The fact that O. Henry spent three years in jail and that during that time he wrote some of his most famous short stories is a striking reminder of a familiar but often neglected truth. A man cannot find himself unless he takes time to think.
A few of the best-known writers in English literature, like O. Henry, have been forced by circumstances to discover and improve their talents. Daniel Defoe developed his literary style and gathered the material for "Jonathan Wild," "Captain Avery" and other stories of criminal life while confined in a London prison. John Bunyan, the wandering preacher, became John Bunyan, the author of "Pilgrim's Progress" during his imprisonment in Bedford jail. It is possible that neither of these men would have achieved the fame he now enjoys had it not been for the time to think that was imposed upon him.
Commercial stock-takings are valuable, but mental balancings of accounts are no less necessary for success. A business house that proceeded without weighing its assets and liabilities at regular intervals would invite financial disaster, and a man who does not occasionally compare what he is with what he wants to be, is equally sure to fail.
Most men do not know their own capacities and limitations. If they did, there would be fewer misfits, fewer round pegs in square holes. The man who can tell approximately what he is worth, and then go out and make himself better, cannot help succeeding. He is the man who has learned to think before he goes to jail.