Personality: How to Exert It (1915)

“Personality is defined as the qualities or characteristics, personal traits or attributes peculiar to some individual. Specifically, it is that quality which sustains poise through self-control in the face of propitious or unpropitious circumstances,” asserts the preface of H. Laurent’s Personality: How to Build It, which I picked up in Austin last weekend. Do you need to go look up┬ápropitious? It’s okay, take your time. I don’t think that word’s been used much lately, except maybe in the National Spelling Bee.

This chapter, titled “Personality: How to Exert It” seemed to be a good one to excerpt for the blog. I found the part on “learn to judge everything for yourself” fitting, given the recent hullabaloo over a certain trial in Florida and some jurors, who were no doubt trying to just do the job they were asked to do, despite the media frenzy.

"In everything, even in the smallest things, get the habit of acting for yourself, without following either the example or the advice you have received. Change them according to your own judgment. Make a style of your own. Do not imitate. It is by imitating that everything original is oneself.

No one in the world is exactly like another. The Creator fashioned us all after a different model. It is ourselves who, by some deplorable turn of our character, have made ourselves all about the same. Follow the laws of nature. Live your own life.

The first thing to avoid is that chronic and contagious folly, fashion, which changes our habits, our thoughts, our body and our life. Accept it only in reasonable form, follow it from a distance and under the least enslaving form.

Conserve your innate originality. Don’t be dragged into tastes which are not your own. Defend yourself against any characteristic of others. Learn to judge everything for yourself without being the perfect repeater of the judgments of others.

It is better to be paradoxical than void of all personality. For there is alway time afterward to correct one’s judgment according to the truth or justice. It gives the mind a chance to work independently, without any help from the brains of others.

Accustom yourself as soon as possible to analytical study. Carefully cultivate your intellect, make things clear to yourself, appraise at its own value what you know well and compare your analyses, your judgments with those already made. Learn to like the unexpected, the new, avoid routine. Be bold, go on ahead. Personality and originality avoid everything that is commonplace.

Practice patience also, kindness to others and will-power. Having developed personality, remember that it should be asserted, and that this exercise is the most difficult part of your task. It depends solely on yourself. Little by little acquire the necessary forces to affirm it."