When I was twenty-four years old, my eyes suddenly
gave out. After reading three or four minutes,
my eyes felt as if they were full of needles; and
even when I was not reading, they were so sensitive
that I could not face a window. I consulted
the best oculists in New Haven and New
York. Nothing seemed to help me. After
four o'clock in the afternoon, I simply sat in a
chair in the darkest corner of the room, waiting for
bedtime. I was terrified. I feared I
would have to give up my career as a teacher and go
out West and get a job as a lumberjack. Then a
strange thing happened which shows the miraculous
effects of the mind over physical ailments.
When my eyes were at their worst that unhappy
winter, I accepted an invitation to address a group
of undergraduates. The hall was illuminated by
huge rings of gas jets suspended from the
ceiling. The lights pained my eyes so
intensely that, while sitting on the platform, I was
compelled to look at the floor. Yet during my
thirty-minute speech, I felt absolutely no pain, and
I could look directly at these lights without any
blinking whatever. Then when the assembly was
over, my eyes pained me again.
I thought then that if I could keep my mind strongly
concentrated on something, not for thirty minutes,
but for a week, I might be cured. For clearly
it was a case of mental excitement triumphing over a
I had a similar
experience later while crossing the ocean. I had an attack
of lumbago so severe that I could not walk. I suffered
extreme pain when I tried to stand up straight. While in
that condition, I was invited to give a lecture on
shipboard. As soon as I began to speak, every trace of
pain and stiffness left my body; I stood up straight, moved
about with perfect flexibility, and spoke for an hour.
When the lecture was over, I walked away to my stateroom with
ease. For a moment, I thought I was cured. But the
cure was only temporary. The lumbago resumed its attack.
These experiences demonstrated to me the vital importance of
one's mental attitude. They taught me the importance of
enjoying life while you may. So I live every day now as if
it were the first day I had ever seen and the last I were going
to see. I am excited about the daily adventure of living,
and nobody in a state of excitement will be unduly troubled with
worries. I love my daily work as a teacher. I wrote
a book entitled The Excitement of Teaching.
Teaching has always been more than an art or an occupation to
me. It is a passion. I love to teach as a painter
loves to paint or a singer loves to sing. Before I get out
of bed in the morning, I think with ardent delight of my first
group of students. I have always felt that one of the
chief reasons for success in life is enthusiasm.
II. I have found that I can crowd worry out of mind by
reading an absorbing book. When I was fifty-nine, I had a
prolonged nervous breakdown. During that period, I began
reading David Alec Wilson's monumental Life of Carlyle.
It had a good deal to do with my convalescence because I became
so absorbed in reading it that I forgot my despondency.
III. At another time when I was terribly depressed, I
forced myself to become physically active almost every hour of
the day. I played five or six sets of intense games of
tennis every morning, then took a bath, had lunch, and played
eighteen holes of golf every afternoon. On Friday nights I
danced until one o'clock in the morning. I am a great
believer in working up a tremendous sweat. I found that
depression and worry oozed out of my system with the sweat.
IV. I learned long ago to avoid the folly of hurry, rush,
and working under tension. I have always tried to apply
the philosophy of Wilbur Cross. When he was governor of
Connecticut, he said to me: "Sometimes when I have
too many things to do all at once, I sit down and relax and
smoke my pipe for an hour and do nothing."
V. I have also learned that patience and time have a way
of resolving our troubles. When I am worried about
something, I try to see my troubles in their proper
perspective. I say to myself: "Two months from
now I shall not be worrying about this bad break, so why worry
about it now? Why not assume now the same attitude that I
will have two months from now?"