The Practical Magnetic
G. M. Brown
(From The Path of Life)
Twenty clerks in a store; twenty hands in a printing
office; twenty apprentices in a shipyard; twenty young men in a village;
all want to get on in the world, and expect to succeed. One of the
clerks will become a partner and make a fortune; one of the compositors
will own a newspaper and become an influential citizen; one of the apprentices
will become a master builder; one of the young villagers will get a handsome
farm and live like a patriarch; but which one is the lucky individual?
Lucky! There is no luck about it. The thing is almost as certain
as the Rule of Three. The young fellow who will distance his competitors
is he who masters his business, who preserves his integrity, who lives
cleanly and purely, who devotes his leisure hours to acquisition of knowledge,
who never gets in debt, who gains friends by deserving them, and who saves
his spare money. There are some ways to fortune shorter than this
old dusty highway; but the staunch men of the community, the men who achieve
something really worth having, good fortune and serene old age, all go
on in this road.
We hear a great deal about “good luck” and “bad luck.”
If a person has prospered in business, he is said to have had “good luck.”
If he has failed, he has had “bad luck.” If he has been sick, good
or bad luck is said to have visited him, accordingly as he got well or
died. Or, if he has remained in good health, while others have been
attacked by some epidemic disease, he has had “good luck” to escape that
which others have had the “bad luck” to be seized. Good or bad luck
is, in most cases, but a synonym for good or bad judgment. The prudent,
the considerate, and the circumspect seldom complain of ill luck.
We do not know anything which more fascinates youth
than what, for want of a better word, we may call brilliancy. Gradually,
however, this peculiar kind of estimation changes very much. It is
no longer those who are brilliant, those who affect to do the most and
the best work with the least apparent pains and trouble, who we are most
inclined to admire. We eventually come to admire labor, and to respect
it the more, the more openly it is proclaimed by the laborious man to be
the cause of his success, if he has any success to boast of.
A great moral safeguard is habits of industry.
This promotes our happiness; and also leaves no cravings for those vices
which lead on and down to sin and its untold miseries. Industry conducts
to prosperity. Fortunes may, it is true, be won in one day; but they
may be lost in one day. It is only the hand of the diligent that
makes one permanently rich. The late Dr. Ticknor, of Boston, a model
merchant and publisher, in his last hours spoke of the value of a steady
pursuit of one’s legitimate business. He commented on the insane
traffic in gold at that moment, as ruinous to the country and the parties
engaged in it.
“The pathway of its tracks,” said he, “is strewn
with wrecks of men and fortunes; but few have failed of success who were
honest, earnest, and patient.” He attributed his own success to his
clinging to his resolution to avoid all speculations, and steadily pursuing
the business of his choice. He had been bred to the trade of a broker;
but thought it as dangerous as the lottery and dice.
And no young man could fail to be warned by him,
who had seen the frenzy that comes over the “Brokers’ Board.”
“A babble of conflicting sounds -- a hot oven of
excitement” is that board; it is a moral storm which few can withstand.
How much wiser is he who keeps out of the whirlpool,
content with an honest calling and reasonable gains.
Who are the successful men? They are those
who when boys were compelled to work either to help themselves or their
parents, and who when a little older were under the stern necessity of
doing more than their legitimate share of labor; who as young men had their
wits sharpened by having to devise ways and means of making their time
more available than it would be under ordinary circumstances. Hence
in reading lives of eminent men who have greatly distinguished themselves,
we find their youth passed in self-denials of food, sleep, rest, and recreation.
They sat up late, rose early, to the performance of imperative duties,
doing by daylight the work of one man, and by night that of another.
Said a gentlemen, the other day, now a private banker
of high integrity and who started in life without a dollar: “For years
I was in my place of business by sunrise, and often did not leave it for
fifteen or eighteen hours.” Let not, then, any youth be discouraged
if he has to make his own living, or even to support a widowed mother,
or a sick sister, or unfortunate relative; for this has been the road to
eminence of many a proud name. This is the path which printers and
teachers have often trod -- thorny enough at times, at others so beset
with obstacles as to be almost impassable; but the way was cleared, sunshine
came, success followed -- then the glory and the renown.
The secret of one’s success or failure in nearly
every enterprise is usually contained in answer to the question: How earnest
is he? Success is the child of confidence and perseverance.
The talent of success is simply doing what you can do well, and doing well
whatever you do -- without a thought of fame. Fame never comes because
it is craved. Success is the best test of capacity. Success
is not always a proper criterion for judging a man’s character. It
is certain that success naturally confirms us in a favorable opinion of
ourselves. Success in life consists in the proper and harmonious
development of those faculties which God has given us. Be thrifty
that you may have wherewith to be charitable. He that labors and
thrives spins gold.
We are familiar with people who whine continually
at fate. To believe them, never was a lot so hard as theirs; yet
those who know their history will generally tell you that their life has
been one long tale of opportunities disregarded, or misfortunes otherwise
deserved. Perhaps they were born poor. In this case they hate
the rich, and have always hated them, but without ever having emulated
their prudence or energy. Perhaps they have seen their rivals more
favored by accident. In this event they forgot how many have been
less lucky than themselvdes; so they squandered their little, because,
as they say, they cannot save as much as others. Irritated at life,
they grow old prematurely. Dissatisfied with everything, they never
permit themselves to be happy. Because they are not born at the top
of the wheel of fortune, they refuse to take hold of the spoke as the latter
comes around, but lie stubborn to the dirt, crying like spoiled children,
neither doing anything themselves, nor permitting others to do it for them.
Some men make a mistake in marrying. They do
not in this matter either begin right. Have they their fortunes still
to make? Too often, instead of seeking one who would be a helpmate
in the true sense of the term, they unite themselves to a giddy, improvident
creature, with nothing to recommend her but the face of a doll and a few
showy accomplishments. Such a wife, they discover too late, neither
makes home happy nor helps to increase her husband’s means. At first,
thriftless, extravagant and carefless, she gradually becomes cross and
reproachful, and while she envies other women, and reproaches her husband
because he can not afford to maintain her like them, is really the principal
cause of his ill fortune. The selection of a proper companion is
one of the most important concerns of life. A well-assorted marriage
assists, instead of retarding, a man’s prosperity. Select a sensible,
agreeable, amiable woman, and you will have secured a prize “better than
riches.” If you do otherwise, then, alas for you!
Treat everyone with respect and civility. “Everything
is gained, and nothing lost, by courtesy.” Good manners insure success.
Never anticipate wealth from any other source than labor. “He who
waits for dead men’s shoes may have to go a long time barefoot.”
And above all, Nil desperandum,” for “Heaven helps those who help themselves.”
If you implicitly follow these precepts, nothing can hinder you from accumulating.
Let the business of everybody else alone, and attend to your own; don’t
buy what you don’t want; use every hour to advantage, and study to make
even leisure hours useful; think twice before you throw away a shilling;
remember you will have another to make for it; find recreation in your
own business; buy low, sell fair, and take care of the profits; look over
your books regularly, and, if you find an error, trace it out; should a
stroke of misfortune come over your trade, retrench, work harder, but never
fly the track; confront difficulties with unceasing perseverance, and they
will disappear at last, though you should fail in the struggle, you will
be honored; but shrink from the task and you will be despised.
Engage in one kind of business only, and stick to
it faithfully until you succeed, or until your experience shows that you
should abandon it. A constant hammering on one nail will generally drive
it home at last, so that it can be clinched. When a man’s undivided
attention is centered on one object, his mind will constantly be suggesting
improvements of value, which would escape him if his brain was occupied
by a dozen different subjects at once. Many a fortune has slipped
through a man’s fingers because he was engaging in too many occupations
at a time. There is good sense in the old caution against having
too many irons in the fire at once.
“At thy first entrance upon thy estate,” once said
a wise man, “keep a low sail, that thou mayst rise with honor; thou canst
not decline without shame; he that begins where his father ends, will end
where his father began.” An English judge being asked what contributed
most to the success at the bar, replied, “Some succeed by great talent,
some by the influence of friends, some by a miracle, but the majority by
commencing without a shilling.”
Everywhere in human experience, as frequently in
nature, hardship is the vestibule of the highest success. That magnificent
oak was detained twenty years in its upward growth while its roots took
a great turn around a boulder by which the tree was anchored to withstand
the storms of centuries.
In our intercourse with the world a cautious circumspection
is of great advantage. Slowness of belief, and proper distrust, are
essential to success. The credulous and confiding are ever the dupes
of knaves and imposters. Ask those who have lost their property how
it happened, and you will find in most cases it has been owing to misplaced
confidence. One has lost by endorsing; another by crediting; another
by false representations; all of which a little more foresight and a little
more distrust would have prevented. In the affairs of this world
men are not saved by faith, but by the want of it.
They who are eminently successful in business, or
who achieve greatness, or even notoriety in any pursuit, must expect to
make enemies. Whoever becomes distinguished is sure to be a mark
for the malicious spite of those who, not deserving success themselves,
are galled by the merited triumph of the more worthy. Moreover, the
opposition which originates in such despicable motives, is sure to be the
most unscrupulous character; hesitating at no iniquity, descending to the
shabbiest littleness. Opposition, if it be honest and manly, is not
in itself undesirable. It is the whetstone by which a highly tempered
nature is polished and sharpened.
He that has never known adversity, is but half acquainted
with others or with himself. Constant success shows us but one side of
the world. For, as it surrounds us with friends, who will tell us only
our merits, so it silences those enemies from whom alone we can learn our defects.