Reading “The Adolescent”

I have a love/hate relationship with Fyodor Dostoevsky. For example:

  • Love: Notes From Underground is arguably my favourite book.
  • Hate: The Brothers Karamazov was enormous, disjointed and disappointing. I trudged through it all anyway, ultimately resorting to the audiobook so I could get through it.

I’m in the midst of a personal quest to read everything Dostoevsky has ever published. Towards the end of 2011 I started reading another of his works, The Adolescent, which satisfied but didn’t impress. Away from the story, I took something from it I didn’t expect to take, below I have reproduced a few passages from the book, which chime very closely with my own beliefs in philosophy, patience, frugality, saving, investment, and the execution of a well-planned plan.

It’s all very simple: the two key words of the secret are perseverance and relentlessness.

“We’ve heard all that before,” you’ll tell me…This is my answer: you may think you’ve heard all that before, but you haven’t heard a thing yet. One point, however, I’ll grant you: when i said it’s all very simple, I forgot to add that it’s also the most difficult thing there is. All religions and all moral teachings can be boiled down to the simple maxim: “Love virtue, flee vice.” Can there be anything simpler than that? All right, then, try to do something virtuous and discard just one of your vices. Just try. Well, it’s the same thing with what I’m saying. And that’s why innumerable papas may repeat for centuries on end these two magic key words of the secret without managing to produce another James Rothschild. You must conclude, then, that, although it may sound like the same thing, it’s not and your papas may be repeating a different idea.

…from this we may draw two conclusions: one, perseverance in accumulating money even by tiny sums eventually yields enormous results (time is of no significance here); and two, even the most uncomplicated way of making money, as long as it is pursued relentlessly, is mathematically bound to succeed.

The Adolescent, Part 1, Chapter 5, Section 1, by Fyodor Dostoevsky


Equip yourself with courage, perseverance, relentlessness, complete self-sufficiency and secrecy.

Above all, I resolved never to go out for a maximum immediate gain, but always to remain cool.

All it takes is will power; the grasp, the skill, and the knowhow will come by themselves.

The most important thing is not to take risks. And that’s what takes character.

Let me tell you something: relentlessness and perseverance in pursuing gain, above all in accumulating money, is much more effective than accidental windfalls, even if they show an immediate profit of one hundred percent.

They’ll tell me that this is not much of an “idea”, nothing new. Well, I’ll answer for the last time that it’s an immense “idea” and that there’s a lot that’s new in it.

The Adolescent, Part 1, Chapter 5, Section 2, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

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