Derek Sivers

Self Reliance - by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Self Reliance - by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Pow! This punched me in the gut from page one. Takes a tiny effort to read the English of the 1840s, but what a reward. A masterpiece essay (manifesto?) on independence, non-conformity, and trusting oneself.

my notes

To believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men — that is genius.

Moses, Plato and Milton spoke not what men thought, but what they thought.

In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts.

Great works of art teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression, else tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.

A boy never encumbers himself about consequences, about interests. He gives an independent, genuine verdict. But the man is clapped into jail by his consciousness. As soon as he has spoken he is a committed person, watched by the sympathy or the hatred of hundreds, whose affections must now enter into his account.

He would utter opinions on all passing affairs. These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world.

Man must be a nonconformist, and must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness.

What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions, if I live wholly from within?

How easily we capitulate to large societies and dead institutions.

Every decent and well-spoken individual affects me more than is right.

There is a class of persons to whom by all spiritual affinity I will go to prison if need be, but not for your miscellaneous popular charities.

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it.

It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion. It is easy in solitude to live after our own. But the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

Do your work, and I shall know you.

When I hear a preacher announce his topic, do I not know beforehand that not possibly can he say a new and spontaneous word? He is pledged to look at one side, not as a man, but as a parish minister. These airs of the bench are the emptiest affectation.

Character is like an acrostic or Alexandrian stanza. Read it forward, backward, or across, it still spells the same thing.

An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.

He who has more obedience than I masters me, though he should not raise his finger. Round him I must revolve by the gravitation of spirits.

In nature, power is the essential measure of right. Nature suffers nothing to remain in her kingdoms which cannot help itself.

All men have my blood and I have all men's.

Your isolation must be elevation. At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. But keep thy state; come not into their confusion. The power men possess to annoy me I give them by a weak curiosity. No man can come near me but through my act.

Society never advances. It recedes as fast on one side as it gains on the other.

For every thing that is given something is taken. Society acquires new arts and loses old instincts.

Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.