Chapter IV

The old proverb, "Tell me your company and I will tell you what you are," is as true to-day as when first uttered. In preparing for success, association is one of the most powerful factors. It is so powerful, indeed, that if the associations are not of the right kind, failure is inevitable.

As one diseased sheep may contaminate a flock, so one evil associate-- particularly if he be daring, may seriously injure the morals of many. Every young man can recall the evil influence of one bad boy on a whole school, but he cannot so readily point to the schoolmate, whose example and influence were for good; because goodness, though more potent, never makes itself so conspicuous as vice.

Criminal in jailCriminals, preparing for the scaffold, have confessed that their entrance into a life of crime began in early youth, when the audacity of some unprincipled associate tempted them from the ways of innocence. Through all the years of life, even to old age, the life and character are influenced by association. If this be true in the case of the more mature and experienced, its force is intensified where the young, imaginative and susceptible, are concerned.

Man is said to be "an imitative animal." This is certainly true as to early education, and the tendency to imitate remains to a greater or less extent throughout life. Imitation is responsible for all the queer changes of fashion; and the desire to be "in the swim," as it is called, is entirely due to association. .

In school days, the influence of a good home may counteract the effect of evil associates, whom the boy meets occasionally, but when the boy has grown to manhood, and finds himself battling with the world, away from home and well-tried friends, it is then that he is in the greatest danger from pernicious associates.

The young man who comes to the city to seek his fortune is more apt to be the victim of vile associates than the city raised youth whose experience of men is larger, and who is fortunate in his companionship. The farmer's son, who finds himself for the first time in a great city--alone and comparatively friendless, appears to himself to have entered a new world, as in truth he has. The crowds of hurrying, well-dressed people impress him forcibly as compared with his own clumsy gait, and roughly clad figure. The noise confuses him. The bustle of commerce amazes him; and for the time he is as desolate in feeling as if he were in the centre of a desert, instead of in the throbbing heart of a great city.

No matter how blessed with physical and mental strength the young man may be, under these circumstances he is very apt, for the time at least, to underestimate his own strength. He is powerfully impressed by what he deems the smartness or the superior manners of those whom he meets in his boarding house, or with whom he is associated in his business, say in a great mercantile establishment. It requires a great deal of moral courage for him to bear in a manly way the ridicule, covert or open, of the companions who regard him as a "hay-seed" or a "greenhorn." His Sunday clothes, which he wore with pride when he attended meeting with his mother, he is apt to regard with a feeling of mortification; and, perhaps, he secretly determines to dress as well as do his companions when he has saved enough money.

This is a crucial period in the life of every young man who is entering on a business career, and particularly so to him coming from the rural regions. He finds, perhaps, that his associates smoke or drink, or both; things which he has hitherto regarded with horror. He finds, too, they are in the habit of resorting to places of amusement, the splendor and mysteries of which arouse his curiosity, if not envy, as he hears them discussed.

Before leaving home, and while his mother's arms were still about him, he promised her to be moral and industrious, to write regularly, and to do nothing which she would not approve. If he had the right stuff in him, he would adhere manfully to the resolution made at the beginning; but, if he be weak or is tempted by false pride, or a prurient curiosity to "see the town," he is tottering on the edge of a precipice and his failure, if not sudden, is sure to come in time.

Cities are represented to be centres of vice, and it cannot be denied that the temptations in such places are much greater than on a farm or in a quiet country village, but at the same time, cities are centres of wealth and cultivation, places where philanthropy is alive and where organized effort has provided places of instruction and amusement for all young men, but particularly for that large class of youths who come from the country to seek their fortunes. Churches abound, and in connection with them there are societies of young people, organized for good work, which are ever ready, with open arms, to welcome the young stranger. Then, in all our cities and towns, there are to be found, branches of that most admirable institution, the Young Men's Christian Association [YMCA]. Not only are there companions to be met in these associations of the very best kind, but the buildings are usually fitted up with appliances for the improvement of mind and body. Here are gymnasiums, where strength and grace can be cultivated under the direction of competent teachers. Here are to be found well organized libraries. Here, particularly in the winter season, there are classes where all the branches of a high school are taught; and there are frequent lectures on all subjects of interest by the foremost teachers of the land.

If the young man falls under these influences, and he will experience not the slightest difficulty in doing so; indeed, he will find friendly hands extended to welcome and to help, the result on his character must be most beneficial. The clumsiness of rural life will soon depart; he will regard his home-made suit with as much pleasure as if it were made by a fashionable tailor, and he will soon learn to distinguish between the vicious and the virtuous, while he imitates the one and regards the other with indifference or contempt.

Next to the association of companions met in every day life nothing so powerfully influences the character of the young as association with good books, particularly those that relate to the lives of men who have struggled up to honor from small beginnings.

With such associations, and a capacity for honest persistent work, success is assured at the very threshold of effort.

A Review of "How to Get On in Life"

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Chapter V - Courage and Determined Effort


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