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

“We have no secret,” said Manager Daniel J. Morrill, of the Cambria Iron Works, employing seven thousand men, at Johnstown, Pa. “We always try to beat our last batch of rails. That is all the secret we’ve got, and we don’t care who knows it.”

“I don’t try to see how cheap a machine I can produce, but how good a machine,” said the late John C. Whitin, of Northbridge, Mass., to a customer who complained of the high price of some cotton machinery. Business men soon learned what this meant; and when there was occasion to advertise any machinery for sale, New England cotton manufacturers were accustomed to state the number of years it had been in use and add, as an all-sufficient guaranty of Northbridge products, “Whitin make.” Put thoroughness into your work: it pays.

“The accurate boy is always the favored one,” said President Tuttle. If a carpenter must stand at his journeyman’s elbow to be sure his work is right, or if a cashier must run over his bookkeeper’s columns, he might as well do the work himself as employ another to do it in that way.

“Mr. Girard, can you not assist me by giving me a little work?” asked one John Smith, who had formerly worked for the great banker and attracted attention by his activity.

“Assistance–work–ah? You want work?” “Yes sir; it’s a long time since I’ve had anything to do.”

“Very well, I shall give you some. You see dem stone yondare?” “Yes, sir.” “Very well; you shall fetch and put them in this place; you see?” “Yes sir.” “And when you done, come to me at my bank.”

Smith finished his task, reported to Mr. Girard, and asked for more work. “Ah, ha, oui. You want more work? Very well; you shall go place dem stone where you got him. Understandez? You take him back.” “Yes, sir.”

Again Smith performed the work and waited on Mr. Girard for payment. “Ah, ha, you all finish?” “Yes, sir.” “Very well; how much money shall I give you?” “One dollar, sir.” “Dat is honest. You take no advantage. Dare is your dollar.” “Can I do anything else for you?” “Oui, come here when you get up to-morrow. You shall have more work.”

Smith was punctual, but for the third time, and yet again for the fourth, he was ordered to “take dem stone back again.” When he called for his pay in the evening Stephen Girard spoke very cordially. “Ah, Monsieur Smit, you shall be my man; you mind your own business and do it, ask no questions, you do not interfere. You got one vife?” “Yes, sir.” “Ah, dat is bad. Von vife is bad. Any little chicks?” “Yes, sir, five living.”

“Five? Dat is good; I like five. I like you, Monsieur Smit; you like to work; you mind your business. Now I do something for your five little chicks. There: take these five pieces of paper for your five little chicks; you shall work for them; you shall mind your own business, and your little chicks shall never want five more.” In a few years Mr. Smith became one of the wealthiest and most respected merchants of Philadelphia.

It is difficult to estimate the great influence upon a life of the early formed habit of doing everything to a finish, not leaving it half done, or pretty nearly done, but completely done. Nature finishes every little leaf, even to every little rib, its edges and stem, as exactly and perfectly as though it were the only leaf to be made that year. Even the flower that blooms in the mountain dell, where no human eye will ever behold it, is finished with the same perfection and exactness of form and outline, with the same delicate shade of color, with the same completeness of beauty, as though it was made for royalty in the queen’s garden. “Perfection to the finish” is a motto which every youth should adopt.

“How did you attain such excellence in your profession?” was asked of Sir Joshua Reynolds. “By observing one simple rule, namely, to make each picture the best,” he replied.

The discipline of being exact is uplifting. Progress is never more rapid than it is when we are studying to be accurate. The effort educates all the powers. Arthur Helps says: “I do not know that there is anything except it be humility, which is so valuable, as an incident of education, as accuracy: and accuracy can be taught. Direct lies told to the world are as dust in the balance when weighed against the falsehoods of inaccuracy.”

Too many youths enter upon their business in a languid, half-hearted way, and do their work in a slipshod manner. The consequence is that they inspire neither admiration nor confidence on the part of their superiors, and cut off almost every chance of success. There is a loose, perfunctory method of doing one’s work that never merits advance, and very rarely wins it. Instead of buckling to their task with all the force they possess, they merely touch it with the tips of their fingers, their rule apparently being, the maximum of ease with the minimum of work. The principle of Strafford, the great minister of Charles I., is indicated by his motto, the one word “Thorough.” It was said of King Hezekiah, “In every work that he began, he did it with all his heart and prospered.”