How to Develop an Iron Will

I’m embarrassingly late bringing you this book breakdown, but it’s one of the most inspiring books I’ve read all year.

It’s called An Iron Will, by Orison Swett Marden, and it first came out in 1901(!), becoming quite popular and helping to shape the entire self-help movement of the early twentieth century.

You know people like Tony Robbins, Dale Carnegie, Zig Ziglar, Jim Rohn, etc.

Well they ALL were heavily influenced by Orison Swett Marden.

An Iron Will is phenomenal - just beautifully written and powerful - and below, I’m going to share a few of the Key Ideas, Action Steps, etc. so you can decide whether you want to read the whole thing for yourself.

And in case you missed it, I published a new YouTube video where I tell you:

I’ve got more videos lined up this week too, like my May Reading Recap, Summarizing 100 Great Self-Help Books in 1 Sentence Each, and a few more.

Subscribe to get notified when those come out. Shouldn’t be long.

But now let’s develop…

This Book is For:

*Ambitious strivers who tend to have plenty of great, big ideas, yet struggle to put the necessary self-discipline into place to realize them.

*Everyone who feels uninspired or unfulfilled as they go about their days, yet isn't ready to give up the search for more life wherever it can be found.

*Strong individuals with a monumental work ethic, but with no direction, no grand vision guiding their actions, who want to find a purposeful means of expression for their tremendous energies.

*Anyone who wants to read a short, fiery, beautiful book that they can keep coming back to whenever they need a reminder of what's truly possible for a single solitary dreamer to achieve.

Summary:

“What a fortune he possesses in the marvelous mechanism of his body and mind. It is individual effort that has achieved everything worth achieving."

-Orison Swett Marden, An Iron Will

Weakness of will is the only thing stopping you from achieving everything you've ever wanted to achieve in this life.

The opportunities for great achievement and relentless goal attainment are abundant today, but it's the will to achieve that's scarce, the will to keep going that's lacking, and the will to drive forward no matter what that's going to be the difference-maker between your outstanding success and dismal failure.

Too bold? I don't think so.

All the leading researchers in the field of psychology and personal success know that willpower is the single greatest predictor of all eventual achievement.

It is the thing to focus on if you want to make damn sure that you live your one and only life with no regrets, and capture everything you came here for.

In many ways, it's exactly what you might expect from something written so long ago: the language can be difficult to navigate at times, but it's also straightforward, yet poetic and beautiful. Even gorgeous, at times.

In An Iron Will, Marden explores the importance of mental discipline, toughness, and perseverance to our happiness and success.

He also brings forward such profound truths that we'll explore later in this breakdown, such as the truth that the world tends to take us at our own valuation and believes in the person who believes in themselves.

Regardless of what you intend to achieve, An Iron Will is how you'll arm yourself with the strength and power necessary to achieve it.

In the Key Ideas below, we'll discuss how the search for certainty is a dangerous dead end; why doubts are the greatest of enemies; why it's more important to take a thousand steps in one direction, than one step in a thousand directions; we'll also discover why you need to place the crown upon your own head, instead of waiting for others to do it for you.

External achievements will never heal internal wounds. That's asking too much of the world - and too little of yourself.

It's more about who you become on the way to great accomplishment and fantastic heights, but I can tell you right now that on that lifelong path toward mastery and success, you will find no greater traveling companion than your own iron will.

Key Ideas:

#1: He Who Waits for Certainty Never Wins

“Those who have accomplished great things in the world have been, as a rule, bold, aggressive, and self-confident. They dared to step out from the crowd, and act in an original way. They were not afraid to be generals.

There is little room in this crowding, competing age for the timid, vacillating youth. He who would succeed today must not only be brave, but must also dare to take chances. He who waits for certainty never wins."

It's widely known that people in New York City have a faster walking pace than people who live in smaller cities. NYC is actually 8th in the world in average walking speed (who runs these studies?!), but for people used to a slower rhythm of life, it can come as a little bit of a shock.

New Yorkers always seem to be rushing, pushing, and striving, and it certainly wouldn't occur to you to call the average New Yorker timid. Their reputation calls to mind high achievement, skyscrapers, and boundless confidence - in other words, a whole city full of people who weren't afraid to be generals.

If you want to achieve great things, your days as a shy, timid sloth are limited. You have to get out there; you have to command energy and attention; you have to rise to the front and be unashamed about doing so. Unafraid. Bold. Aggressive (without being a jerk). Self-confident. If you allow your pace to fall behind, you'll be swallowed up by the rushing tide.

What I like to remind myself of is that magisterial individuals like Napoleon, Julius Caesar, and Alexander the Great were real people - they actually lived on this earth. And part of their genetic makeup exists within you and I. They actually existed, and they weren't all that different from you and I.

You can be great. You can achieve great things. You can manifest great achievements, and you don't have to sit around waiting for anyone else's permission. You don't have to wait for someone else to crown you "worthy" of high achievements. You can just go out and make them real.

Take action. Never reject yourself first. Remember: timid salespeople have skinny kids. And though the meek shall inherit the earth...it won't be in this lifetime.

#2: Doubts Are the Greatest of Enemies

“Are not doubts the greatest of enemies? If you would succeed up to the limit of your possibilities, must you not constantly hold to the belief that you are success-organized, and that you will be successful, no matter what opposes?

You are never to allow a shadow of doubt to enter your mind that the Creator intended you to win in life's battle.

Regard every suggestion that your life may be a failure, that you are not made like those who succeed, and that success is not for you, as a traitor, and expel it from your mind as you would a thief from your house."

The mind is the starting point of all great achievement. It's where everything begins, and you must ruthlessly curate your own reality to let in only the best thoughts, the best ideas, and those beliefs that will take you exactly where you want to go, and even beyond that.

In the spirit of the above quote, take a census of your current thoughts and beliefs and violently expel those of weakness, failure, and defeat. Build a fortified wall between your mind and those negative thoughts that will do nothing but drag you to ruin and failure.

Doubts are your sworn enemy and they have NO PLACE within the confines of your mind.

You're allowed to question your current path, of course, and interrogate whether or not what you're doing right now is working, what you could be doing better, etc. But the purpose of those thoughts is not to sow doubt, but to do better.

Doubt your methods and beliefs, but never doubt yourself.

#3: Place the Crown Upon Your Own Head

“The world takes us at our own valuation.

It believes in the man who believes in himself, but it has little use for the timid man, the one who is never certain of himself; who cannot rely on his own judgement, who craves advice from others, and is afraid to go ahead on his own account.

It is the man with a positive nature, the man who believes that he is equal to the emergency, who believes he can do the thing he attempts, who wins the confidence of his fellow-man."

The great depth psychologist Carl Jung once said, "The world will ask you who you are. And if you don't know, the world will tell you." I think about that quote almost weekly, sometimes daily.

The world will also offer you abundant opportunities to stand up and declare that "I AM." But will you step forward and declare it? Will you place the crown upon your own head?

No one else will do it for you, but few will question it once you do. You can just declare that you have what it takes to achieve great things, that you are exactly the hero that the situation calls for, and most people - the world - will just believe you.

They will take you at your own valuation.

Conversely, if you say that you're not good enough, that you're not ready, that you're not that special or talented or worthy - the world will believe you when you say that too.

Remember, you are THE hero that the world needs, not A hero.

"A" implies one among many, whereas "THE" is a declaration that you are a one-of-a-kind force of nature with the talents, skills, and fortitude to be able to make it no matter what.

Naturally, you need to be able to back it up, but the first step towards bending the world to your will is to FORCE IT to recognize you and your indisputable greatness.

Book Notes:

“Teach the world that there is some iron in you.”

“Be thou a hero; let thy might

Tramp on eternal snows its way,

And through the ebon walls of night,

Hew down a passage unto day."

-Park Benjamin

“The law of the soul is eternal endeavor,

That bears the man onward and upward forever."

“He was a great miser of spare moments, and used every one as though he might never see another."

“The persistent man never stops to consider whether he is succeeding or not. The only question with him is how to push ahead, to get a little farther along, a little nearer his goal. Whether it lead over mountains, rivers, or morasses, he must reach it. Every other consideration is sacrificed to this one dominant purpose."

Action Steps:

#1: Declare Your Value

Remember, the world takes you at your own valuation. That means, however, that the world will never recognize your value as long as you still believe that you have none.

There's another liberating truth that works in concert with this idea, namely, that most people actually don't care who you are, what you're doing, what you've done, what mistakes you've made - nothing like that. They don't care, and they're not actively trying to stop you.

Nobody cares - how horrible! But at the same time, nobody cares! You're completely and totally free. You can declare your own value, and you can force the world to accept it.

Obviously, your skills and abilities need to match up with what you're claiming about yourself, or you'll get found out eventually. This isn't about lying to yourself or others. It's about believing - acting as if - and growing into who you declare yourself to be.

It's just like if you were to walk into any office building and behave as though you belonged there. Very few people, if any, will question you. Now, realize that the entire world is like that.

You can be whomever you want to be. No one cares, no one is trying to stop you, no one can stop you. So believe. Act as if. Force the world to recognize who the fuck you are and who you are becoming.

#2: Go Higher and Harder

You've been hiding. You've been shrinking and shying away from your own potential, purposely playing small to avoid the challenges and responsibilities that come with being great. It's now time to go higher and harder.

The simple fact is that grander, more sweeping challenges call forth more from you than small ones. I mean, sure, if you want to be little, lift little weights. But if you want to be big, you lift big weights. It's like life.

The next step is to take on a bigger, more intimidating challenge, and prove to yourself that it's nothing compared to the size and strength of your will.

What exactly that challenge will be remains up to you, but set goals that are 5-20% bigger than what you think you're capable of. Force yourself to grow to meet them.

#3: Aim for Progressive Overload

Continuing the example of lifting big weights at the gym, it's a fact in bodybuilding that in order to get bigger and stronger over time, you have to aim for progressive overload, meaning you continue to add weight, reps, and sets - intensity - to your training, over and over again until your body is forced to adapt.

Again, it's like life. You keep exposing yourself to greater and more difficult challenges, and your capabilities expand further, your will gets stronger, in an upward, never ending, virtuous cycle.

The only thing you have to keep in mind is that you can't afford to overwhelm yourself in the beginning. If your heaviest squat was 150lbs, don't start with 300lbs today. Start with 155lbs. Then, next week, move up to 160lbs, and 165lbs the week after that.

In the rest of your life, don't start off by running for Congress - start by running for mayor in your hometown. Don't walk up to a group of 7 of the most gorgeous women you've ever encountered in your entire life, just say hi to the cute girl behind the counter at your local coffee shop and look her in the eyes when you do so. Progressive overload.

Each time you "add on weight," you increase your capacity for greater challenges. That's what this is about. Once you've climbed one small mountain, the question then becomes, "What other mountains can I climb?"

It's also important to realize that even as you ascend higher and higher peaks, it's not that those mountains are getting any smaller. It's that you are getting bigger.

"The path to success is to take massive, determined action."

-Tony Robbins

This Book on Amazon:

If You Liked This Book:

Forward this to a friend you think would love this book!

If you were sent this, click here to subscribe.

To read past editions of The Reading Life, click here.

Click here to recommend The Reading Life on Twitter (X).

OK, that’s it for now…

More excellent book recommendations coming your way soon!

Again, the rest of the above breakdown is absolutely free (for now!), and you can find it right here.

And if you’d like me to buy you a new book every month, click to join us inside The Competitive Advantage - we’d love to have you!

With that said, I hope you enjoyed this edition of The Reading Life, and enjoy the rest of your week!

Until next time…happy reading!

All the best,

Matt Karamazov

P.S. Whenever you're ready, here are five more ways I can help you:

  1. Work with me personally to take control of your schedule, grow your business, and enhance your learning, performance, and productivity

  2. Become a Premium Member of The Reading Life and enjoy exclusive, early access to new posts and videos, plus discounts on all my courses and memberships

  3. These are 50 of the greatest books I’ve ever read (out of more than 1,250+), along with complete breakdowns of all the key ideas

  4. Get my summaries and book notes from all 1,250+ books

  5. Join The Competitive Advantage, my community for creators, entrepreneurs, and executives who want to achieve their 5-year goals in 6 months

Join the conversation

or to participate.