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Title: Successward - A Young Man's Book for Young Men
Author: Bok, Edward W.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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SUCCESSWARD

[Illustration: image of the book's cover]



SUCCESSWARD

A YOUNG MAN'S BOOK FOR YOUNG MEN

BY

EDWARD W. BOK

[Illustration]

FLEMING H. REVELL COMPANY

NEW YORK CHICAGO TORONTO

1895

Copyright, 1895,

by

FLEMING H. REVELL COMPANY.



TO

CLARENCE CARY,

MY ADVISER AND MY FRIEND, WHEN ADVISERS

I HAD NONE AND FRIENDS

WERE FEW,

I INSCRIBE THIS, MY FIRST BOOK.



A FEW PREFATORY WORDS


The average young man is apt to think that success is not for him. To
his mind it is a gift to the few, not to the many. "The rich, the
fortunate--they are the only people who can be successful," is the way
one young fellow recently expressed it to me, and he thought as many do.
It is this wrong conception of success which this book aims to remove.
It has no other purpose save to show that success--and the truest and
best success--is possible to any young man of honorable motives. The
subject is not new, I know. All that is hoped for from this book is that
it may have for young men a certain sense of nearness to their own lives
and thoughts, from the fact that it is not written by a patriarch whose
young manhood is far behind him. It is written to young men by a young
man to whom the noise of the battle is not a recollection, but an
every-day living reality. He thinks he knows what a fight for success
means to a young fellow, and he writes with the smoke of the battle
around him and from the very thick of the fight.

E. W. B.

PHILADELPHIA, 1895.



CONTENTS

I

                                       PAGE

A CORRECT KNOWLEDGE OF HIMSELF           11

II

WHAT, REALLY, IS SUCCESS?                23

III

THE YOUNG MAN IN BUSINESS                33

IV

HIS SOCIAL LIFE AND AMUSEMENTS           69

V

"SOWING HIS WILD OATS"                   97

VI

IN MATTERS OF DRESS                     109

VII

HIS RELIGIOUS LIFE                      119

VIII

HIS ATTITUDE TOWARD WOMEN               137

IX

THE QUESTION OF MARRIAGE                151



SUCCESSWARD



I

A CORRECT KNOWLEDGE OF HIMSELF


The first, the most essential, and the greatest element of success with
a young man starting out to make a career is a correct knowledge of
himself. He should, before he attempts anything, understand himself. He
should study himself. He should be sure that, no matter whom else he may
misunderstand, he has a correct knowledge of his own nature, his own
character, and his own capabilities. And it is because so few young men
have this knowledge of self that so many make disastrous failures, or
fail in achieving what they set out for themselves at the beginning.

Every man in this world is created differently; no two are alike.
Therefore, the nature, the thoughts, the character, the capacity of one
man is utterly unlike that of another. What one man can understand
another cannot. The success of one man indicates nothing to a second
man. What one is capable of doing is beyond the power of another. Hence
it is important that, first of all, a young man should look into
himself, find out what has been given him, and come to a clear
understanding of what he can do and what he cannot do.

It is one of the most pitiable sights imaginable to see, as one does so
constantly, young men floundering and fluttering from one phase of life
to another, unable to fasten upon any one, simply because a knowledge of
themselves is absent. The result is that we see so many round men trying
to fit themselves into square holes.

"But," some one will say, as asked a young fellow recently, "how in the
world do you get at an understanding of yourself? How do you go about
it?" No definite answer can be given to the question, any more than can
a certain rule be laid down. An understanding of one's self is reached
by different methods by different people, generally each method being
personal to one's self. But this much can be said: every thought, every
taste, every action, reveals ourselves to ourselves, and it is in the
expression of these that we best learn our natures and our characters.
We see ourselves with unmistakable accuracy, for example, in what we
most enjoy in reading, in the people whose company pleases us most, in
the things that interest us; and where our tastes and interest lead us
we are generally truest to ourselves.

Some writer has said that most people find themselves out best while
they are at play, upon the basis that a man shows his real side in the
pleasures which he seeks and enjoys. This is true in a large measure.
And the character of his pleasures will have both an indirect and a
direct bearing upon the more practical side of his nature. If a young
man visits an art gallery, for example, and finds that the pleasure he
derives from the pictures takes the form of recreation to the mind, that
he is delighted and interested in the canvases he sees so long as he is
before them, but feels simply refreshed after he leaves the gallery, it
is plain that his nature is not one suited to art as a vocation. He
employs the picture as a means of recreation from some other study which
has engrossed him most. If, on the other hand, his instincts lead him to
an art gallery, and he studies rather than enjoys the pictures that he
sees, is curious as to the methods of the artist, and goes away with his
mind charged with the intention of getting further knowledge of what he
has seen from books or other authorities, it is natural to assume that
the art instinct is within him, and he should give it the fullest
chance of development. But he should in every way feel, realize, and
know that a love of art possesses him before he adopts it as a
profession. And thus, in a way, a young man has an opportunity to study
himself through his pleasures.

If, as a further example, a young man finds himself seeking the company
of men older than himself, men of affairs of the world, is happiest when
he can be in their company and hear them talk of business, chooses the
reading of the lives of successful men as his literature, and leans
toward the practical side of life, finding more real enjoyment amid the
bustle of the mart than in the quiet of lane or park, the indications
are that his nature points him to a business career rather than to a
professional calling. If he feels this way, it is well for him to give
his developing tastes full play, and follow where his instincts lead
him. After a while what was at first a mere instinct or an unformed
taste will develop and point him to something definite in the business
world, and if he be true to himself he will sooner or later find himself
in that particular position which he is best fitted to occupy and fill.
His capacities will reveal themselves to him, and they will teach him
his limitations. This knowledge need not thwart his ambitions, but I
believe that ambition should always be just a trifle behind judgment, if
possible, or, at all events, not in advance of it. Ambition is a
splendid quality if properly guided and kept within check; it is a fatal
possession when it is allowed too full development or sway. Like fire or
water, it is a capital servant, but it makes a poor master.

I do not counsel, nor do I believe in, a blind following of one's self,
particularly during the formative years of life. But I do believe most
earnestly that every man is given a certain thing to do in the world,
and that, by a proper study of himself, he, and he alone, can arrive at
the clearest and surest knowledge of that particular object. I am a
firm believer in the molding of character through the influence of
another; but my conviction is equally strong that every man is the
architect of his own fortune, and that his truest course in life is to
follow not the guidance of another, but his own instincts. In other
words, I think young men should, as early in life as possible, get into
touch with the idea of their own responsibility, and be taught the great
lesson that, however well others may advise, they, and they alone, must
carve out their own careers. The most successful careers, the most
honorable lives in the history of the world are those which have been
shaped by their own hands. There is an element of danger in this, of
course, but the element is small in comparison with the greater danger
which lies in the foundation of a character against one's own instincts.

The aspirations of the young are not to be checked by the experience of
the old. No matter how rich or full a man's experience may have been,
it counts only in a sense of general application to another career which
stands upon its threshold. Years should teach wisdom; but if we all
waited for years to bring us wisdom, this world would be a sorry place
to live in. Youthful imaginings may lead to mistakes, youthful
enthusiasm may encounter disappointment, but only experience, real and
actual, can demonstrate these things to a young man. And the experience
is good for him if it teaches him a better and truer knowledge of
himself and his capacities. The greatest figures in the world's history
show that they were made through experience, and what experience taught
them. This is not saying that the young have no use for the old. They
have. But the rule should be, "Young men for action, old men for
counsel." Experience looks backward; enthusiasm looks forward. And, as
between the two, enthusiasm is worth more than experience, since it is
the former which is brave and strong and attempts the impossible. If we
attempted only the possible in this world we should soon stop where we
are; it is for the young man, with his enthusiasm, to battle with the
impossible and carry the world a step farther on in discovery, if not in
actual accomplishment.

I say all this because I want every young fellow to feel that, to a
large extent, he stands alone for himself in the world. Counsel he may
seek and he should seek, but the action is his, and his alone. And to
make that action sure and wise it is necessary that the workman should
understand his tools. He must know with what he has to work; and once
sure of his tools, he must learn the thing he has set for himself to do,
having a distinct purpose in view, and, being fully conscious that he is
right and capable, not allowing himself to be swerved from his aim.
After acquiring true knowledge of himself, I know of nothing so
valuable to a young man as an absolute distinctness of purpose, and then
pursuing that purpose to success. In natural sequence comes, therefore,
the question of "What, really, is success?"



II

WHAT, REALLY, IS SUCCESS?


Before a young man goes into business it is necessary, I think, that he
should set himself straight on one very important point, and that is
what success in business really is and means. Unfortunately, not enough
has been written on this phase of the topic. It is idle for a young man
to seek out the methods of success before he is really clear in his mind
just what constitutes success--until, in other words, he finds out the
true definition of the word. And very few of us have a proper and
correct conception of it. On the other hand, thousands of us have the
wrong notion.

In this age of big things, particularly, we are inclined to regard
success as synonymous only with the higher walks of life, with great
achievements. Success, in the minds of some, is something which is only
given for the fortunate to achieve. Or we think that if we cannot do
something which sets people talking or wondering about us, if our heads
do not tower above those of our fellow-beings, our lives, if not
altogether negative, are still not successful. In other words, we feel
that a successful life is the doing of something momentous; the becoming
known of all men and women; the being exceptional to the rest of the
human race. Ask ten people their idea of success, and I warrant that
eight will give a definition of it along these lines. And yet, when we
look at the matter closely and study it carefully, scarcely a more
incorrect interpretation of a successful life can be imagined. Along
this line of thought, not one person in ten thousand lives a successful
life, since statistics have informed us that it is only this percentage
of the human race that is ever heard of outside of its immediate circle
of relatives and friends.

It is given to very few of us to say something or perform some action
which will be heard of by the world. The greater part of the human race
dies as it is born, unknown and unheard of by the world at large. Where
you find one leader among men or women you will find a thousand who
prefer to follow. The instinct of leadership is rare--rare even in these
developing days. Hence, if success depended upon aggressive instinct,
its votaries would be few. Success is as ofttimes quietly won. I think
that young men are oftener misled by wrong notions of what constitutes
success than by how to achieve success as they understand it.

The average young man's idea of success is like unto that of people of
older growth, as I hinted in a preceding paragraph--it means the
accomplishment of something great. He cannot understand that a
successful life is just as possible in an obscure position as it is in
a conspicuous one. It does not seem plain to him that a clerk earning
five hundred dollars per year can make just as pronounced a success of
his life as can his employer, whose income is ten thousand dollars, or
even one hundred thousand dollars, per year. He is apt to measure
success by dollars, and here is the rock upon which so many young men
split. To be a successful subject is as great an achievement for the
subject as being a successful ruler is creditable to the ruler. Every
man born into the world has his limitations, and beyond that line it is
simply impossible for him to go. All of us know men capable of splendid
work so long as they are under direction, but who have either made or
would make absolute failures as directors. Other men chafe under
direction; they must be leaders. But success is as possible with the one
as with the other.

The correct definition of success is the favorable termination of
anything attempted--a termination, in other words, which answers the
purpose intended. The writing of a business letter can be made just as
great a success as can be the drafting of a presidential proclamation.
Success never depends upon conspicuity, and it never will. If we
accepted as the successful men of the time only those who are in
conspicuous places and of whom we know, we should narrow success down to
a very few. Great successes have been made as often in quiet ways as
with the blare of trumpets. A commercial success won on conservative
lines, and maintained by cautious and prudent methods, is the success
most highly regarded in the business world to-day. The meteoric
commercial flash, so admired by the average young man, seldom has a firm
foundation, and rarely commands the confidence of experienced business
men. The truest success is that which is earned slowly, but which surely
strengthens itself. Ostentation is never typical of a true success. It
is always a good thing to remember that the vast majority of successful
men are never heard of. It is very important, therefore, that the first
thing for a young man going into business to learn is to disassociate
success from the more prominent walks in life, and get rid of that false
theory. When he does that, successful living will have a deeper, fuller,
and truer meaning for him. It will have for him then its correct
meaning: that success is possible in every position, and can be made the
possession of the humblest as well as the most powerful.

A successful life is nothing more nor less than living as well as we
know how and doing the very best that we can. And upon that basis, which
is the only true basis, naturally no success can be measured by fame,
wealth, or station. Some of us must live for the few, as others again
must live for the many, just as some are born to occupy important
positions while others are intended for humbler places. But both lives
are successful.

Let a young man be thoroughly fitted for the business position he
occupies, alert to every opportunity, and embracing it to its fullest
possibility, with his methods fixed on honorable principles, and he is a
successful man. It does not matter whether he makes a thousand dollars
or a hundred thousand dollars. He makes a success of his position. He
carries to a successful termination that which it has been given him to
do, be that great or small. If the work he does, and does well, is up to
his limitations, he is a success. If he does not work up to his
capacity, then he fails, just as he fails, too, if he attempts to go
beyond his mental or physical limit. There is just as much danger on one
side of man's limit-line as there is on the other. The very realization
of one's capacity is a sign of success. It is an old saying that it is a
wise man who knows when he has enough, and it is a successful man who
never goes beyond his depth in business. This is a truth which requires
experience to see, perhaps, but it is a lesson which Success demands
that her votaries shall learn, and learn well. Success is simply doing
anything to the utmost of one's ability--making as much of one's
position as it is possible to make.



III

THE YOUNG MAN IN BUSINESS


Every one conversant with the business life of any of our cities, large
or small, will, I am sure, agree with me that more business
opportunities exist to-day than there are young men capable of embracing
them, and that the demand is far in excess of the supply. Positions of
trust are constantly going begging for the right kind of young men to
fill them. But the material does not exist, or, if it does, it certainly
has a most unfortunate way of hiding its light under a bushel; so much
so that business men cannot see even a glimmer of its rays. Let a
position of any real importance become open, and it is the most
difficult kind of a problem to find any one to fill it satisfactorily.
Business men are constantly passing through this experience. Young men
are desired in the great majority of positions because of their
progressive ideas and capacity to endure work; in fact, "young blood,"
as it is called, is preferred nowadays in nine positions out of every
ten. The young men capable of filling these positions are few. For the
most part, the average young man is incapable, or, if he be not exactly
incapable (I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt), he is
unwilling, which is even worse. That exceptions can be brought up to
controvert this statement I know; but in these remarks I am dealing with
the many, and not with the few. It is the exception that we find in
business to-day a young man who is something more than a plodder--a mere
automatic machine. As a general rule, the average young man comes to his
office at nine o'clock in the morning; is faithful in the duties he
performs; goes to lunch at twelve; comes back at one; takes up whatever
he is told to do until five, and then goes home. His work for the day is
done. One day is the same to him as another; he has a certain routine of
duties to do, and he does them day in and day out, month in and month
out. His duties are regulated by the clock. As that points, so he
points. Verily it is true of him that he is the same yesterday, to-day,
and forever. No special fault can be found with his work. Given a
particular piece of work to do, he does it just as a machine would. Such
a young man, too, generally considers himself hard-worked--often
overworked and under-paid--wondering all the time why his employer does
not recognize his value and advance his salary. "I do everything I am
told to do," he argues, "and I do it well. What more can I do?"

This is simply a type of a young man who exists in thousands of offices
and stores. He comes to his work each day with no definite point or
plan in view; he leaves it with nothing accomplished. He is a mere
automaton. Let him die, and his position can be filled in twenty-four
hours. If he detracts nothing from his employer's business he certainly
adds nothing to it. He never advances an idea; is absolutely devoid of
creative powers; his position remains the same after he has been in it
for five years as when he came to it.

Now I would not for a moment be understood as belittling the value of
faithfulness in an employee. But, after all, faithfulness is nothing
more nor less than a negative quality. By faithfulness a man can hold a
position a lifetime. He will keep it just where he found it. But by the
exercise of this single quality he does not add to the importance of the
position any more than he adds to his own value. It is not enough that
it should be said of a young man that he is faithful; he must be
something more. The willingness and capacity to be faithful to the
smallest detail must be there, serving only, however, as a foundation
upon which other qualities are built.

Altogether too many young men are content to remain in the positions in
which they find themselves. The thought of studying the needs of the
next position just above them never seems to enter into their minds. I
believe it is possible for every young man to rise above his position,
and I care not how humble that position may be, nor under what
disadvantages he may be placed. But he must be alert. He must not be
afraid of work, and of the hardest kind of work. He must study not only
to please, but he must go a step beyond. It is essential, of course,
that he should first of all fill the position for which he is engaged.
No man can solve the problem of business before he understands the
rudiments of the problem itself. Once the requirements of a position are
understood and mastered, then its possibilities should be undertaken. It
is foolish to argue, as some young men do, that to go beyond one's
special position is made impossible by an employer. The employer never
existed who will prevent the cream of his establishment from rising to
the surface. The advance of an employee always means the advance of the
employer's interest. Every employer would rather pay a young man five
thousand dollars a year than five hundred. What is to the young man's
interests is in a far greater degree to the interests of his employer. A
five-hundred-dollar clerkship is worth just that amount to an employer,
and nothing more. But a five-thousand-dollar man is fully worth five
times that sum to a business. A young man makes of a position exactly
what he chooses, either a millstone around his neck or a stepping-stone
to larger success. The possibilities lie in every position; seeing and
embracing them rest with its occupant. The lowest position can be so
filled as to lead up to the next and become a part of it. One position
should only be the chrysalis for the development of new strength to
master the other just above it.

A substantial success means several things. It calls, in the first
place, for concentration. There is no truth so potent as that which
tells us that we cannot serve God and Mammon. Nor can any young man
successfully serve two business interests, no matter how closely allied;
in fact, the more closely the interests the more dangerous are they. The
human mind is capable of just so much clear thought, and generally it
does not extend beyond the requirements of one position in these days of
keen competition. If there exists a secret of success, it lies, perhaps,
in concentration more than in any other single element. During business
hours a man should be in business. His thoughts should be on nothing
else. Diversions of thought are killing to the best endeavors. The
successful mastery of business questions calls for a personal interest,
a forgetfulness of self, that can only come from the closest
application and the most absolute concentration. I go so far in my
belief of concentration to business interests in business hours as to
argue that a young man's personal letters have no right to come to his
office address, nor should he receive his social friends at his desk.
Business hours are none too long in the great majority of our offices,
and with a rest of one hour for luncheon, no one has a right to chop off
fifteen minutes here to read an irrelevant personal letter, or fifteen
minutes there to talk with a friend whose conversation distracts the
mind from the problems before it. Digression is just as dangerous as
stagnation in the career of a young man in business. There is absolutely
no position worth the having in business life to-day to which a care of
other interests can be added. Let a man attempt to serve the interests
of one master, and if he serves him well he has his hands and his head
full.

There is a class of ambitious young men who have what they choose to
call "an anchor to the windward" in their business; that is, they
maintain something in addition to their regular position. They do this
from necessity, they claim. One position does not offer sufficient scope
for their powers or talents, does not bring them sufficient income; they
are "forced," they explain, to take on something in addition. I have
known such young men. But so far as I have been able to discern, the
trouble does not lie so much with the position they occupy as with
themselves. When a man turns away from the position he holds to outside
affairs, he turns just so far away from the surest path of success. To
do one thing perfectly is better than to do two things only fairly well.
It was told me once, of one of our best-known actors, that outside of
his stage-knowledge he knew absolutely nothing. But he acted well--so
well that he stands to-day at the head of his profession, and has an
income of five figures several times over. All-around geniuses are
rare--so rare that we can hardly find them. It is a pleasant thing to
be able to talk well on many topics; but, after all, that is but a
social accomplishment. To know one thing absolutely means material
success and commercial and mental superiority. I dare say that if some
of our young men understood the needs of the positions they occupy more
fully than they do, the necessity for outside work would not exist.

Right in line with this phase of a young man's work comes the necessity
of his learning that he cannot do evening work and be employed the
entire day as well. It is the most difficult thing for ambitious young
men to understand that night-work is physically and mentally detrimental
to the best business success. Let a machine run night and day, and
before long it will break down; and what a mechanism of iron and steel
cannot bear, the human organism certainly cannot stand. If a young man
employs his evenings for work, he unfits himself for his work during the
day. The mind needs diversion, recreation, rest; and any mentality kept
at a certain tension for more than seven or eight hours per day will
sooner or later lose its keen perceptive powers. No young man true to
his best and wisest interests will employ his evenings in the same line
of thought as that which engrosses him during the day. Mental work is
unlike manual labor in that it tires without physical exhaustion; and
because the worker does not feel it as much when he uses his head for
ten or twelve hours per day as he would if he used the muscles for that
period of time, he goes, nevertheless, unconsciously beyond his powers
of strength. Unknown to him, the strain leaves its mark upon the mind.
Youthful vigor throws its effects off for a while, but not permanently;
and a man's early breakdown when he should be at the zenith of his
powers in middle life is very often directly traceable to an overtaxing
of his powers in early life. But not only is the effect of a future
character; it is noticeable at the time of the indiscretion. It is seen
in the inability of the mind to respond quickly to some suggestion at
the office; and how can it be otherwise when the mind has been worked
beyond its normal capacity? There is no question in my mind whatever
that a young man is untrue to the interests of his employer when he
allows himself to work during the evening hours. Although he may not be
conscious of it himself, he does not come to his work the following
morning as fresh as he might if the mind had been given a season of
diversion and rest.

I know whereof I speak when I touch upon this subject. In common with
other young men who are wiser than their best advisers, I made the
mistake of evening work. For several years I gave up four or five
evenings of each week to literary work. My family, my best friends, my
physician, warned me to desist. But I knew better. Others, I conceded,
undoubtedly had suffered from what I was doing, but I should not. I was
strong, young, and of excellent physique. I could stand it; others could
not; in fact, I was an exception to the rest of the human race. Two or
three years went by, and I was proud of proving to my advisers that I
was right and they were wrong. But suddenly, with scarce a warning, the
blow came. Irritability and nervousness came first; everything annoyed
me. The closing of a door, or the sudden entrance of a person into the
room, caused me to start. The harder I worked the less I seemed to
accomplish. I could not understand it. Then I began to lie awake for a
half-hour after I retired; after a while the half-hour lengthened into
an hour, then into two hours. Finally I had insomnia. After a bit my
digestion did not seem to be as regular; a heavy feeling possessed me
after eating. I was ordered away; stayed a week when I was told I should
remain for a month. But, of course, I knew better. And what is the
result? For the past three years I have suffered from an indigestion as
constant as it is keen; and to-day I have to regulate my food, my hours,
and my habits, with the pleasing prospect that at least two years of
such living are ahead of me before I can hope for relief. And why?
Simply because of working, years ago, when I should have been resting.
But then I did not understand it. I do now, and I wish that every young
man who reads these words might profit by my error. I am fortunate to
get off with nothing more serious than indigestion, but even that
affliction has pains which only those who have suffered them can begin
to fully realize. Night-work, when employed in the day, does not pay; on
the contrary, it kills. I wish fervently and sincerely that five, eight,
or ten years ago I might have reached this point of wisdom. I did not,
but I write it now and here as a warning to young fellows who value
their health, their happiness, their peace of mind, and a comfortable
feeling in the pits of their stomachs.

A fatal error in the case of many young men is that they reach a point
where they make no progress. Now stagnation in a young man's career is
but a synonym for starvation, since there is no such thing as standing
still in the business world of to-day. Either we go backward or we go
forward. When a young man fails to keep abreast of the possibilities of
his position he recedes constantly, if unconsciously, perhaps. The young
man who progresses is he who enters into the spirit of the business of
his employer, and who points out new methods to him, advances new ideas,
suggests new channels and outputs. There is not a more direct road to
the confidence of an employer than for that employer to see that any one
of his clerks understands the details of his business better than
himself. That young man commands the attention of his chief at once, and
when a vacancy occurs he is apt to step into it, if he does not forge
over the shoulders of others. Young men who think clearly, who can
conceive, create, and carry out, are not so plentiful that even a single
one will be lost sight of. It is no special art, and it reflects but
little credit upon any man, to simply fill a position. That is expected
of him; he is engaged to do that, and it is only a fair return for a
certain payment made. The art lies in doing more than was bargained for;
in proving greater than was expected; in making more of a position than
has ever been made before. A quick conception is needed here, the
ability to view a broad horizon; for it is the liberal-minded man, not
the man of narrow limitations, who makes the success of to-day. A young
man showing such qualities to an employer does not remain in one
position long.

Two traps in which young men in business often fall are a disregard for
small things, and an absolute fear of making mistakes. One of the surest
keys to success lies in thoroughness. No matter how great may be the
enterprise undertaken, a regard for the small things is necessary. Just
as the little courtesies of every-day life make life worth the living,
so the little details form the bone and sinew of a great success. A
thing half or three-quarters done is worse than not done at all. Let a
man be careful of the small things in business, and he can generally be
relied upon for the greater ones, provided, of course, that he possesses
broadness of mind. The man who can overcome small worries is greater
than the man who can override great obstacles. When a young man becomes
so ambitious for large success that he overlooks the small things, he is
pretty apt to encounter failure. There is nothing in business so
infinitesimal that we can afford to do it in a slipshod fashion. It is
no art to answer twenty letters in a morning when they are, in reality,
only half answered. When we commend brevity in business letters we do
not mean brusqueness. Nothing stamps the character of a house so clearly
as the letters it sends out.

The fear of making mistakes keeps many a young man down. Of course
errors in business are costly, and it is better not to make them. But,
at the same time, I would not give a snap of the finger for a young man
who has never made mistakes. But there are mistakes and mistakes; some
easy to be overlooked, and others it is better not to blink at in an
employee. A mistake of judgment is possible with us all; the best of us
are not above a wrong decision. And a young man who holds back for fear
of making mistakes loses the first point of success.

I know there are thousands of young men who feel themselves incompetent
for a business career because of a lack of early education. And here
might come in--if I chose to discuss the subject, which I do not--the
oft-mooted question of the exact value of a college education to the
young man in business. Far abler pens than mine have treated of this; it
is certainly not for me to enter into it here. But I will say this: a
young man need not feel that the lack of a college education will stand
in any respect whatever in the way of his success in the business world.
No college on earth ever made a business man. The knowledge acquired in
college has fitted thousands of men for professional success, but it has
also unfitted other thousands for a practical business career. A college
training is never wasted, although I have seen again and again
five-thousand-dollar educations spent on five-hundred-dollar men. Where
a young man can bring a college education to the requirements of a
practical business knowledge it is an advantage. But before our American
colleges become an absolute factor in the business capacities of men,
their methods of study and learning will have to be radically changed. I
have had associated with me both kinds of young men, collegiate and
non-collegiate, and I must confess that the ones who had a better
knowledge of the practical part of life have been those who never saw
the inside of a college and whose feet never stood upon a campus.
College-bred men and men who never had college advantages have succeeded
in about equal ratios. The men occupying the most important commercial
positions in New York to-day are self-made, whose only education has
come to them from contact with that greatest college of all, the
business world. Far be it from me to depreciate the value of a college
education. I believe in its advantages too firmly. But no young man need
feel hampered because of the lack of it. If business qualities are in
him they will come to the surface. It is not the college education; it
is the young man. Without its possession as great and honorable
successes have been made as with it. Men are not accepted in the
business world upon their collegiate diplomas, nor on the knowledge
these imply. They are taken for what they are, for what they know.

The young man engaged in business to-day in this country has advantages
exceeding those of any generation before him. And I do not say this
simply as an echo of what others before me have said, or to use a
platitudinous phrase. There never was a time in the world's history when
a young man had the opportunity to make something of himself that he has
at the present day. He lives in a country where every success is
possible; where a man can make of himself what he may choose; where
energy and enterprise are appreciated, and a market is always ready for
good wares. Young men have forged to the front wonderfully during the
past ten years. Employers are more than ever willing to lay great
responsibilities on their shoulders. Salaries are higher than ever;
young men never before earned the incomes which are received by some
to-day. All success is possible.

But a young man must be alert to every opportunity. He cannot forget
himself for a moment in business. A man's best working years are not
many, and when they are upon him he must make hay, and all the hay he
can. No young man can afford to reach the age of thirty without feeling
that he is settled in a business way. Before that time he flounders; but
at thirty the floundering time should be over. He should have found that
special trade or profession for which he thinks he is most capable. This
age is generally accepted, I believe, for the reason that a man is most
likely to do his best work between thirty and forty; after forty a man's
work is not apt to have that energy and snap that is born of youth, and
the tendency is first shown in his willingness to deputize details to
others. I do not mean to say that a man begins to decline at forty; on
the contrary, he is at his prime, and he remains so for ten or fifteen
years. But he is better for judgment than he is for working out details.
A man's real work, his energetic work, his laborious work, is generally
done before he reaches thirty-five.

And not only must he practically make himself between thirty and forty,
but he must not spend all that he earns. He must lay aside a goodly
portion of his earnings. It is a cruel but a hard fact that the business
world has very little use for what are termed old men nowadays; and in
these times of keen competitive strife a man is judged to be old very
early from the cold commercial point of view. He may not consider
himself as being old, but he is no longer considered to be "in the race"
with the younger men, who naturally have quicker perceptions and whose
sense of alertness is necessarily keener. The most successful man at
forty is very often the man who is quietly pushed aside at sixty. If
young men earning good incomes between thirty and forty would look a
little ahead, and consider the inevitable fact that as they grow older
their value is very apt to lessen in a commercial sense, they would save
themselves much after-humiliation and sorrowful retrospection. It is
hard for a young man at, say, thirty-five, in the full flush and vigor
of manhood, to realize that a time will come when others as clever as
himself and a bit cleverer will pass him by. But the cold fact exists,
nevertheless, and he is wise who, at his prime, thinks of a time which
is almost sure to come to every man who lives.

And yet, while a young man may be ambitious for success in business, he
cannot afford to get impatient or restless. Not long ago I received a
letter from a young fellow which particularly reflected the feeling that
I mean. He wrote me that he was twenty, and was impatient because he did
not make the progress in his business which he felt that he should. He
confessed that he was not so very much dissatisfied with his salary,
which was twenty-two dollars per week, although he thought it ought to
be forty dollars. Unfortunately for him, however, his employers did not
seem to think so, and he was quite sure he was "being kept back." He
conceded that he was "becoming impatient," but insisted that he had
reason to feel so.

Well, I felt precisely the same way when I was twenty; only my salary
was eighteen dollars and thirty-three cents per week, and I felt quite
sure that the figures ought to be reversed. And there were several
positions just beyond me, too, which I felt I should justly be asked to
occupy. But I was not, and, of course, I felt aggrieved. I considered
myself imposed upon. Now when I look back upon that time I can see that
the reason my salary was not thirty-three dollars and eighteen cents was
simply because I was incapable of earning that amount. I was not worth
it to my employer. And the reason I did not get those several positions
just ahead of me was because I could not have filled them if I had
gotten them--not one of them. But I am a little more than twenty now,
and my correspondent, when he is about ten years older, will understand
a great many things that are not very clear to him just now. Of course
he probably will not choose to believe this; youths of twenty are not
apt to believe much that is told them, since they have so little to
learn!

But, if I were back to twenty again, and, with my later knowledge, were
earning twenty-two dollars per week, I should not only be satisfied, but
I should be intensely thankful. I think, too, that the knowledge that
there were thousands of men of forty and fifty years who were not
earning as much would help me to endure the ordeal. I think that instead
of rebelling at the fact that I was earning twenty-two dollars, I should
rather devote my time to trying to find the best way of doubling it. I
might not be able to make twenty-five dollars for a year or two, but I
should endeavor to do so. In fact, if we look over the field, there are
more young men of twenty-one who are worth less than twenty-five dollars
per week than there are who are worth that or more. And one proof of
this is found in the fact that in New York City alone there are tens of
thousands of young men at that age who are not earning eighteen dollars
per week. In addition to all this I might be tempted to believe that too
rapid advance might not be the best thing in the world for me. Too large
an income, even when deserved, is far often more of a hindrance to a
young man of twenty-one or thereabouts than a help. What I should feel
willing to do would be this: if I felt that my employer was a man of
honor and judgment I should leave myself in his hands for a while. I
should do him the courtesy of believing that he knew more than I did. A
man at fifty is sometimes apt to know more--if only a very little
more--than a boy of twenty; and if I had his confidence and felt that I
was pleasing him with my services, I should let him go at that--for a
time, at any rate.

There are hundreds of young men in business to-day who feel just as
restless and impatient as did this correspondent. But these young men
should bear a few things in mind. They should remember, first of all,
that between the years of twenty and twenty-five a young man acquires
rather than achieves. It is the learning period of life, the
experience-gaining time. Knowledge that is worth anything does not come
to us until we are past twenty-five. The mind before that age is
incapable of forming wise judgments. The great art of accurate decision
in business matters is not acquired in a few weeks of commercial life.
It is the result of years. It is not only the power within himself, but
the experience behind him, that makes a successful business man. The
commercial world is only a greater school than the one of slates and
slate-pencils. No boy, after attending school for five years, would
consider himself competent to teach. And surely five years of commercial
apprenticeship will not fit a young man to assume a position of trust,
nor give him the capacity to decide upon important business matters. In
the first five years--yes, in the first ten years--of a young man's
business life he is only in the primary department of the great
commercial world. It is for him, then, to study methods, to observe
other men--in short, to learn and not hope to achieve. That will come
later. Business, simple as it may look to the young man, is,
nevertheless, a very intricate affair, and it is only by years of
closest study that we master an understanding of it.

The electric atmosphere of the American business world is all too apt to
make our young men impatient. They want to fly before they can even walk
well. Ambition is a splendid thing in any young man. But getting along
too fast is just as injurious as getting along too slow. A young man
between twenty and twenty-five must be patient. I know patience is a
difficult thing to cultivate, but it is among the first lessons we must
learn in business. A good stock of patience, acquired in early life,
will stand a man in good stead in later years. It is a handy thing to
have and draw upon, and makes a splendid safety-valve. Because a young
man, as he approaches twenty-five, begins to see things more plainly
than he did five years before, he must not get the idea that he is a
business man yet, and entitled to a man's salary. If business questions
which he did not understand five years before now begin to look clearer
to him, it is because he is passing through the transitory state that
divides the immature judgment of the young man from the ripening
penetration of the man. He is simply beginning. From that point he will
grow, and his salary will grow as he grows. But Rome was not built in a
day, and a business man is not made in a night. As experience comes, the
judgment will become mature; and by the time the young man reaches
thirty he will begin to realize that he did not know as much at
twenty-five as he thought he did. And when he is ready to learn from
others he will begin to grow wise. And when he reaches that state where
he is willing to concede that he has not a "corner" in knowledge, he
will be stepping out of the chrysalis of youth.

And so to a young man in business or just starting in business I would
say, remember these very essential truths.

Above all things, before a young man attempts to make a success he
should convince himself that he is in a congenial business. Whether it
be a trade or a profession--both are honorable and productive--let him
satisfy himself, above everything else, that it enlists his personal
interest. If a man shows that he has his work at heart his success can
be relied on. Personal interest in any work will bring other things; but
all the other essentials combined cannot create personal interest. That
must exist first; then two thirds of the battle is won. Fully satisfied
that he is in that particular line of business for which he feels a
stronger, warmer interest than for any other, then he should remember:

First, that, whatever else he may strive to be, he must, above all, be
absolutely honest. From honorable principles he can never swerve. A
temporary success is often possible on what are not exactly dishonest,
but "shady" lines. Such success, however, is only temporary, with a
certainty of permanent loss. The surest business successes--yes, the
only successes worth the making--are built upon honest foundations.
There can be no "blinking" at the truth or at honesty, no half-way
compromise. There is but one way to be successful, and that is to be
absolutely honest; and there is but one way of being honest. Honesty is
not only the foundation, but the capstone as well, of business success.

Second, he must be alert, alive to every opportunity. He cannot afford
to lose a single point, for that single point might prove the very link
that would make complete the whole chain of a business success.

Third, he must ever be willing to learn, never overlooking the fact that
others have long ago forgotten what he has still to learn. Firmness of
decision is an admirable trait in business. The young man whose opinion
can be tossed from one side to another is poor material. But youth is
full of errors, and caution is a strong trait.

Fourth, if he be wise he will entirely avoid the use of liquors. If the
question of harm done by intoxicating liquor is an open one, the
question of the actual good derived from it is not.

Fifth, let him remember that a young man's strongest recommendation is
his respectability. Some young men, apparently successful, may be flashy
in dress, loud in manner, and disrespectful of women and sacred things.
But the young man who is respectable always wears best. The way a young
man carries himself in his private life ofttimes means much to him in
his business career. No matter where he is, or in whose company,
respectability, and all that it implies, will always command respect.

And if any young man wishes a set of rules even more concise, here it
is:

Get into a business you like.

Devote yourself to it.

Be honest in everything.

Employ caution; think out a thing well before you enter upon it.

Sleep eight hours every night.

Do everything that means keeping in good health.

School yourself not to worry; worry kills, work does not.

Avoid liquors of all kinds.

If you must smoke, smoke moderately.

Shun discussion on two points--religion and politics.

And last, but not least, marry a true woman, and have your own home.



IV

HIS SOCIAL LIFE AND AMUSEMENTS


The social life of a young man has a direct and important bearing upon
his success, and he cannot be too careful of what forms of amusement he
allows to come into his hours of leisure.

From a business standpoint it is all-important that he keep a careful
watch on his social habits. For it is not enough for any young man that
he should only take care of himself during his working-hours. To social
dissipations at night can be traced the downfall of hundreds upon
hundreds of young men. The idea that an employer has no control over a
young man's time away from the office is a dangerous fallacy. An
employer has every right to ask that those into whose hands he intrusts
responsibilities shall follow social habits which will not endanger his
interests upon the morrow. So far as social life is concerned, young men
generally run to extremes. Either they do not go out at all, which is
stagnating, or they go out too much, which is deadly. Only here and
there is found one who knows the happy medium; a certain amount of
social diversion is essential to everybody--boy, man, girl, or woman;
and particularly so to a young man with a career to make. To come into
contact with the social side of people is broadening; it is educative.
"To know people," says a writer, "you must see them at play." Social
life can be made a study at the same time that it is made a pleasure. To
know the wants of people, to learn their softer side, you must come into
contact with their social natures. No young man can afford to deny
himself certain pleasures, or a reasonable amount of contact with people
in the outer world. It is to his advantage that people should know he
exists; it is important to the wise shaping of his aims and aspirations.
It is well for him to keep himself honorably in the eyes of people. His
evening diversions should be as widely different from his occupations
during the day as possible. The mind needs a change of thought as well
as does the body a change of raiment. "All work and no play makes Jack a
dull boy" contains a vast amount of truth.

At the same time, nothing is more injurious to the chances of a young
man in business than an over-indulgence in the pleasures of what, for
the want of a better word, we call "society." It is a rough but a true
saying that "a man cannot drink whisky and be in business." Perhaps a
softer and more refined translation of this is that a man cannot be in
society and be in business. This is impossible, and nothing that a young
man can bear in mind will stand him to such good account as this fact.
No mind can be fresh in the morning that has been kept at a tension the
night before by late hours, or been befogged by indulgence in late
suppers. We need more sleep at twenty or twenty-five than we do at
fifty; and the young man who grants himself less than eight hours' sleep
every night just robs himself of so much vitality. So far as the
required amount of sleeping is concerned, I hold to this inexorable
rule: sleep eight hours every night and an extra hour whenever possible.
The most successful men have repeatedly acknowledged that to a
regularity in hours of retiring they can trace a large part of their
ability to compass the questions which enter into a successful career.

One rule should be positive with every young man: the midnight hours
should be passed in sleep; and by these hours I mean eleven and twelve
o'clock. If a young man makes it a rule to be asleep by eleven and up by
seven, he chooses the course which hundreds of the most successful men
of the day have chosen. The loss of vitality brought by less than eight
hours' sleep may not be felt or noticed at present, but the process of
sleeping is only nature's banking system of principal and interest. A
mind capable of the fulfilment of its highest duties should be receptive
to ideas, quick to comprehend, instantaneous in its conception of a
point. With a fresh mind and a clear brain a young man has two of the
greatest levers of success. These cannot be retained under social
indulgences. The dissipation of a night has its invariable influence
upon the work of the morrow. I do not preach total abstinence of any
habits to which human nature is prone. Every man ought to know what is
good for him and what is injurious to his best interests. But an excess
of anything is injurious, and a young man on the threshold of a business
career cannot afford to be excessive in a single direction. He should
husband his resources. He will need them all. For no success is easily
made in these days. Appearances are tremendously deceptive in this
respect. We see men making what we choose to regard and what are known
as quick successes, because at a comparatively early age they acquire
position or means. But one needs only to study the conditions of the
business life of to-day to see how impossible it is to achieve any
success except by the severest patience and by the very hardest work. No
young man need approach a business career with the idea that its
achievement is easy. The histories of successful men tell us all too
clearly the lessons of the patience and efforts of years. Some men
compass a successful career in less time than others. And if the methods
employed are necessarily different, the requirements are precisely the
same. It is a story of hard work in every case, of close application,
and of a patient mastery of the problem in hand. Advantages of education
will come in at times and push one man ahead of another. But a practical
business knowledge is apt to be a greater possession.

"But," says some young fellow, "what are the social pleasures and
indulgences which injuriously affect a young man's success?" Only one
general answer can be given, and it is this: any social pleasure or
indulgence which affects a young man's health affects his success. Good
health is the foundation of all possible success in life; affect the one
and you affect the other.

I presume it is safe to say that no single element in social life has
injured so many young men as an indulgence in intoxicating liquors, and
I shall treat of this first. And in doing so I shall take the matter
entirely away from the moral standpoint, and place it simply on its best
and wisest basis, that of principle. Many a writer--too many, alas!--has
held forth on this subject of wine-drinking and young men, and pointed
out its moral aspects. This is all very well as far as it goes; but I
think that if more writers placed their young-men readers on their honor
in this matter it would be infinitely better. It is not a question of
whether it is right or wrong for a young man to indulge in spirituous
drinks, so far as his success is concerned. It simply amounts to one
thing: he absolutely cannot do it. And I can say this to every young
fellow from my own experience and observation as a young man who, when
he started out, did not know exactly what position to take.

I was about sixteen years old, if I remember rightly, when I began
attending public dinners and assemblages in the capacity of a newspaper
reporter. Wines were then more freely used at dinners than now, and I
soon saw that I must make up my mind whether at these gatherings I
should partake of wines or decline them. I had been trained to the
belief that it was always best to err on the safe side, and as I sat
down to my first public dinner--a New England dinner in Brooklyn--I
shielded the wine-glasses set before me as the waiters came to my plate,
and this practice I have followed ever since.

At first my principle never to touch liquor or spirits of any kind
directed to me the chaffings of my friends. I was told it looked
"babyish"; that I could not expect to go out much and keep to my
principle; that I would often find it considered discourteous to refuse
a simple glass of wine tendered by my hostess. But I made up my mind
that there was no use of having a principle unless one stuck to it. And
I soon saw that people respected me the more for it. And just let me say
right here to all young men: I never lost one friend by my refusals, but
I made scores of friendships--of men, from one who has occupied the
presidential chair down; of women, among whom are the best and most
famous in our land to-day.

I honestly believe that a young man who starts out in life with a fixed
principle--whether it be that he will not drink, or smoke, or indulge in
anything which in his heart he feels is not good for him, or in which he
does not conscientiously believe--and adheres to that principle, no
matter under what circumstances he may be placed, holds in his hand one
of the most powerful elements of success in the world to-day. There is a
great deal of common sense abroad in this world of ours, and a young man
with a good principle is always safe to depend upon it. The men and
women whose friendships are worth having are the men and women who have
principles themselves, and respect them in others, especially when they
find them in a young man.

Another thing which led me to make up my mind never to touch liquor was
the damage which I saw wrought by it upon some of the finest minds with
which it was ever my privilege to come in contact; and I concluded that
what had resulted injuriously to others might prove so to me. I have
seen, even in my few years of professional life, some of the
smartest--yea, brilliant--literary men dethroned from splendid positions
owing to nothing else but their indulgence in wine. I have known men
with salaries of thousands of dollars per year, occupying positions
which hundreds would strive a lifetime to attain, come to beggary from
drink. Only recently there applied to me, for any position I could offer
him, one of the most brilliant editorial writers in the newspaper
profession--a man who, two years ago, easily commanded one hundred
dollars for a single article in his special field. That man became so
unreliable from drink that editors are now afraid of his articles; and
although he can to-day write as forcible editorials as at any time
during his life, he sits in a cellar in one of our cities writing
newspaper wrappers for one dollar per thousand. And that is only one
instance of several I could recite here. I do not hold my friend up as a
"terrible example"; he is but a type who convinced me, and may convince
others, that a clear mind and liquor do not go together.

I know it is said, when one brings up such an instance as this, "Oh
well, that man drank to excess. One glass will hurt no one." How do
these people know that it will not? One drop of kerosene has been known
to throw into flame an almost hopeless fire, and one glass of liquor may
fan into a flame a smoldering spark hid away where we never thought it
existed. The spark may be there and it may not. Why take the risk?
Liquor to a healthy young man will never do him the least particle of
good; it may do him harm. The man for whom I have absolutely no use is
the man who is continually asking a young man to "just have a little;
one glass, you know." A man who will wittingly urge a young man whom he
knows has a principle against liquor is a man for whom a halter is too
good.

Then, as I looked around and came to know more of people and things, I
found the always unanswerable argument in favor of a young man's
abstinence, i.e., that the most successful men in America to-day are
those who seldom, if ever, lift a wine-glass to their lips. Becoming
interested in this fact, I had the curiosity to personally inquire into
it, and of twenty-eight of the leading business men in the country whose
names I selected at random, twenty-two were abstainers. I made up my
mind that there was some reason for this. If liquor brought safe
pleasures, why did these men abstain from it? If, as some say, it is a
stimulant to a busy man, why did not these men, directing the largest
business interests in this country, resort to it? And when I saw that
these were the men whose opinions in great business matters were
accepted by the leading concerns of the world, I concluded that their
judgment in the use of liquor would satisfy me. If their judgment in
business matters could command the respect and attention of the leaders
of trade on both sides of the sea, their decision as to the use of
liquor was not apt to be wrong. At least, it was good enough for me.

As opportunities have come to me to go into homes and public places, I
find that I do not occupy a solitary position. The tendency to abstain
from liquor is growing more and more among young men of to-day. The
brightest young men I know, who are filling positions of power and
promise, never touch a drop of beer, wines, or intoxicants of any sort.
And the young man who to-day makes up his mind that he will be on the
safe side and adhere to strict abstinence will find that he is not
alone. He has now the very best element in business and social life in
the largest cities of our land with him.

He will not be chided for his principle, but through it will command
respect.

It will not retard him in commercial success, but prove his surest help.

It will win him no enemies, but bring him the friendship of upright men
and good women.

It will win him surer favor than aught else in eyes which he will
sometime in his life think are the sweetest he has ever looked into.

It will insure him the highest commercial esteem and the brightest
social position.

And as it molds his character in youth, so will it develop him into a
successful man and a good citizen.

I know young men are sometimes inclined to believe that abstinence from
wines is apt to prove a barrier to their social success. "It looks
unsociable," it is claimed. But my own experience has demonstrated to me
otherwise. I have found that a young man's best and highest social
success is assured just in proportion as he abstains from wines. An
indulgence in intoxicants of any sort has never helped a man to any
social position worth the having; on the contrary, it has kept many from
attaining a position to which by birth and good breeding and all other
qualifications they were entitled. No young man will ever find that the
principle of abstinence from liquor is a barrier to any success,
social, commercial, or otherwise. On the other hand, it is the one
principle in his life which will, in the long run, help him more than
any other. And touching the point of etiquette on this question, whether
it is in better form in drinking wines at dinner to turn down one's
glasses or have them removed, I would say, neither. Simply shield the
glasses with the hand as the waiter reaches your place at the table with
each course of wine. Turning down one's wine-glasses or causing them to
be removed from the table always seems to me to be an unnecessary and
rather a disagreeable way of pronouncing one's principles.

So far as the habit of smoking is concerned--whether it takes the form
of a cigarette, cigar, or pipe--I do not believe in the idea which tells
a young man that he must not smoke. I say, rather, he will be wisest if
he does not smoke. His health will be the better for it and his
pocket-book the fatter. If the physical or mental injury to be derived
from smoking is an open question, the good it does is not. Smoking does
absolutely no good to any one; it is simply a question of the extent of
harm that it does. But if a young fellow is inclined to smoke, if he has
a taste for it that he feels he must indulge, then I say, smoke
moderately. The greatest danger in smoking is in the imperceptible
growth of the habit; and this is particularly true of cigarette-smoking,
now so prevalent among young men. Unless a young man has himself well in
hand, and can govern his passions, he will find that cigarette-smoking
has a nasty way of growing upon one. He may at first smoke only two or
three cigarettes per day. After a while he adds a fourth. In a year it
will be five per day; and so it goes on multiplying, but never
diminishing, until the habit gets a hold which many find it impossible
to shake off. Then follow irritability, nervousness, loss of memory and
of appetite, and all kindred complaints, which are killing to a young
fellow's health, and necessarily to his success and happiness. This, to
my mind, is the danger which lurks in tobacco; the actual harm is not in
its use, but in its abuse. And use easily leads to abuse in the vast
majority of cases. An excuse is always at hand to make an extra
cigarette or cigar permissible on a special occasion. But after a bit
special occasions multiply. I believe that if young men would not smoke
until they attained their thirtieth year, it would be the wisest
solution of this whole question. One thing is certain: the young man who
does not smoke is far better off than he who does; and I think any one
addicted to tobacco will agree with this statement.

It is only natural that no young man desires to remain at home every
evening of the week; and the question naturally arises, What are the
best amusements for a young fellow? And on this point opinions must
necessarily differ.

For example, there is the question of attendance at the theater. There
are people--and delightful, good, and conscientious people they are,
too--who sincerely disapprove of the theater. To their minds the
playhouse is simply a trick of the devil to lure young men to
destruction. And, as plays go nowadays, I must confess that they are not
far from the right. Our theaters are unquestionably suffering from a
deluge of plays most of which are morally bad and some of which are
artistically worthless. But the dramatic history of every country has
waves of this sort.

To condemn the theater as an institution, however, and say to young men
indiscriminately that they must keep away from it, is, to my mind,
wrong. Because there are bad plays it does not necessarily follow that
there are no good plays. There are--not in plenty, I confess, but
nevertheless they exist. I believe in the theater in moderation, so long
as good actors and good plays are selected. Then I hold that the theater
is a source of education to a young man. It will bring before him the
lessons of life in a more effective way than is possible by any method
of reading or studying. But no general rule can be followed in this
form, or, for that matter, in any other form of amusement. To some young
men the theater is an absolute harm, and has an injurious effect. If he
is of susceptible mind and of weak character, he will be influenced by
the life he sees on the stage, believe it to be real, and, ofttimes as
not, he will fashion his own life and desires by it. This is where the
theater does positive injury, and such a young man should never attend
it. If, however, he is strong of character, and goes to the theater in
the right spirit, I believe it is good for him. A good play is a
wonderful stimulant, a powerful rejuvenant of spirits. It pleases the
senses as nothing else can do; it takes the mind away from every-day
affairs in a way that no factor in life, save, perhaps, a good book,
does. And a good play is as beneficial as a good book. As I have said
before, it is unfortunate that we have so few really good plays on the
boards of our theaters; but they are there, and we can find them if we
will only look out for them. And with care in our selection, it does us
all good to go to the theater and enjoy a hearty laugh, or to see the
mirror held up to nature. Young men are often puzzled, too, as to the
right position to assume as regards dancing. So far as this form of
amusement is concerned, I have always liked to believe that dancing,
like going to the theater, is good when enjoyed in moderation. Its
unhealthy possibilities in a moral sense no young fellow of the right
sort ever thinks of or considers. It is only when they are
discussed--as, unfortunately, they are all too often in print--that they
suggest themselves. Dancing, to my mind, when it is not indulged in
promiscuously, but with friends and acquaintances of the opposite sex,
is one of the highest forms of enjoyment, and one that gives to a young
fellow what we all should possess, grace and the ability to carry
ourselves well. But, like all good things, dancing can be abused, and
then the injurious effects come in. If a young fellow goes to a dance,
and dances all evening without any regard to his physical abilities, he
exhausts himself and is unfit for his regular duties on the morrow. When
the practice is followed in this wise, and a late supper--which
generally means cold or iced foods on a heated stomach--is indulged in,
then one of the most graceful and enjoyable of pleasures is taken out of
its proper place and becomes an injury.

There is one thing, however, which a young man carving his own career in
the world soon finds out for himself, and it is that dances, as a rule,
are very exhausting pleasures and generally mean late hours. And after a
while he feels that they interfere with his business duties on the
following day. Then it is that he must make a choice, and, of course,
dancing must suffer and "go by the board," so to speak. As I have said a
few paragraphs back, any social pleasure which interferes with a young
fellow's best business interests is bad. What one young man can stand
another cannot, and hence every one must decide for himself. He need
only keep his health in mind. If he finds that any pleasure--whether it
be attendance at the theater, dancing, or what not--makes him wish next
day that he had not indulged in it, it should be perfectly clear to him
that that particular social pleasure is not for him, and he should give
it up.

Card-playing has never had any special attraction for me, and so I can
say very little for it. A good game of whist, euchre, cribbage, or
hearts is enjoyable; but I have always felt that playing at whist,
particularly with experts, is more or less of a mental strain, and
should not be indulged in by those who are required to use their mental
faculties during the day. To some, however, it is a relaxation, a
recreation, and to these it is good. I am inclined to believe, however,
that the game of "poker" is one which a young man will be wisest if he
does not learn, since it is almost invariably associated with gambling.
And gambling at cards, or gambling or betting of any sort whatever, is a
practice in which no self-respecting young fellow can indulge. It is
generally the first step downward; and whether it tends in that way or
not, it always, without exception, has its evil effects. Therefore it is
wisest to shun it, and shun it absolutely.

The growth of outdoor sports in this country has made thousands of young
men interested in wheeling, tennis, base-ball, foot-ball, and kindred
sports; and no national sign is more encouraging. The deeper the
interest which every young man evinces in manly sports the better it is
not only for him in every possible way, but for the generation
succeeding him. It betokens a clean, healthy mind when a young fellow
takes an honest, sincere interest in outdoor sports. But the great
danger is in overdoing this. Sports are splendid in their place and at
their time, but too many of our young men allow them to interfere with
their business interests. A young man in business cannot allow his
interest in base-ball, or any other sport, to become so absorbing as to
take first place in his mind. There is no earthly reason why an interest
in foot-ball, base-ball, or any other sport, confined within proper
bounds and at the proper time, should not be good. But when a young
fellow finds that he knows the standing of the base-ball clubs in the
various leagues, or the names of the players, or their batting average,
better than he knows the names of the customers of his employer, or the
prices of the goods he is paid to sell, or the discounts of his house,
then I say his interest is directed against his own good. Base-ball, or
any other kind of ball, is a splendid thing--in its place. Nor is an
interest in any legitimate sport or game harmful so long as it is kept
within bounds and not allowed to occupy the mind to the detriment of
business interests. What are called "base-ball cranks" or "bicycle
fiends" or "foot-ball enthusiasts" are never good business men, and
their standing in the community is on a par with their overwrought
interest.

A young man's social life and his indulgences must, in other words, be
tempered with reason and common sense. He should have a social side to
his nature, but that side must not dominate him. If it does, it affects
his business interests; and a young man whose thoughts during business
hours are fixed upon a pleasure of the evening before, or upon a sport
of the morrow, soon finds himself outdistanced in the race for success
by others who keep such things in their proper places. A little common
sense here counts for much. It counts for everything, in fact.



V

"SOWING HIS WILD OATS"


It is a common saying, and a belief equally as general, that it is not
only essential, but it is assumed as right, that a young man should, at
some time in his life, "sow his wild oats." This sowing of one's wild
oats means, in plainer words, that a young man should have his "fling,"
as it is called; that is, he must "see the world."

Now, it has always seemed to me a great misfortune that the man who
framed that sentence of "sowing wild oats" did not die before he
constructed it. From the way some people talk one would imagine that
every man had instilled into him at his birth a certain amount of
deviltry, which he must get rid of before he can become a man of honor.
For what is called "sowing wild oats" is nothing more nor less than
self-degradation to any young man. It does not make a man one particle
more of a man because he has passed through a siege of riotous living
and indiscretion when he was nineteen, twenty, or twenty-five; it makes
him just so much less of a man. It dwarfs his views of life far more
than it broadens them. And he realizes this afterward. He does not know
one iota more of "life," except a certain phase of it, which, if it has
glitter for him in youth, becomes a repellent remembrance to him when he
is matured. The reputation and power that comes of right living and good
character are what the man from forty to seventy covets, and nothing but
the well-spent years of early life can secure these. There is no such
thing as an investigation period in a man's life; at one period it is as
important for him to be honorable and true to the teachings of his
mother as at another.

To my mind no young man need seek this "darker side of life" which the
sowing of wild oats means. The good Lord knows that it forces itself
upon our attention soon enough. It does not wait to be sought. A young
man need not be afraid that he will fail to see it. He will see plenty
of it, and without any seeking on his part, either. And even if he does
fail to become conversant with it, he is the gainer in the end. There
are a great many things which we can accept by inference as existing in
this world. It is not a liberal education to see them. Too many young
men have a burning itch to see wickedness--not to indulge in it, as they
are quick to explain, but simply to see it. But the thousands of men who
have never seen it have never felt themselves the losers. If anything,
they are glad of it. It does not raise a man's ideal to come into
contact with certain types of manhood or womanhood which are only
removed from the lowest types of the animal kingdom by virtue of the
fact that the Creator chose to have them get through the world on two
legs instead of four. The loftiest ideal of womanhood that a young man
can form in his impressionable days will prove none too high for him in
his years of maturity. To be true to the best that is within a man
means, above all, to be an earnest believer in the very best qualities
of womanhood. Let him accept by inference that there are two types of
woman, the good and the bad. But he will be wiser and happier if he
associate only with the former. There are hundreds of good women in this
world to every one of the contrasting element. No young man has,
therefore, a valid excuse for seeking the latter.

Sometimes this "sowing of wild oats" is deemed necessary to insure to a
young man what is called "a broader view of life"; whereas, in reality,
no means that could be devised gives him such a contracted, narrow, and
unsatisfactory standard. A broad view of life means the cultivation of a
mind that can take in every part of the horizon of the truest living;
that can see good in everything; that accepts the good, and rejects, not
investigates, the bad. We can always leave that for some one else to do.
The outlook from the wheel-house of an ocean steamer is far better than
it is from the stoke-hole. Curiosity may lead some people to go down and
look into the stoke-holes of life; but take my word for it, you will
find the atmosphere purer and the vision clearer if you stay in the
wheel-house. To see "the wheels go round" is a very instructive thing to
do in directions where the motive is a good one, prompted by lofty
ideas. But some "wheels" are far better unseen. Satisfy a healthy
curiosity always, but shun the other kind. There is no satisfaction to
be had, and a man whose curiosity overcomes him is always disgusted with
the poor return he receives for his trouble.

The young man who reaches manhood without a knowledge of the dark and
vicious side of human nature is far better off than the one who has seen
it. He will lose nothing by not having seen it; not an ounce less of
respect will be meted out to him. But he will feel prouder of himself,
and men will respect him infinitely more for the strength of his
will-power.

Not long since a young fellow wrote to me in this connection, and said
in his letter: "What's the use of leading a straight life? Nobody gives
you credit for it. Society expects a more or less diverting life from a
young fellow; it accepts him as such. Practically, it calls him a
'ninny' if he doesn't diverge from the straight path once in a while. It
only asks of him that he shall not be caught."

I can scarcely imagine a view of life so entirely wrong in its personal
application. The _real_ "use" of leading a "straight life" is apparently
absolutely overlooked by this young man, who seems to think that his
life is lived for others rather than for himself. The "use" of leading
an honorable life concerns itself with the young man himself. He is
accountable to himself--to his own conscience, to his own heart. Of what
possible satisfaction is it to get credit from others for doing what is
best for one's self? Men do not lead honorable lives for the sake of
getting credit for it--to win the hand of applause. They do it for
themselves; for their own inner satisfaction, that they may be true to
themselves and to the best that is within them.

Aside from this paramount fact, however, people do give a young man
credit for the life that he leads, and they are far more often aware of
it than the young man supposes. But it depends upon the people whose
favor the young man values. If he seeks the recognition of what is so
wrongly called and known as "society," a righteous life, an upright
life, an honorable life--in other words, a manly life--may not count
for so much. But the aimless men and silly women who constitute that
body called "society" figure for nothing in the life of an earnest young
man. If, however, he associates with men who in his developing days can
mean much to him, and whose acquaintance in later years will be a pride
and a joy to him, if he finds company in women who arouse his best
thoughts and truest motives, he will find that his life, free from
blemish, is appreciated, is understood, is recognized, and is known.
There is an indefinable chord which always draws the right men to the
young man of pure life. They are the men who give credit to a young
fellow who tries to live aright, and they are the only men worth his
knowing. These men may not openly applaud him, but they will give him
their confidence, their good will, their friendship; and in later years
he will more fully understand what these elements mean to him. These men
do not call a young man a "ninny" when he leads an upright life; they
call him a manly fellow, and they take him into their hearts and into
their homes. By the best part of mankind a young man is always known by
his true color. Of that he need never fear. An adherence to high
principles shows itself in every thought and every action of a young
man, and it always counts for something and much. And as he progresses
in life, and a clearer understanding of the right kind of living comes
to him, he will see with his own eyes that the men who hold the true
respect of the world are the men who were pure-lived and who can
fearlessly and honestly look every man and woman in the eye.



VI

IN MATTERS OF DRESS


We may like it or not, but we are judged in this world first for what we
are, but also as we look; and a young man's common sense should teach
him that it is always wise to create a good impression. It does much for
him, and he cannot afford to ignore it. Good clothes cannot make a young
man, but they are a help; and when carving out a career it is only pure
justice to himself that he should take advantage of every point offered
him. In other words, I believe it is a duty which every young man owes
to himself to be well dressed. But to be well dressed does not
necessarily imply the highest-priced clothes, cut according to the
latest patterns. It is just as possible to be well attired in clothes of
moderate cost, so long as they are not "loud" or "showy," but quiet and
neat.

The average young fellow undoubtedly errs in this matter of dress. With
his tastes unfixed, in the majority of cases he goes to either one of
two extremes: he either dresses shabbily because he claims he cannot
afford to do otherwise, or he goes to the other extreme and tries to
imitate the styles affected by the extremists in dress, and necessarily
makes himself an object of ridicule.

Clothes are moderate enough in price nowadays to make it possible for
every young man, no matter how humble his income, to be neatly attired.
The secret of a neat appearance in dress does not depend upon the number
of suits he may have, but upon the manner in which even a single suit is
taken care of and how it is worn. Many a young man with a wardrobe of
but two suits of clothes looks neater than another who has five or six
suits with which to alternate. The art of looking well depends, first,
upon the choice of a suit, and, second, how it is taken care of. If a
young man has a moderate income he should make it a point to select only
the quiet patterns of dark colors. Not only is this more economical, but
it is in better taste than are the lighter and more conspicuous clothes.
If a young man will look around him a bit, he will find that the
successful men of the day are always the most quiet dressers. Their
clothes are never conspicuous; they detract rather than attract
attention. It is only the fop of shallow mind who invites attention by
his dress. There is a certain class of pictures that require elaborate
gilt frames in order to set off the little merit they possess; and
likewise are there scores of men who must dress conspicuously in order
to gain even the most meager attention. Men who are least certain of
their position always dress the showiest. Hence if a young man dresses
quietly and neatly he pursues not only the best, but the only wise
course. His dress is a pretty accurate reflection of his character, and
very often he is judged, to a certain extent, by the taste which he
shows in his clothes.

But while a young man injures himself by showy dressing, he has no
business to dress shabbily. Shabby clothes are no longer an eccentricity
of genius. There are men of genius who have achieved deserved fame and
substantial success who are absolutely indifferent to their appearance.
And the world overlooks and forgives it. But this is only possible with
men of commanding genius who are established; and the young man who
takes these men as models so far as attire goes makes a sorry mistake.
It is given to men of high position and of established success to follow
a great many little eccentricities which are not overlooked in a young
man struggling for a career.

Aside from the aspect of mere appearance, neatness in dress is
undoubtedly a great inner and outer factor in a young man's success. A
neat suit of clothes communicates a sense of neatness to the body, and,
in turn, this sense of neatness of the person is extended to the work in
hand. As we feel, so unquestionably do we work. Our clothes unmistakably
affect our feelings, as any man knows who has experienced the different
sensation that comes to him when attired in a new suit from the feeling
when wearing old clothes. No employer expects his clerks of moderate
incomes to dress in the immediate fashions, but he likes to see them
neat in appearance. It commends them to his attention. We all have an
inner consciousness that a young man who keeps himself looking neat and
clean is more worthy of our confidence than he who is regardless of his
appearance and looks soiled and shabby. Neatness always attracts, just
as shabbiness invariably repulses.

Particularly would I emphasize the value of clean linen to a young man.
There is no earthly excuse why any young fellow should wear soiled
collars or cuffs. Soap and water are within the reach of the smallest
purse, and the home or the outer laundry is accessible to all. No single
element in his dress cuts more of a figure in a young man's success than
his linen. However worn may be his clothes, his appearance always
invites closer proximity when his linen is clean.

I do not wish to be understood as making too much of dress as a factor
in a young man's life. But I believe in it sufficiently, and I have seen
evidences again and again to strengthen that belief, that no young
fellow anxious for his self-betterment can afford to slight his
appearance. No fair computation can be offered as to what percentage of
his income he should expend on his dress. That depends altogether too
much on circumstances. But I thoroughly believe and strongly counsel
that he should dress as well as his means allow; no better, but no
worse. Money spent on a neat appearance is never wasted with a man, be
he young or old. The chief danger which the young man has to battle with
is dressing beyond his means. A tendency toward extravagance is never
justifiable, no matter what may be his income. Extravagance is always
wasteful. But neither must he economize too closely. In a word, he
should strive always to look neat; to present the best appearance he
can.

The extreme styles presented in men's clothes are like the extreme
styles fashioned for women: they should be left for those who have large
wardrobes. The young man of limited wardrobe cannot afford to have
anything in it which is in the immediate style one year and out of
fashion the next year. Quiet patterns in clothes, in cravats, in shoes,
and in linen are always in style. The marvelous combinations we see in
young men's clothes, of extreme long coats, of light cloths and large
patterns in suitings, of razor-pointed shoes, of pink shirts, white
collars, and blue cravats, are generally worn by extremists in dress,
or by those of mediocre tastes whose exhibition of those tastes always
keeps them in the lower stations of life. These styles should never be
affected by the young man who wishes to gain the confidence of his
superiors in business, or the respect of the people in social life whose
friendships will be of value and benefit to him. A young man, so far as
this matter of dress is concerned, cannot do better than always to
remember this one inflexible rule: that the best dressers among men
follow the same method as do the best dressers among women--they dress
well, but quietly. And quiet dressing is always in good taste.



VII

HIS RELIGIOUS LIFE


When a writer seeks to present the religious life a being, be he young
man or patriarch, it naturally follows that he can only be general in
what he says. Religion is too much a matter of one's innermost feelings,
of one's own convictions, to be governed by rule or example. But in
these days of men more or less wise, when many of the truths which our
forefathers held sacred are being discussed in so-called "new lights,"
and when the convictions of many are disturbed by reason of these "new
doctrines," it is well, I think, that young men should bear in mind one
or two fundamental truths so far as the religious side of their lives is
concerned.

It is not within the province of this book to treat either of dogmas or
creeds, or of the necessity of church-going; but it does come within its
lines to say these words to every young man who reads this chapter:

No matter what present revelations or subsequent discoveries may prove
or seek to disprove as to religious teachings, one great essential can
never be altered, and that is the necessity of a firm faith, an absolute
belief, that a wise God rules over this universe and over the destiny of
each and every living man, woman, or child. Whatever constitutes that
God is not for us to solve. The wisest of us can only dimly comprehend
it. Our minds are finite; the Spirit who rules us is infinite; and
nothing finite can comprehend or understand the infinite. Enough is it
for us to know that there is a God, that there is a Supreme Being, a
Creator, a Ruler. That is all it is given us to know. It is all that the
new-born infant can know; it is all that the finest and keenest
mentality ever given to man can know. But that there is a great Creator
no one can doubt; everything in nature points to that one fact; and the
young man who refuses to believe in the existence of a God makes the
greatest and most momentous mistake of his life. Without that faith,
without that absolute conviction, he is not only hindered or crippled in
whatever he undertakes, but he is simply helpless. On that point he
cannot afford to err; to doubt it, even in the light of the most
advanced knowledge that can ever be presented, he cannot for one single
moment allow himself. This much is absolute.

Another point is like unto it, and it is that every person can go to
that Creator and Dispenser of all good, and receive, through
supplication, guidance in all affairs. This is but another way of
expressing an earnest, a heartfelt, an honest belief in prayer. Whatever
arguments may be brought to bear upon this question, one thing remains
undisputed: that an honest and earnest prayer sent forth from the human
heart to its Heavenly Father, for guidance or for help, is sure, and
absolutely sure, to bring strength and enlightenment to the mind. No
scientific analysis can refute this. Too many millions of people have
experienced the truth of this in their lives. Argument on this point is
pointless; it is fruitless. A young man might as well argue that he
loved his mother. Conscious experience does more than theoretical
argument, and that conscious experience has taught the happiest men and
the best women who ever lived that there is a direct communication
between God and the humblest person who ever lived, and that a prayer
for guidance sent from the heart of man to that God is never lost. There
is in every man and woman not alone substance of material matter, but a
spiritual nature which, if kept in daily contact with its God, finds a
response such as can come from no finite source. This truth no young man
can hesitate to believe--the efficacy of prayer. It requires no creed
to believe it, no dogma, no form of religion. It is a simple belief that
to ask a heavenly guidance in all things good and right means a fruition
of the highest and best hopes of a man.

With this absolute faith in the existence of a God, and in prayer, only
one thing more is needed to complete the fundamental basis of all
religions--an honest effort to live according to our conscience and to
the best and truest that is within ourselves.

Here, then, is a simple religion for any young man. If his heart craves
it and his mind can compass it, he can go deeper into the question and
believe more. But less he cannot accept. Nor, if he is wise, will he
wish to accept less. All objections fall before so simple a code of
belief. It asks for no great mental capacity; it is beyond the mental
power of none. The rising and setting of the sun, the coming of the
seasons, the downfall of night upon day, the birth of a child, the death
of a man--everything proves to the humblest mind that this is a
religion which it can accept without hesitancy, without a single
misgiving. When we go beyond these fundamental principles we go into
questions which are complex and open to individual construction. However
a young man may decide for himself those questions, he cannot shirk the
three points I have dwelt upon. They will teach him a respect for all
sacred things, without which no man can earn respect for himself. They
will teach him charity for the faults of others, without which none can
hope for leniency for his own shortcomings. They will teach him to hold
out the helping hand to others, without which he can himself never
succeed. They will keep him close to the teachings and the beliefs of
his mother, without which a young man is untrue to the source from which
he sprang.

I think, so far as church attendance is concerned, that a young man
serves his best interests if he is a regular attendant at some form of
worship. I do not say he should or must; I simply believe he is wisest
if he does identify himself with some religious body which comes closest
to his tastes and beliefs. Whatever be the faults of the church as an
institution, a young man must never forget the fact that it is an order
born of God, that he sanctioned it, and that if it has its shortcomings
it is simply because man is not perfect. Young men with their critical
faculties on the alert are prone to discover some single defect, or what
looks to them as a defect, in some church with which they are
acquainted, and foolishly condemn the church as an institution. Or they
will see hypocrisy stand out bold and clear in some man or woman known
as a devout attendant at church, and they condemn church-membership as a
whole and belittle the influence of religious teachings. This is wrong,
and hence it is unfair. None of us would think of condemning all the
sweet flowers that grow simply because of a few that are poisonous to
the touch. Or, because we know some women who do not follow righteous
lives, we certainly would not condemn the entire sex of women, which
would necessarily include our own mother. We cannot condemn the many
because of the few. A young man should keep his mind fixed on the
purposes of the church as an institution, and those purposes affect him
for the reason that the church is to-day the balancing power between
this earth being a chaos and what it is. It is the greatest safeguard to
home and society; and because of the fact that it is such a powerful
safeguard, many things are made possible for him which, without the
church, it would be impossible for him to enjoy. The church is an
indispensable factor in our modern life, and it holds out more
possibilities for good to a young man than any other single institution.
Its influence is always sure, and he can depend upon it. The best people
of our land are its upholders. The most successful men are among its
believers and worship at its altar. Worship--true worship of the
heart--does not imply a sickly sentimentality, as some young men
believe; to go to church is not "babyish," nor to stay away from it
"smart." A true belief in the church and its fundamental teachings is
one of the manliest qualities which one can possess. In its atmosphere
of worship the spiritual--that is, the softer and gentler--side of man
dominates the material side, and to a young man in the race for success
this is all-essential. No young fellow can afford either to disbelieve
in the church or to scoff at its workings or influence. The methods
pursued may not always be to our liking or to our way of thinking, but
that is, as I have said before, simply because earthly hands minister
over it. But its aim is divine, and that every young man must believe
and accept as a belief.

And here let me say a word touching the application of religious
principles to a young man's business life. The question is asked, and as
often discussed: "Is a life built upon religious principles really
compatible with a young man's business success?" Or sometimes it is put:
"Does it really pay to be honest in business?" Or again: "Can a young
fellow be religious and yet successful?" Of course all are but
variations of the same question.

Now the simple fact of the matter boiled down is that a business success
is absolutely impossible upon any other basis than an honorable one,
followed upon lines of the very strictest honesty.

The great trouble with young men is that their ideas are altogether too
much influenced by a few unfortunate examples of apparent success which
are prominent--too prominent, alas!--in American life to-day. These
examples, for the most part representing politicians, are regarded in
the eyes of the world as successful; that is, they are talked about
incessantly; interviewed by reporters; they lavishly buy diamonds for
their wives and build costly houses; and all these are duly reported in
the newspapers. Young men read these things and ask themselves, "If he
can, why not I?" Then they begin to look around for some "short cut to
success," as one young fellow expressed it to me not long since. And it
is precisely through this method of "cutting across lots" in business
that scores of young men find themselves, after a while, completely
baffled. And the man who has once had about him an unsavory taint in his
business methods rarely--very rarely--rids himself of that atmosphere in
the eyes of his confrères. How often we see some young man in business
representative of the very best qualities that should win success! Every
one agrees that he is brilliant. "He is clever," is the general verdict.
He impresses one well in his manner, he is thoroughly businesslike, is
energetic, and yet, somehow or other, he never seems to get into a place
and stick there. People wonder at it, and excuse it on the ground that
he has not quite found his right place. But some day the secret is
explained. "Yes, he _is_ clever," says some old business man, "but,
don't you know, he isn't--well, he isn't just safe!" Just safe! How much
that expresses; how clearly that defines hundreds and hundreds of the
smartest young men in business to-day! He is everything else, but he
isn't "just safe"! He is not dishonest in any way, but he is, what is
equally as bad, not quite reliable. To attain success he has, in other
words, tried to "cut across lots." And rainbow-chasing is really a very
commendable business in comparison with a young man's search for the
"royal road to success." No success worth attaining is easy; the greater
the obstacles to overcome the surer is the success when attained. "Royal
roads" are poor highways to travel in any pursuit, and especially in a
business calling.

It is strange how reluctant young men are to accept as the most vital
truth in life that the most absolute honesty is the only kind of honesty
that succeeds in business. It is not a question of religion or
religious beliefs. Honesty does not depend upon any religious creed or
dogma that was ever conceived. It is a question of a young man's own
conscience. He knows what is right and what is wrong. And yet, simple as
the matter is, it is astonishing how difficult it is of understanding.
An honest course in business seems too slow to the average young man. "I
can't afford to plod along. I must strike, and strike quickly," is the
sentiment. Ah yes, my friend, but not dishonestly. No young man can
afford to even think of dishonesty. Success on honorable lines may
sometimes seem slower in coming, but when it does come it outrivals in
permanency all the so-called successes gained by other methods. To look
at the methods of others is always a mistake. The successes of to-day
are not given to the imitator, but to the originator. It makes no
difference how other men may succeed--their success is theirs and not
yours. You cannot partake of it. Every man is a law unto himself. The
most absolute integrity is the one and the only sure foundation of
success. Such a success is lasting and the only one which wins respect.
Other kinds of successes may seem so, but it is all in the seeming and
not in the reality. Let a young man swerve from the path of honesty and
it will surprise him how quickly every avenue of a lasting success is
closed against him. Making money dishonestly is the most difficult thing
to accomplish in the world, just as lying is the practice most wearing
to the mind. It is the young man of unquestioned integrity who is
selected for the important position. No business man ever places his
business in the hands of a young man whom he feels he cannot absolutely
trust. And to be trusted means to be honest. Honesty, and that alone,
commands confidence. An honest life well directed is the only life for a
young man to lead. It is the one life that is compatible with the
largest and surest business success.

A religious life, whether in business or out of business, is one which
every young man not only should, but can follow. It partakes of no
gloom, as many suppose; it means no depression of spirits. It means
simply the living of an upright life, a life of respectability. Religion
is nothing more nor less than an adherence to the simple code I have
presented: a recognition of a God, and an allegiance in manner of life
to that God. And that manner of living is simply a healthy development
of the spiritual nature--keeping close to one's best instincts. The
communion of a man with his Creator comes with such a manner of living.
But this is all that a religious life means. That comprises true
religion, at once the easiest and the safest element for any young man
to take into his life. It will stand the severest test, and will prove a
veritable Rock of Gibraltar to him in time of anxiety and trouble.



VIII

HIS ATTITUDE TOWARD WOMEN


The attitude which a young man assumes toward women is one of the surest
index-fingers to his character, and nothing stamps him with such
unerring accuracy before men. And if this be true in a general sense of
his attitude toward the whole sex, it applies with particular force to
his position as son. "As is the son so will be the husband," is a
well-known saying, and it is likewise true that as is the son so is the
man. When a young man reverences his mother it is easy for him to
believe in the nobility of the sex to which she belongs. And it is a
correct belief.

That women are morally better and spiritually nobler than men should be
believed by every young man. No ideal of the best and truest qualities
of womanhood is too high for him to set for himself. Such a belief of
his young manhood will become a conviction of his later manhood. I know
that it is the fashion of some men to speak lightly of women and
womanhood; and young men in their susceptible years are sometimes apt to
listen to these low standards, and inclined to accept them or be
influenced by them. But of one thing every young fellow may be assured:
that the man who speaks of woman in any but the most respectful terms is
either a knave or a fool--very often he is both. And this is one of the
few rules in life to which there is no exception. I wish that young men
would more closely associate their mothers with women in general, and
realize that every slur cast upon women as a sex is a slur upon their
mothers. This is the feeling which prompted General Grant to give a
lesson in politeness which will always be told of him. The story is
doubtless familiar to all how one evening an officer came into camp,
and in a rollicking mood said to those assembled:

"I have such a rich story that I want to tell you. There are no women
present, are there?"

Whereupon General Grant, lifting his eyes from the paper which he was
reading, and looking his officer square in the eye, said slowly, but
deliberately:

"No, but there are gentlemen present."

The rebuke was masterly, and it is one which young men cannot too
vividly remember.

Nothing in this world stamps a man more decisively in the eyes of his
fellow-men than the practice of telling "off-color" stories in which
women are concerned. I have often seen this practice followed, but never
yet have I seen a single instance when the story-teller did not lower
himself in the estimation of his listeners. Men are prone to laugh at
these stories when they are told them; but privately I have noticed
that they form their own opinion of the man who tells them, and the
opinion is always of one kind. It is the man who upholds womanhood who
commands the respect of other men; the man who attempts to lower it
invariably invites their distrust. The men who hold that "every woman
has her price" are the men who, in the estimation of other men, have no
price at all, commercially, socially, or morally. The man who uses such
an expression regarding woman simply apes the "smart" utterance of the
first fool that God ever made, and after whose pattern all the other
fools in this world were created. A man who truly loves his mother,
wife, sister, or sweetheart never tells a story which lowers her sex in
the eyes of others. He who tells such a story is always lacking in some
one respect, and generally it is common decency. I have dwelt upon this
point because I should like young fellows to believe more firmly than
they do that it is not "caddishness" or "babyishness" or
"goody-goodyness" to refuse to listen to a story which makes light of
women; it is one of the manliest qualities which a young fellow can
show, and deep down in his heart every man will respect a young man for
such a position. The higher order of men never forget that, being born
of woman, they owe an obligation to their mother's sex which, as loyal
sons and true gentlemen, forbids them to listen without protest to
offensive stories in which woman is concerned. And no young man can
listen to this class of stories without offending his mother, his
sister, or the girl who a little later will teach him, through her own
sweet life, that whatever is said to the moral detriment of her sex is a
lie, and a reflection upon the two women who, one at the beginning of
his life and the other at its ending, will prove his best friends--his
mother and his wife.

It has often been said before, but it is one of those truths which can
as often be said again, that a woman is a man's truest and most loving
friend, first, last, and all the time. And particularly is this so of a
mother. I know perfectly well that young men are apt sometimes to think
that their mothers are unreasonable. And they are, sometimes,
undoubtedly, and a little selfish, too. But one point must not be
forgotten: it is an unreasonableness and a selfishness born of a
mother's surest instinct for the best interests of her boy. I can look
back to my earliest years of young manhood and see where, again and
again, I thought my mother was either wrong or unreasonable or prone to
be a trifle too cautious. But I can also look back now, and I cannot see
one instance in which after-events did not prove her to be right. And
to-day it is easy to say that if it has been given me to achieve even
the smallest measure of success in my life thus far, it is all and
entirely due to the influence of my mother, and to my absolute
confidence in that influence. No woman has been so much to me, no woman
is more to me at this moment that I write, than she who is my mother, my
confidante, my truest and best friend--always watchful, always loving,
always true, always the same. And gladly do I write this loving tribute
to her, grateful that I can place it in her hands rather than on her
grave.

There is no deeper or greater satisfaction to a man than to be able to
have his mother live to see him fairly launched on a successful career
of usefulness. If his father dies before he has made his mark in the
world he does not seem to feel it so keenly. But somehow he always wants
his mother to live long enough to see for herself that she did not give
him life for naught, and that the world is a little better off for the
being which she gave unto it. There wells up within his nature a
peculiar sense of pride when some day his mother comes quietly to him,
and putting her arms around his neck, says, with all the tenderness of
a mother's love, "You have done well, my boy. Now I am content to go."
No matter how hard a man may have worked, such approval comes to him as
his sweetest and richest reward. The applause of the world is little
compared with such a motherly benediction, and more precious to him is
the remembrance of that short sentence in after years than all the
honors that can be showered upon him or the riches that may come to him.
It has been my privilege to hear this sacred thought from the lips of
more than one of the most famous of American men--men who are to-day
leaders in their professions, others who have gone to their graves
crowned with the ripest honors and fullest laurels of the world.

For men, even in their most mature years, are, after all, nothing but
grown boys. The fond stroke of a mother's hand is as welcome at forty as
at fourteen. The world never looks so bright to a man as when he sits
at his mother's side with her arms around him. A woman never seems so
gentle as when she fondly strokes the recreant lock from his brow, after
a trying day, and says, in that voice so familiar, but ever sweet, "You
are tired, are you not, dear?" Ah, those women who come into a room when
a man is almost worn out, and bring new life and new hope and new spirit
with them! Those God-inspired mothers who say so much in a smile, who
speak so lovingly to us in a look, who send a thrill of confidence
through a man in a tender pressure of the hand! They know us so well.
They knew us when we were children, but how much better they know us
when we are men! We try to convince them that we are no longer boys, but
only a quiet little smile and a fond little petting shows us the fallacy
of our own words. They stroke our cheeks, and somehow the mind seems
more restful and the brain ceases to throb. The things we try to hide
from them are the very things we tell them about. They know with a
single look just what is troubling us, and although they never ask us,
we pour out to them our worries just as we did when we were children.
The quarrels of the playground have only become the worries of business,
and the baby of the cradle has simply become the baby of the mother's
heart.

It is easy for a man to think well of woman when he can look at her
through the eyes of a good mother. And it is this which I want every
young fellow to do. His mother should be the central figure of womanhood
to him--his ideal, his standard; and while necessarily other women will
suffer in comparison, it will only be in the respect that to the one he
is a son, while to the others he is a man. The tenderest solicitude
which a young man can show to his mother, the most unremitting care he
can give her, are none too good for the life he owes to her. And the
more tender his feelings for her the stronger he will find his faith
grow in her sex. There is no influence to be compared with that of a
good woman over the life of a young man. It means everything to him, his
success in every phase of life. Men are by nature coarse and brutal; it
is the influence of woman which softens them. And we ought to be
softened as much as we can. The good Lord knows we need it badly enough.
But no influence is productive of the best and surest results unless we
make ourselves susceptible to it. If we lack faith in woman, if we fail
in the right ideal of womanhood, all her influence will be as naught
upon us. From the beginning of the world woman has been man's leader.
She has made him what he is to-day. All the qualities which we admire in
men come from woman's influence. And a young man starting out in life
cannot trust to an influence so sure and so safe as that which comes to
him from the being of whose life he is a part, or in whose heart he
finds a supreme place. Man's best friend is the woman who loves him.
That should be the faith of every young man toward woman; that should be
his absolute conviction, and he should show it by an attitude of respect
and deference toward her.



IX

THE QUESTION OF MARRIAGE


Necessarily the question of marriage to a young man is an important
one--perhaps the most important that is given him to solve when he
reaches a marriageable age. To some young men it is easy of solution.
They fall in love with some girl who occupies their every thought, they
are married, and, as the story-books generally have it, "they live
happily ever afterward." But to others it takes the form of a problem.
They are troubled with sentimental perplexities; and if these do not
enter into the matter, then it is either a question of the right girl,
the means with which to marry, or the proper age. That the matter takes
on one of these phases with the majority of young men there can be no
doubt, since few men marry the girl who first strikes their fancy.

The first point to present in this question of marriage is the principle
of it: that it is unquestionably for the good of almost every young man
that he shall marry. There are no two sides to this for the great
majority of young men. Of course there are reasons why a man, in some
special instance, should choose to lead a single life; in fact, there
are excellent reasons why it is best that some men should. I have known
men to have inner conflicts with themselves for years, and then
resolutely decide upon celibacy. Such decisions make heroes of some men.
There are circumstances which sometimes enter into a man's life that
make celibacy judicious and wise--circumstances not of his own choosing.
There are men whose lofty estimate of women will not permit of their
asking a woman to share what God in his wisdom has chosen to have them
bear. That type of men exists. But to the majority of men it is decreed
to marry and that they shall live in marriage.

When a young man deliberately lays out for himself a single life based
upon any other than the strongest physical or mental reasons, he makes
the mistake of his lifetime. If a young man refuses to marry because of
a lack of faith in womanhood, or a distrust of the existence of those
qualities generally attributed to woman, he errs, and he errs fatally.
And the best evidence of this is found in the incontrovertible fact that
the happiest men in the world to-day are the men who have believed in
good womanhood, and have shown that belief by taking a good woman into
their hearts and homes. There can be no disputing the fact that a man's
life is never complete in its fullest happiness until that life is made
whole and complete by the love of a true woman. The simplest reference
to the history of men since the creation of the world will demonstrate
the truth of this assertion. Man has done nothing without woman; without
her counsel he has become as a cipher in the world. Left alone, aside
from the question of influence, he is helpless. No man ever lived who
knows, for example, how to take care of himself. The absence of a wife
from home has demonstrated to many a man how large and important a part
she is of it and of him. The right kind of a wife knows better what is
essential to her husband's comfort than he does himself--far better. He
waits for illness to come, and then combats it, frequently when too
late. But the wife sees the symptoms and uses preventives. Her keen
insight tells her that her husband is unwell when sometimes he is not
conscious of it himself. Women, we are told, know little of business;
yet when business troubles come to a man a good wife is the source of
all comfort to him. When he despairs she is hopeful. By her influence,
perhaps, more than by what she actually accomplishes, she brings new
hope, new courage, and points the way to a new beginning. How often
women have been the means of averting business disasters or the
multiplying of failures with further implications the world will never
know; but there are men who know it, and they are the men of whom to
ask, "Is marriage a failure?"

It is an unfortunate fact that some men never get to a point where they
understand woman. And yet to know woman, to properly understand her, to
correctly interpret her best motives, is the deepest lesson that life
can teach a man. Every man with a fair mind who clasps a good woman to
his breast and calls her mother, wife, or sister will understand the
import of these words. How a man can be a hater of woman I cannot
conceive when through her so much can be added to his life. Nothing is
such an incentive to a man to make the best of himself as the knowledge
that there is some one in the world who believes he is just the
cleverest fellow alive; that there are eyes, far lovelier than all the
stars in heaven to him, which sparkle at his coming; that there is a
loving, womanly heart which beats quicker at the sound of his footsteps;
that there is a nature ever ready to sympathize with him in his troubles
and gladden at his victories--a dear, sweet, loving woman, who laughs
with him, and puts her soft, loving arms around him when he is in
trouble, rouses him to his better self, making him feel that, after all,
this world is not such a bad place to live in. This, as many a man
knows, is not a picture drawn from fancy; it finds its living reflection
in thousands of homes all through this land and across the sea, in homes
where men are happiest and where women are most content.

The bachelor is ofttimes happy in his single state--that is, for a
bachelor. He may console himself with the reflection that he accounts
only to himself, that he is his own master, can go where he will and do
as he chooses so long as he obeys the laws of society and of the land;
but in his heart he knows he is but half of a complete thing. He knows
that there is something lacking in his life which, if supplied, would
make the complete whole. Business success may come to him, wealth may be
his; but one way or another he feels the absence of some one to enjoy
his successes with him. He wonders why it is that he does not always put
forth his best efforts. He marvels whether, after all, a man does not
need something outside of himself to draw him on and incite him to his
utmost exertions. He may be courted for his money, he may have
friendships innumerable, every comfort may be in his rooms; yet moments
come to him when persistent thought points to something lacking in his
life to round it out. Travel as he will, live on the best the world can
provide, he feels, as I have heard it said of the millionaire owner of
one of the greatest newspapers in the land, roaming from one land to
another, that few men are ofttimes more miserable in their daily lives
than is he. He has everything the heart can wish for; more wealth than
he can spend; costly residences on this side of the ocean and on the
other; swift yachts are his, and swifter horses. Yet, while driving one
day, and seeing in a passing carriage a man of his acquaintance sitting
beside a devoted wife and two children, he said to a friend, "That man's
whole fortune is not one half of my yearly income, and yet his life is a
far happier one." And when his friend asked him in what the other's
happiness exceeded his, James Gordon Bennett replied, "In having a good
wife, and a lovely child for each knee."

Of the wisdom of marriage itself there can be no question. The knotty
little problems which enter into it are another matter. Some of them
find expression in the choice of the right girl. And here, naturally, is
a question which no one can decide for another. It is a man's heart
which directs him to the woman whom he wants for his wife, never the
finger of the adviser. "Love pointeth surely" is an old proverb, and it
is as true to-day as upon the day it was written. Many a young man,
however, stands undecided on this question of marriage. He believes that
the only holy marriage, the only marriage from which can spring
happiness, is that born of love. The girl with whom such a marriage is
possible is perhaps within his eye. He loves her, he feels, and yet he
hesitates. Why he hesitates he cannot sometimes explain. Sometimes there
is another girl in the case, whom he acknowledges to himself he does not
love quite so well, and yet he feels that she would bring to him
something that the other girl does not: a certain social advancement,
perhaps, a furtherance of his business interests, or an advantage of one
kind or another. Again, there are young men who feel drawn toward
accepting the girl of their own heart and choice, but are withheld by
parental opposition, or, if not exactly opposition, that parental
indifference or coldness which is even more chilling and killing than
open antagonism. They want the girl, and yet they do not want to offend
their parents; or perhaps, as in some cases, it is friends that are
considered. And so hesitancy and perplexity come in. The heart leads one
way, some other interest or consideration draws another.

It is to the mind of such a young man that a girl awakens divers
feelings, many of which are mistaken for love. It is love which draws
him one way; it is an inherent sense of mere possession that draws him
the other. And I am very free in saying that some young men are actuated
in marrying simply because of this sense of mere possession. Nor do I
mean the word "possession" here as applying to property. To marry a girl
for her money is the most contemptuous act of which a man can be
capable. It dwarfs him and it dwarfs the woman upon whom he inflicts
the wrong. But it is the notion which gets into the heads of so many
young men to marry a girl because of the possession of some trait, some
art, some grace, which they have not themselves, and the girl's
possession of it attracts them. Sometimes it is the girl's talent; at
other times her education, or her traveled knowledge; again it is her
beauty, her social graces, her ability to appear well, to dress well, to
entertain well. The young man associates such a girl in his mind as a
part of an establishment which is the dream of his young manhood. She
would look well; she would always be able to entertain his friends, to
help him in achieving a certain position; and he feels that he would be
proud of her. And he would. But the satisfaction of a mere pride is not
the satisfaction of the heart. Pride is very easily satisfied; and when
it is satisfied it generally departs. In a few years he will want
something more than an ornament to his home, and then he will find it
wanting. For only in rare cases do we find the useful and the
ornamental combined in a single woman. To marry a girl because of some
possession; because he simply likes her better, perhaps, than he does
other girls; because, maybe, he respects, fancies, or admires her;
because she seems to sympathize with him, is to establish a wrong basis
for a happy marriage. Not one of these emotions can form the foundation
for any truly happy marriage. They are things which appeal to us in any
dear friend, man or woman. The girl who is to be a young man's companion
for life, to be with him and of him as long as she or he may live, and
to be the sharer of his joys or sorrows, to be a daughter to his mother
and a mother to his children, must awaken other emotions in a young
man's heart. She must awaken that true, affectionate love out of which
all of the things of which I have spoken spring, but none of which alone
or combined constitutes love itself.

The girl that a young man should marry, and the only girl he is safe to
marry, is she who fills all his life, his every thought, who guides him
in his every act, whose face comes before him in everything that he
does--the girl, in short, without whom he feels life would be a blank,
without whom he could not live. That is the girl whom he loves, and it
makes little difference whether such a girl be rich or poor, talented or
not, traveled or untraveled. Enough is it for him if she is affectionate
in her nature, sympathetic with his work, responsive to his thoughts,
appreciative of his best qualities. These are the traits in a woman
which last the longest, and remain with a man throughout his life. They
are the traits in women which make good wives and better mothers.
Knowledge is a good thing in a woman, but affection is infinitely
better. Far wiser is the young man who marries the stupidest girl in the
world, if she be affectionate, than he who marries the brightest girl in
the universe, if she be cold, clammy, and unresponsive in her
disposition. We laugh at sentiment, we men, when we are young; when we
have lived a lifetime we reverence it, and the jest becomes the tribute.

Another point, as I hinted above, which sometimes enters into a young
man's thoughts of marriage is what is called by the world the "social
station" of the girl he loves. Now what is termed "social station" is a
very difficult thing to define. The habit of social distinction which so
many families endeavor to engender and develop in contemplated marriage
is, I think, one of the most unfortunate tendencies of the times. A
social aristocracy has always been impossible in America, and it is
never more impossible than at the present time. We need not be
extremists in our beliefs, and refuse to admit that there exist grades
and classes in American society. Our social lines are sufficiently drawn
for individual protection, as they rightly should be, and must be in any
great nation. But for any grade of society to refuse a humane and
proper recognition to a girl foreign, perhaps, to our special modes of
living, is a piece of snobbery unworthy of any American family which
thrives and prospers under American privileges and resources. We have in
this country a class of people whose social standards are beneath
contempt, and who consider it almost infectious to brush their mantles
against the plainer cloaks of what they choose to call "the lower
classes." We can, if we so choose, amuse ourselves in this country by
believing that there is such a thing as American lineage. But when we
permit this harmless amusement to become a settled belief and seriously
discuss it, as I have heard it in some drawing-rooms, the matter passes
out of the amusing and assumes the ridiculous. The great social strength
of this country, the real substantial strength, hope, and life of this
nation, lies with what is designated as the great average middle class;
and from this class springs not only the mental, physical, and moral
bone and sinew of this republic, but the best type of womanhood which
ornaments the American home to-day. The man or woman who to-day sneers
at or casts a discreditable innuendo upon that class stamps himself or
herself unworthy of being classed among intelligent people.

The truest, best, and sweetest type of the American girl of to-day does
not come from the home of wealth; she steps out from a home where exists
comfort rather than luxuries. She belongs to the great middle
class--that class which has given us the best American wifehood; which
has given help-mates to the foremost American men of our time; which
teaches its daughters the true meaning of love; which teaches the
manners of the drawing-room, but the practical life of the kitchen as
well; which teaches its girls the responsibilities of wifehood and the
greatness of motherhood. These girls may not ride in their carriages,
they may not wear the most expensive gowns, they may even help a little
to enlarge the family income; but these girls are to-day the great
bulwark of American society, not only present, but of the future. They
represent the American home and what is best and truest in sweet
domestic life, and they make the best wives for our American men. I have
no patience with those theories that would seek to place the average
American girl in any other position than that which she occupies,
ornaments, and rightfully holds: the foremost place in our respect, our
admiration, and our love. She is not the society girl of the day, and
she is better for it. She knows no superficial life; she knows only the
life in a home where husband, wife, and children are one in love, one in
thoughts, and one in every action. She believes no woman to be so sweet
as her mother; no man so good as her father. She believes that there are
good women and true men in the world, and her belief is right. And that
young man will ever be happiest who takes such a girl for his wife.

I seek not to disparage the home life of the wealthy of our land. Some
of my best friends live in homes of luxury, are deemed by the world
wealthy and fortunate, and the atmosphere of their homes is as pure and
elevating as is their family life representative of every element that
makes good women and men. Nor have I one word to say against honest
ancestral pride. On the contrary, I believe in it. I think if we had
more of it in this country it would be better. It is one of the greatest
stimulants to a young man to know that he comes of a good family and
that he is expected to so carry himself as to add respect and pride to
the name of his family. A good family name is one of the strongest
safeguards to a young man's respectability. We cannot underestimate the
value of heredity. We should be proud of an honorable ancestry. But we
should not boast of it, or use it to a detrimental comparison of the
ancestry of others. That spirit is vulgar; certainly it is un-American.

Nor should any of us, who have been a little more favored with this
world's goods, refuse to recognize good in those not possessed of equal
possessions. I care not how tenderly the favored son of a wealthy home
may have been reared; with what care and precision his mental and moral
development may have been guarded and watched; what hopes may be
centered in him: I will match his worth any hour of the day with a girl
from a plainer home and of lesser advantages. "But her social position?"
the proud mother asks. Social station? What is social station? So long
as a girl is respectable, so long as she is good, so long as she is a
loving, tender, and true woman, by what social standard can she be
measured? What right have we to apply superficial standards to worth and
character? What comparison can a social standard bear to the highest
standard of morality, to good womanhood, to the best wifehood, to the
truest conception of motherhood? Is the girl in an office less of a
woman than the girl who rides in her carriage? Is she less capable of
making a good wife? Why do we marry? To please society? To uphold social
standards as false as they are mythical? False pride has made enough
trouble in this world without letting it bring grief into our homes. Let
the young men of this country be sufficiently broad-minded not to
measure a girl by her surroundings, but to judge her for herself. True
worth lasts longer and wears to the end. The loving heart of a good girl
is better than all the wealth and social accomplishments which she can
bring to a man. It is something that comes back to a man three hundred
and sixty-five times in a year. We can get along with a little money in
this world if we will; but love is a quality of which we can scarce have
too much.

And when the conditions are reversed, and the young man's income or
financial possessions are taken into account, the same general principle
is true. There is not a more cruel standard by which to measure a young
man than the position he is able to offer the girl of his choice. I am
not an advocate of the "love-in-a-cottage" theory by any means; but I do
believe in the good old-fashioned theory of a young couple starting out
in the world with a moderate income, and then climbing upward together.
I know this sounds visionary, and like the sort of reading we find in
stories; but the truth is there just the same. I give it as my earnest
conviction that a young girl will be far safer in the hands of a young
man born of parents in moderate circumstances, honest in his principles,
energetic and industrious, than she would with a young man who has known
only the luxuries of life, and to whom work is an incidental matter
rather than the aim and purpose of life. I do not care how poor a young
man may be; if he has good health, sound principles, is respectful of
sacred things, is temperate in his habits, and is not afraid to work,
and work hard, and face the world with a determination to succeed, that
young man can be trusted with the best and sweetest girl ever reared in
an American home.

At the same time I believe that no young man has a right to ask a girl
to be his wife until he has reached a certain point in his life. And I
would apply this both to his age and to his prospects. As to age, I
think a young man should wait until he is at least twenty-five before he
marries. Before that time his impressions and his fancies are apt to be
fleeting. He drifts and flounders in almost everything he
does--wife-choosing included--before he is twenty-five. He himself
rarely knows what he wants in anything. He does not know the world nor
its people. He may think he does--a young man between eighteen and
twenty-five generally does--but he does not all the same. It requires
him to reach and pass the twenty-five-year period to find out how little
he knew before. After he passes twenty-five he begins to learn, and
from that time things come to have a meaning to him. The difference
before and after this twenty-five-year period is that before he is
twenty-five he wonders that he is so much more mature than others and
knows so much; while after he passes twenty-five he wonders that he is
so immature and knows so little. And when a young man reaches that point
where he is convinced that he knows very little, then his time of
learning commences. Young men generally think they know "a great deal
about girls" when they are twenty-one, and can easily choose a wife. But
the wisdom of twenty-one on that point is a little slippery, and I would
advise no young man to test it.

Then, too, a young man has no conception of his capabilities before he
reaches twenty-five. He has no fixed purpose in mind; he has no idea
what he is capable of doing; he does not know the business world nor its
chances. He has had no opportunity of showing his employers his capacity
to fill a more important position. He has, therefore, no practical idea
of his prospects, and he can form none. The period between the ages of
twenty and twenty-five is the formative period in his life, and during
that time it is better that he has no additional responsibilities upon
him other than his own struggles will demand. But when he reaches
twenty-five he generally begins to develop. His opinions on matters
begin to be listened to--casually, it is true, at first, but they
command attention, nevertheless, where formerly they were ignored, and
justly so. From this time his career begins, and he can, with a greater
degree of accuracy, decide for himself whether he can ask the girl of
his choice to share his life with him. Between twenty-five and thirty a
young man should, if he hopes to amount to anything, choose his path in
life and test his capabilities. And then it is that the love of a good
wife and her counsel will mean everything to him. If we look at current
statistics we find at once that the greater majority--I think it is
something like seventy per cent.--of our young men are marrying between
twenty-five and thirty, with a leaning toward the latter age. Years ago
it was different, and the marrying age for young men was between
twenty-two and twenty-five.

But, likewise, a young man cannot afford to wait too long in this
question of marriage; and when I say too long I mean beyond the age of
thirty. After a man passes thirty years his habits are very likely to
become fixed, and from that time it will be harder for him each year to
tear away from his bachelor habits. For marriage demands a few
sacrifices from a man, and he must be prepared to meet them, just as the
girl gives up many of her girlish pleasures. Marriage is not a lark, as
some young people are apt to suppose, and it should not be entered into
just for the fun of the thing, nor for the sake of being married. Better
is it for a young man never to marry than to marry simply for the sake
of marrying, or because he feels that he is getting along in years.

There is only one safe rule for a young man to follow in this whole
question of marriage, and it solves the problem of the girl and the age:
wait until the right girl comes along and then marry her. But, if
possible, don't marry her this side of twenty years, and don't you marry
this side of twenty-five.

Regarding the question of engagements, I believe thoroughly in their
short duration. This whole question of matrimonial engagements might be
changed somewhat by young people themselves, and to their own benefit.
In many cases the young become engaged too soon, and then they are
restless because they cannot marry; whereas, if the period of
acquaintanceship were made longer, and the engagement time shorter,
things would be much improved. Long engagements are never advisable; in
fact, they are bad from every point of view; long periods of
acquaintance previous to an engagement are far better. So far as
actually knowing each other is concerned--well, for that matter, what
woman has ever known a man until after she is married to him, or what
man has ever known a woman?

Touching the question of a young man's income when he marries, no rule
can be laid down. There are thousands of married people who are living
the happiest of lives on six hundred dollars per year, while there are
thousands, on the other hand, who struggle to keep out of debt on six
thousand a year. And so it goes. Everything depends upon the people.
Hundreds of men constantly ask the question, "Can I marry on six
hundred, eight hundred, or a thousand dollars per year?" No one can
determine this question but the young fellow himself, and particularly
the girl whom he loves. As I wrote to a young fellow who asked me if I
believed it would be safe for him to marry on a thousand dollars per
year, so do I say to all young men who are asking the question,
irrespective of the amount involved: no one can tell you. You and the
girl in question must settle that. But, on general principles, I think
the sooner we look at this question of marriage from some other than
this strictly mercenary standpoint the better. I do not believe, as I
said a few paragraphs back, in the theory of love in a cottage, with
nothing else. But I do believe in young people starting at the lowest
rung in the ladder and then climbing up. Nothing else in the world knits
the interests of two people so closely together, or insures such
absolute happiness in the future as their lives progress. I cannot
advise any young fellow what to do, but I know if I were earning six
hundred, eight hundred, or a thousand dollars a year, and I really loved
a girl--felt, in other words, as if I could not live without her--and
the girl was of the right kind--that is, sensible in her ideas, frugal
in her tastes, and of a marriageable age--I would let her settle my
doubt for me. Girls have a very interesting way of settling doubts of
this kind--when they are fond of the fellow in doubt. One thing is
certain: the greatest safety in this world for a man is to place his
interests in the keeping of the woman who loves him.

These are the only points which I or any other writer can possibly
advance regarding this question of marriage. Every young man must
necessarily settle it for himself; all that a writer can do is to lay
down the best and what he considers to be the safest general principles,
and each reader must apply those principles to his own individual needs
and condition.

But there is one thing which a writer can safely do, and that is to
counsel in every young man a firm belief in womanhood and an honest
faith in marriage. He must not paint the marriage relation all of a
rose-colored hue. Necessarily it has its purple lights; sometimes its
black shadows. No condition of life is without its little trials, its
vexations, or its anxieties, and marriage is not an exception to this
rule. But it is through the marriage state, through the love of woman,
as I have said before, that man has reached his present status. Married
to a woman, he may wonder now and then a little whether she is not
rather expensive. Her ways may not always be his ways. Occasionally he
may frown a little, and perhaps scold a bit. He may leave home in the
morning and go to his office without the customary farewell kiss. He may
sometimes get provoked because she is "so slow in getting ready" when he
goes out with her. He may want to stay at home when she wants to go out.
He may be led to say once in a great while, "Women are queer, and you
are one of the queerest!" He may fly into a passion, only to feel sorry
for it afterward. He may feel piqued at times because she is not home
when he comes from the office; that dinner is not ready just at the
precise moment when he wants it; that she wants to retire about three
hours earlier than he does. But, "after all," he says to himself, "I
tell you what, my wife is an angel. She always seems to know what is
best for me, and what is not. She looks at nothing in the light of a
sacrifice. When I have been tired for three hours she keeps going. Well,
she is my daily joy; sick, my comfort, and the best of nurses; in
trouble, my star of hope. When I want to be rash she is cautious. I
could stake my life on the honesty of a man; she, at a glance, has read
his innermost thoughts and knows his character. And take her year in and
year out she is the most patient, most loving, and dearest of women.
Faults? Of course she has, but so have I--lots of them, too. I notice
all she has, but some way or other she never seems to see mine, and
talks only of my best side. And, after all, is she not right?" And then,
as a pair of arms are twined around him from behind, as he sits in a
comfortable chair, a soft, fluffy sleeve just rubs gently against his
face, a pair of eyes look into his eyes as he raises them, a pair of
lips lovingly press his, a gentle, loving voice says, "Do you know,
dear, you look very comfortable and happy," everything that is good
swells up in him and finds its expression in the typical Americanism:
"You bet I am!"





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