By Samuel Ullman (1840–1924)
Youth is not a time of life—it is a state of mind. It is not a matter of red cheeks, red lips and supple knees. It is a temper of the will; a quality of the imagination; a vigor of the emotions; it is a freshness of the deep springs of life. Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over a life of ease. This often exists in a man of fifty, more than in a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years; people grow old by deserting their ideals.
Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair—these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust.
Whether seventy or sixteen, there is in every being’s heart a love of wonder; the sweet amazement at the stars and star-like things and thoughts; the undaunted challenge of events, the unfailing childlike appetite for what comes next, and the joy in the game of life.
You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear, as young as your hope, as old as your despair.
In the central place of your heart there is a wireless station. So long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, grandeur, courage, and power from the earth, from men and from the Infinite—so long are you young. When the wires are all down and the central places of your heart are covered with the snows of pessimism and the ice of cynicism, then are you grown old, indeed!
General Douglas MacArthur quoted the above piece without attribution on his seventy-fifth birthday, in a speech to the Los Angeles County Council, American Legion, Los Angeles, California, January 26, 1955.
He had this framed over his desk throughout the Pacific campaign. It is believed that the Japanese picked up the work from his Tokyo headquarters. Unlikely as it may sound, this essay, written more than 70 years ago, is the underpinning of much Japanese productivity and the basis of many business-people’s life philosophies. Many carry creased copies in their wallets. Anyone worth his salt in Japanese business knows and uses this essay, says one long-time Japanese observer.
Ullman’s great-grandson, Richard Ullman Rosenfield, a psychologist tells that he had been intrigued by the ‘spiritual journey’ of the above essay, especially in Japan.
“It is our Popeye’s spinach,” said Tatsuro Ishida, who was the deputy chairperson of Fujisankei Communications Group.
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