People say: "One can't help one's thoughts." But one can. The

control of the thinking machine is perfectly possible. And since

nothing whatever happens to us outside our own brain; since nothing

hurts us or gives us pleasure except within the brain, the supreme

importance of being able to control what goes on in that mysterious

brain is patent. This idea is one of the oldest platitudes, but it

is a platitude whose
profound truth and urgency most people live and

die without realising. People complain of the lack of power to

concentrate, not witting that they may acquire the power, if they


And without the power to concentrate--that is to say, without the

power to dictate to the brain its task and to ensure obedience--true

life is impossible. Mind control is the first element of a full


Hence, it seems to me, the first business of the day should be to

put the mind through its paces. You look after your body, inside

and out; you run grave danger in hacking hairs off your skin; you

employ a whole army of individuals, from the milkman to the pig-

killer, to enable you to bribe your stomach into decent behaviour.

Why not devote a little attention to the far more delicate machinery

of the mind, especially as you will require no extraneous aid? It

is for this portion of the art and craft of living that I have

reserved the time from the moment of quitting your door to the

moment of arriving at your office.

"What? I am to cultivate my mind in the street, on the platform, in

the train, and in the crowded street again?" Precisely. Nothing

simpler! No tools required! Not even a book. Nevertheless, the

affair is not easy.

When you leave your house, concentrate your mind on a subject (no

matter what, to begin with). You will not have gone ten yards

before your mind has skipped away under your very eyes and is

larking round the corner with another subject.

Bring it back by the scruff of the neck. Ere you have reached the

station you will have brought it back about forty times. Do not

despair. Continue. Keep it up. You will succeed. You cannot by

any chance fail if you persevere. It is idle to pretend that your

mind is incapable of concentration. Do you not remember that morning

when you received a disquieting letter which demanded a very

carefully-worded answer? How you kept your mind steadily on the

subject of the answer, without a second's intermission, until you

reached your office; whereupon you instantly sat down and wrote the

answer? That was a case in which *you* were roused by circumstances

to such a degree of vitality that you were able to dominate your

mind like a tyrant. You would have no trifling. You insisted that

its work should be done, and its work was done.

By the regular practice of concentration (as to which there is no

secret--save the secret of perseverance) you can tyrannise over

your mind (which is not the highest part of *you*) every hour of the

day, and in no matter what place. The exercise is a very convenient

one. If you got into your morning train with a pair of dumb-bells

for your muscles or an encyclopaedia in ten volumes for your

learning, you would probably excite remark. But as you walk in the

street, or sit in the corner of the compartment behind a pipe, or

"strap-hang" on the Subterranean, who is to know that you are

engaged in the most important of daily acts? What asinine boor can

laugh at you?

I do not care what you concentrate on, so long as you concentrate.

It is the mere disciplining of the thinking machine that counts.

But still, you may as well kill two birds with one stone, and

concentrate on something useful. I suggest--it is only a

suggestion--a little chapter of Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus.

Do not, I beg, shy at their names. For myself, I know nothing more

"actual," more bursting with plain common-sense, applicable to the

daily life of plain persons like you and me (who hate airs, pose,

and nonsense) than Marcus Aurelius or Epictetus. Read a chapter--

and so short they are, the chapters!--in the evening and

concentrate on it the next morning. You will see.

Yes, my friend, it is useless for you to try to disguise the fact.

I can hear your brain like a telephone at my ear. You are saying to

yourself: "This fellow was doing pretty well up to his seventh

chapter. He had begun to interest me faintly. But what he says

about thinking in trains, and concentration, and so on, is not for

me. It may be well enough for some folks, but it isn't in my line."

It is for you, I passionately repeat; it is for you. Indeed, you

are the very man I am aiming at.

Throw away the suggestion, and you throw away the most precious

suggestion that was ever offered to you. It is not my suggestion.

It is the suggestion of the most sensible, practical, hard-headed

men who have walked the earth. I only give it you at second-hand.

Try it. Get your mind in hand. And see how the process cures half

the evils of life--especially worry, that miserable, avoidable,

shameful disease--worry!