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Title: Increasing Personal Efficiency

Author: Russell H. Conwell

Release Date: July 29, 2011 [EBook #36898]

Language: English

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Increasing Personal Efficiency

Musical Culture
Self Help
Some Advice to Young Men




597 Fifth Avenue, New York

Observation—Every Man His Own University

Copyright, 1917, by Harper & Brothers
Printed in the United States of America

Increasing Personal Efficiency

[Pg 119]



Some women may be superficial in education and accomplishments, extravagant in tastes, conspicuous in apparel, something more than self-assured in bearing, devoted to trivialities, inclined to frequent public places. It is, nevertheless, not without cause that art has always shown the virtues in woman's dress, and that true literature teems with eloquent tributes and ideal pictures of true womanhood—from Homer's Andromache to Scott's Ellen Douglas, and farther. While Shakespeare had no heroes, all his women except Ophelia are heroines, even if Lady Macbeth, Regan, and Goneril are hideously wicked. In the moral world, women are what flowers and fruit are in the physical. "The soul's armor is never well set to the heart until woman's hand has braced it; and it is only when she braces it loosely that the honor of manhood fails."

[Pg 120]

Men will mainly be what women make them, and there can never be entirely free men until there are entirely free women with no special privileges, but with all her rights. The wife makes the home, the mother makes the man, and she is the creator of joyous boyhood and heroic manhood; when women fulfil their divine mission, all reform societies will die, brutes will become men, and men shall be divine. There are unkind things said of her in the cheaper writings of to-day—perhaps because their authors have seen her only in boarding-houses, restaurants, theaters, dance-halls, and at card-parties; and the poor, degraded stage with its warped mirror shows her up to the ridicule of the cheaper brood. The greatest writings and the greatest dramas of all time have more than compensated for all this indignity, and we have only to read deep into the great literature to be disillusioned of any vulgar estimations of womanhood, and to understand the beauty and power of soul of every woman who is true to the royalty of womanhood.

There are few surer tests of a manly character than the estimation he has of women, and it is noteworthy that the men who stand highest in the esteem of both men and women are always men with worthy ideas of [Pg 121]womanhood, and with praiseworthy ideals for their mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters. As men sink in self-respect and moral worth, their esteem of womanhood lowers. The women who become the theme for poets and philosophers and high-class playwrights are the women who have been bred mainly in the home. They seem without exception to abhor throngs, and only stern necessity can induce them to appear in them; the motherly, matronly, and filial graces appeal strongly to them—such as are portrayed in Cornelia, Portia, and Cordelia. They may yearn for society, but it is the best society—for the "women whose beauty and sweetness and dignity and high accomplishments and grace make us understand the Greek mythology, and for the men who mold the time, who refresh our faith in heroism and virtue, who make Plato and Zeno and Shakespeare and all Shakespeare's gentlemen possible again."

If there is any inferiority in women, it is the result of environment and of lack of opportunity—never from lack of intelligence and other soul-powers. There is no sex in spiritual endowments, and woman seems entitled to all the rights of man—plus the right of protection. Ruskin says, "We are foolish without excuse in talking of the superiority of [Pg 122]one sex over the other; each has attributes the other has not, each is completed by the other, and the happiness of both depends upon each seeking and receiving from the other what the other can alone give."

In speaking of the time when perfect manhood and perfect womanhood has come, Tennyson says in "The Princess":

Yet in the long years liker must they grow:
The man be more of woman, she of man;
He gain in sweetness and in moral height,
Nor lose the wrestling thews that throw the world;
She mental breadth, nor fail in childward care,
Nor lose the childlike in the larger mind.

Home is the true sphere for woman; her best work for humanity has always been done there, or has had its first impulse from within those four walls. It was home with all its duties that made the Roman matron Cornelia the type of the lofty woman of the world and the worthy mother. While it endowed her with the power to raise two sons as worthy as any known to history, who sacrificed their lives in defense of the Roman poor, it also endowed her with courage to say to the second of her sons when he was leaving her for the battle which brought his death, "My son, see that thou returnest with thy shield or on[Pg 123] it." Napoleon claimed that it was the women of France who caused the loss at Waterloo, not its men.

"Man's intellect is for speculation and invention, and his energy is for just war and just conquest; woman's intellect is for sweet ordering, arrangement, and decision; her energy is not for battle, but for rule." Apparently relying upon man's magnanimity not to resent her abdicating her home, woman's exigencies—and perhaps her ambitions—have forced her more and more during the past fifty years into man's domains of speculation and energy—perhaps into some war and some conquest. The ever-increasing demand for her in these man-realms which she has invaded or into which she has intruded herself is abundant evidence that she has creditably acquitted herself in the betterment of business, education, and literature, as well as in the numberless things which she has invented to add beauty and comfort to the home, and to remove much of the bitter drudgery from house and office, and to promote the health and happiness of millions. All these helps she has given, even if she has undoubtedly lost some of the graces which have always made so lovable the woman of whom Andromache, Portia, and Cordelia are but types.[Pg 124]

Although matrimony and motherhood were the first conditions of women and only conditions that poets sing about and philosophers write about, and although these are still the conditions where she is doing her largest and noblest work in humanizing, yet her proper sphere is as man's, wherever she can live nobly and work nobly. How many myriads in this country alone are drudging or almost drudging in shops and offices to relieve the too stern pressure of pain or poverty from some one who is dear to them, yet are doing it unselfishly and uncomplainingly! A young woman lately told me that she had for several years been employed to interview women applicants for positions; that during these years she had interviewed scores of women daily, and had learned much of their private lives; that although the majority were working partly or entirely to maintain others, yet had she never heard one complaint of the sacrifices this service involved. Hundreds of other women, like George Eliot, Charlotte Brontė and Helen Hunt will long continue to bring pleasure and profit to millions through their writings.

It is women, too, whose inventions have not only lightened domestic work and brightened the home, but also have so far removed the modern[Pg 125] schoolroom from the little red schoolhouse of long ago; and it is women who have improved the books and the studies for children. They seem to have entered almost every activity outside of the home, and their finer powers of observation, aided by their innate love of the beautiful and the practicality they have learned while in service, seem mainly to have bettered conditions for wage-earners as well as for home and childhood. Think of the thousands upon thousands in this land whose work with the smaller children of the school could never be so well done by men! Think of the service daily rendered by women outside the home, and picture the confusion that would now arise if all these remained at home, even for one week!

As a class, women do not speak so well as men, but they excel him as a talker. In truth it is less difficult for them to talk little, than to talk well. Somebody has said that there is nothing a woman cannot endure if she can only talk. It is the woman who is ordained to teach talking to infancy. Those who see short distances see clearly, which probably accounts for woman's being able to see into and through character so much better than men. A man admires a woman who is worthy of admiration. As dignity is a man's quality,[Pg 126] loveliness is a woman's; her heart is love's favorite seat; women who are loyal to their womanhood can ever influence the gnarliest hearts. They go farther in love than men, but men go farther in friendship than women. Women mourn for the lost love, says Dr. Brinton, men mourn for the lost loved-one. A woman's love consoles; a man's friendship supports. What a real man most desires in a woman is womanhood. As every woman despises a womanish man, so every man despises a mannish woman.

Men are more sincere with the women of most culture, although mere brain-women never please them so much as heart-women. Men feel that it is the exceptional woman who should have exceptional rights; but they scorn women whose soul has shrunk into mere intellect, and a godless woman is a supreme horror to them. When to her womanly attributes she adds the lady's attributes of veracity, delicate honor, deference, and refinement, she becomes a high school of politeness for all who know her. "True women," says Charles Reade, "are not too high to use their arms, nor too low to cultivate their minds," but Hamerton believes that her greatest negative quality is, that she does not of her own force push forward intellectually; that she needs watchful[Pg 127] masculine influence for this. It is claimed that single women are mainly best comforters, best sympathizers, best nurses, best companions.

Dean Swift says: "So many marriages prove unhappy because so many young women spend their time in making nets, not in making cages." Perhaps this is why they say that, in choosing a wife, the ear is a safer guide than the eye. The gifts a gentlewoman seeks are packed and locked up in a manly heart. Without a woman's love, a man's soul is without its garden. He is happiest in marriage who selects as his wife the woman he would have chosen as his bosom-companion, a happy marriage demands a soul-mate as for as a house-mate or a yoke-mate. Spalding says that it is doubtful whether a woman should ever marry who cannot sing and does not love poetry. The conceptions of a wife differ. When the Celt married, he put necklace and bracelets upon his wife; when the Teuton married, he gave his wife a horse, an ox, a spear, and a shield. A true wife delights both sense and soul; with her, a man unfolds a mine of gold. Like a good wine, the happiest marriages take years to attain perfection, and Hamerton says that marriage is a long, slow intergrowth, like that of two trees closely planted in a forest. The marriage of a[Pg 128] deaf man and a blind woman is always happy; but this does not imply that conjugal happiness is attained only under these conditions. The greatest merit of many a man is his wife, but no real woman ever wears her husband as her appendage.

Maternity is the loveliest word in the language, and every worthy mother is an aristocrat. Mothers are the chief requisites of all educational systems, and the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. The home has always been the best school in the world, and nothing else that is known to education can ever supersede it. The cradle is the first room in the school of life, and what is learned there lasts to the grave. Dearth of real mothers is responsible for dearth of real education. Each boy and each man is what his mother has made him, and every worthy mother rears her children to stand upon their own two feet, and to do without her.

While a thoughtful wife and mother is busied with the affairs of home, she is never done with her intellectual education, for she realizes early in her career that a mother loses half her influence with her children when she ceases to be their intellectual superior.

Women are far more observant of little things[Pg 129] than men, and the greatest among them have marvelous powers of observation. It is this power that made Mrs. Gladstone and Mrs. Disraeli the sturdy helpmates they were to their husbands in all their trying cares of government. It is said of Gladstone that it was not unusual for him to adjourn a Cabinet meeting through a desire "to consult with Catherine." Had there not been large power of observation, we should never have had the works of George Eliot, Charlotte Brontė, Jane Austin, Helen Hunt, and all the other notable women creators of fiction. Charlotte Cushman was the greatest actress America has ever produced because her observation was so close that not the smallest detail of the character she played escaped her or was neglected. The beautifying of Athens owes its inception to Aspasia rather than to Pericles.

[Pg 131]



Of all the arts, none is more difficult to define than music. No two persons seem to agree as to what it is, and a harsh sound to one is often sweet music to another. When music is controlled by those who use carefully their powers of observation, it will be vastly more useful to mankind. The need of music in the advancement of humanity it too apparent to admit of discussion. From the Greek instrument with one string down to the wonderful pipe-organ, music has been intensely attractive and marvelously helpful, and for the good of the human family.

No art or science needs more to be developed to-day than that of music. Its influence on soul and body has been noticed and advanced by some of the greatest thinkers of ancient and modern times, therefore it is not necessary to discuss the supreme need for real music to bring into harmony motives and movements for good. When we[Pg 132] duly consider the subject of music, and ask where we shall find the great musicians who are to-day so much in demand, we feel that many so-called schools of music are often more misleading than instructive, and that they follow fashions that are far more unreasonable than the fashions of dress.

The art of music needs philosophic study, and it should be begun with a far better understanding of the many causes which contribute to its composition. The singing of birds is literally one of the most discordant expressions of sound. Indeed, the tones of the nightingale and the meadow-lark are only shrill whistles when they are considered with reference only to the tones of their voice, yet they furnish the ideal of some of the richest music to which the ear has ever listened, being one part of the delicate orchestra of nature. The lowing of the cow, the bellow of the bull, the bark of an angry dog echoing among the hills at eventide, combined with so many other different sounds and impressions, has become enticingly sweet to the pensive listener. The insect-choir of night has as much of the calming and refining influences as the bird-choir of the morning.

Real music requires not only that the tones[Pg 133] should be clear and resonant, but that they should be uttered amid harmonious surroundings. "Dixie" and "Yankee Doodle," sung with a banjo accompaniment on a lawn in the evening, surrounded by gay companions, may be the most delightful music, which will start the blood coursing or rest the disturbed mind, but it would not be called music if sung at a funeral. "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth" is glorious music when it is sung in a great cathedral, with echoes from its shadowy arches and the dim light of its stained-glass windows. But the same solo would be in awful discord with a ballroom jig.

Harmonious circumstances and appropriate environment are as essential for perfect effects in music as is the concord of sweet sounds. The foolish idea that music consists in screaming up to the highest C and growling down to the lowest B has misled many an amateur, and destroyed her helpfulness to a world that has far too much misery and far too little of the joy that comes from a sweet-voiced songster. The beginner in voice culture who attempts to wiggle her voice like a hired mourner, and with her tremulous effects sets the teeth of her audience on edge, has surely been misled into darkest delusion[Pg 134] as to music, and will soon be lost amid the throng of vocal failures. Extremists are out of place anywhere, but the myriads of them in the musical world make humanity shudder.

What is needed in music to-day more than anything else is a standard of musical culture which shall demand careful discipline in all the influences that contribute to good music. True music is the music that always produces benign effects, the music that holds the attention of the auditor and permanently influences him to nobler thought, feeling, and action. Those large-hearted, artistic-souled men and women who are capable of interpreting into feeling what they have heard from voice or instrument must be the final court of appeal. A trapeze performance in acoustics is not music.

It has been frequently shown that music is potent in its effects upon the body as well as upon the soul. In 1901, a notable illustration of the power of music over disease was given at the Samaritan Hospital, connected with Temple University in Philadelphia, although the experiments were made under disadvantageous circumstances and environment. The patients were informed what the physicians were endeavoring to do, and the efforts of the first few months were wasted[Pg 135] for the most part. Many of the patients who were placed under the influence of the music grew confident that they were going to be cured. While the recovery of some seemed miraculous, those who conducted the experiments felt that the healing might be largely due to the influence of the mind and not directly to the music. The matter was dropped for several months, until the patients were nearly all new cases. The doctors charged the nurses not to let the patients know for what cause the music was placed in the hospital. They eliminated also the personal influence of the nurses as well as the use of drugs at the time the music was produced. The experiment convinced those who conducted it that music has a powerful restorative effect even upon a person who is suffering from a combination of diseases. So many of the patients who recovered at that time from the influence of the music are alive and in good health to-day that common honesty disposes us to conclude that there is some undiscovered benefit in music which should be immediately investigated. This will never be attained by musical faddists or by selfish musicians who sing or perform for applause or money. Some plain, every day-man or woman will ultimately be the apostle of music for the people, and[Pg 136] the experiments at Samaritan Hospital furnish only a suggestion of the resources of music which must soon be known to the world.

There was one patient in the hospital who had lost his memory through "softening of the brain." He lay most of the time unconscious, but occasionally talked irrationally upon all sorts of subjects. A quartet sang several pieces in his ward, but the nurses who sat upon each side of him noticed no effect whatever upon him until the quartet sang "My Old Kentucky Home." Then his eyes brightened and he began to hum the tune. Before they had finished the third verse, he asked the nurse about the singing, and requested the quartet to repeat the song. His intelligence seemed completely normal for a little while after the music ceased. He asked and answered questions clearly, but soon relapsed into his incoherent talk and listlessness.

When the man's lawyer heard of the effects upon the patient, he asked that the song might be sung while he was present, that he might then ask the patient about some very important papers of great value to the patient's family. As soon as the song was again sung by the quartet his intelligence returned. He informed the lawyer accurately as to the bank vault in which his[Pg 137] box was locked, and told where he had left the keys in a private drawer of his desk.

Although the effect of the music was not permanent as to his case, many persons who know of it feel that some time music may be so applied as permanently to cure even such cases, if kept up for a sufficient length of time. Accidents to the skull, heart diseases, nervous exhaustion, and spinal ailments seem especially amenable to music. Two of the hospital cases of paralysis were permanently relieved by music. In one of these cases instrumental music seemed to produce a strong electric effect. While four violins were accompanied by an organ, the patient could use his feet and hands, but it was several weeks before he could walk without music. In the other case, vocal music put an insomnia patient to sleep, but after sleeping through the program, the patient was better; after a few trials he returned home.

Some of the hundred cases experimented upon were complete failures. But those conducting the experiments were convinced that the failure was attributable to the fact that they were unable to find the right kind of music. In the use of religious selections, "Pleyel's Hymn" made the patients of every ward worse; but "The Dead[Pg 138] March" from Saul was soothing to typhoid patients. When this march was rendered softly, the nurses discovered that two cases had been so susceptible to the influences of the music that the physicians omitted the usual treatment and the patients recovered sooner than some other patients who had the disease in a less dangerous form.

Children were helped by a different class of music from that used with adults, and difference in sex also was noted. Mothers who sing to their children may become the best investigators as to the power of vocal music on the healthy development of childhood.

In the Baptist Temple, Philadelphia, several hymns were once forcefully rendered by the great chorus of the church to a congregation of three thousand people. At the close, slips of paper were passed to the worshipers, and they were asked to write upon the paper what thoughts the music had suggested to them. While there was nothing in the anthems suggestive of youth, and the burden of the stanzas seemed to divert from childhood, yet more than half of the two thousand slips returned attested that the hearer had been reminded of his schooldays and of the games of childhood; these slips were collected[Pg 139] before the congregation had time to confer. It shows that the music was not in accord with the words, and that it had greater power upon the mind than the words had. It proves that, to produce its highest effects, sacred music must harmonize with the meaning of the words and with the environment. It also shows that the purpose for which one sings is an important factor—random vociferations or a display of vocal gymnastics even of the most cultured kind is both inartistic and unmusical.

These pages have been written to suggest that music is still with the common people; that the future blessings which mankind shall derive from musical art and science are probably dependent upon some observant person who is free from the trammels of misguided and misdirected culture, and who may come to it with an independent genius, and handle the subject in the light of every-day common-sense.

[Pg 140]



Oratory has always been a potent influence for good. The printing-press with its newspapers and magazines and tens of thousands of books has done much during the past fifty years to draw attention away from oratory. The printing-press is a huge blessing, and has greatly advanced during these years that oratory has declined in public esteem or public attention. But we are learning that there is yet something in the living man, in his voice and his manner and his mesmeric force, which cannot be expressed through the cold lead of type. Hence the need for orators, both men and women, has been steadily increasing during the past few years, until there seems to be a pressing demand for the restoration of the science and the art of oratory.

The country lad or the hard-working laborer or mechanic who thinks that public speaking is beyond his reach has done himself a wrong.[Pg 141] It was such as they who oftener than can be told have become some of the greatest orators of history. Men who afterward became great as effective debaters made their first addresses to the cows in the pasture, to the pigs in pens, to the birds in trees, and to the dog and the cat upon the hearth. They often drew lessons concerning the effects of their addresses from the actions of the animal auditors which heard their talk, and were attracted or repulsed by what they heard and saw.

There is a mystery about public speaking. After years of study and application, some men cannot accomplish as much by their addresses as some uncultured laborer can do with his very first attempt. Some have imperfectly called this power "personal magnetism." While this is mainly born with men and women—as the power of the true poet and the true teacher—yet it can be cultivated to a surprising degree. The schools of elocution so often seem to fail to recognize the wide gulf that exists between elocution and oratory. The former is an art which deals primarily with enunciation, pronunciation, and gesture; the work of the later science is persuasive—it has to do mainly with influencing the head and the heart.

There is a law of oratory which does not seem[Pg 142] to be understood or recognized by elocution teachers. The plow-boy in a debating society of the country school may feel that natural law, like Daniel Webster, without being conscious that he is following it. But there is a danger of losing this great natural power through injurious cultivation. The powerful speaker is consciously or unconsciously observant at all times of his audience, and he naturally adopts the tones, the gesture, and the language which attract the most attention and leave the most potent influence upon the audience. That is the law of all oratory, whether it applies to the domestic animals, to conversation with our fellows, to debates or addresses, lectures, speeches, sermons, or arguments. Where the orator has not been misdirected or misled by some superficial teacher of elocution, his aim will be first "to win the favorable attention of his audience" and then to strongly impress them with his opening sentence, his appearance, his manners, and his subject. His reputation will have also very much to do with winning this favorable impression at first. The words of the speaker either drive away or attract, and the speaker endeavors at the outset to command the attention of the hearers, whether they be dogs or congregation.[Pg 143]

The beginner in oratory who is true to his instincts strives to adopt the methods which he feels will favorably impress those for whom he has a message. In his oration at the funeral of Julius Cęsar, Mark Anthony disarmed the enemies of Cęsar and of himself by opening his oration with, "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Cęsar, not to praise him." Almost any man or woman can become an orator of power by keeping himself or herself natural while talking.

The second condition of a successful oration is the statements of the important facts or truths. Cicero, the elder Pitt, and Edward Everett held strictly to the statement of all the facts at the outset of their speech. Facts and truths are the most important things in all kinds of oratory; as they are the most difficult to handle, the audience is more likely to listen to them at the opening of the talk, and they must be placed before the hearers clearly and emphatically, before the speaker enters upon the next division of his address.

The third condition of a successful address is the argument, or reasoning which is used to prove the conclusion he wishes his hearers to reach. It is here that logic has its special place; it is at[Pg 144] this vital point that many political speakers fail to convince the men they address. After he has thus reasoned, the natural orator makes his appeal, which is the chief purpose of all true oratory. It is here where the orator becomes vehement, here where he shows all the ornament of his talk in appropriate figures of speech. The most effective orators are always those whose hearts are in strong sympathy with humanity, and whose sympathies are always aroused to plead for men. This is the condition that accounts for the eloquence—the power to arouse hearers—which characterizes men like Logan, the American Indian, and which characterizes many of the religious enthusiasts like Peter the Hermit, who have surprised the world and often moved them to mighty deeds.

So long as our government depends upon the votes of the people, just so long must there be a stirring need of men and women orators to teach the principles of government and to keep open to the light of truth the consciences of the thousands and millions whose votes will decide the welfare or the misfortune of our nation. As the speaker must adapt himself and his message to all kinds of people, it is difficult to advise any one in certain terms how to accomplish this. It is another[Pg 145] instance of the necessity of cultivating the daily habit of observation, and of being always loyal to our instincts.

While schools and colleges have their uses, they are by no means a necessity for those who will accomplish great things through their oratory. Many a man laden with a wealth of college accomplishment has been an utter failure on the platform. Where reading-matter is as abundant and as cheap as it is in America, the poor boy at work upon the farm or in the factory, with no time but his evenings for study, may get the essentials of education, and by observing those who speak may give himself forms of oratorical expression that will enable him to outshine those with scholarship who have been led into fads.

We must be impressed with a high sense of duty in becoming an orator of any class; we must feel that it is our calling to adhere to the truth always and in all things, to warn our hearers of dangers, and to encourage the good and help those who are struggling to be so. We must have a passion for oratory which shall impel us to vigorous thought and eloquent expression. The greatest oratory is that which is most persuasive. It is not so fully in what an orator says or the vehemence with which he says it that counts, but[Pg 146] the practical good that results from it. Many an oration has been elegant enough from its choice diction and labored phraseology, yet it has fallen flat upon the audience.

When a man has been worked into natural passion over his theme, his words will strike root and inspire his hearers into similar passion. It is wonderful how true are our instincts in detecting what comes from the heart and that which is mere words. The greatest orators have been those who have not learned "by rote" what they have spoken. When Lincoln broke away in his celebrated Cooper Institute address, and pictured the word freedom written by the Lord across the skies in rainbow hues, the hearts of his audience stopped beating for the instant. It is foolhardy for any one to presume to speak with no preparation, for those who wish to give themselves to oratory should carefully study the great debaters, learn how they expressed themselves, and then accumulate important truths and facts concerning their subject. But we must not forget that too much study as to nicety of expression may lose something of the mountainous effects of what we wish to state.

When an orator feels his subject, his soul overflows with a thrill indescribable, which is[Pg 147] known only to those who have felt it. Genius is lifted free for the moment to fly at will to the mountain heights, and finds supreme delight therein. Everything that is food for the mind is helpful to the orator, whether it come from school or work. But it is an attainment which can be reached by the every-day plain man employed in any every-day occupation. Demosthenes, the greatest orator the world has yet known, found his School of Oratory along the shore talking to the waves. John B. Gough and Henry Clay and both the elder and the younger Pitt gained all their powers by means as humble. The mere study of grammar has never yet made a correct speaker; the mere study of rhetoric has never yet made a correct and powerful writer; and the study of elocution cannot make an orator. Grammar, rhetoric, and elocution may teach him only the laws which govern speech, writing, oratory, and leave him ignorant of the best methods of execution.

During the last hundred years the leading orators of Congress have mainly come from among the humble and the poor, and all the learning they had of their art was got in the schoolhouse, the shop, the fields, and the University of Hard Knocks. It is a calling that seems to be open to[Pg 148] every man and woman of fair talent. If you desire to become a platform orator, read the lives of successful orators, and apply to yourself the means which helped them to distinction. But be vigilant not to lose your own individuality, and never strive to be any one but yourself. In no place more than upon the platform does sham mean shame; nothing is more transparent.

[Pg 149]



Although Samuel Smiles's "Self-Help" is the first and perhaps the best of the many inspirational books that have been written of late years, it is by far the most serviceable of all to any one who wishes and intends to stand squarely on his own feet and to fight his own battle of life from start to finish. That book is attractive because it is anecdotal of life and character, and because of the interest that all men feel in those who have achieved great things through their own labors, their trials, and their struggles. It abounds with references to men who were forced to be self-helpful, who were born lowly enough, but died among God's gentlemen, and often among the aristocracy of the land, through sheer force of character, labor, and determination. They have left their "footprints on the sands of time" mainly because they were self-reliant and self-helpful.

The aids to the royal life are all within, and no[Pg 150] life is worthless unless its owner wills it; the fountain of all good is within, and it will bubble up, if we dig.

Doctor Holland used to say that there is a super-abundance of inspiration in America, but a lamentable dearth of perspiration. Aspiration plus perspiration carries men to dizzy heights of success; aspiration minus perspiration often lands them in the gutter.

Self-help is not selfishness. The duty of helping oneself in the highest sense always involves the duty of helping others. The self-helpful are not always the men who have achieved greatest success in what vulgarians call success. That man's life is a success which has attained the end for which he started out—the greatest failure may sometimes be the hugest success through the discipline it has afforded. They tell us that men never fail who die in a worthy cause; that it is nobler to have failed in a noble cause than to have won in a low one; that it is not failure, but low aim, that is wicked. God sows the seed and starts us all out with about the same quantity and the same quality; whether the crop shall be abundant depends upon the environment in which we grow and the way we take care of the field.

The supreme end of each man's life is to take[Pg 151] individual care of his own garden. When this is neglected his life is wasted, and there is no immorality that is comparable to the immorality of a wasted life—and every life is wasted unless its owner has made it yield its full capacity. If it is only a ten-bushel-an-acre field, he has done worthy work who has reaped ten bushels from an acre; if it is a seventy-bushel-an-acre field it is dishonorable to have reaped sixty-nine bushels from an acre. God gives us the chance; the improvement of it we give ourselves.

The spirit of self-help is the root of all genuine growth. Help from the outside may be convenient, but it enfeebles; all self-help invigorates. The self-helper must be self-reliant; the measure of his self-help is always proportioned to the measure of his self-reliance. The self-reliant does not consider himself as the creature of circumstances, but the architect of them. "All that Adam had, all that Cęsar could, we have had and can." The self-reliant and the self-helpful are the minority; the majority are forever looking toward and relying upon some government or some institution to do for them what they should only do for themselves. A real man wants no protection; so long as his human powers are left to him, he asks nothing more than the freedom to win his[Pg 152] own battles. The best any government or any institution can do for men is to leave them as free as possible from either guidance or help, so that they may best develop and improve themselves. As it has been during the centuries, we put too much faith in government and other institutions, and too little in ourselves.

Men who count for something do not wait for opportunities from any source—they help themselves to their opportunities. They can win who believe they can, and the strong-hearted always ultimately achieve success. A nation is worth just what the individuals of that nation are worth, and the highest philanthropy and patriotism does not wholly consist in aiding institutions and enacting laws—especially the laws which teach men to lean—but they rather consist in helping men to improve themselves through their own self-help. There is no aid comparable to the aid that is given a man to help himself—we may stand him upon his feet, but remaining upon them should be his own task. He is a magnificent somebody who steadfastly refuses to hang upon others; and nothing brings the blush sooner to the true-hearted man, than to feel that he has been unnecessarily helped to anything by men or by governments. There is no man who rides[Pg 153] through life so well as the man who has learned to ride by being set upon the bare-backed horse called self-dependence.

Paradise was not meant for cowards; self-reliance and self-help is the manliness of the soul.

The solid foundations of all liberty rest upon individual character, and individual character is the only sure guaranty for social security and national progress. Whatever crushes individuality is despotism, no matter by what other name you call it. The gods are always on the side of the man who relies on himself and helps himself; men's arms are long enough to reach stars, if they will only stretch them. It is so contrary to the spirit of our nation to be anything but self-helpful. "The flag of freedom cannot long float over a nation of deadheads; only those who determine to pay their way from cradle to grave have a right to make the journey." Schiller says that the kind of education that perfects the human race is action, conduct, self-culture, self-control. It has been said that the individual is perfected far more by work than by reading, by action more than by study, by character more than by biography; these are courses that are given by the University of Life more completely than in all other institutions known to men.[Pg 154]

The great men of science, literature, art, action—those apostles of great thoughts and lords of the great heart—belong to no special rank. They come from colleges, workshops, farms, from poor men's huts and rich men's mansions; but they all began with reliance upon themselves, and with an instinctive feeling that they must help themselves solely in climbing to the work or the station which they had assigned to themselves. Many of God's greatest apostles of thought and feeling and action have come from the humblest stations, but the most insuperable difficulties have not long been obstacles to them. These greatest of difficulties are true men's greatest helpers—they stimulate powers that might have lain dormant all through life, but often have readily yielded to the stout and reliant heart. There is no greater blessing in the world than poverty which is allied to self-reliance and the spirit of self-help. "Poverty is the northwind which lashes men into vikings." Lord Bacon says that men believe too great things of riches, and too little of indomitable perseverance.

Every nation that has a history has a long list of men who began life in the humblest stations, yet rose to high station in honor and service. No inheritance and environments can do for a man[Pg 155] what he can do for himself. Cook, the navigator, Brindley, the engineer, and Burns, the poet, are three men who began life as day laborers; the most poetic of clergymen, Jeremy Taylor; the inventor of the spinning-jenny and founder of cotton manufacture, Sir Richard Arkwright; the greatest of landscape painters, Turner, and that most distinguished Chief-justice Tenterden were barbers. Ben Jonson, the poet; Telford, the engineer; Hugh Miller, the geologist; Cunningham, the sculptor, were English stone-masons. Inigo Jones, the architect; Hunter, the physiologist; Romney and Poie, the painters; Gibson, the sculptor; Fox, the statesman; Wilson, the ornithologist; Livingstone, the missionary—started life as weavers. Admiral Sir Cloudesly Shovel; Bloomfield, the poet; Carey, the missionary—were shoemakers. Bunyan, was a tinker; Herschel, a musician; Lincoln, a rail-splitter; Faraday, a book-binder; Stephenson, the inventor of the locomotive, a stoker; Watt, the discoverer of steam-power, a watchmaker; Franklin, a printer; President Johnson, a tailor; President Garfield, an employee on a canal-boat; Louisa Alcott, both housemaid and laundress; James Whitcomb Riley, an itinerant sign-painter; Thoreau, a man-of-all-work for Emerson; the poets, Keats[Pg 156] and Drake, as well as Sir Humphry Davy, were druggists.

Benjamin Thompson was a humble New Hampshire schoolmaster whose industry, perseverance, and integrity, coupled to his genius and a truly benevolent spirit, ultimately made him the companion of kings and philosophers, Count Rumford of the Holy Roman Empire. He declined to participate in the Revolution, and was compelled to flee from his home in Rumford, now Concord (New Hampshire), leaving behind his mother, wife, and friends; but this persecution by his countrymen led to his greatness. In the spring of 1776 General Howe sent him to England with important despatches for the Ministry. At once the English government appreciated his worth and scientific men sought his acquaintance. In less than four years after he landed in England he became Under-Secretary of State. In 1788, he left England with letters to the Elector of Bavaria, who immediately offered him honorable employment which the English government permitted him to accept after he had been knighted by the king.

In Bavaria he became lieutenant-general, commander-in-chief of staff, minister of war, member of the council of state, knight of Poland, member of the academy of science in three cities,[Pg 157] commander-in-chief of the general staff, superintendent of police of Bavaria, and chief of the regency during the sovereign's compulsory absence in 1798. During his ten years' service he made great civil and military reforms and produced such salutary changes in the condition of the people that they erected a monument in his honor in the pleasure-grounds of Munich, which he had made for them. When Munich was attacked by an Austrian army in 1796, he conducted the defense so successfully that he was accorded the highest praise throughout Europe. The Bavarian monarch showed his appreciation by making him a count; he chose the title of Count Rumford as an honor to the birthplace of his wife and child. He ended his days at Paris in literary and scientific studies and in the society of the most learned men of Europe.

The Rumford professorship at Harvard was very liberally endowed by him, and he gave five thousand dollars to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1796.

[Pg 158]



A life is divine when duty is a joy. The best work we ever do is the work we get pleasure from doing, and the work we are likeliest to enjoy most is the work we are best fitted to do with our talent. There is nothing in the world except marriage that we should be slower in taking upon ourselves than our life-work; therefore, think much, read much, inquire much before you assume any life career.

When you have once decided what is best fitted for you, pursue it ceaselessly and courageously, no matter how far distant it may be, how arduous the labor attending it, or how difficult the ascent. The greater the difficulty surmounted, the more you will value your achievement and the greater power you will have for keeping on with your work after you have reached your goal. Do your utmost to find a friend who is older than you, and consult him freely, and give every man your ear, for the[Pg 159] humblest in station and those with the most meager acquirements in other matters may see some few things more clearly than other men, and may be well stored with what you most require. Take each man's advice, but act according to your own judgment. Teachers should be the best advisers of those about to enter upon their life-work, and no service of the schoolmaster or professor can ever be more helpful to the young intrusted to him than that of helping them to choose a career.

The best work real teachers do for their pupils is by no means the teaching of a few minor branches—it is almost always the work he is not paid for, and which nobody outside of those who realize what real education is, seems ever to consider. It is sympathy for their students, getting them to understand the great things that are involved in the process of getting an education, making them realize that true education means growth of all our spiritual faculties—head and heart and will, and that what we get from textbooks is the very least part of an education. It is helping them to understand that knowledge got from books and from schoolmasters is always a menace to a man whose spiritual faculties of head, heart, and will have not been thoroughly[Pg 160] disciplined. It is wise counsel in choosing a life career. Instead of looking upon this side of the work as divine, instead of being wise counselors and friendly guides during this great transitional stage from youth to manhood, teachers can be far more interested in their individual concerns or in what they call "research-work"—the research-work may give some temporary glory to themselves, and give some little advertisement to the institutions that employ them; but the supreme duty they owe to their students, to God, and to humanity is to do their utmost to make full men, and worthy and successful men, out of the youths whose education they have taken upon themselves. No traitor is such a traitor to his country and to the whole world as the man who is unfaithful to this sacred trust. Once again, find some sincere and prudent elder counselor, and turn to him in all your difficulties.

Get advice as to the best books to read—a good book is the best of counselors, for it is the best of some good man; and it is a patient counselor whom we may continually consult upon the same subject as often as we wish. But waste no time, especially at the opening of your career, upon books which have no message for your manhood and no helpfulness in the work you shall assume[Pg 161] for life. When you have once taken up a book as your counselor, don't put it aside until it has been thoroughly digested and assimilated. One book read is worth a hundred books peeped through; and of all the dilettantes, a literary dilettante is the most contemptible. Bacon says, "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, some few to be chewed and digested." But it is only the books that are to be chewed and digested that we can afford to peruse at the outset in our career; the literary pleasure—gardens—may come later in life.

Do your utmost to understand poetic expression, for the poets are the greatest teachers in the world as well as the greatest of all legislators. It is they who teach the great in conduct and the pure in thought. Without education that shall enable us to take them as our friends, life bears upon it the stamp of death. The great poets are now the only truth-tellers left to God. They are free, and they make their lovers free; the great poet is nature's masterpiece. At the touch of his imagination words blossom into beauty. A true poet is the most precious gift to a nation, for he feels keenest the glorious duty of serving truth; he cannot strive for despotism of any kind, for it is still the instinct of all great[Pg 162] spirits to be free. More than other authors, the poets make us self-forgetful, make life and the whole human race nobler in our eyes; all things are friendly and sacred to them, all days holy, all good men divine.

There is very little worthy work nowadays that does not need some schooling that it may be well done. If you have an opportunity to give yourself this help, don't neglect it. Carefully select the courses that will be most helpful to you in your career, and don't be side-tracked by any of what we sentimentalists term "culture studies." There's nothing better in the world than culture study, if we can afford it and have time for it. But there is not a greater or more wicked waste of valuable time than the time spent upon what some sentimentalists term culture study.

When you have once taken up the studies you have decided upon, keep steadily to your course and shun diversions. Recreations are as essential to the student who intends to do high-class work as food is to the body; but diversions disqualify him for earnest work, and may breed a habit of halfness that shall bring his failure. Don't be foolish and hope to be great in many lines. Who sips of many arts drinks none. In every vocation to-day competition is so keen that the man who[Pg 163] will succeed must be content to be supreme in one thing alone.

Halfness weakens all our spiritual powers, and thoroughness is the central passion of all worthy characters.

It is nobler to be confined to one calling, and to excel in that, than to dabble in forty. There is some odor about a dabbler that makes him especially offensive to all clean high-class men and women. But when we have formed the habit of doing carelessly other tasks than our life-work, we shall soon get into the way of doing carelessly the work of our chosen calling. There is nothing that gives us greater assurance that our life-work will be thoroughly done than to habituate ourselves to do the slightest task completely. Sing the last note fully, make the last letter of your name complete. Eat the last morsel deliberately. In a real man's life there are no trifles. Whatever is worth doing by him is worth doing well. The many-sided Edward Everett attributed his being able to do so many things well to his early habit of doing even the least thing thoroughly. He used to say that he prided himself upon the way he tied up the smallest paper parcel.

Although schools may be very helpful, don't forget to emphasize again that they are merely[Pg 164] helpers. The man is somebody only when the fight is won within himself. Without the schools men have often reached the pinnacles of success, through their own individual earnestness and energy. Schools make wise men wiser, but they may make fools greater fools than ever. If colleges have fallen somewhat into disrepute, it is largely due to the fact that we may have sent more fools than wise men to college. Many a man has been the better for being too poor to attend school, like Franklin, Lincoln, Peter Cooper, and ten thousand other Americans. Their thirst for what books had to give them forced them to work harder and to deny themselves all the enjoyments that so vulgarize yet so charm the cheaper brood.

All that is won by sacrifice and downright hard work is priceless, and many noble men and women who have risen to high honor and station owe their place and power solely to this. Be always mindful that power is the only safe foundation for reputation. Thoughtful Americans are not concerning themselves about who your ancestors were, and whether or not they were graduated from some college. Like Doctor Holmes, they feel that old families and old trees generally have their best parts underground, and that the only[Pg 165] progressive is the man who is bigger in thought and feeling and accomplishment than his father was. They believe that it is unimportant where you buy your educational tools, if you are only doing good work with them.

There is only one true aristocracy in America—those with more spiritual power and individual accomplishment than the rest of men.

Emerson says that "all the winds that move the vanes of universities blow from antiquity," and this is responsible for many foolish words and many fool acts of schoolmen which are so often misleading the unsuspecting public.

Nothing is more foolish than the idea that any schooling is worthless which is obtained in schools after the regular school hours; and more than one attempt has been made to enact laws which shall hinder from practice physicians and lawyers who have been obliged to get their knowledge through channels other than the conventional. The victory of the general does not depend upon the place where he got his military training or the time of the day when he studied. Oliver Cromwell, the greatest general of his day, was a farmer until his fortieth year, when he entered the army of the Parliament against Charles I. The only question that concerns the nation that puts a general[Pg 166] at the head of its forces is, has he the powers that shall make us victorious?

Men in distress don't ask for the pedigree of the life-saver, nor do they stop to inquire when he graduated. Don't be frightened off by sticklers for what is customary. Knowledge is the right of the poorest boy and girl in America, and it can be had by the humblest in the land. Be convinced of this and enter the race. The world steps aside and lets the man pass who knows where he is going; all the world will shout to clear the track when they see a determined giant is coming. In choosing your career, don't be limited to the old professions. There are to-day many more occupations calling for the highest skill and offering the highest inducements than there were twenty years ago, and these positions are steadily increasing. Many occupations which were recently regarded almost as menial have risen almost to professions—cooking, agriculture, decorative art, forestry, nursing, sanitation, designing apparel, and countless others; and the men and women qualified for these are surer of better positions than formerly, and far better rewards.

But the youth who is imbued with the determination to be right and to do right must never lose[Pg 167] sight of this truth—that life is vastly more than place and meat and raiment. Living for self is suicide; men that are men get far greater enjoyment and far greater reward from making life a blessing for those who come their way than they get from all other things combined. No man lives so truly for himself as he who lives for other people, and one of the chiefest purposes of education is that it gives larger views of life and adds greater power to serve humanity. The man who is really in earnest to make his life count is studiously observant. Each day and each place multiplies his means of happiness for himself and others.


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