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

CHAPTER X.

TO BE GREAT, CONCENTRATE.

Let every one ascertain his special business and calling, and
then stick to it.
–FRANKLIN.

“He who follows two hares is sure to catch neither.”

None sends his arrow to the mark in view,
Whose hand is feeble, or his aim untrue.
–COWPER.

He who wishes to fulfill his mission must be a man of one idea,
that is, of one great overmastering purpose, overshadowing all
his aims, and guiding and controlling his entire life.
–BATE.

The shortest way to do anything is to do only one thing at a
time.
–CECIL.

The power of concentration is one of the most valuable of
intellectual attainments.
–HORACE MANN.

The power of a man increases steadily by continuance in one
direction.
–EMERSON.

Careful attention to one thing often proves superior to genius
and art.
–CICERO.

“It puffed like a locomotive,” said a boy of the donkey engine; “it whistled like the steam-cars, but it didn’t go anywhere.”

The world is full of donkey-engines, of people who can whistle and puff and pull, but they don’t go anywhere, they have no definite aim, no controlling purpose.

The great secret of Napoleon’s power lay in his marvelous ability to concentrate his forces upon a single point. After finding the weak place in the enemy’s ranks he would mass his men and hurl them upon the enemy like an avalanche until he made a breach. What a lesson of the power of concentration there is in that man’s life! He was such a master of himself that he could concentrate his powers upon the smallest detail as well as upon an empire.

When Napoleon had anything to say he always went straight to his mark. He had a purpose in everything he did; there was no dilly-dallying nor shilly-shallying; he knew what he wanted to say, and said it. It was the same with all his plans; what he wanted to do, he did. He always hit the bull’s eye. His great success in war was due largely to his definiteness of aim. He knew what he wanted to do, and did it. He was like a great burning glass, concentrating the rays of the sun upon a single spot; he burned a hole wherever he went.

The sun’s rays scattered do no execution, but concentrated in a burning glass, they melt solid granite; yes, a diamond, even. There are plenty of men who have ability enough, the rays of their faculties taken separately are all right; but they are powerless to collect them, to concentrate them upon a single object. They lack the burning glass of a purpose, to focalize upon one spot the separate rays of their ability. Versatile men, universal geniuses, are usually weak, because they have no power to concentrate the rays of their ability, to focalize them upon one point, until they burn a hole in whatever they undertake.

This power to bring all of one’s scattered forces into one focal point makes all the difference between success and failure. The sun might blaze out upon the earth forever without burning a hole in it or setting anything on fire; whereas a very few of these rays concentrated in a burning glass would, as stated, transform a diamond into vapor.

Sir James Mackintosh was a man of marvelous ability. He excited in everybody who knew him great expectations, but there was no purpose in his life to act as a burning glass to collect the brilliant rays of his intellect, by which he might have dazzled the world. Most men have ability enough, if they could only focalize it into one grand, central, all-absorbing purpose, to accomplish great things.

“To encourage me in my efforts to cultivate the power of attention,” said a friend of John C. Calhoun, “he stated that to this end he had early subjected his mind to such a rigid course of discipline, and had persisted without faltering until he had acquired a perfect control over it; that he could now confine it to any subject as long as he pleased, without wandering even for a moment; that it was his uniform habit, when he set out alone to walk or ride, to select a subject for reflection, and that he never suffered his attention to wander from it until he was satisfied with its examination.”

“My friend laughs at me because I have but one idea,” said a learned American chemist; “but I have learned that if I wish ever to make a breach in a wall, I must play my guns continually upon one point.”

“It is his will that has made him what he is,” said an intimate friend of Philip D. Armour, the Chicago millionaire. “He fixes his eye on something ahead, and no matter what rises upon the right or the left he never sees it. He goes straight in pursuit of the object ahead, and overtakes it at last. He never gives up what he undertakes.”

While Horace Greeley would devote a column of the New York _Tribune_ to an article, Thurlow Weed would treat the same subject in a few words in the Albany _Evening Journal_, and put the argument into such shape as to carry far more conviction.

“If you would be pungent,” says Southey, “be brief; for it is with words as with sunbeams–the more they are condensed the deeper they burn.”