Personality Plus, 1939
Spencer Tracy, Leslie Howard and Myrna Loy, three of the most successful stars on the screen to-day, debate the elements that bring about success in life
by Leslie Howard
I’m not one to believe in the theory of folding the hands and waiting because “what is mine will come to me.” I am convinced that we must go after the thing we want, if we are to get it.
Plan a campaign and you can make yourself an opportunity. Once you have the opportunity, it is up to you to make good in it. Of course, your desire must be strong enough to overcome obstacles.
I started out in life with the idea that I’d be a writer. I wrote a number of things, but my writings didn’t bring in very much money and I happened at the time to have a very great use for money. If I had persevered and put up with semi-poverty, or been willing to do without the things I thought I wanted, I believe I could have become a writer, perhaps famous, perhaps merely adequate.
But I can’t blame luck or fate because I didn’t turn out to be well-known in the literary world. I turned from writing to acting, which I was told would pay me better, and began to see agents and stage managers, asking for job. Out of the blue one day one of them gave me a small job with a company touring the provinces. From this job I got others, and so on and on. I continued with my stage career and neglected my writing.
We are endowed with this quality called “personality” when we come into the world, and if we lack it, I doubt very much if we can acquire it. We can, perhaps, develop what we have so that it grows and grows, but we can’t graft on something that is actually foreign to us.
The shy, backward person can never be convincing as the life of the party, no matter how many lessons he may take in projecting his personality, or how often he may say to himself: “every inch a King!” “I can be what I will to be!” and so on.
However, if you seek something, I can give you this advice:
Never begin by saying to yourself: “This thing is beyond me. It is too good to happen to me. I am not the lucky sort.” Nobody could go out and conquer with that attitude. You need not say any rigmarole to yourself before you plan a campaign to achieve your desire. If you are interested in something, think about it. You’ll be surprised how many ideas connected with your thought will come to you.
Say that you desire to be an artist. You haven’t the money to study. You work as you can, and you keep thinking of your ambition. All around you, you will suddenly perceive references to art exhibitions being held, to visiting artists in your town, to books on your pet subject.
You may become the possessor of a camera, discover books and magazines dealing with this form of art in your library, begin to experiment, get acquainted with other enthusiasts at exhibitions in your town, and you may enter contests and win prizes. Before long, your stuff may be in print, you will get assignments from editors, or become staff photographer for a paper, or open your own studio.
I don’t believe in luck. I don’t think any of us should sit around waiting for it. Make your own luck. It’s more fun!
(The Picturegoer Summer Annual 1939)