Developing self-reliance: Personal empowerment lessons from 1951

Earlier this week, I encouraged readers to become proactive by developing an internal locus of control. In that article, I wrote:

You are the boss of you. You don’t need anybody’s permission to get out of debt or to buy a house or to ask for a raise. And nobody’s going to come to you out of the blue to explain investing or health insurance or your credit card contract. Take charge yourself.

“I get it,” you might be thinking. “Self-reliance is great. But how do I change? How do I get from where I am to becoming a more self-reliant person?”

In today's installment of GRS Theater, we're going to look at another fun educational film nearly seventy years ago. This short video (targeted at teenagers) aims to help viewers become more proactive.

“If you're not self-reliant, you'll never do any more than just ‘get by',” says the narrator.

I love how in his desk, Mr. Carson, the French teacher, just happens to have a typewritten card with the four steps to self-reliance. “Learning to be self-reliant takes time…and hard work,” he says, handing young Allen the list.

Here are Mr. Carson's steps, with a bit of elaboration.

  1. Assume responsibility. Take the blame for things that are your fault; look after your own work; plan your own time; depend on yourself to get things done.
  2. Be informed. If you don't know some vital piece of information, find it out. Ask. Get the facts you need to make smart decisions. Knowledge gives you power. Ignorance puts you at the mercy of others.
  3. Know where you're going. Set smart goals. Have a long-range plan so that you understand the general course you're trying to make through life. Don't simply react passively to the world around you.
  4. Make your own decisions. Develop the ability to think for yourself. Don't rely on others to make choices for you — that's a sure route to unhappiness. Be decisive.

These steps are very similar to habits espoused by modern self-help gurus. Taking control of your own destiny is a great way to improve your satisfaction with life, to increase your happiness. The film picks up bonus points from this lit geek by name-dropping Ralph Waldo Emerson and his essay, “Self-Reliance”:

There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.

In the film, we get to watch as young Allen gains self-reliance, which transforms him from a dependent child to a confident young adult. Eventually, he becomes a leader among his classmates.

“Yessir,” says Mr. Carson. “That was self-reliance — the kind we can all use. It's hard work to become self-reliant…[but] Allen learned to do it, and he's a certainly a happier and a better person for it. Will you develop the habit of self-reliance?”

More about...Productivity, Psychology

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LiaD
LiaD

That was quite eye opening.

InvestEveryMonth.com
InvestEveryMonth.com

I think the most important thing for self reliance (and life in general) is self confidence.

Too many of us don’t have personal confidence and this greatly influences the course of our lives.

In terms of reaching our financial goals, we all know people who spend money on expensive clothes, cars, and homes in order to boost their own image and confidence.

If these people had confidence in themselves, they could invest the money and secure their financial well being instead of spending the money on things that make them feel better right now.

Danny
Danny

Awesome post. Alot of self-help tips are timeless and this goes to show. The advantage that our generation has is the internet, now we can harness the power of information more than ever. Number 2.(be informed) is much easier to achieve be it researching personal finance tips (blogs like yours and mine), stocks advice, mutual fund research, etc. The biggest as of late is real estate research. With zillow.com and new age brokerages like redfin.com, just about anyone can look up comparables, past sale figures, neighborhood stats and sometimes even videos and home tours. Being informed is much easier nowadays… Read more »

Vijay Teach Me
Vijay Teach Me

Hi J.D
I have come to understand the principle of success are timeless as mentioned in your article, Self Reliance or as I will like to call it taking charge is the quality which I am developing and seeing the results of it.

Thanks
Vijay

boomie
boomie

I find it both great and odd that the best advice on how one should live their life comes from the 1950’s. Father (and Mother) really did know best. The image of a Leave It To Beaver family, though NOT 100% attainable, still was a nice thing to dream about.

Michelle
Michelle

JD, I don’t know how you found that video, but it was wicked awesome. As corny as it was, the advice is seriously timeless.
It made me realize that even though I lie to think I’m self-reliant, I could work on it a little more.

Andrea >> Become a Consultant
Andrea >> Become a Consultant

Hmmmm. I’m not sure how hard they had to work to make 1951 teens self-reliant. For many of them, their fathers were off at war during their early years. And their mothers were working in factories till about 1945 or so.

Steve
Steve

Being a chess player, I couldn’t agree with the movie more! I consider life a game of chess.

Shaine
Shaine

This is a great find. Thanks for sharing.

Allie
Allie

I always wonder about stuff like this when people discuss it. Doesn’t everyone know/do this already? No one can live your live but you. No one is in your way but you. Go.

Marina
Marina

Just to drill home the point, the quote on the blackboard at the end of the film says “the Lord helps those who help themselves” (literally: “help yourself and heaven will help you).

Accidental FIRE
Accidental FIRE

Ha, these videos are so entertaining, thanks for posting. I love the tone and diction of the voices…. Did we really talk like that in 1951? I guess we did.

dh
dh

The tone back then was so much better than the upspeak and voice-fry of today!

bob
bob

The good ol days. My gosh how things have changed. One early memory of mine was when Dad gave me driving instructions at the age of 7 or 8. He said it’s just like driving a tractor with a clutch. No problem, I had been driving the wd30 already for a year bucking hay. He left me in the middle of the plowed field with my younger brother and said bring the pickup to the end of the field. All went well until I mistook the brake for the clutch and almost put my brother through the windshield. He was… Read more »

Steve
Steve

Thanks for posting.

Self-reliance can be hard work, but it’s certainly not impossible to learn.

Another piece I’d add to this (of course) is that by preparing for your future now, you’ll never have to be reliant on anyone or anything else again. I mean that when it comes to everything, including finance.

It’s surprising to see how many people retire or die while not being self-reliant. A quick search on Go Fund Me puts everything in perspective.

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