I read this book on New Years’ Day 2021, after a year that brought with it, turmoil and tragedy, as well as heartening news about people who, sometimes at their peril, continued to do good in the world. The opening quote in the book speaks to that intention, that we all fulfill our pure potential to be our best selves.
“Rabbi Zusha’s eyes flowed with tears. His disciples gathered around his deathbed to console their great master as his time was near. One said, “Rebbe, you are as wise as Moses and as kind and generous as Abraham. Surely you will be judged favorably in Heaven.” With trembling lips, Reb Zusha declared: “When I get to Heaven, I will not be asked why I didn’t measure up to Moses, or Abraham. Rather they will demand: Zusha, why weren’t you like Zusha? Why didn’t you attain your highest potential?!” Rabbi Meshulam Zusha of Anipoli, 1718-1800
I have seen this quote numerous times over the years but never did it land so powerfully as when paging through Rabbi Ari Berkowitz’ tribute to Edward Earle Purinton, the original author of the book entitled The Triumph of the Man Who Acts which was published in October of 1916. The impetus to write his own ode was his sense of doom and depression during the current pandemic. It was as much meant to be medicine for him as for anyone who reads it.
This philosophical pep talk digs deep and rises above the typical coaching advice offered to people who want to change the trajectory of their lives. It is filled to the brim with practical guidance that calls on efficiency as an important tool to change behaviors and achieve results in the areas of Productivity, Health, Happiness, Relationships, and Freedom.
Keep in mind the era in which it was written, such that the language is of its time. The guidance, although directed toward men, is applicable to anyone regardless of gender.
In the realm of physical wellness, the author is adamant that taking care of the body through exercise, fresh food, and healthy habits does the body better than pills. Overall, he encourages focusing on our strengths and not merely our vulnerabilities. Hope and joy are powerful exercise equipment that strengthens us and allows us to achieve more than we ever thought possible.
He is big on action. Putting legs under our desires turn them from mere whimsical musings to successes on simple and grand scales. A solid work ethic, Purinton contends will lead the reader to all manner of achievement. He has rules that tell us what not to do as well as what to do.
Loving what we do for our right livelihood is of value, not resting on our laurels, but reaching higher. Dreaming and doing, planting seeds for what we want to grow in the garden of our imagination and then the work of cultivating and tending, is my takeaway from Purinton’s manifesto, as he says, “Purpose is persistence.”
Developing habits in all areas of our lives that lead us toward what we want and away from what we don’t want, is a crucial factor in success. Keeping our eye on the prize rather than being distracted by lesser goals. Lest you think, he is all work and no play, there is also the admonition to leave work at work, spend time with family, eat a good dinner, and shake off the stressors of the day.
My favorite chapter is entitled The Efficient Optimist since I refer to myself as an opti-mystic who sees the world through the eyes of possibility. He contends that optimism and resilience go hand in hand and that the optimist doesn’t have a charmed life.
This book creates a dialogue between reader and author that continues long after the pages are turned. You may find your own triumph in the wisdom offered within them.