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 the acquisition of knowledge, who never gets into 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 the "good luck" to escape that with 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, whom w 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 the habit of industry. This promotes our happiness; and so 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 a day; but may also be lost in a day.
It is only the hand of the diligent that makes one permanently rich. The late Mr. 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 n gold at that
moment, as ruinous to the country and the parties engaged in it. "The pathway of its track,"
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 "Broker's
Board." "A Babel of conflicting sounds - a hot oven of excitement" is that board; it is a moral
storm which few can withstand long. How much wiser is he who keeps out of this 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 the lives of eminent men who have greatly
distinguished themselves, we find their youth passed in self-denials of food, sleep, rest, and
recreations. 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 gentleman, 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 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 impassible; but the way was
cleared, sunshine came, success followed - then the glory and 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
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
but 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 forget how many have been less lucky than themselves;
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
Some men make a mistake in marrying. They do not in this matter 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 careless, she gradually becomes cross and reproachful, and
while she envies other women, and reproaches her husband because he cannot 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 every one with respect and civility. "Everything is gained, and nothing lost, by
courtesy." "Good manners secure 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
centred on one object, his mind will constantly be suggesting improvements of value, which
would escape him if his brain were 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
"At thy first entrance upon thy estate," once said a wise man, "keep 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."
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 a proper distrust, are essential to success. The credulous and confiding are ever the
dupes of knaves and impostors. 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
indorsing; 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 of 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
The Royal Path of Life - Aims and Aids to Success and Happiness - 1882 by T.L. Haines & L.W. Yaggy