In this book, William Danforth seeks to change your problem-solving tactics, from the way you stand or sit in a chair to the way you look at the world. Originally published in 1931, this book is still very relevant and powerful. Danforth as a counselor, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and co-founder of the American Youth Foundation sought to ignite generation after generation with the idea that nothing was impossible until you deemed it as such. I found this book very refreshing. It did not put up with the usual excuses we give ourselves when we decide we can’t do something or other.
If you don’t feel strong, Danforth says, “DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!” You feel bad about yourself? DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! You don’t like your love-life? DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! You don’t feel at peace in your soul? DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!
Danforth separates our lives into four parts. According to him, unless you address these four areas you can’t even imagine progress or happiness in your life.
When you think, or even say out loud in a joking fashion, “I’m weak. I’ve never been strong.” In that moment, instead of doing what you’ve always done, dare to be the strongest person you know. Decide then and there to change that belief. Go to a class, ask a friend for help, read books, find out how to change yourself into the strongest person you know. It’s that simple. Decide, and do it. The truth is the only thing that stops us from doing anything is our belief that we can’t do it.
For example, I doubt myself all the time. I say to myself, “You’ll never finish that project. You’ll never come through. You won’t make it on time. You can’t be depended upon. No one can trust you because you aren’t trustworthy. You still can’t grow up. You haven’t before, what makes this time different? Yeah right. You’ll never change.” Mean, I know. But don’t you do that sometimes too? Do you think those awful things in the face of adversity? It’s hard to drown out those voices when you don’t replace them with something else. Something that tells you the outcome is inconsequential. It doesn’t matter how well you do. What matters is you did it. That’s it. You faced your demons. You got in the game. Here’s what I’m daring to do:
Physical — I’m daring to give up ice-cream. I have previously believed I can’t say no to myself. Well, that stops here.
Mental — I’m daring to stop doubting myself. I have always thought that I can’t stop the doubts from stopping me, but the truth is I choose to listen to those voices when they say I can’t.
Social — I’m daring to be brave and put myself out there. I have always thought that prince charming either didn’t exist, or he wouldn’t want me, or (when I was in a good mood) he would just show up at my door someday. Lol, right. This goes for friends too. I have to think the best of others because that’s how I meet the good people that I now know and love with all my heart.
Spiritual — I’m daring to believe that I really do matter to a merciful God who has never given up on me even at my worst. I’m daring to believe that I don’t have to meet any expectation to deserve the love He gave willingly and freely to me. I’m daring to believe He knows what He’s doing and that I don’t know better. (that last part is the hardest. I’m a bit of a know-it-all if you didn’t notice, lol.)
Here are some things Danforth said I think you should hear in my own interpretation:
!!! SPOILERS, SPOILERS!!!
Easy has already been done. Quit looking for easy and look for the impossible. Emulate those that inspire you and you’ll learn by osmosis. Your personality is something you develop, not inherit. Learn, grow, change.
Don’t judge someone as useless or a stick-in-the-mud. You can still learn something from them. Even if it’s learning what NOT to do. Keep looking for the good in people.
In addition, learn from everyone you meet. Whether you spend five minutes or five decades with someone, learn from them. The world is your classroom.
This one I can’t do it justice so I’m simply going to quote Danforth: “Unfortunately, there are many people in the world so constituted that they are always licking the boots of those over them and lording it over those under them. That’s a sure way to destroy personality. On the other hand, really great men and women are those who are natural, frank and honest with everyone with whom they come into contact.”
Here’s one moment where I questioned Danforth. He quotes an idea that you learn nothing when you win. “We learn practically nothing from victory. All our information comes from a defeat. A winner forgets most of his mistakes.” It was in an effort to encourage the reader to not give up when they fail, but it seems to be a bit of a lop-sided thought. We learn nothing from victory? Really, are you sure? I’m not. You learn what you are capable of when you win. Perhaps, you learn that the process wasn’t what you thought it would be. But you don’t learn nothing! However, you do learn a lot when you fail…and when you are stubborn (like me) it’s possible to learn quite a lot.
One of my favorite metaphors by Danforth: Some people are like the sea of Galilee; it makes beauty of what it is given because it has an outlet. Other people are like the Dead Sea, it lets everything it is given die because it keeps everything it receives. No outlet, no life. You don’t get much out of what you receive unless you give it away.
Danforth says some fun and inspiring things toward the end of the book that makes you want to soar out of your chair, like, “Make a masterpiece of your life.” Which makes me think of the Jessie J song lol. I wanted to cry and sign when I read, “Measure your powers, not your problems…Don’t count the multitude. Count the loaves.” I feel like I have so much to give the world when I read this book.
Another quote. I can’t do better than this: A few men build cities — the rest live in them. A few men project subways — the rest ride in them. A few men erect skyscrapers and factories — and the rest toil in them.” Danforth wrote to the few. He wrote to those who truly want to change the world. You have to really want it, to be willing to fight, sweat, and bleed for it. Nothing worth getting is easy to get. It takes hard work and lots of it. People admire hard work. Respect comes from hard work. Accomplishments come from not giving up. And the only thing standing in your way…is you. Say this with me. “I am one of the few. I have a leader’s opportunity. I have a shepherd’s responsibility. The rest are dependent upon me. I Dare You!”
I dare you to make something of yourself. I dare you to try again. I dare you to start over. I dare you to give it your all when you don’t feel like it. I dare you to do the things you’ve never done. I dare you to do the things you think you can’t do. I dare you to be the person you’ve always wanted to be.
What do you say? Do you dare?