Chapter XIV

The Need of Constant Effort

Optin Page: Goal Mastery For Personal And Financial AchievementIt matters not what talent or genius a man may possess, no natural gift can compensate for hard, persistent toil. The Romans had a maxim as true to-day as it was when first uttered: "Labor Omnia vincit", Toil conquers all things. The earliest Christians lived in communities and had all things in common. One of their precepts...a precept up to which all lived--was: "Laborare est orare," To work is to pray.

Someone has said that the difference between the genius and the ordinary man is that the genius has a tireless capacity for patient, hard work, while the other regards effort as a painful exaction, and is ever looking forward to the time when he can rest.

It is encouraging to know that the world's hardest workers have lived the longest lives. In this alone, labor is its own reward; but enduring success never came to a poor man without an unflagging patience and an unceasing toil.

Honorable industry, you might say, travels with duty; and Providence has closely linked both with happiness. The gods, says the poet, have placed labor and toil on the way leading to the Elysian fields. Certain it is that no bread eaten by man is so sweet as that earned by his own labor, whether bodily or mental. By labor the earth has been subdued, and man redeemed from barbarism; nor has a single step in civilization been made without it. Labor is not only a necessity and a duty, but a blessing; only the idler feels it to be a curse. The duty of work is written on the thews and muscles of the limbs, the mechanism of the hand, the nerves and lobes of the brain--the sum of whose healthy action is satisfaction and enjoyment. In the school of labor is taught the best practical wisdom; nor is a life of manual employment, as we shall hereafter find, incompatible with high mental culture.

Hugh Miller, than whom none knew better the strength and the weakness belonging to the lot of labor, stated the result of his experience to be, that work, even the hardest, is full of pleasure and materials for self-improvement. He held honest labor to be the best of teachers, and that the school of toil is the nobles of schools-- save only the Christian one; that it is a school in which the ability of being useful is imparted, the spirit of independence learned, and the habit of persevering effort acquired. He was even of opinion that the training of the mechanic--by exercise which it gives to his observant faculties, from his daily dealing with things actual and practical, and the close experience of life which he acquires--better fits a man for picking his way along the journey of life, and is more favorable to his growth as a man, emphatically speaking, than the training afforded by any other condition.

Watt, the inventor of the steam engine, was one of the most industrious of men; and the story of his life proves, what all experience confirms, that it is not the man of the greatest natural vigor and capacity who achieves the highest results, but he who employs his powers with the greatest industry and the most carefully disciplined skill--the skill that comes by labor, application, and experience. Many men in his time knew far more than Watt, but none labored so assiduously as he did to turn all that he did know to useful practical purposes. He was, above all things, most persevering in the pursuit of facts. He cultivated carefully that habit of active attention on which all the higher working qualities of the mind mainly depend. Indeed, Mr. Edgeworth entertained the opinion that the difference of intellect in men depends more upon the early cultivation of this "habit of attention", than upon any great disparity between the powers of one individual and another.

[Sir Richard] Arkwright, one of the world's greatest mechanics, and the inventor of the spinning jenny, was famed for his unceasing industry.

Like most of our great mechanicians, he sprang from the ranks. He was born in Preston in 1732. His parents were very poor, and he was the youngest of thirteen children. He was never at school; the only education he received he gave to himself; and to the last he was only able to write with difficulty. When a boy, he was apprenticed to a barber, and after learning the business, he set up for himself in Bolton, where he occupied an underground cellar, over which he put up the sign, "come to the subterraneous barber--he shaves for a penny." The other barbers found their customers leaving them, and reduced their prices to his standard, when Arkwright, determined to push his trade, announced his determination to give "A clean shave for a half-penny."

At the close of his life, John Jacob Astor was the wealthiest man in the United States, and the immense fortune he left has been largely increased through his wise investments and the habits of business which he seems to have transmitted with his fortune to his descendants.

His life is a most interesting one, particularly to the young man who stands facing the world without friends or fortune to aid him. But young Astor had one quality to start with, a quality which success never lessened, and that was the capacity for unceasing industry.

He was born of peasant parents in the village of Waldorf, near the great university town of Heidelberg in Germany. When sixteen years of age he was crowded out of the hive by increasing brothers and sisters, and without education or experience, he started out to make his way in the world.

In the days of his great prosperity, he used to tell, with delight mingled with sadness, of the day when he left father, and mother, and home, which he was never to see together again. He used to say: "I had only two dollars in my pocket, and all my clothes were tied up in a handkerchief fastened at the end of a stick. When I had climbed the high hill above the village, I sat down to rest my heart rather than my feet, and to look back at the loved scenes of my childhood. Before leaving home it was decided that I should make my way to London--then the city of promise to many young Germans. While I sat there, I made three resolutions, which during my life I have never broken. I had never gambled, but I had known others to do so, and my first resolve was not to follow their example. The second resolution was to be strictly honest in all my dealings, and this I have tried to adhere to. The third resolution was quite as important as the other two together; it was that so long as God gave me health and strength I should be unceasingly industrious."

John Jacob Astor, as a man, faithfully carried out the resolutions he made as a boy, and the world knows the consequences.

When the impartial historian comes to write the life of Horace Greeley, no matter how much he may object to his policies and politics, he will give him credit for honesty, courage, perseverance, and an industry that knew no fatigue.

While barely in his teens, young Greeley, whose father was making a desperate effort to support a large family on a poor farm in New Hampshire, started in to work for himself. His early education consisted of a few winter terms in a common school. Before he was seventeen he had learned the printer's trade, and then resolved not only to support himself, but to help his parents. Realizing his want of education, he devoted every minute he could spare from work or sleep to study.

Speaking of these early days, Mr. Greeley said:

"There was many a heavy load placed on my shoulders, but I staggered on and bore it as best I could. Many an uncongenial task was forced upon me, but I can honestly say I never shirked it. If I have succeeded in my chosen profession, it has not been due to my early advantages, for I had none, but to my strong belief that patient industry would triumph in the end."

When Horace Greeley was twenty years of age he was working in a printing office in Erie, Pennsylvania, and determined to better his fortunes by coming to New York. He had saved up one hundred and twenty dollars, and of this he sent one hundred to his father, and with the rest he turned his face to the great city, about six hundred miles away. He traveled the entire distance on foot, and reached New York with fifteen dollars, the whole trip having cost him but five.

Poorly clad, tall, gawky, and green-looking, he entered the city where he had neither friend nor acquaintance. For weeks he tramped the streets, looking vainly for work, his cash gradually growing less, but his spirits never failing. At length he found employment at his trade, where his integrity and unceasing industry soon made him conspicuous. Step by step, he worked his way up, never forgetting the poor family in Vermont, till at length he was able to establish the "New York Tribune", which survives as a monument of his perseverance and industry. Although his early training was so defective, he gave every spare minute to study, and with such success that he became not only a great leader, but one of the most perfect masters of the English language. His name will long live after many writers and statesmen of greater pretensions are forgotten.

As an example of what perseverance, fortitude and energy will do, Horace Greeley's story of his own life should be studied by every ambitious young man.

Horace Greeley never laid claim to physical courage, but he had that higher courage and industry without which enduring success is impossible. In speaking of this admirable quality, a famous author says:

"The greater part of the courage that is needed in the world is not of an heroic kind. Courage may be displayed in everyday life as well as on historic fields of action. There needs, for example, the common courage to be honest--the courage to resist temptation--the courage to speak the truth--the courage to be what we really are, and not to pretend to be what we are not--the courage to live honestly within our own means, and not dishonestly upon the means of others.

"A great deal of the unhappiness, and much of the vice, of the world is owing to weakness and indecision of purpose--in other words, to lack of courage and want of industry. Men may know what is right, and yet fail to exercise the courage to do it; they may understand the duty they have to do, but will not summon up the requisite resolution to perform it. The weak and undisciplined man is at the mercy of every temptation; he cannot say no,' but falls before it. And if his companionship be bad, he will be all the easier led away by bad example into wrong-doing.

"Nothing can be more certain than that the character can only be sustained and strengthened by its own energetic action. The will, which is the central force of character, must be trained to habits of decision--otherwise it will neither be able to resist evil nor to follow good. Decision gives the power of standing firmly, when to yield, however slightly, might be only the first step in a downhill course to ruin.

"Calling upon others for help in forming a decision is worse than useless. A man must so train his habits as to rely upon his own powers and depend upon his own courage in moments of emergency. Plutarch tells of a king of Macedon who, in the midst of an action, withdrew into the adjoining town under pretence of sacrificing to Hercules; whilst his opponent Emilius, at the same time that he implored the Divine aid, sought for victory sword in hand, and won the battle. And so it ever is in the actions of daily life.

"Many are the valiant purposes formed, that end merely in words; deeds intended, that are never done; designs projected, that are never begun; and all for want of a little courageous decision. Better far the silent tongue but the eloquent deed. For in life, and in business, dispatch is better than discourse; and the shortest of all is _Doing_. 'In matters of great concern, and which must be done,' says Tillotson, 'there is no surer argument of a weak mind than irresolution--to be undetermined when the case is so plain and the necessity so urgent. To be always intending to live a new life, but never to find time to set about it--this is as if a man should put off eating and drinking and sleeping from one day to another, until he is starved and destroyed.'"

A Review of "How to Get On in Life"

Table of Contents

Chapter XV - Some of Labor's Compensations


Law of Attraction Articles

Success: The Need for Constant Effort
Page Updated 7:46 PM Thursday 16 August 2018