From Father to Son

"Here are a few words of advice which—if you pay attention to them—will spare you many difficulties and much suffering in life. Soon after you have put them into practice you will realize that they contain precise norms for the exercise and benefit of your good purposes.

In order to keep ahead of time’s deadlines and to hasten the results of your efforts, you will permanently need the help of those words which, being fully aware of their efficacy, I place within your reach. Consider them as advance payments of that valuable mental capital which you will surely accumulate through your own effort.

Devote as much time as possible to studying. Study with faith and with enthusiasm, increasing your knowledge day after day and predisposing yourself at the same time to safeguard this knowledge, which will require the attention and dedication that we must always give to things that will be useful to us.

You should study earnestly and predispose your feelings so that studying fascinates you to the point where you gladly surrender to it. But do not interpret my words to mean that you should occupy yourself only with books. no; your studies must undergo a process of permanent intellectual activity derived from the faculty of observation, which you may exercise at every moment and wherever you are. Your life will then be a constant object of study. You will realize that no other study could be more gratifying.

The observations that you make of your fellow men as well as of everything that surrounds you will enable you to improve greatly, correcting your deficiencies and enhancing your qualities. Thus, for instance, the good and beautiful features that you detect in other people will be useful to help you reproduce them in yourself; if, on the other hand, what you observe in them, for instance their manners and behavior, seems disagreeable to you, you can make good use of this to ascertain the impression that you would have on others if you had the same manners and behavior. Therefore, try in every possible way and with strong determination not to reproduce in yourself what may have caused a bad impression.

Your observations must be generous so that the fruit they bear will be a motive that will help you and your fellow men.

Make observation become a habit for you; this is the only way to make it effective. If you exercise it today and tomorrow but not the day after, this will get you nowhere. It is better for you to practice observation continuously so that it becomes a natural feature. It will always foster happy and constructive ideas in your mind. That is the purpose of observation.

Write down methodically the impressions that you gather as well as your appreciation of your daily observations because, in time, they will prove useful in formulating valuable reflections. Besides, the act of writing will enable you to gain a good command of the language. This practice will qualify you to use those reflections later on in articles or books when your intelligence has learned to ripen the central themes that you wish to present. On doing this you should always be sure that your expressions reflect humbleness so that your writings may be considered pleasant and attractive, rather than shocking.

I want to see emerge from you the initiative of expressing your thought clearly so that you improve yourself not only in the art of writing but also in the art of speaking. You should cultivate yourself at all times; think, think a lot, and do this with joy...

I hope you will consider these advices and follow them, because experimenting with them will produce valuable and unexpected ideas for your own good.

Ideas do not come to one’s mind if they are not called by the only language they understand. This language is the mental effort that we make to understand that which we yearn for or want. Mental effort attracts ideas because it offers them the opportunity to be expressed, but it is essential that you accustom your will to be active at all times.

Educating one’s mind requires effort and this effort must be conscious and voluntary. You should remember this often. Also remember that this effort is life, because it creates energies that totally compensate for the loss of energy that every effort produces. Furthermore, do not forget that it puts to the test your ability to produce, to do, to accomplish, all of which are for your own benefit.

The concerns emanating from your study and the training of the mental faculties should continue without detriment to the tasks that you will necessarily have to attend to for your subsistence, tasks which you should by no means neglect in order to avoid finding yourself later involved in difficulties or having financial concerns.

Strive to build a future for yourself, but do not expect to achieve it in a short time. Remember that you will achieve nothing if you do not begin to put your hands to the task.

Think carefully about the career you intend to follow, for it will insure your travel along a safe road. Choose that career for which you feel a true vocation and study thoroughly your ability to face it. Yours should be a definitive choice, because if you change your mind every day the stability of your thoughts will be in danger continuously. Think seriously about what I have just told you because it is of the greatest importance for your future.

Do not ever complain about having too much work to do, but rather about not doing more than you are already doing. This will sound much nicer, but you must be sincere and opportune.
Add intelligence to your effort and you will work less and do more.

Learn to make good use of your time, which you will value more, the more you understand its importance in life. Strive to make your time more productive. At every moment and especially after your habitual tasks, think— like I usually do—about the things you will do the next day; and do this methodically so that in the morning, as you begin your daily activities, your thoughts are ready to work. You will see that this procedure will make your work lighter and more pleasant because you will feel that your thoughts are ready to cooperate with you in the task which you are about to begin. If I did not do so, if I did not think as I went to bed about what I should do the following day, I would certainly lose much time each morning waiting for my thoughts to awaken and to shake off their sleepiness. never let this happen because it could well occur that your thoughts, by communicating their sleepiness, cause you to return to bed. This is not convenient. Sleep with them during the night, but when you wake up have them wake up with you. You should therefore follow my example so that each day as you begin your work you find your thoughts agile and lively. When they get used to this discipline they will be happy. You will see for yourself how they will take charge of waking you up early and inviting you to be active.

I will reveal to you another one of the strategies that I usually employ to make better use of my time. This has often allowed me to turn one hour into two or even more. Say, for instance, that I decide to write something and take note of the time I spend on this task. Suppose that after a lapse of four hours I evaluate the results of my work. If I have written twenty-four pages in four hours, I then propose to myself to write the same number of pages in two hours the next time. Consequently, I will have saved two out of the four hours that I had previously spent. Concentrating my time even more, I will try to do my work in one hour and I will have three extra hours instead of two. I have applied this procedure to other aspects of my work and was equally successful. Try it yourself and you will see how well it works even if you do not obtain exactly the same results.

Devote all of your spare time to learn what you do not know, and do so right away as if you were in need of it for the immediate future. Learn even the most insignificant tasks. You will feel gratified to know later that you are capable of doing this or that, and even more if you are occasionally called to make use of it to help someone."

Excerpt from the book "Bases for your Conduct" originally published in Spanish. Official translation.


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