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    Samuel Smiles – Scottish Self-Help Pioneer

    ‘Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself’.~ William Faulkner

    Scots Heritage Magazine Number 61
    While skimming through the SCOTS Heritage Magazine tucked into the bookshelf, I was inspired to pick up a copy with a very colorful cover featuring Jamie Macnab, the 24th Chief of Clan Macnab.

    Not so much to inform myself about the clan’s story which descent is in direct line with Kenneth McAlpin, first King of the Scots, but to examine more closely the beautiful tartan pattern of his trousers! 😊

    By the way… all members of Clan McNab would love to visit the Ottawa River Valley while sightseeing in the province of Ontario, Canada.

    The 17th Chief of the Macnabs, Archibald Macnab (1777–1860), migrated to Canada with about 500 other members of his clan after being compelled to sell Kinnell House and Estate to pay off the debts of the notorious 16th Chief, Francis Mcnab.

    They mainly resided in the Ottawa River Valley in Ontario. Near the river was a township called McNab, which was just recently renamed McNab/Braeside.

    samuel smiles scots heritage magBrowsing through the magazine I stumbled upon an article that caught my fancy…

    WINNING SMILES – An inspiration to many successful and talented souls, Samuel Smiles was the Godfather of the self-help book.

    Isn’t that interesting? A Scottish pioneer in self-improvement!

    Quite a surprise as I was under the impression that the personal development movement started with Dale Carnegie, a well-known American that became famous by showing others how to become successful. His best-selling book published in 1936 was How To Win Friends and Influence People.

    Samuel Smiles (1812-1904) was born in Haddington, East Lothian and eldest of eleven children. He left school early, studied medecine at Edinburgh University, but, due to a lack of work, switched in his scalpel for a pen (fellow Scot Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did likewise).  Self-Help catapulted Smiles to fame almost immediately and has been dubbed “the bible of mid-Victorian liberalism.”

    self-help samuel smiles

    Self-Help – Samuel Smiles – 1859

    The attitudes and values of those who had achieved extraordinary success exclusively via their own efforts piqued his interest. He began studying and writing biographies of his favourite people after he realised they were role models for the rest of us. He was also inspired by the self-helping mindset of many working-class people and that motivated him to spread the idea that political changes alone cannot bring about social change. It necessitates looking within for solutions as well.


    Self-improvement refers to enhancing one’s personality, routines, responses, and activities. It entails breaking bad habits and forming good ones in their place. I’ve been studying personal development for many decades and will continue to do so because I consider that it is a way of life, a never-ending work in progress to become the best we can be.

    Until next, all the very best!


    ‘We can all achieve and enjoy long-term success. It just takes the right habits. ‘ ~ Brendon Burchard

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