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

CHAPTER II.

SEIZE YOUR OPPORTUNITY.

“The blowing winds are but our servants
When we hoist a sail.”

You must come to know that each admirable genius is but a
successful diver in that sea whose floor of pearls is all your
own.
–EMERSON.

Who waits until the wind shall silent keep,
Who never finds the ready hour to sow,
Who watcheth clouds, will have no time to reap.
–HELEN HUNT JACKSON.

The secret of success in life is for a man _to be ready for his
opportunity_ when it comes.
–DISRAELI.

Do the best you can where you are; and, when that is
accomplished, God will open a door for you, and a voice will
call, “Come up hither into a higher sphere.”
–BEECHER.

Our grand business is, not to see what lies dimly at a
distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.
–CARLYLE.

“When I was a boy,” said General Grant, “my mother one morning found herself without butter for breakfast, and sent me to borrow some from a neighbor. Going into the house without knocking, I overheard a letter read from the son of a neighbor, who was then at West Point, stating that he had failed in examination and was coming home. I got the butter, took it home, and, without waiting for breakfast ran to the office of the congressman for our district. ‘Mr. Hamer,’ I said, ‘will you appoint me to West Point?’ ‘No, —- is there, and has three years to serve.’ ‘But suppose he should fail, will you send me?’ Mr. Hamer laughed. ‘If he don’t go through, no use for you to try, Uly.’ ‘Promise me you will give me the chance, Mr. Hamer, anyhow.’ Mr. Hamer promised. The next day the defeated lad came home, and the congressman, laughing at my sharpness, gave me the appointment. Now,” said Grant, “it was my mother’s being without butter that made me general and president.” But he was mistaken. It was his own shrewdness to see the chance, and the promptness to seize it, that urged him upward.

“There is nobody,” says a Roman Cardinal, “whom Fortune does not visit once in his life; but when she finds he is not ready to receive her, she goes in at the door, and out through the window.” Opportunity is coy. The careless, the slow, the unobservant, the lazy fail to see it, or clutch at it when it has gone. The sharp fellows detect it instantly, and catch it when on the wing.

The utmost which can be said about the matter is, that circumstances will, and do combine to help men at some periods of their lives, and combine to thwart them at others. Thus much we freely admit; but there is no fatality in these combinations, neither any such thing as “luck” or “chance,” as commonly understood. They come and go like all other opportunities and occasions in life, and if they are seized upon and made the most of, the man whom they benefit is fortunate; but if they are neglected and allowed to pass by unimproved, he is unfortunate.

“Charley,” says Moses H. Grinnell to a clerk born in New York City, “take my overcoat tip to my house on Fifth Avenue.” Mr. Charley takes the coat, mutters something about “I’m not an errand boy. I came here to learn business,” and moves reluctantly. Mr. Grinnell sees it, and at the same time one of his New England clerks says, “I’ll take it up.” “That is right, do so,” says Mr. G., and to himself he says, “that boy is smart, he will work,” and he gives him plenty to do. He gets promoted, gets the confidence of business men as well as of his employers, and is soon known as a successful man.

The youth who starts out in life determined to make the most of his eyes and let nothing escape him which he can possibly use for his own advancement, who keeps his ears open for every sound that can help him on his way, who keeps his hands open that he may clutch every opportunity, who is ever on the alert for everything which can help him to get on in the world, who seizes every experience in life and grinds it up into paint for his great life’s picture, who keeps his heart open that he may catch every noble impulse and everything which may inspire him, will be sure to live a successful life; there are no ifs or ands about it. If he has his health, nothing can keep him from success.

_Zion’s Herald_ says that Isaac Rich, who gave one million and three quarters to found Boston University of the Methodist Episcopal Church, began business thus: at eighteen he went from Cape Cod to Boston with three or four dollars in his possession, and looked about for something to do, rising early, walking far, observing closely, reflecting much. Soon he had an idea: he bought three bushels of oysters, hired a wheelbarrow, found a piece of board, bought six small plates, six iron forks, a three-cent pepper-box, and one or two other things. He was at the oyster-boat buying his oysters at three o’clock in the morning, wheeled them three miles, set up his board near a market, and began business. He sold out his oysters as fast as he could get them, at a good profit. In that same market he continued to deal in oysters and fish for forty years, became king of the business, and ended by founding a college. His success was won by industry and honesty.

“Give me a chance,” says Haliburton’s Stupid, “and I will show you.” But most likely he has had his chance already and neglected it.

“Well, boys,” said Mr. A., a New York merchant, to his four clerks one winter morning in 1815, “this is good news. Peace has been declared. Now _we_ must be up and doing. We shall have our hands full, but we can do as much as anybody.”