All efforts directed toward the
correcting of temperamental or
mental blemishes or defects and nervous conditions are of benefit to
humanity. In producing this book the Author's purpose was to help
mankind to overcome these weaknesses, which are a serious impediment to
mental development, and hinder personal advancement and general
progress. The aim of the Publishers in issuing this translation is to
put into the hands of those who wish to overcome their failings, become
masters of themselves, and command the attention and respect of others,
a work that has been thoroughly tested abroad and one that will be
found of exceptional service in attaining the end in view--the securing
of a perfect balance.
This book is written in two
first points to the need of
Poise in daily life, indicates the obstacles to be overcome, and
discusses the effects of Poise on personal efficiency. The second
instructs the reader how to secure that evenness of temperament which
is the chief characteristic of Poise. It includes, in addition, a series of practical physical exercises to be
used in acquiring Poise.
If such a work as this is
good, if the reader really wishes to
benefit by the advice that it gives him, it must be read thoughtfully
and diligently, not fitfully and forgetfully, and the reader most
steadfastly keep before him the maxim of the Author--"Poise is a power
derived from the Mastery of Self."
NEED OF POISE IN LIFE
Lack of poise has always been an
obstacle to those who are imbued
with the desire to succeed.
In every age the awkwardness born
timidity has served to keep
back those who suffered from it, but this defect has never been so
great a drawback as in the life of to-day.
The celebrated phrase of the
Roman writer who said, "Fortune
smiles on the brave," could very well serve as our motto nowadays, with
this slight alteration: "Fortune smiles on those who are possest of
At this point let us attempt an
definition of poise.
It is a quality which enables us
judge of our own value, and
which, in revealing to us the knowledge of the things of which we are
really capable, gives us at the same time the desire to accomplish them.
It is not a quality wholly
the contrary, it is a
composite of many others all of which take part in the molding of that
totality which bears the name of poise.
well to pass in review the
principal qualities of which it is composed, that one may characterize
Knowledge of one's own value.
Correctness of judgment.
Sincerity toward oneself.
The power of resisting the
Contempt of adverse criticism.
Pride that is free from vanity.
A definite and clearly conceived
Will, as is well known, is the
all our resolutions, whether
the question for the moment be how to form them or how to keep them
A man without will-power is a
blown about by every wind and
carried, whether he will or no, into situations in which he has no
valid reason for finding himself.
Without the will-power which
to take a firm hold of
ourselves and to get a grip upon our impressions, they will remain
vague and nebulous without presenting to us characters of sufficient
definiteness to enable us to direct them readily into the proper
It is will-power which gives us
force to maintain
a resolution which will lead us to the hoped-for goal of success.
It is will-power also which
to correct the faults which
stand in the way of the acquiring of poise.
We are not now speaking of those
fancies which are no more than
manifestations of nervousness. We have in mind rather that controlled
and enduring purpose which arms the heart against the assaults of the
emotions by giving it the strength to overcome them.
There are many cases even in
will-power has led to their
This happens more particularly in
case of those artificial
emotions that the man of resolution ignores completely, but which cause
agony to the timid who do not know how to escape them, and exaggerate
them to excess.
This abnormal development of
personalities is the peculiarity
of the timid, which their fitful efforts of will only heighten,
alienating from them the sympathy which might be of assistance to them.
They take refuge in a species of
mischievous and fruitless activity,
leaving the field open to the development of all sorts of imaginary
ills that argument does not serve to combat.
whose importance is in no
way counterbalanced by their appreciation of the friends they keep at a
distance, fills their entire existence to such an extent that they have
no doubt whatever that, when they are in public, every eye is, of
necessity, fixt upon them.
Their negative will leaves them
mercy of every sort of
emotion, which, in arousing in them the necessity of a reaction they
feel themselves powerless to realize, reduces them to a state of
inferiority that, when it becomes known, is the source of grave
embarrassment to them.
The power of will which sustains
who wish to acquire the habit
of poise is, then, the capacity to accomplish acts solely because one
has the ardent desire to achieve them.
We are now speaking, understand,
neither of extreme heroism or of
Another point presents itself
Willpower, in order to preserve
its energy, must be sustained and fixt. At this price alone can we
achieve poise. We must, therefore, thoroughly saturate ourselves with
this principle: Reasoning-power is an essential element in the
upbuilding of poise.
It is reasoning-power which
to distinguish between those
things that we must becareful to avoid and
those which are part and parcel of the domain of exaggeration and
It is also by means of reasoning
we arrive at the proper
appreciation of the just mean that we must observe. It is by its aid
that we are enabled to disentangle those impulses that will prove
profitable from a chaos of useless risks.
It is always by virtue of
depending upon reason that we
are able to adopt a resolution or to maintain an attitude that we
believe to be correct, while preserving our self-possession under
circumstances in which persons of a timorous disposition would
certainly lose their heads.
Those who know how to reason
expose themselves to the
possibility of being unhorsed by fate for lack of good reasons for
strengthening themselves in their chosen course.
They adhere, in the very heat of
discussion and in spite of the
onslaughts of destiny, to the line of conduct that sage reflection has
taught them to adopt and are more than careful never to abandon it
except for the most valid reasons.
They never stray into the byways
which the timid and the
shrinking constantly wander without sufficient thought of the goal
toward which they are journeying.
where they are going, and if,
now and again, they ask for information about the road that remains to
be traveled, it is with no intention of changing their course, but
simply so as not to miss the short cuts and to lose nothing of the
pleasures of the scenes through which they may pass.
Reasoning-power is the trade-mark
superior minds. Mediocre
natures take no interest in it and, as we have seen, the timid are
incapable of it, except in so far as it follows the beaten path.
True poise never is guided by
but reason. Certain risks can
never be undertaken save after ripe deliberation.
Confusion is never the fate of
who are resolved on a definite
line of conduct.
Such people are careful to plumb
questions with which they have
to grapple and to weigh the inconveniences and the advantages of the
acts they have the desire to accomplish.
When their decision is once made,
however, nothing will prevent the
completion of the work they have begun. Such people are ripe for
The knowledge of one's real worth
quality doubly precious when
contrasted with the fact that the majority of people are more than
indulgent to their own failings. Of many
of them it may be said, in the words of the Arab proverb, couched in
the language of imagery: "This man has no money, but in his pocket
everything turns to gold."
This saying, divested of the
of hyperbole, means simply
that the man in question is so obsessed with the greatness of his own
personal value that he exaggerates the importance of everything that
This condition is a much more
one than one might at first
believe. Many an occurrence which, when it happens to some one else,
seems to us quite devoid of interest, becomes, when it directly affects
us, a matter to compel the attention of others, to the extent that we
find ourselves chilled and disappointed when we discover that we are
the victims of that indifference which we were prepared to exhibit
toward other people under similar circumstances.
The consciousness of our own
not be confounded with that
adoration of self which transforms poise into egotism.
It is a good thing to know one's
powers sufficiently well to
undertake only such tasks as are certainly within the scope of one's
oneself more capable than
one really is, is a fault that is far too common. It is, nevertheless,
less harmful in the long run than the failing which is its exact
antithesis. Lack of confidence in one's own powers is the source of
every kind of feebleness and of all unsuccess.
It is for this reason that poise
can exist without another
quality, that correctness of judgment which, in giving us the breadth
of mind to know exactly how much we are capable of, permits us to
undertake our tasks without boasting and without hesitation.
Soundness of judgment is the
being able to appreciate the
merits of our neighbors without cherishing any illusions as to our own,
and of being able to do this so exactly that we can with assurance
carry out to its end any undertaking, knowing that the result must be,
barring accidents, precisely what we have foreseen.
This being the case, what
reason can we have for
depreciating ourselves or for lacking poise?
Timid people suffer without
their own defects in the
matter of insight.
They torture themselves by
their judgments upon indications
and not upon facts.
If the perception of a man of
resolution causes him to understand at
once the emptiness of
criticisms based on envy or spleen, the timid man, always ready to
seize upon anything that can be possibly construed into an appearance
of ridicule directed against himself, will give up a project that he
hears criticized without stopping to weigh the value of the arguments
Far from arguing the question
attempting a rebuttal, he
never even dreams of it. The very thought of a contest, however
courteously it may be conducted, frightening him to such an extent that
he loses all his ideas.
The unfortunate shrinking which
characterizes him makes him an easy
prey for people of exaggerated enthusiasms as well as to quick
A token of apparent sympathy
him so profoundly that he does
not wait to estimate its value and to decide whether it be sincere or
He passes in a moment from
gaiety to the blackest despair
if he imagines that he has observed even the appearance of an
He does not need to be sure, to
miserable. It is enough for him
if the circumstances that he thought favorable become seemingly hostile
utterly different is the attitude
of the man who is endowed with poise!
His firmness of soul saves him
unconsidered enthusiasms and he
jealously preserves his control in the presence of excessive
protestations as well as when confronting indications of aimless
How can such a man as this
fail to form a correct judgment
and to benefit by all the qualities that depend upon it?
Absolute sincerity toward oneself
one of the forms of sound
Without indulging in excessive
it is a good thing to
endeavor to become intimately acquainted with one's aptitudes and one's
failings, and to admit the latter with the utmost frankness in order to
set about the work of correcting them.
It is also necessary to know
what sort of territory it is in
which one is taking one's risks.
The world of affairs, whatever
last may happen to be, may be
likened to a vast preserve containing traps for wild beasts.
The man who wishes to walk in
place without coming to harm
will, first of all, make a careful study of the ground for the purpose
of avoiding the traps and pitfalls
that may engulf him or wound him as he passes.
Just as soon as he has located
dangers his step becomes firm
and he can advance with a tranquil gait and head upraised along the
paths which he knows do not conceal any dangerous surprizes.
These are the pitfalls that most
frequently threaten that daring
that we sometimes find in the timid.
Their very defects preventing
making proper comparisons,
they are altogether too prone to ignore their faults and to magnify
their virtues and so fall an easy prey to the designer and the sharper.
Their very carelessness in
other people becomes the
foundation of an involuntary partiality the moment they are called upon
to judge their own actions.
It is not deliberate
that drives them to act in this
way, but their inexperience, which gives rise in them to the desire for
perfection, and this necessarily provokes, simultaneously with the
despair caused by their failure to attain it, a fear of having this
failure remarked or commented upon.
The man who possesses poise is
familiar with the realities of life
not to be aware that
the search for such an ideal is a Utopian dream.
But he is also aware that, if
perfection does not exist, it
is the bounden duty of man to struggle always in pursuit of good and to
show appreciation of it in whatsoever form it may manifest itself.
Sincerity toward himself thus
for him an easy matter indeed,
and for the very reason that his poise leaves him absolutely free to
form a correct estimate of others.
Serious self-examination throws a
light for him upon those
merits of which he has a right to be proud, while revealing to him at
the same time the faults to which he is most likely to yield.
The habit of estimating himself
own qualities without fear
or favor gives him great facility for gaging the motives of other
He thus avoids the pitfalls that
biased viewpoint spreads before
the feet of the foolish, and at the same time represses that feeling of
vanity which might lead him to believe that he is altogether too clever
to fall into them.
He watches himself constantly to
getting into the bypaths
which he sees with sorrow that others are following, and does not fail
to estimate accurately the value of
the victories he achieves over himself as well as over the duplicity of
most of the people who surround him.
And this superiority is what
certain his poise. More difficult
perhaps than anything else to acquire is the power to resist the
appeals of one's own self-love.
We will explain this later at
length. Lack of poise is often
due to nothing so much as an excess of vanity which throws one back
upon oneself from the fear of not being able to shine in the front rank.
Such a person does not say to
"I will conquer this place by
sheer merit." He contents himself with envying those who occupy it,
quite neglecting to put forth the efforts which would place him there
There is nothing worse than
an exaggerated tenderness
toward ourselves, which, by magnifying our merits in our own eyes,
frequently leads us to make attempts which result in failure and expose
us to ridicule.
This is a most frequent cause of
an inveterate coward of one
who is subject to occasional attacks of timidity.
To know one's limitations exactly
never to allow oneself to
exceed them--this is the part of
wisdom, the act of a man who, as the saying goes, knows what he is
There is in every effort a
limit that it is not wise to
"Never force your talents," says
pithy proverb. Never
undertake to do a thing that is beyond your powers.
Never allow yourself to be drawn
discussion on a subject
which is beyond your intellectual depth. To do so is to take the risk
of making mistakes that will render you ridiculous.
But if you are quite convinced
can come out victorious,
never hesitate to enter a trial of wits that may serve as an occasion
for demonstrating the fact that you are sure of your subject.
The man who cultivates poise will
let pass such opportunities
as this for exhibiting himself in a favorable light.
Conscious of the soundness of his
judgment, and filled with a
real sincerity toward himself, he will not allow himself to be carried
away by a possible chance of success. Rather will he gather himself
together, collect his forces, and wait until he can achieve a real
effect upon the minds of those whom he wishes to impress.
Similarly the result of unsuccess
such a venture is obvious. It has the
developing a distrust of oneself and of destroying the superb assurance
of those people of whom it is often said: "Oh, he! He is sailing with
the wind at his back!"
People generally fail to add in
cases that such persons have
left nothing undone to accomplish this result and are more than careful
not to weigh anchor when the wind is not favorable.
It is true enough that there can
actual shelter from a storm,
but the mariner who is prepared is able to ride it out without
appreciable damage, while those who are not prepared generally founder
on account of their poor seamanship.
Disregard of calumny is always
index of a noble spirit.
The man who wastes time over such
indignities and who allows himself
to be affected by them is not of the stature that insures victory in
Minds of large caliber disdain
manifestations of futile
People of obscurity are never
Only those whose merits have
placed them in the limelight are the targets for the attacks of envy
and for the slanders of falsehood.
that has often been
enunciated, and can not be too often repeated, which should, indeed, be
inscribed in letters of gold over the doors of every institution where
men meet together, runs as follows: "Envy and malice are nothing more
than homage rendered to superiority."
Only those who occupy an enviable
position can become objects of
Such calumny is always the work
unworthy, who think to
advertise their own merits by denying those of better men.
Men of resolution under such
circumstances simply shrug their
shoulders and pass by.
The rest, those who are enslaved
timidity, become confused.
Their ego, which they cultivated
fashion at once obscure and
absolute, becomes so profoundly affected that they lack all courage to
openly defend it.
Moreover, that instinctive need
sympathy, which is so marked a
characteristic of the timid, is deeply wounded, while their chronic
fear of disapprobation is strengthened by the criticisms spread abroad.
The illogicality of these
obvious. The man who is
timid shuns society, yet nevertheless the
judgments of this same society are for him a question of absorbing
interest. Timidity is, in effect, a disease of many forms, every one of
which is founded upon illogicality.
It is always a mental weakness.
sometimes vanity, but never
pride, that reasonable pride that a philosophy now abandoned once
numbered as one of the principal vices, and which, if rightly
estimated, can be considered as the motive power of every noble action.
Pride is a force. It is therefore
virtue which must of necessity
be one of the components of poise, so long as it contains within it no
seeds of vanity. Under such circumstances it is a primal condition of
success in the achievement of poise. Pride must, however, be free from
vanity, otherwise it ceases to be a force and becomes a cause of
As a matter of fact, those who
conceited are always the dupes of
their own desire to bulk largely in the minds of others, and at the
mere thought that they will not shine as they have hoped to do the
majority of them are put entirely out of countenance and are quite at a
loss for means of expression.
The inevitable result of this
is to drive them into
association with mediocrity. In such
a society alone will the vain find themselves at their ease. But the
very moment that they find themselves in the presence of those who are
their superiors, the fear of not being able to occupy the front rank
throws them into such a state of mental disarray that they entirely
lose their assurance and that appearance of poise by whose aid they are
often able to deceive others.
Finally, one of the most solid
of poise is, without doubt,
a well-defined ambition, that is to say, one that is divested of the
drawbacks of frivolity and directly winged toward the goal of one's
The man who possesses ambition of
kind is certainly destined to
acquire, if he has not already acquired it, that poise which is
absolutely necessary to him in order to make his way in the world.
He will neither be pretentious
timorous, exaggerated nor
fearful. He will go forward without hesitation toward the goal which he
knows to be before him, and will make, without any apologies, those
detours which seem to him necessary to the success of his undertaking,
without paying any attention to the fruitless distractions that make
victims of the rash.
He will not have to put up with
affront of being refused, for he will
ask aid only of
those persons who, for various reasons, he is practically sure will be
of assistance to him. The knowledge of his own deserts, while keeping
him in the position he has attained, will prevent him from being
satisfied in commonplace surroundings, and his will-power will always
maintain him at the level he has reached, permitting him no latitude
save that of exceeding it.
Such is true poise, not that
spirit one violates by merely
associating it with the incapable, the pretentious, or the extravagant,
but that which is at once the motive power and the inspiration of all
the actions of those who, in their determination to force their way
through the great modern struggle for existence, perseveringly follow a
line of conduct that they have worked out for themselves in advance.
Ignoring such enterprises as they
to be unworthy of their
powers, those who are possest of real poise (and not of that foolish
temerity colloquially known as bluff) will devote themselves
solely to such tasks as a well-ordered judgment and an accurate
knowledge of their own potentialities indicate to them to be fitting.
Does this mean that they will
in every case?
Unfortunately, no! But such of them as
have met with temporary failure, if they are able to assure themselves
that their lack of success has been due neither to a failure of
will-power nor a fear of ridicule, will return to the charge, once more
prepared to make headway against circumstances which they have the
poise to foresee, and which they will at least render incapable of
harming them, even if they lack the necessary force to dominate them
completely to their own advantage.