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Chapter 9: Push Beyond Your Limits – Self-Belief (The 50th Law)

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Frederick Douglass

LET ME POINT OUT TO YOU THAT FREEDOM IS NOT SOMETHING THAT
ANYBODY CAN BE GIVEN; FREEDOM IS SOMETHING PEOPLE TAKE AND PEOPLE ARE AS FREE AS THE WANT TO BE.

—James Baldwin

As a child you conform to what other expect of you. You adjust your behavior to make adults happy, because you are afraid of getting punished by them in some way. This mentality persists well into adulthood, and unless you make a concerted effort to overturn it, it will never go away.

As an adult, you have the ability to make your own choices and conform to your own standards and ideals. But often, people do not do this out of fear – that is, fear of social ridicule and isolation. These people end up confining themselves to jobs and patterns of behavior that do not disturb anyone around them, they limit their ambitions so that they don’t stir resentment or unnecessary attention.

Unbridled ambition, in their minds, is evil and a sign of a pathological psyche that is deficient of self-love or contentment. This demonization of power creates a self-limiting belief in people, a feeling of guilt about their own ambitions.

More than this, they are told that individuality does not exist, that everyone who succeeds only does so because of their environment, and then are given statistics to support this claim. So they don’t bother imposing their will or taking initiative, because they believe that their lives have already been determined for them.

Yet it is only those who have opposed this sentiment that have made any difference in the world. It was never those who resented power, but those who embraced it who changed their own lives for the better, and in some cases, catapulted their communities away from a life of hopelessness and degradation for generations into the future.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery – a system that was designed to destroy the human spirit.

When Douglass was 10 years old, he was sent by his master to work in the home of his son-in-law in Baltimore, Maryland. Douglass was happy to escape the life of the plantation and saw this move as some form of divine intervention. The mistress of this house constantly read the Bible. One day, Douglass asked her to teach him how to read, and she obliged. He learned quickly.

The master of the house heard of this and reproached his wife – slaves were not supposed to learn how to read and write. But Douglass could manage on his own, he found books and dictionaries for himself and memorized famous speeches. When he was later sent to a farm owned by Mr.Covey, who’s sole task in life was to break the spirit of a rebellious slave, he resisted. Douglass had created for himself a new identity and would not allow anyone to destroy it for him. After years of whippings and mistreatment, Douglass escaped to the north, and there, he became a leading abolitionist, and founded his own newspaper.

ONE’S OWN FREE, UNTRAMMELED DESIRES, ONE’S OWN WHIM…ALL OF THIS IS PRECISELY THAT WHICH FITS NO CLASSIFICATION, AND WHICH IS
CONSTANTLY KNOCKING ALL SYSTEMS AND THEORIES TO HELL. AND WHERE DID OUR SAGES GET THE IDEA THAT MAN MUST HAVE NORMAL, VIRTUOUS DESIRES? WHAT MAN NEEDS IS ONLY HIS OWN INDEPENDENT WISHING, WHATEVER THAT INDEPENDENCE MAY COST AND WHEREVER IT MAY LEAD.

—Fyodor Dostoyevsky

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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