Pushing to the Front Part 88

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Men often fail because they do not realize that creeping paralysis, caused by dry rot, is gradually strangling their business. Many business men fail because they dare not look their business conditions in the face when things go wrong, and do not adopt heroic methods, but continue to use palliatives, until the conditions are beyond cure, even with a surgeon's knife.

Lots of men fail because they don't know how to get rid of deadwood in their establishment, or retain non-productive employees, who with slip-shod methods, and indifference drive away more business than the proprietors can bring in by advertising.

Many other men fail because they tried bluff in place of capital, and proper training, or because they didn't keep up with the times.

Lots of young people fail to get ahead and plod along in mediocrity because they never found their place. They are round pegs in square holes. Others are not capable of coping with antagonism. Favoritism of proprietors and managers has killed many a business. A mult.i.tude of men fail to get on because they take themselves too seriously. They deliver their goods in a hea.r.s.e, employ surly, unaccommodating clerks.

Bad business manners have killed many a business. Slave-driving methods, inability to get along with others, lack of system, defective organizing ability, have cut short many a career.

A great many men are ruined by "side-lines" things outside their regular vocation. Success depends upon efficiency, and efficiency is impossible without intense, persistent concentration. Many traveling men think that they can pick up a little extra money and increase their income by taking up some "side-line." But it is always the small man, never the big one, who has a "side-line." Many of these men remain small, and are never able to rise to a big salaried position because they split up their endeavor, dissipate their energy. "Side-lines" are dangerous because they divert the mind, scatter effort, and nothing great can be accomplished without _intense concentration_.

Many people are always driving success away from them by their antagonistic manner, and their pessimistic thought. _They work for one thing, but expect something else_. They don't realize that their mental att.i.tude must correspond with their ambition; that if they are working hard to get on, they must expect prosperity, and not kill their prospects by their adverse mental att.i.tude--their doubts and fears.

Lots of men are ruined by "a sure thing," an inside tip, buying stocks on other people's judgment.

Many people fail because they lose their grit after they fail, or when they get down, they don't know how to get up. Many are victims of their moods, slaves of despondency. Courage and an optimistic outlook upon life are imperative to the winner. Fear is fatal to success.

Many a young man fails because he can not multiply himself in others, can not delegate his work, is lost in detail. Other men fail in an attempt to build up a big business; their minds are not trained to grasp large subjects, to generalize, to make combinations; they are not self-reliant, depending upon other people's judgment and advice.

Many a man who works hard himself, does not know how to handle men, and does not know how to use other people's brains.

Thousands of youths fail to get on because they never fall in love with their work. Work that is drudgery never succeeds.

Fifty years ago, a stable-boy cleaned the horses of a prosperous hotel proprietor, who drove into Denver for supplies. That boy became Governor of Colorado, and later the hotel-keeper, with shattered fortunes, was glad to accept a place as watchman at the hand of the former stable-boy.

Life is made up of such contrasts. Every successful man, in whatever degree and in whatever line, has, at every step of his life, been on seemingly equal terms with hundreds of his fellows who, later, reached no such measure of success as he. Every miserable failure has had at some time as many chances, and at least as much possibility of cultivating the same qualities, as the successful people have had at some time in their lives.

Since humble birth and handicaps of every sort and degree have not prevented success in the determined man; since want has often spurred to needed action and obstacles but train to higher leaping, why should men fail? What causes the failures and half-successes that make up the generality of mankind?

The answer is manifold, but its lesson is plain. As one writer has expressed it, "_Every mainspring of success is a mainspring of failure, when wound around the wrong way._" Every opportunity for advancement, for climbing for success, is just as much an opportunity for failure.

Every success quality can be turned to one's disadvantage through excessive development or wrong use. No matter how broad and strong the dike may be, if a little hole lets the water through, ruin and disaster are sure. Possession of almost all the success-qualities may be absolutely nullified by one or two faults or vices. Sometimes one or two masterful traits of character will carry a person to success, in spite of defects that are a serious clog.

The numerous failures who wish always to blame their misfortunes upon others, or upon external circ.u.mstances, find small comfort in statistics compiled by those who have investigated the subject. In a.n.a.lyzing the causes of business failure in a recent year _Bradstreet's_ found that seven-tenths were due to faults of those failing, and only three-tenths to causes entirely beyond their control.

Faults causing failure, with per cent. of failures caused by each, are given as follows: incompetence, 19 per cent.; inexperience, 7.8 per cent.; lack of capital, 30.3 per cent.; unwise granting of credit, 3.6 per cent.; speculation, 2.3 per cent. It may be explained that "lack of capital" really means attempting to do too much with inadequate capital. This is a purely commercial a.n.a.lysis of purely commercial success. Character delinquencies must be read between the lines.

Forty successful men were induced, not long ago, to answer in detail the question, "What, in your observation, are the chief causes of the failure in life of business or professional men?" The causes attributed by these representative men were as follows:

Bad habits; bad judgment; bad luck; bad a.s.sociates; carelessness of details; constant a.s.suming of unjustifiable risks; desire to become rich too fast; drinking; dishonest dealings; desire of retrenchment; dislike to say no at the proper time; disregard of the Golden Rule; drifting with the tide; expensive habits of life; extravagance: envy; failure to appreciate one's surroundings; failure to grasp one's opportunities; frequent changes from one business to another; fooling away of time in pursuit of a so-called good time, gambling; inattention; incompetent a.s.sistants; incompetency; indolence; jealousy.

Lack of attention to business; of application; of adaptation; of ambition; of business methods; of capital; of conservatism; of close attention to business; of confidence in self; of careful accounting; of careful observation; of definite purpose; of discipline in early life; of discernment of character; of enterprise; of energy; of economy; of faithfulness; of faith in one's calling; of industry; of integrity; of judgment; of knowledge of business requirements; of manly character; of natural ability; of perseverance; of pure principles; of proper courtesy toward people; of purpose; of pluck; of promptness in meeting business engagements; of system. Late hours; living beyond one's income; leaving too much to one's employees; neglect of details; no inborn love for one's calling; over-confidence in the stability of existing conditions; procrastination; speculative mania; selfishness; self-indulgence in small vices; studying ease rather than vigilance; social demoralization; thoughtless marriages; trusting one's work to others; undesirable location; unwillingness to pay the price of success; unwillingness to bear early privations; waste; yielding too easily to discouragement.

Surely, here is material enough for a hundred sermons if one cared to preach them. Without attempting to discuss all these causes of failure, some few may be profitably examined.

No youth can hope to succeed who is timid, who lacks faith in himself, who has not the courage of his convictions, and who always seeks for certainty before he ventures. "Self-distrust is the cause of most of our failures," said one. "In the a.s.surance of strength there is strength, and they are the weakest, however strong, who have no faith in themselves or their powers."

"The ruin which overtakes so many merchants," said another, "is due, not so much to their lack of business talent, as to their lack of business nerve. How many lovable persons we see in trade, endowed with brilliant capacities, but cursed with yielding dispositions--who are resolute in no business habits and fixed in no business principles--who are p.r.o.ne to follow the instincts of a weak good nature, against the ominous hints of a clear intelligence; now obliging this friend by indorsing an unsafe note, and then pleasing that neighbor by sharing his risk in a hopeless speculation, and who, after all the capital they have earned by their industry and sagacity has been sunk in benevolent attempts to a.s.sist blundering or plundering incapacity, are doomed, in their bankruptcy, to be the mark of bitter taunts from growling creditors and insolent pity from a gossiping public."

Scattering one's forces has killed many a man's success. Withdrawal of the best of yourself from the work to be done is sure to bring final disaster. Every particle of a man's energy, intellect, courage, and enthusiasm is needed to win success in one line. Draw off part of the supply of any one or all of these, and there is danger that what is left will not suffice. A little inattention to one's business at a critical point is quite sufficient to cause shipwreck. The pilot who pays attention to a pretty pa.s.senger is not likely to bring his ship to port. Attractive side issues, great schemes, and flattering promises of large rewards, too often lure the business or professional man from the safe path in which he may plod on to sure success. Many a man fails to become a great man, by splitting into several small ones, choosing to be a tolerable Jack-at-all-trades, rather than to be an unrivalled specialist.

Lack of thoroughness is another great cause of failure. The world is overcrowded with men, young and old, who remain stationary, filling minor positions, and drawing meager salaries, simply because they have never thought it worth while to achieve mastery in the pursuits they have chosen to follow.

Lack of education has caused many failures; if a man has success qualities in him, he will not long lack such education as is absolutely necessary to his success. He will walk fifty miles if necessary to borrow a book, like Lincoln. He will hang by one arm to a street lamp, and hold his book with the other, like a certain Glasgow boy. He will study between anvil blows, like Elihu Burritt; he will do some of the thousand things that other n.o.ble strugglers have done to fight against circ.u.mstances that would deprive them of what they hunger for.

"The five conditions of failure," said H. H. Vreeland, president of the Metropolitan Street Railway Company of New York, "may be roughly cla.s.sified thus: first, laziness, and particularly mental laziness; second, lack of faith in the efficiency of work; third, reliance on the saving grace of luck; fourth, lack of courage, initiative and persistence: fifth, the belief that the young man's job affects his standing, instead of the young man's affecting the standing of his job."

Look where you will, ask of whom you will, and you will find that not circ.u.mstances, but personal qualities, defects and deficiencies, cause failures. This is strongly expressed by a wealthy manufacturer who said: "Nothing else influences a man's career in life so much as his disposition. He may have capacity, knowledge, social position, or money to back him at the start; but it is his disposition that will decide his place in the world at the end. Show me a man who is, according to popular prejudice, a victim of bad luck, and I will show you one who has some unfortunate, crooked twist of temperament that invites disaster, He is ill-tempered, or conceited, or trifling, or lacks enthusiasm."

There are some men whose failure to succeed in life is a problem to others, as well as to themselves. They are industrious, prudent, and economical; yet after a long life of striving, old age finds them still poor. They complain of ill luck, they say fate is against them. But the real truth is that their projects miscarry, because they mistake mere activity for energy. Confounding two things essentially different, they suppose that if they are always busy, they must of necessity be advancing their fortunes; forgetting that labor misdirected is but a waste of activity.

The worst of all foes to success is sheer, downright laziness. There is no polite synonym for laziness. Too many young men are afraid to work. They are lazy. They aim to find genteel occupations, so that they can dress well, and not soil their clothes, and handle things with the tips of their fingers. They do not like to get their shoulders under the wheel, and they prefer to give orders to others, or figure as masters, and let some one else do the drudgery. There is no place in this century for the lazy man. He will be pushed to the wall. Labor ever will be the inevitable price for everything that is valuable.

A metropolitan daily newspaper not long ago invited confessions by letter from those who felt that their lives had been failures. The newspaper agreed not to disclose the name or ident.i.ty of any person making such a confession, and requested frank statements. Two questions were asked: "Has your life been a failure? Has your business been a failure?"

Some of the replies were pitiable in the extreme.

Some attributed their failures to a cruel fate which seemed to pursue them and thwart all their efforts, some to hereditary weaknesses, deformities, and taints, some to a husband or a wife, others to "inhospitable surroundings," and "cruel circ.u.mstances."

It is worthy of note that not one of these failures mentioned laziness as a cause.

Here are some of the reasons they did give:

"J. P. T." considered that his life was a failure from too much genius.

He said he thought he could do anything, and therefore he couldn't wait to graduate from college, but left and began the practise of law, was princ.i.p.al of an academy, overworked himself, and had too many irons in the fire. He failed, he said, from dissipating his energies, and having too much confidence in men.

"Rutherford," said he had four chances to succeed in life, but lost them all. The first cause of his failure was lack of perseverance. He tired of the sameness and routine of his occupation. His second shortcoming was too great liberality, too much confidence in others.

Third, economy was not in his dictionary. Fourth, "I had too much hope, even in the greatest extremities." Fifth, "I believed too much in friends and friendships. I couldn't read human nature, and did not make allowance enough for mistakes." Sixth, "I never struck my vocation." Seventh, "I had no one to care for, to spur me on to do something in the world. I am seventy years old, never drank, never had bad habits, always attended church. But I am as poor as when I started for myself."

"G. C. S." failed dismally. "My weakness was building air-castles. I had a burning desire to make a name in the world, and came to New York from the country. Rebuffed, discouraged, I drifted. I had no heart for work. I lacked ability and push, without which no life can be a success."

"Lacked ability and push."--Push _is_ ability. Laziness is lack of push. Nothing can take the place of push. Push means industry and endurance and everlasting stick-to-it-ive-ness.

"A somewhat varied experience of men has led me, the longer I live,"

said a great man, "to set less value on mere cleverness; to attach more and more importance to industry and physical endurance."

Goethe said that industry is nine-tenths of genius, and Franklin that diligence is the mother of good luck. A thousand other tongues and pens have lauded work. Idleness and shiftlessness may be set down as causing a large part of the failures of the world.

On every side we see persons who started out with good educations and great promise, but who have gradually "gone to seed." Their early ambition oozed out, their early ideals gradually dropped to lower standards. Ambition is a spring that sets the apparatus going. All the parts may be perfect, but the lack of a spring is a fatal defect.

Without wish to rise, desire to accomplish and to attain, no life will succeed largely.

"Chief among the causes which bring positive failure or a disappointing portion of half success to thousands of honest strugglers is vacillation," said Thomas B. Bryan.

Many a business man has made his fortune by promptly deciding at some nice juncture to expose himself to a considerable risk. Yet many failures are caused by ill-advised changes and causeless vacillation of purpose. The vacillating man, however strong in other respects, is always pushed aside in the race of life by the determined man, the decisive man, who knows what he wants to do and does it; even brains must give way to decision. One could almost say that no life ever failed that was steadfastly devoted to one aim, if that aim were not in itself unworthy.

I am a great believer in a college education, but a great many college graduates have made failures of their lives who might have succeeded had they not gone to college, because they depended upon theoretical, impractical knowledge to help them on, and were not willing to begin at the bottom after graduation.

On every hand we see men who did well in college, but who do very poorly in life. They stood high in their cla.s.ses, were conscientious, hard workers, but somehow when they get out into life, they do not seem able to catch on. They are not practical. It would be hard to tell why they never get ahead, but there seems to be something lacking in their make-up, some screw loose somewhere. These brilliant graduates, but indifferently successful men, are often enigmas to themselves.

They don't understand why they don't get on.

There is no doubt that ill-health is often the cause of failure, but this is often due to a wrong mental att.i.tude, wrong thinking. The pessimistic, discouraged mental att.i.tude is very injurious to good health. Worry, fear, anxiety, jealousy, extreme selfishness, poison the system, so that it does not perform its functions perfectly, and will cause much ill-health.

A complete reversal of the mental att.i.tude would bring robust health to mult.i.tudes of those who suffer from "poor health." If people would only think right, and live right, ill-health would be very rare. A wrong mental att.i.tude is the cause of a large part of physical weakness, disease, and suffering.

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Pushing to the Front Part 88 summary

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