Orison Swett Marden

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New England,
Birth Sign
New England,

A guy can either succumb to his circumstances or choose to overcome them in order to live a better life. Marden, Orison Swett, picked the latter. He had a difficult childhood; orphaned at the age of seven, he was left to fend for himself and his two sisters. He began reading self-help books, which encouraged him significantly to escape the perilous world of poverty and achieve self-sufficiency. Marden is regarded as one of the founding fathers of the modern success movement in America as the founder of ‘Success’ magazine. His book, ‘Pushing to the Front,’ sold millions of copies and established itself as a classic of the self-help genre. Marden is also a member of the New Thought Movement, a spiritual movement that connects spirituality and personal growth. He has written numerous articles for the New Thought Movement’s magazine, ‘The Nautilus.’ He is the author of nearly twenty works, many of which are regarded as timeless masterpieces and are still read today. Prior to his death, he left an unpublished manuscript collection.

Childhood & Adolescence

Orison Swett Marden was born in Thornton Gore, New Hampshire in 1850 to Lewis and Martha Marden. He lost his mother when he was three years old and his father when he was seven.
Following his parents’ deaths, he and his two sisters were placed in the care of several guardians. He was forced to labor as a ‘hired boy’ in order to support himself and his sisters.

His challenging youth and terrible circumstances motivated him to read self-help literature. He was profoundly influenced by novelist Samuel Smiles, whose book he discovered inadvertently in the attic.
Despite his troubles, he was determined in his pursuit of a better life and enrolled at Boston University, where he graduated in 1871.

He graduated from Harvard University in 1881 with an M.D. The next year, he graduated from the university with an L.L.B. degree.
He later studied at Boston’s Oratory School and Andover Theological Seminary. He self-financed his whole schooling using money earned while working in a hotel; later, he owned hotels and resorts.

He lost possession of the numerous hotels and resorts he owned in the 1890s, during the Great Depression. He quickly found work in Chicago as a hotel manager.
In 1893, Chicago hosted the World’s Columbian Exposition, which drew a great number of tourists. During this time period, he began writing and began recording his philosophical thoughts.

Orison Swett’s Career

During the Great Depression, after losing his hotels, he took up residence in a room atop a livery stable and wrote feverishly on his first manuscript. The book was destroyed one day when a fire broke out in the livery stable.

When his 1000-page work was destroyed, he was crushed. He did, however, re-motivate himself and re-wrote the manuscript. When he attempted to find publishers, he encountered numerous rejections due to the fact that it was also the third year of the Great Depression.

After numerous rejections, his book ‘Pushing to the Front’ was published in 1894. The publisher of the book believed that the middle of the depression would be an ideal moment for people to read such a book.

He published his second book, Architects of Fate or, Steps to Success and Power, in 1895. The book sought to inspire youth to develop their character and self-culture, as well as to motivate them to succeed.

He followed up with ‘How to Succeed or, Stepping-Stones to Fame and Fortune’ in 1896. The book was a self-help manual that instructed readers on how to achieve success in any endeavor they choose.
In 1897, he launched the magazine Success,’ which was primarily devoted to personal achievement. Og Mandino, Napoleon Hill, and W. Clement Stone were among those that contributed to the publication.

He also wrote essays for ‘The Nautilus,’ a magazine published by the New Thought Movement, a set of spiritually oriented intellectual beliefs. Elizabeth Towne founded the journal.
In 1898, he published his follow-up book, ‘The Secret of Achievement,’ which urged readers to make amends for their losses and pursue success.

His other inspirational and self-help works include ‘The Hour of Opportunity,’ ‘Every Man a King,’ ‘The Optimistic Life,’ ‘The Art of Living,’ and ‘Do It to the End.’

In 1910, he published the book ‘The Miracle of Right Thought,’ which advised readers to be happy and to fill their lives with joy.
He was one of the founding presidents of the New York-based ‘League for the Greater Life,’ a New Thought organization created in 1916.

In January 1918, his piece ‘The Man You Desire to Be’ was published in the magazine ‘The Nautilus’, which was based on the New Thought Movement. His novel ‘Ambition’ was published the following year.

His Significant Works

His book ‘Pushing to the Front contained suggestions for achieving success. It quickly became a sought-after classic, inspiring figures such as J.P. Morgan, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and Henry Ford.

Personal History and Legacies

He died in 1924, aged 74.
Margaret Connolly wrote an autobiography on him in 1925, titled ‘The life narrative of Orison Swett Marden: A man who benefitted men’.

Estimated Net worth



He wrote the book ‘Pushing to the Front,’ which inspired such luminaries as J.P. Morgan, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and Henry Ford.