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A Study in Contrasts

Boy! Am I glad to see that concrete road coming up!” exclaimed a driver as he left a rugged detour.

After getting back on the good highway, he was really in a position to appreciate it. If we had nothing except good roads, they would be taken for granted and not enjoyed nearly so much as they are when a bit of really bad road is encountered.

This life is made up of contrasts, and they are blessings. As contrasts of various kinds are discussed, you will understand what a drab life we would lead if there were none of them.

How about continuous calm, warm weather? You wouldn’t enjoy it because there would be no contrast; you would know nothing of any other kind of weather. But, after the season of storms and cold winds, don’t you feel good all over when the delightful days of spring arrive?

Would you cherish light if there never was any darkness? You would know of nothing different.

When you see some badly behaved children, don’t you think all the more of your well behaved children? You have another contrast—bad and good.

If you have an excruciating pain, don’t you feel terrific when it is gone? You appreciate the value of being well in contrast to being in pain.

When you are subjected to discordant sounds and loud noises, doesn’t the atmosphere seem pleasantly quiet when they cease?

There are many, many other contrasts: Hunger vs. being well fed; pleasant surroundings vs. unpleasant surroundings; happiness vs. unhappiness; rich vs. being poor, etc.

One day I had lunch with a man who was a member of a very rich family. During our conversation I told him of some of the hardships I experienced in early life; how I had gone hungry for days at a time for lack of money with which to buy food. I told him of the days I would awaken in the morning without any idea as to where I would sleep that night.

“I envy you,” this man remarked. “I’ve never known what it was like to live in a home without a retinue of servants. There have always been from four to six cars in the family. My wardrobe is large. I have travelled over most of the world.

“I envy your years of poverty because you can fully appreciate what you have now,” he continued.

This man was sincere. He meant every word he said. In other words, he does not enjoy what he has because he has never known anything else.

As soon as there cease to be contrasts in your life, your existence becomes boring.


The purpose of this discussion is to enable you to lay out your life pattern so that you will not reach an impasse and lose your earned happiness.

For example, let us suppose you had been in very moderate circumstances throughout your life. Suppose, by following the principles outlined in this book, you built a fortune which would enable you to live in luxury the rest of your life. If you did nothing beyond making the fortune, it would soon be meaningless to you. There would be no contrasts. But, if you laid out a long range, step-by-step program, extending for many years, you could assure yourself continuous satisfaction with life.

Your first step might be to get your financial house in order by either adjusting your expenses to accord with your income, or increasing your income to meet your expenses properly.

The next step could logically be the arranging of a program of investments so that you could accumulate a backlog of savings to insure future security. Then you could begin building an estate, by securing the home in which you and your family could be happy, appropriate furnishings, and automobiles to meet your family’s requirements.

Having realized these objectives, look for new trails to blaze.

Upon reaching the point where you can consider yourself wealthy, do not make the mistake of retiring. I retired once for a short period of nine months, and I do not know of any other nine months in my entire life which were as boring. I would get up in the morning feeling the need at least to pretend to do something constructive. It didn’t take me long to get back into harness again and soon I was much busier than before my temporary retirement, and extremely happy.

After your accumulated wealth is sufficient to give to you and your family all that you require—plus security—you are ready for the thrill of your lifetime: helping others—those who genuinely deserve your help.

The program just outlined will provide you with a continuity of contrasts. You would always be in the enviable position of comparing blessings about to come into being with existing ones.


I do not know what percentage of people pity themselves, but I am sure if such figures were available they would be astonishing. I doubt if there are very many who can feel totally free of self-pity.

“Why do people pity themselves?” I often ask myself. It is amazing how many times self-pity stems from a lack of contrasts.

An individual will be living under some sort of adverse condition, and instead of taking steps to change it, will pity himself for what he has to put up with. If he could realize that he has within his power the means of changing his circumstances, he would actually welcome his existing state of affairs, because of the contrast between them and what he, through his constructive imagination, will bring into being.

Mary Pickett was a typical self-pitier. “It is just my luck to have that happen”; “I might have known I would be disappointed”; “Why do I deserve all of this bad luck?” are a few of the negatives she frequently used.

Mary always wore an expression of abject gloom. She seemed afraid to smile for fear it would belie her inner feelings.

“Why are you always so gloomy?” Mary was asked. “Who wouldn’t be, with all I have to contend with,” she said drearily.

“What are a few of the things disturbing you?”

“For one thing I haven’t a friend in the world. Another thing, I have a figure like a bale of hay; who would want such a person as a friend?”

As for Mary’s lack of friends, questioning her revealed that she had no friends because she had never tried to be a friend.

She was given a lecture on how to make friends and she promised to start on a campaign of making friends by being a friend.

So far as her “bale of hay” figure was concerned, she had pitied herself so much for her lack of friends that she took little interest in herself, physically. Mary Pickett promised to watch her food intake and exercise enough to develop an interesting figure.

What happened? Mary is now about the happiest little girl in the country. She has a host of friends. Her figure is not yet what she wants it to be, but it is so much better than it was before, it causes comment by all who see her.

Does Mary now pity herself? The contrast between her present self and the way she was formerly is so great she can hardly believe she is the same person. Her constant expression of gloom has been erased and replaced with a most radiant and contagious smile.

Be glad you are as you are! Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, accept your present circumstances as they are as a foundation on which to build. Next take all of the negative elements which have been disturbing you and one by one change them to positive. Do you see what you will be doing? You will be developing a series of contrasts which will open up new vistas of happiness for you.

During a period of business recession, Bill King, a printing salesman, called upon a prospect attempting to get an order.

“How’s business?” asked the prospective customer.

“Lousy,” he whined in a desolate tone.

“Listen, my friend! I’m going to bawl you out because I think you are big enough to take it,” lectured the executive. “How in hell do you think you can inspire a man to spend some money when you come in with a face like an undertaker and nothing but discouraging remarks on your tongue?”

“I know you’re right, but I can’t tell a man business is good when we both know it is not,” the salesman replied.

“You can be working very hard in trying to get business, can’t you?”

“Well, yes.”

“Then when prospects ask you how business is, tell them that you are busier than you have ever been, and you’ll be telling the truth.”

Reluctantly, the salesman tried the new approach and was astounded at what happened.

He called upon a prospect just before lunch. When asked about business, he told the prospect he had never been busier in his life.

“Come out to lunch with me,” was the unexpected reply. “It’s good to spend an hour with a doer instead of listening to one hard luck tale after another.”

The two had a pleasant lunch together, and when they returned to the office, the salesman was given a very substantial order.

You see? The reason why the executive placed an order was the contrast between this salesman’s approach and those who carry a crying towel with them. The friendly, optimistic attitude of the salesman put the prospect in a buying mood, instead of making him feel he had better conserve every cent.

“There are two sides to every story,” is a statement often heard, and generally speaking, it is true. So, too, is there an opposite to nearly every condition. If something does not suit you as it is, instead of trying to “grin and bear it,” look for a contrast; look for the condition which would be ideal to you, then, applying the principles you have been learning, obtain the improvement you desire.

Much food for thought is contained in this chapter. See to it that you think about every word of it, especially when something arises which does not exactly suit you.

Visit Grow Rich While You Sleep for more articles from this book by Ben Sweetland.