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

At a time when abolitionists were dangerously unpopular, a crowd of brawny Cape Cod fishermen had made such riotous demonstrations that all the speakers announced, except Stephen Foster and Lucy Stone, had fled from an open-air platform. “You had better run, Stephen,” said she; “they are coming.” “But who will take care of you?” asked Foster. “This gentleman will take care of me,” she replied, calmly laying her hand within the arm of a burly rioter with a club, who had just sprung upon the platform. “Wh–what did you say?” stammered the astonished rowdy, as he looked at the little woman; “yes, I’ll take care of you, and no one shall touch a hair of your head.” With this he forced a way for her through the crowd, and, at her earnest request, placed her upon a stump and stood guard with his club while she delivered an address so effective that the audience offered no further violence, and even took up a collection of twenty dollars to repay Mr. Foster for the damage his clothes had received when the riot was at its height.

“Luck is ever waiting for something to turn up,” says Cobden; “labor, with keen eyes and strong will, will turn up something. Luck lies in bed, and wishes the postman would bring him the news of a legacy; labor turns out at six o’clock, and with busy pen or ringing hammer lays the foundation of a competence. Luck whines; labor whistles. Luck relies on chance; labor, on character.”

There is no luck, for all practical purposes, to him who is not striving, and whose senses are not all eagerly attent. What are called accidental discoveries are almost invariably made by those who are looking for something. A man incurs about as much risk of being struck by lightning as by accidental luck. There is, perhaps, an element of luck in the amount of success which crowns the efforts of different men; but even here it will usually be found that the sagacity with which the efforts are directed and the energy with which they are prosecuted measure pretty accurately the luck contained in the results achieved. Apparent exceptions will be found to relate almost wholly to single undertakings, while in the long run the rule will hold good. Two pearl-divers, equally expert, dive together and work with equal energy. One brings up a pearl, while the other returns empty-handed. But let both persevere and at the end of five, ten or twenty years it will be found that they succeeded almost in exact proportion to their skill and industry.

Lincoln, being asked by an anxious visitor what he would do after three or four years if the rebellion was not subdued, replied: “Oh, there is no alternative but to keep pegging away.”

“It is in me and it shall come out,” said Sheridan, when told that he would never make an orator, as he had failed in his first speech in Parliament. He became known as one of the foremost orators of his day.

It takes great courage to fight a lost cause when there is no hope even of victory. To contest every inch of ground with as much persistency and enthusiasm as if we were assured of victory; this is true courage.

The world admires the man who never flinches from unexpected difficulties, who calmly, patiently, and courageously grapples with his fate; who dies, if need be, at his post.

President Chadbourne put grit in place of his lost lung, and worked thirty-five years after his funeral had been planned.

Henry Fawcett put grit in place of eyesight, and became the greatest Postmaster-General England ever had.

Prescott also put grit in place of eyesight, and became one of America’s greatest historians. Francis Parkman put grit in place of health and eyesight, and became the greatest historian of America in his line. Thousands of men have put grit in place of health, eyes, ears, hands, legs, and yet have achieved marvelous success. Indeed, most of the great things of the world have been accomplished by grit and pluck. You cannot keep a man down who has these qualities. He will make stepping-stones out of his stumbling-blocks, and lift himself to success.

Grit and pluck are not always exhibited only by poor boys who have no chance, for there are many notable examples of pluck, persistence and real grit among youth in good circumstances, who never have to fight their way to their own loaf. Mr. Mifflin, who has recently become the head of the celebrated publishing firm of Houghton, Mifflin & Co., is a notable example of persistency, push and grit. After graduating at Harvard and traveling abroad, he was determined, although not obliged to work for a living, to get a position at the Riverside Press in Cambridge. He called upon the late Mr. Houghton and asked him for a situation. Mr. Houghton told him that he had no opening, and that, even if he had, he did not believe that a graduate from Harvard who had money and who had traveled abroad would ever be willing to begin at the bottom and do the necessary drudgery, for boy’s pay. Mr. Mifflin protested that he was not afraid of hard work, and that he was willing to do anything and take any sort of a position, if he could only learn the business. But Mr. Houghton would not give him any encouragement. Again and again Mr. Mifflin came to the Riverside Press, and pressed his suit, but to no purpose. Mr. Mifflin persuaded his father to intercede for him, but Mr. Houghton succeeded in convincing him that it would be very unwise for his son to attempt it. But young Mifflin was determined not to give up. Finally, Mr. Houghton, out of admiration for his persistence and pluck, made a place for him, which had been occupied by a boy, for $5 a week.

Young Mifflin took hold of the work with such earnestness, and showed so much pluck and determination, that Mr. Houghton soon called him into the office and raised his pay to $9 a week from the time he began. Although the young man lived in Boston, he was always at the Riverside Press in Cambridge early in the morning, and would frequently remain after all the others had gone. Mr. Houghton happened to go in late one night, after everybody had gone, as he supposed, and was surprised to find Mr. Mifflin there, taking one of the presses apart. Of course such a young man would be advanced. These are the boys who become the heads of firms.

It is victory after victory with the soldier, lesson after lesson with the scholar, blow after blow with the laborer, crop after crop with the farmer, picture after picture with the painter, and mile after mile with the traveler, that secures what all so much desire–SUCCESS.

Stick to the thing and carry it through. Believe you were made for the place you fill, and that no one else can fill it as well. Put forth your whole energies. Be awake, electrify yourself; go forth to the task. Only once learn to carry a thing through in all its completeness and proportion, and you will become a hero. You will think better of yourself; others will think better of you. The world in its very heart admires the stern, determined doer.