I came across this article regarding Alfred Noble and his Nobels’ Peace Prize. I had no idea of his background and how an error in a newspaper resulted in him changing direction in a dramatic way.
On November 27, 1895, Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament at Paris’ Swedish-Norwegian Club. The 62-year-old industrialist had previously mused about using some of his personal fortune to support the work of scientists and inventors, but the document he produced described a project far more ambitious than anyone could have imagined.
In fewer than 1,000 handwritten words, Nobel outlined a plan to devote the vast majority of his estate—worth around $265 million today—to a series of prizes for “those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.”
Nobel listed five awards in his will (a sixth, for economics, was added in 1968). Three were for the greatest discoveries or inventions in the fields of physics, chemistry and medicine, while a fourth was devoted to the author of the “most outstanding work” of literature.
The fifth award was designated for “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.”
While Nobel’s award fund would eventually become famous, there’s no denying that he was an unlikely source for a peace prize. As historian Oscar J. Falnes later noted, his family name was “associated not with the arts of peace but with the arts of war.”
Nobel’s father Immanuel was an engineer who had run armaments factories and built underwater mines for Russia during the Crimean War. Alfred, meanwhile, was famous for developing new types of explosives.
Among his 355 patents were designs for nitro-glycerine detonators, blasting caps and a smokeless gunpowder called ballistite. In 1867, he had invented dynamite, which was widely used both in construction and in warfare.
By the time he wrote his will, Nobel was hugely wealthy and owned nearly 100 factories that made explosives and munitions.
What persuaded the “dynamite king” to devote his fortune to charity? Nobel never spoke publicly about the motivations behind the pledge, but many believe it was inspired by an earlier case of mistaken identity.
In 1888, Nobel’s brother Ludvig had died in France from a heart attack. Thanks to poor reporting, at least one French newspaper believed that it was Alfred who had perished, and it proceeded to write a scathing obituary that branded him a “merchant of death” who had grown rich by developing new ways to “mutilate and kill.”
The error was later corrected, but not before Alfred had the unpleasant experience of reading his own death notice. The incident may have brought on a crisis of conscience and led him to re-evaluate his career.
According to biographer Kenne Fant, Nobel “became so obsessed with his posthumous reputation that he rewrote his last will, bequeathing most of his fortune to a cause upon which no future obituary writer would be able to cast aspersions.”
A dramatic change
It’s amazing how a simple mistake changed the direction of someone’s life. A dramatic mindset change drove him to change his life and how he would be remembered. This is the power of the mind.
Our minds have incredible power, and our dominant thoughts determine our future. What we focus on most of the time is where we head in life. If our thoughts are predominantly positive, we tend to lead a happier and more productive life. If our thoughts are predominantly negative, we tend to lead a less happy and productive life.
This is certainly the case in my life. When I look back on my life and I analyse my thought process during those times in every case when things were not going well my thoughts were negative and fearful. When things were going well my thoughts were positive.
My thoughts came first
As I dig deeper, I find that my thoughts weren’t led by my outward circumstances, but my outward circumstances were led by my thoughts. The thoughts came first then circumstances followed.
This is the case recently when I lost all my business to Covid. Things didn’t turn around then my thinking improved. It was the exact opposite where I had to use many techniques of gratitude, reframing and affirmations to develop a positive mindset which then resulted in writing a second book and rewriting my Masterclasses for online delivery.
The positive thinking came first then the outward circumstances changed. It is essential that our thinking is predominantly positive if we want to succeed in life. Things do go wrong but it’s how we respond which makes all the difference. We need to change from negative thinking to positive thinking as quickly as we can.
I am now working with amazing organisations like Rolls Royce, Siemens, NSG Pilkington, and Applus all of whom have over 20,000 staff worldwide. Two and a half years ago I had lost everything, and I sat at home wondering what to do. It all changed with the way I responded to adversity.
It’s not how you start
Alfred Nobel made a choice to finish well. Even though he made a fortune he wasn’t happy with what he was doing which confirms that money isn’t everything.
He started badly but he finished well, and his name lives on as a peacemaker.
This is something which is close to my heart and is something I am striving for. I have made many mistakes in my life – too many to count but it’s not how you start in life which counts, it’s how you finish.
I am doing my best to finish well by helping as many people as I can to live healthier happy lives with less stress and more peace.
There are many people who have started well in life. I can think of so many famous singers and actors who had it all then died prematurely often with drug and alcohol addictions. That is not finishing well and that is not a successful life.
Often the simplest of things make us truly happy. Things like loving relationships, simple home comforts and peace in our lives.
As we approach 2023 let us all look forward to an awesome year of true peace and happiness.
Happy New Year!