How to Succeed, or Stepping-Stones to Fame and Fortune

Some men impress us as immense possibilities. They seem to have a sweep of intellect that is grand; a penetrative power that is phenomenal; they seem to know everything, to have read everything, to have seen everything. Nothing seems to escape the keenness of their vision. But somehow they are forever disappointing our expectations. They raise great hopes only to dash them. They are men of great promise, but they never pay. There is some indefinable want in their make-up.

What the world needs is a clergyman who is broader than his pulpit, who does not look upon humanity with a white neckcloth ideal, and who would give the lie to the saying that the human race is divided into three classes: men, women and ministers. Wanted, a clergyman who does not look upon his congregation from the standpoint of old theological books, and dusty, cobweb creeds, but who sees the merchant as in his store, the clerk as making sales, the lawyer pleading before the jury, the physician standing over the sick bed; in other words, who looks upon the great throbbing, stirring, pulsing, competing, scheming, ambitious, impulsive, tempted, mass of humanity as one of their number, who can live with them, see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and experience their sensations.

The world has a standing advertisement over the door of every profession, every occupation, every calling: “Wanted–A Man.”

Wanted, a lawyer, who has not become the victim of his specialty, a mere walking bundle of precedents.

Wanted, a shopkeeper who does not discuss markets wherever he goes. A man should be so much larger than his calling, so broad and symmetrical in his culture, that he would not talk shop in society, that no one would suspect how he gets his living.

Nothing is more apparent in this age of specialties than the dwarfing, crippling, mutilating influence of occupations or professions. Specialties facilitate commerce, and promote efficiency in the professions, but are often narrowing to individuals. The spirit of the age tends to doom the lawyer to a narrow life of practice, the business man to a mere money-making career.

Think of a man, the grandest of God’s creations, spending his life-time standing beside a machine for making screws. There is nothing to call out his individuality, his ingenuity, his powers of balancing, judging, deciding.

He stands there year after year, until he seems but a piece of mechanism. His powers, from lack of use, dwindle to mediocrity, to inferiority, until finally he becomes a mere part of the machine he tends.

Wanted, a man who will not lose his individuality in a crowd, a man who has the courage of his convictions, who is not afraid to say “No,” though all the world say “Yes.”

Wanted, a man who, though he is dominated by a mighty purpose, will not permit one great faculty to dwarf, cripple, warp, or mutilate his manhood; who will not allow the over-development of one faculty to stunt or paralyze his other faculties.

Wanted, a man who is larger than his calling, who considers it a low estimate of his occupation to value it merely as a means of getting a living. Wanted, a man who sees self-development, education and culture, discipline and drill, character and manhood, in his occupation.

As Nature tries every way to induce us to obey her laws by rewarding their observance with health, pleasure and happiness, and punishes their violation by pain and disease, so she resorts to every means to induce us to expand and develop the great possibilities she has implanted within us. She nerves us to the struggle, beneath which all great blessings are buried, and beguiles the tedious marches by holding up before us glittering prizes, which we may almost touch, but never quite possess. She covers up her ends of discipline by trial, of character building through suffering by throwing a splendor and glamour over the future; lest the hard, dry facts of the present dishearten us, and she fail in her great purpose. How else could Nature call the youth away from all the charms that hang around young life, but by presenting to his imagination pictures of future bliss and greatness which will haunt his dreams until he resolves to make them real. As a mother teaches her babe to walk, by holding up a toy at a distance, not that the child may reach the toy, but that it may develop its muscles and strength, compared with which the toys are mere baubles; so Nature goes before us through life, tempting us with higher and higher toys, but ever with one object in view–the development of the man.

In every great painting of the masters there is one idea or figure which stands out boldly beyond everything else. Every other idea or figure on the canvas is subordinate to this idea or figure, and finds its real significance not in itself, but, pointing to the central idea, finds its true expression there. So in the vast universe of God, every object of creation is but a guide-board with an index finger pointing to the central figure of the created universe–Man. Nature writes this thought upon every leaf; she thunders it in every creation; it exhales from every flower; it twinkles in every star.

Open thy bosom, set thy wishes wide,
And let in manhood–let in happiness;
Admit the boundless theatre of thought
From nothing up to God … which makes a man!
–YOUNG.