HOW TO GET ON IN THE WORLD; or, A LADDER TO PRACTICAL SUCCESS.
by MAJOR A. R. CALHOUN.
"A careful preparation is half the battle." Everything depends on a good start and the right road. To retrace one's steps is to lose not only time but confidence. "Be sure you are right then go ahead" was the motto of the famous frontiersman, Davy Crockett, and it is one that every young man can adopt with safety.
Bear in mind there is often a great distinction between character and reputation. Reputation is what the world believes us for the time; character is what we truly are. Reputation and character may be in harmony, but they frequently are as opposite as light and darkness. Many a scoundrel has had a reputation for nobility, and men of the noblest characters have had reputations that relegated them to the ranks of the depraved, in their day and generation.
It is most desirable to have a good reputation. The good opinion of our associates and acquaintances is not to be despised, but every man should see to it that the reputation is deserved, otherwise his life is false, and sooner or later he will stand discovered before the world.
Sudden success makes reputation, as it is said to make friends; but very often adversity is the best test of character as it is of friendship.
It is the principle for which the soldier fights that makes him a hero, not necessarily his success. It is the motive that ennobles all effort. Selfishness may prosper, but it cannot win the enduring success that is based on the character with a noble purpose behind it. This purpose is one of the guards in times of trouble and the reason for rejoicing in the day of triumph.
"Why should I toil and slave," many a young man has asked, "when I have only myself to live for?" God help the man who has neither mother, sister nor wife to struggle for and who does not feel that toil and the building up of character bring their own reward.
The home feeling should be encouraged for it is one of the greatest incentives to effort. If the young man have not parents or brothers and sisters to keep, or if he find himself limited in his leisure hours to the room of a boarding house, then if he can at all afford it, he should marry a help-meet and found a home of his own. "I was very poor at the time," said a great New York publisher, "but regarding it simply from a business standpoint, the best move I ever made in my life was to get married. Instead of increasing my expense's as I feared, I took a most valuable partner into the business, and she not only made a home for me, but she surrendered to me her well-earned share of the profits."
A wise marriage is most assuredly an influence that helps. Every young man who loves his mother, if living, or reveres her memory if dead, must recall with feelings of holy emotion, his own home. Blest, indeed is he, over whom the influence of a good home continues.
Home is the first and most important school of character. It is there that every civilized being receives his best moral training, or his worst; for it is there that he imbibes those principles that endure through manhood and cease only with life.
It is a common saying that "Manners make the man;" and there is a second, that "Mind makes the man;" but truer than either is a third, that "Home makes the man." For the home-training not only includes manners and mind, but character. It is mainly in the home that the heart is opened, the habits are formed, the intellect is awakened, and character moulded for good or for evil.
From that source, be it pure or impure, issue the principles and maxims that govern society. Law itself is but the reflex of homes. The tiniest bits of opinion sown in the minds of children in private life afterward issue forth to the world, and become its public opinion; for nations are gathered out of nurseries, and they who hold the leading strings of children may even exercise a greater power than those who wield the reins of government.
It is in the order of nature that domestic life should be preparatory to social, and that the mind and character should first be formed in the home. There the individuals who afterward form society are dealt with in detail, and fashioned one by one. From the family they enter life, and advance from boyhood to citizenship. Thus the home may be regarded as the most influential school of civilization. For, after all, civilization mainly resolves itself into a question of individual training; and according as the respective members of society are well or ill trained in youth, so will the community which they constitute be more or less humanized and civilized.
Thus homes, which are the nurseries of children who grow up into men and women, will be good or bad according to the power that governs them. Where the spirit of love and duty pervades the home--where head and heart bear rule wisely there--where the daily life is honest and virtuous--where the government is sensible, kind and loving, then may we expect from such a home an issue of healthy, useful, and happy beings, capable, as they gain the requisite strength of following the footsteps of their parents, of walking uprightly, governing themselves wisely, and contributing to the welfare of those about them.
On the other hand, if surrounded by ignorance, coarseness, and selfishness, they will unconsciously assume the same character, and grow up to adult years rude, uncultivated, and all the more dangerous to society if placed amidst the manifold temptations of what is called civilized life. "Give your child to be educated by a slave," said an ancient Greek, "and, instead of one slave, you will then have two."
The child cannot help imitating what he sees. Everything is to him a model--of manner, of gesture, of speech, of habit, of character. "For the child," says Richter, "the most important era of life is childhood, when he begins to color and mould himself by companionship with others. Every new educator effects less than his predecessor; until at last, if we regard all life as an educational institution, a circumnavigator of the world is less influenced by all the nations he has seen than by his nurse."
No man can select his parents or make for himself the early environment that affects character so powerfully, but he can found a home no matter how humble, at the outset, that will make his own future secure, as well as the future of those for whose existence he is responsible.
The poorest dwelling, presided over by a virtuous, thrifty, cheerful, and cleanly woman, may be the abode of comfort, virtue, and happiness; it may be the scene of every ennobling relation in family life; it may be endeared to a man by many delightful associations; furnishing a sanctuary for the heart, a refuge from the storms of life, a sweet resting-place after labor, a consolation in misfortune, a pride in prosperity, and a joy at all times.
The good home is the best of schools, not only in youth but in age. There young and old best learn cheerfulness, patience, self-control and the spirit of service and of duty. Isaak Walton, speaking of George Herbert's mother, says she governed the family with judicious care, not rigidly nor sourly, "but with such a sweetness and compliance with the recreations and pleasures of youth, as did incline them to spend much of their time in her company, which was to her great content."
The home is the true school of courtesy, of which woman is always the best practical instructor. "Without woman," says the Provencal proverb, "men were but ill-licked cubs." Philanthropy radiates from the home as from a centre. "To love the little platoon we belong to in society," said Burke "is the germ of all public affections." The wisest and the best have not been ashamed to own it to be their greatest joy and happiness to sit "behind the heads of the children" in the inviolable circle of home. A life of purity and duty there is not the least effectual preparative for a life of public work and duty; and the man who loves his home will not the less fondly love and serve his country.
At an address before a girls' school in Boston, ex-President John Quincy Adams, then an old man, said with much feeling: "As a child I enjoyed perhaps the greatest of blessings that can be bestowed upon man--that of a mother who was anxious and capable to form the characters of her children rightly. From her I derived whatever instruction (religious especially and moral) has pervaded a long life--I will not say perfectly, or as it ought to be; but I will say, because it is only justice to the memory of her I revere, that in the course of that life, whatever imperfection there has been or deviation from what she taught me, the fault is mine and not hers."
So much depends on the home, for it is the corner-stone of society and good government, that it is to be regretted, for the sake of young women, as well as of young men, that our modern life offers so many opportunities to neglect it.
As the home affects the character entirely through the associations, it follows that the young man who has left his home behind him should continue the associations whose memories comfort him. He should never go to a place for recreation where he would not be willing and proud to take his mother on his arm. He should never have as friends men to whom he would not be willing, if need be, to introduce his sister.
These are among the influences that help to success. But association is a matter of such great importance as to deserve fuller treatment.
A Review of "How to Get On in Life"
Table of Contents
Chapter IV - Associations
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