not advisable to be obnoxious or claim to know-it-all. It is buttressed by the adage that no one is an island. Information must be shared among like minds. This led me to realize that as we try to teach other people what we know, new insights and fountain of new ideas are thrown open to us. We learn a whole lot more in the process. Whenever we conquer the hitherto unknown, we discover that there is still more to learn. As astutely put in the book; “one school is finished, and the time has come for another to begin”.
In my personal life experience, I always strive to conquer the unknown, break new grounds and set new records. My desire to learn new things has never been saturated. For instance, when I shop for new books I tend to be very excited doing the shopping and even more excited afterwards anytime I look at my latest collection. The excitement stems from the fact that I have a whole lot to explore and to learn.
This excitement reaches its climax when I eventually begin reading the books, and once I am done the thirst to acquire new ones comes back. I feel like knowing more daily. Specifically, when I was emailed my set of books, I was so excited that my mind couldn’t get off the books. Even though I was in the midst of tight schedules at the time, I was restless until I read them all and wrote my assessment.
e. Progress is always not within the ambit of the law
Man is a growth by law, and not a creation by artifice. In other words, man is an animal of change, and change is constant. Everything changes in space and time except change itself.
On the other hand, the law is static; it is based upon already known or discovered ideas and facts. It is blind to new facts and discoveries. New findings, new ideas and innovations are steps ahead of the known and that is why they are new, and hence are not within the already existing law. Thus there is a constant conflict between progress and the law, historically.
We are constantly enjoined from childhood to live in accordance with the dictates of the law. This makes us afraid at times to make progress which is not within the law. It takes tremendous courage on our part to make such strides and usually such adventures stand out as the defining moments of one’s life and his generation.
As evidenced in the book, Jonathan’s quest was not within the law and he suffered isolation for his insistence. As earlier noted, the law is blind and deaf to progress, Jonathan’s flock was ignorant of progress, in as much as it was a desired progress, just because they wanted to be law abiding.
Personally, I have a very funny experience in this regard. When I was having problems deciding on which course to study in the University, I had so many options which are nature-related. Since my family would be happy to see me study Medicine, I decided to take it further, to study Veterinary Medicine. The day I broke the news to my family, they were nearly heartbroken. They recounted the story about a man from my village who studied Veterinary Medicine back in those days. He came back to the village once upon a time; villagers were bringing their sick goats, sheep and other livestock for him to treat. It so happened that after treatment, some of these animals’ condition grew worse until they eventually died. Even as it happened in a few cases, almost every villager was distrust and staged a march to the man’s house, ridiculed him and his career. Since then onwards it seemed a crime for someone to say proudly that he is a Veterinary doctor in my village; an animal doctor as it is called.
Honestly, I didn’t like the story neither do I like the idea of being ridiculed back in the village even though I did not plan practicing in the village. But I plan extending my knowledge to help my people. After personal thoughts, I finally decided to go into agriculture because I am concerned about the increasing food insecurity. This too, was met with resistance. My elder sister said that if I would go into agriculture, there is no need to go to school to waste time and money. I should rather go back to the village and learn from my grandparents. Although it was not a mean remark, I will never forget it. When my grandparents got to hear the news, they were dismayed, saying that they have suffered almost all their lives tilling the ground under the scorching sun, and now here I am trying to go back to such suffering. I tried to explain the tenets of modern agriculture to them but if fell on deaf ears. All they could understand was that agriculture is all about farming and with crude implements and methodology.
I did not give up, I went ahead to study what my heart wanted and I am very happy today to have made that decision and they to, because they have seen what I saw.
f. Shame and dishonor are not enough to extinguish the burning desire for success.
The author reinforced the belief that shame and dishonor are not enough to extinguish the burning desire for success. Although, it may sadden you, make you sorrowful and may even isolate you, but with a strong conviction and an iron-clad determination to succeed, the sorrow evaporates and transcends into a burning desire, the motivating factor, to prove your detractors and critics wrong. Jonathan’s sorrow wasn’t the solitude he was thrust into, but that the other gulls were ignorant, they refused to open their eyes to see the relevance of his quest.
In my personal life, this idea has played out a number of times. As evidenced in the experience recounted above, even though I may have changed my mind about studying veterinary medicine, it was not because of their criticism or fear of rejection, but it was much more of a heart-felt interest. Am sure of this because am so happy in my chosen field today and I never regret making the decision. On the contrary, am happy not to have gone into Veterinary Medicine. I love what I have studied, and I can’t imagine being happier elsewhere.
g. Concentration of will-power and efforts yield desired results
The author buttressed the need for total concentration of will-power, energy, efforts and any other available resources into that which you desire. This inevitably yields the desired result.
I also realized that certain factors enhance concentration, although they may seem unpleasant initially. Factors like rejection and criticism reinforces one’s desire, and hence one’s concentration. This is because rejection and criticism motivates one to want to prove his critics wrong, thereby concentrating all his energy on the task.
Also, you must love what you are doing in order to be able to concentrate fully. And you become successful only by loving what you do because that is when you can put all your heart and mind into it.
During my University days, there were certain courses I took which seemed particularly difficult to me. I seem not to understand nor comprehend; everything seemed too technical and tasking. I fret. Later, I came to realize that my dislike for this courses stem from the fact that I never liked the lecturers that took them. Its either I didn’t like the way they teach, their personality or some other trivial thing about them. This realization changed a whole lot in my outlook. It dawned on me that it mattered little whether I liked the lecturer or not, the most important thing is that I must have to pass the course at the end of the day. I had to mentally delete the lecturer from my mind and focus solely on the task at hand – passing the course. I concentrated on all my efforts, devised means to achieve my aim. I had to read extra hours, source extra materials from the library and from the internet. I succeeded in getting various simplified approaches to the course, and in no time at all, I was riding high. I came to understand the course more than any other person in the class, even those that seemed to be following right from the start. Total concentration won the battle for me.
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?
The ideas are great and its relevance in my daily personal life and in helping me create a better world cannot be overemphasized. In fact, when I take a look at my life, I see so many situations in which I have made use of one or more of the ideas subconsciously.
In as much as the author have succeeded in making me further discover myself, what I am capable of doing, knowing that I, and only I, limits myself, it’s now upon me to help other people discover themselves, to realize what I have come to realize, and I know that in this process, I will get to discover myself the more. This is very important because I have come to realize that the most deadly disease in the whole wide world is not cancer, not HIV or malaria in Africa, it is the failure to discover oneself, the failure to discover a reason to live, to find and follow a meaning, to pursue a higher purpose for life. I have a task to help as much people as I can to discover a purpose for life. Although it may be a daunting task, am very ready to undertake it.
Coming to the principle of persistence, I learnt about it a few years back from Napoleon Hills’ “Think and Grow Rich”, and I have applied it frequently. But this book reinforced this principle, especially by putting it in a practical story way, I was able to picture persistence at work in Jonathan Livingston Seagull. In my daily personal life, I will never ever give up again on an important task or goal until it is completely achieved. I already have certain personal long term goals which am working towards, and with this newly reinforced principle of persistence, I am sure those goals are as good as actualized already because am not going to know failure.
I will also encourage people around me to press on towards their mark until they get there. They should never give up, and should accept obstacles and barriers as the price they have to pay for success. I will always try again, again and again.
Determination, they say, is the key to success. Having seen determination practically at work in Jonathan Livingston Seagull, I am determined more than ever to achieve my set goals more than anything else. I am determined daily to make meaning out of everyday life, to see the best in people who I come across daily and help them discover that.
I am determined to follow my dream to logical conclusion; bag my PhD, attain the status of professorship in my career and make so many other exploits.
I will take this further to infuse the spirit of determination into my family, so that we can press unwaveringly toward our collective goals. And whenever I am faced with the task of working with a group of people, I will ensure that they see and get influenced by the spirit of determination I exhibit.
I will always strive towards perfection, bearing in mind that perfection, just like learning, is not a destination but a process. I will daily aim higher, striving to break my previous performance records and other existing records. I will always bear in mind that when one school finishes, another begins. I will also help others around me to realize that there is no end to learning. We should strive for perfection knowing that it is not without its ups and downs.
I initially never wanted stepping beyond boundaries, but with this newly reinforced idea that progress is always not within the law, that new findings, new ideas and innovations are steps ahead of the known, am no longer afraid to follow my convictions even when they seem not to conform to known standards. Am no longer afraid to embrace my dreams, live my own life, not just conforming to the norms whereas am destined to standout. I will also encourage others to realize this hard fact.
Standing out, towing a different part from the usual and following your dream almost always go against the norms and values, and hence are considered offensive and against the law. “Offenders” are usually cajoled and dishonored. But once I am convinced on the path I am taking, no shame or dishonor is enough to quench my thirst, or dampen my desire. It should rather be a motivating factor to prove my detractors and critics wrong.
I will seek out people in similar situations, share knowledge and encourage one another.
I am convinced that concentration of will-power, efforts and energy will always inevitably yield desired results. I will daily concentrate my will-power on one thing at a time until it is 100% accomplished, then to the next task. In order to successfully apply this principle, I will make a priority list daily, and concentrate my efforts on each task till completion. I will share this idea with people and encourage them to try them.
Generally, I will form a small group of like minds within my friends to use as an experimental or pilot group, where I will test these ideas and enjoin them to do likewise. We can set standards among ourselves and sanction anyone who fails.
Yes, there were statements which the author made that particularly got my attention, they include;
a. “One who has touched excellence in learning has no need of that kind of promise”
The author made this statement when Jonathan Livingston Seagull felt guilty of breaking the promise he made to himself of giving up flying, before an idea hit him like a thunderbolt. He forgot his promise in a flash, in the midst of joy of the idea, tried it and it worked. Here, the author meant that when we get to a certain point, that point of excellence, we should rid ourselves of certain thoughts and promises which are not congruent with our level of excellence. We don’t have the need for backward thoughts when we achieve excellence, no going back then.
b. “We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can be free! We can learn how to fly!”
This statement summarizes the idea of self discovery. We can discover that greatness and uniqueness which is hidden within us. We can discover what we are capable of doing only if we will just look within us. We are armed with intelligence and skill to succeed. This discovery is capable of earning us freedom and we can have no limit to what we can do. We can learn how to fly, meaning that we can break our limitations.
c. “…the most important thing in living was to reach out and touch perfection in that which they most loved to do…” Here, the author persuades us to strive for perfection in whatever we do. He pointed out that we should not just do anything for doing sake, rather he entreats us to do that which we most love to do, that which gives us happiness and is fun for us to do, and only then can we be able to touch perfection. For Jonathan Seagull, that was to fly.
d. “… our purpose for living is to find that perfection and show it forth”
According to the author, it is not only finding perfection in that which we most love to do that defines our purpose for living, it also involve showing forth that perfection for the benefit of others. In other words, we should not be selfish with what we learn; we should show it forth, teach others and encourage them to attain the heights, as we have done. Therefore, the enlightened is like a bright light which must not be hidden but must shine for other to see.
e. “…any number is a limit, and perfection doesn’t have limits”.
No matter what we have achieved, according to the author, we can always go higher because there is no limit to what we can do in our quest for perfection. We can always raise the stakes higher, set new targets. There is a saying which I love so much; ‘anything that can be measured, gets done’. In other words, we set a target, break it and set a new one. We must always continue to break out limits, aim higher.
f. “Everything that limits us we have to put aside”.
This is my favorite quote from the book. It is very sharp and direct. In my life, sometimes I used to wish a thousand things were as I wanted. I thus considered these imperfections in things to limit what I could have done. Lack of finance, lack of connection, lack of quality friends, lack of time, among other things, seemed to be limiting me initially. At a time, I mentally removed these from the picture, and saw how clear the whole thing is; they were nothing.
We have to put aside everything that limits us in order to make progress, achieve our aims, and reach our targets. Try it today. See every situation as if there were no limitation in it, and see what good you can make out of it.
g. “Break the chains of your thoughts, and you break the chains of your body, too”.
Here, the author made it specifically clear that our thought is a limiting factor to what we can achieve. We look onto our body as being imperfect, sluggish and lazy, but in actual sense, it is our pattern of thinking that is like a chain that restrains our body from performing at its best. Only when we break the chains of our thought can we break the chains holding our body back. Our thought is seen here as the power house, it generates and infuses energy all over us. Put in another way; “change your thoughts, change your life”.
h. “You need to keep finding yourself, a little more each day, that real, unlimited Fletcher Seagull. He’s your instructor. You need to understand him and to practice him”.
This is what I would like to term self-empowerment. The author points out that our greatest teacher is ourselves. We are our best friends, our best advisers, our best teachers, instructors, and directors. We should always look deep within us to find the answer, the pieces of puzzle. We need to establish an internal connection and rapport with our real selves, and not be distracted by external forces. Put in a personal way;
I need to keep finding myself, a little more each day, that real, unlimited Nwoye Franklin. He’s my instructor. I need to understand him and to practice him”.
I make this my mantra, reciting it daily.
i. “Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly”.
This buttresses the above quote on looking inward into ourselves. When you look outwards instead of looking inwards, all your eyes see is limitation; barriers and obstacles left and right. It discourages you, weakens your spirit and may even make you lose focus. You see a lot of excuses to make for your failure; you see something to hang on to, a scapegoat to blame your woes. But when you look inwards, you find out what you already know, your convictions and ideals, and you will see the way to fly.
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?
Actually there is something that I am unclear about, but do not totally disagree with. “Heaven is not a place and it is not a time. Heaven is being perfect”. In my doctrine as a Christian, I was meant to understand that heaven is a place where God and the angels dwell, and where we all aim to go someday, where every imperfection shall be perfected.
Looking at the statement critically, I understand the part that heaven is being perfect, because heaven is synonymous to perfection. But on heaven not being a place and not a time, am a bit unclear about that, except of course, the author made reference to heaven in his context to depict perfection which is an ongoing process.
No, the book does not contain exercises for the reader to complete.
No, the questions covered my understanding and analysis of the book.
A. How interesting were the contents? 8
B. How helpful were the contents? 10
C. How easy was it to understand? 9
D. Would you recommend it to others? 10
E. What is the overall rating you would give it? 9