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The Turning Point - Earl Nightingale

The Turning Point

Another essay by Earl Nightingale from the How to Completely Change Your Life Series

I mentioned earlier that there must be thousands of people every day who, without realizing they’re on the brink of success, give up in failure. It reminded me of something Dr. A. J. Cronin once wrote, so I dug it out. Here’s part of it. Because of his health, Dr. Cronin had to give up his career in medicine, so he turned to writing. He took a room on a small farm in Scotland and for months toiled away on the manuscript of a book. When he was halfway through... well, here’s what he wrote:

When I was halfway through, the inevitable happened. A sudden desolation struck me like an avalanche. I asked myself, ‘Why am I wearing myself out with this toil for which I am so preposterously ill-equipped? What’s the use of it?’ I threw down my pen. Feverishly I read over the first chapters which had just arrived in typescript from my secretary in London. I was appalled.

Never, never had I seen such nonsense in all my life. No one would read it. I saw, finally, that I was a presumptuous lunatic, that all that I had written, all that I could ever write was wasted effort, sheer futility. Abruptly, furiously, I bundled up the manuscript, went out and threw it in the ash can.

Drawing a sullen satisfaction from my surrender, or, as I preferred to phrase it, my return to sanity, I went for a walk in the drizzling rain.

Halfway down the loch shore, I came upon old Angus, the farmer, patiently and laboriously ditching a patch of the bogged and peaty heath which made up the bulk of his hard-won little farm. I told him what I had done and why.

His weathered face scanned me with disappointment and a queer contempt, and he said, ‘No doubt you’re right, doctor, and I’m the one that’s wrong...’ He seemed to look right to the bottom of me. ‘My father ditched this bog all his days and never made a pasture. I’ve dug it all my days and I’ve never made a pasture. But pasture or not pasture,’ and he put his foot on the spade... ‘I cannot help but dig. For my father knew and I know that if you only dig enough, a pasture can be made here.’

I understood. Drenched, shamed, furious, I trampled back to the farm, picked the soggy bundle from the ash can and dried it in the kitchen oven.

Then I flung it on the table and set to work again with a kind of frantic desperation.

Well, to make a long story short, that manuscript that A. J. Cronin threw into the ash can and then reclaimed and rewrote was Hatter’s Castle. It earned a fortune and made him famous, but far more important, it brought him the greatest triumph anyone can achieve—victory over himself. He went on to produce The Citadel, The Keys Of The Kingdom, and many other popular books—many of which were also made into motion pictures. But nothing gave him the intense satisfaction of that first great success: his conquest over doubt and despair.

What might have happened if he had not come across the farmer that night?

The world might have been denied a great author and he would have missed the greatest success and satisfaction possible. It makes you wonder just how many stop too soon... quit too early in the game.

Each of us has a perfectly natural tendency to underestimate our own powers, to feel despair, to want more than anything else to quit. That’s the time we should not quit.

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