"Above all be of single aim; have a legitimate and useful purpose, and devote yourself unreservedly to it." -- James Allen
James Allen (the poet) (November 28,1864 — 1912) was a philosophical writer of British nationality known for his inspirational books and poetry. His best known work, As a Man Thinketh, was mass produced since its publication in 1903 and has provided a key source of ideas to countless bestselling motivational and self-help authors of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.As a result he is considered as the pioneer of self help movement. As with many of Allen's works, the book's launch was quiet and its full impact was not felt until after his passing.
"A man has to learn that he cannot command things, but that he can command himself; that he cannot coerce the wills of others, but that he can mold and master his own will: and things serve him who serves Truth; people seek guidance of him who is master of himself.""A man is literally what he thinks.""A man is not rightly conditioned until he is a happy, healthy, and prosperous being; and happiness, health, and prosperity are the result of a harmonious adjustment of the inner with the outer of the man with his surroundings.""A man sooner or later discovers that he is the master-gardener of his soul, the director of his life.""All that you accomplish or fail to accomplish with your life is the direct result of your thoughts.""As in the rankest soil the most beautiful flowers are grown, so in the dark soil of poverty the choicest flowers of humanity have developed and bloomed.""Circumstances do not make the man, they reveal him.""Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so you shall become. Your vision is the promise of what you shall one day be; your ideal is the prophecy of what you shall at last unveil.""For true success ask yourself these four questions: Why? Why not? Why not me? Why not now?""Good thoughts bear good fruit, bad thoughts bear bad fruit.""Happiness is mental harmony; unhappiness is mental inharmony.""Harmony is one phase of the law whose spiritual expression is love.""He who would accomplish little must sacrifice little; he who would achieve much must sacrifice much; he who would attain highly must sacrifice greatly.""If you real desire is to be good, there is no need to wait for the money before you do it; you can do it now, this very moment, and just where you are.""In all human affairs there are efforts, and there are results, and the strength of the effort is the measure of the result.""It is a process of diverting one's scattered forces into one powerful channel.""Let there be nothing within thee that is not very beautiful and very gentle, and there will be nothing without thee that is not beautiful and softened by the spell of thy presence.""Man is made or unmade by himself. By the right choice he ascends. As a being of power, intelligence, and love, and the lord of his own thoughts, he holds the key to every situation.""Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.""No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.""No temptation can gravitate to a man unless there is that is his heart which is capable of responding to it.""Our life is what our thoughts make it. A man will find that as he alters his thoughts toward things and other people, things and other people will alter towards him.""The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg, and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities.""The law of harvest is to reap more than you sow. Sow an act, and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny.""The man who cannot endure to have his errors and shortcomings brought to the surface and made known, but tries to hide them, is unfit to walk the highway of truth.""The man who sows wrong thoughts and deeds and prays that God will bless him is in the position of a farmer who, having sown tares, asks God to bring forth for him a harvest of wheat.""The more intense the nature of a man, the more readily will he find meditation, and the more successfully will he practice it.""The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good. Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.""The very fact that you are a complainer, shows that you deserve your lot.""The will to do springs from the knowledge that we can do.""They who have conquered doubt and fear have conquered failure.""To begin to think with purpose, is to enter the ranks of those strong ones who only recognize failure as one of the pathways to attainment.""To desire is to obtain; to aspire is to achieve.""When mental energy is allowed to follow the line of least resistance and to fall into easy channels, it is called weakness.""Whether you be man or woman you will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor.""Work joyfully and peacefully, knowing that right thoughts and right efforts inevitably bring about right results.""You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.""You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as you dominant aspiration."
Born in Leicester, England, into a working class family, Allen was the eldest of three brothers. His mother could neither read nor write while his father, William, was a factory knitter. In 1879, following a downturn in the textile trade of central England, Allen's father traveled alone to America to find work and establish a new home for the family. Within two days of arriving his father was pronounced dead at New York City Hospital, believed to be a case of robbery and murder. At age fifteen, with the family now facing economic disaster, Allen was forced to leave school and find work.
For much of the 1890s, Allen worked as a private secretary and stationer in several British manufacturing firms. In 1893, Allen moved to London where he met Lily Louisa Oram who he then wed in 1895. In 1898, Allen found a occupation in which he could showcase his spiritual and social interests as a writer for the magazine The Herald of the Golden Age. At this time, Allen entered a creative period where he then published his first book of many books, From Povery to Power (1901). In 1902, Allen began to publish his own spiritual magazine, The Light of Reason, later retitled The Epoch.
In 1903, Allen published his third and most famous book As a Man Thinketh. Loosely based on the biblical proverb, "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he," the small work eventually became read around the world and brought Allen posthumous fame as one of the pioneering figures of modern inspirational thought. The book's minor audience allowed Allen to quit his secretarial work and pursue his writing and editing career. In 1903, the Allen family retired to the town of Ilfracombe where Allen would spend the rest of his life. Continuing to publish the Epoch, Allen produced more than one book per year until his death in 1912. There he wrote for nine years, producing 19 works.
Following his death in 1912, his wife continued publishing the magazine under the name The Epoch. Lily Allen summarized her husband's literary mission in the preface to one of his posthumously published manuscripts, Foundation Stones to Happiness and Success saying:
"He never wrote theories, or for the sake of writing; but he wrote when he had a message, and it became a message only when he had lived it out in his own life, and knew that it was good. Thus he wrote facts, which he had proven by practice."