Marcus Garvey's Doctrine of Success



Perhaps no other phrase sums up Marcus Garvey's philosophy as "The Doctrine of Success." In fact as Garvey stated in a speech in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1937,s "At my age I have learnt no better lesson than that which I am going to impart to you to make man what he ought to be—a success in life. There are two classes on men in the world, those who succeed and those who do not succeed" (Marcus Garvey: Life and Lessons, xxv). In his essay "Living for Something," Garvey gives practical advice on how to succeed.

Lesson 19

Living for Something

Life is an important function.  It was given for the purpose of expression.  The flower expresses itself through the beauty of its bloom.  The vine expresses itself through its rambling search in settling its own peculiar natur{e}.  The tree expresses itself in its smiling green leaves, shaking branches and sometimes hanging fruits.  The lark expresses itself in its laughter and song.

The river expresses itself in its gentle meandering unto the sea and man expresses himself according to the idealistic visions of his nature.  There is a scope for each life.  Let yours find its scope and fully express itself.

Man should have a purpose and that purpose he should always keep in view, with the hope of achieving it in the fullest satisfaction to himself.  Be not aimless, drifting and floating with the tide that doesn’t go your way.

To find your purpose, you must search yourself and with the knowledge of what is good and what is bad, select your course, steering toward the particular object of your dream or desire.

Never enter upon life’s serious journey without a programme.  Simpleton as you may be, you can have a programme.  No ship ever reaches port without a positive destination beforehand, otherwise it will drift on the mighty ocean to be overtaken by the storm or the ill wind that blows.

The sensible captain goes to sea with a chart to map out his course so as to reach his harbor of safety.  Your programme is your chart through life.  Everything you do, do it by method, nothing succeeds continuously or repeatedly by chance.  You may get success in a particular direction by accident, but it was chiefly because that accident was the correct method in achieving that particular thing, and you happened to have struck upon the right method by chance.  But trying chances that way a second time may bring you failure, as it generally does.

To follow the correct method will give you the same result all the time.  Therefore, make your life a methodical one.  Rise at a certain hour, work up to a certain hour, retire at a certain hour.  Do everything on time so that your entire system becomes methodical.  If you have something to do, and it ought to be done, do it with proper method or system to get the best result.  Study it first, then go after doing it.

If a thing is worth while doing, it is worth while doing well.

How pitiful it is to see a man living without a programme without knowing how he is going to use his todays and his tomorrows.  If you follow him long enough you will find him going down the ditch of failure, because he has been travelling without a programme.

Observe the other man who has his programme, and see him go from one step to the next with success.  If you have a programme, you know what comes next.  If you have none, you have to improvise one and then it is too late to do it properly, and so you fail.

If you want to be 5,000 miles away in December and it costs $500.00, because you may be disappointed at the last mo{m}e{n}t{, s}tart from January thinking about your trip and making arrangements for it, so that when the time comes you will be perfectly ready.  Make this a practice in everything, don’t wait until time arrives, think ahead.

Always try to look through by calling upon your experience when you are looking to that future that is ahead of you.  Analyse it, arrange it to suit your needs, so that when things come upon you, you will be ready.  Don’t let things come upon you suddenly.

The man who lives in the present, preparing for the future {,} always enjoys a better future that the man who doesn’t visualize it, but who goes right into it unprepared.  Future seeing is a worthy object.

Always try to look down the future.  You make slight mistakes here and there but if you gauge it properly, with the experience of the past and the conditions of the present, you may strike an even or accurate estimate of what it ought to be, so when it comes, you will be able to welcome it with some kind of satisfaction.

To life for something doesn’t only mean something for yourself, but something for your kith and kin and something for your race.  If a father lives for something, he ought to be able to see his children through that something, so that what he does not accomplish for himself might be accomplished for his children.  As for instance, an industrious father lives with the hope of improving his social condition and economic condition.  He would like to live in a beautiful mansion on the hill, from which he could see the country places around, the valleys, the dales and the lofty mountains, but he is working in the valley, living in a small cottage{.}  He is growing older without his dreams realized, but he looks to his son and says “if I cannot enjoy this desire of mine, because I may be too old, when the times comes, I shall make it possible for my son to live on that hilltop or mygrandson{.”  T}hat is living in the future.  That is living for something, because when the old man dies, the son inherits and when the son dies, the grandson inherits.  Inherits what?  That which the grandfather lived for.

This should be the policy of every Negro, to live for something to hand down to a son, to a grandson, that they may have life a little easier than their fathers before them.  This is the way successful and great families have come into the world and great races too.

No Negro should be objectless or purposeless in life.  Always have a purpose.  To waste time in non-essentials is to be purposeless.  Playing bone dice is purposeless.  There is nothing achieved in the time wasted in doing it.  No great fortune is guaranteed, no great are it accomplished, no structure is built because it is a game of chance.  Playing pool is a waste, because like playing the dice it is a game of chance.  Sitting around and going from place to place without an occupation is waste, valuable time is going and nothing is being registered by way of achievement; but when one settles down upon a given and worthy idea or occupation, such as in architect, an engineer, a builder, a farmer, a poet, a teacher, he or she is working on something that may become tangible in results.  It is from such tangible assets that we build fortunes.  Find something tangible to do, then, and use your time in doing it well.  It is better that you be dead than having no purpose in life.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox says:--

Have a purpose, and that purpose keep in view,
Have a purpose, and that purpose keep in view,
For drifting like a helmless vessel,
Thou can’st ne’er to self be true.

The ship without a helm must flounder on the rock.  Why be such a ship?  Why not sail through life like the barque whose helm is perfect?  Be a captain with chart in hand seeing his port as he sails steadily on.  See your port, visualize it, and as the time comes, anchor it.





From  The Course of African Philosophy, ed . Tony Martin. Dover: Majority Press, 1986


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Exonerate Marcus Garvey

To be delivered to President Barack Obama

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