Dr. Marden’s Inspirational Talks
Dr. O. S. Marden
There is no longer any question as to the insistent demand for trained men; the only problem with which practical business men are confronted is the meeting of it. Want of thoroughness is the curse of the age. The tendency to go into things without thorough training is one of the unfortunate phases of modern business life. Men blunder into all sorts of lines of which they know nothing, and reap only failure and reverse as a reward. The untrained mind is no match for the educated; ignorance is no match for intelligence. In the articles which he contributes in this issue, Dr. Marden makes this clear, both in “Superiority as a Trade Mark” and “Knowing How.”
I.—Superiority as a Trade-Mark
As a rule, success is the triumph of common, ordinary virtues. A careful, painstaking habit is a sign of the genius that achieves. If we analyze the lives of most successful people, we find that they were not geniuses. We do not find that they had very marked ability but that they averaged up pretty well; that they had the habit of industry, of painstaking, of doing things to a finish.
Any person of good common sense and fairly good judgment, a hard worker, thrifty, with painstaking habits, who does not botch his work, who does everything to a complete finish, is almost sure of a successful career. It is the constant application of these homely qualities, the common faculties, common principles, with great industry and determination, and the habit of painstaking—not great genius or very marked ability in any particular line—that increases the world’s achievers.
The tendency to go into things without thorough training is one of the most unfortunate phases of our business life. Superficiality is a great curse in America. As a rule our youths are not half as well grounded in principles, in
technical training, as the English youths are. They have nothing like the thorough preparation of the English, their superb discipline and effective training. In England the youth is brought up with the idea that he must not only learn to do one thing, but he must learn to do it supremely well. The typical American youth thinks he can do most anything he turns his hand to, often without previous training.
I recently clipped from one of our dailies the advertisement of an institution that puts the university cap on boys and girls who cannot spell the words used in an ordinary letter without the dictionary. The advertiser claims that comparatively few weeks’ or months’ training, day or evening, at very little cost, will equip those who take this course as bookkeepers, stenographers, etc., and will guarantee them good positions. Think of the infinite harm to efficiency, to the laying of solid life foundations, which comes from such fake institutions. What a shame thus to deceive young people and make them believe that it is unnecessary to spend years in preparation; that they
can take infinitely shorter cuts to success, to their goal, and that it is foolish to spend precious years and lay solid substantial foundations when all the essentials of life can be learned in a'few weeks.
Want of thoroughness is the great lack, the curse, of the age. Few young Americans ever thoroughly learn a trade or any one thing. Just as the student crams to “get through” a dreaded examination, most youths pick up their knowledge as they go along, without very much special training. The typical young American gets a job wherever he can, whether he is specially fitted for it or not, and watches for the “main chance.” When he sees it, he goes for it, regardless of fitness or previous training. How very seldom we find young people who are willing to take time to prepare thoroughly for their life-work. They get just a little education, a little smattering of books, and then they imagine themselves ready for business.
“Can’t wait” is the characteristic of America, is written over everything. Our intelligence offices are full of people who wander about from place to place, have great difficulty in getting positions, and when they have them, can’t keep them, because they never learned to do any one thing well. The result is that they become drifters, never becoming proficient in any calling, never acquire facility or efficiency.
As a^ rule, our youths are seldom trained in staying power as they should be; they are not trained to stick and hang on. They are so loosely attached to their vocations that they are easily detached from them. The trouble with many of them is that they have no inspired faith in their own ability or in the glorious opportunity of every day work. They have early fallen into the habit of thinking themselves mediocre and the ordinary work of the world scarcely worth the doing. On the other hand, many are aspiring to do the extraordinary, overrating their own talents. and indifferent to opportunities at hand, the only means of climbing up to
higher duties and true achievement.
But if we were to examine a list of the men who have left their mark on the world, we should find that, as a rulé, it is not composed of those who were brilliant in their youth, or who gave great promise at the outset of their careers, but rather of the plodding young men who, if they have not dazzled by their brilliancy, have had the power of a day’s work in them, who could stay by a task until it was done, and well done; who have had grit, per sistence, common sense and honesty.
It is the steady exercise of these ordinary, homely virtues, united with average ability, rather than a deceptive display of more showy qualities in youth, that enables a man to achieve greatly and honorably. So, if we were to attempt to make a forecast of the successful men of the future, we should not look for them among the ranks of the “smart” boys, those who think they “know it all,” and are anxious to win by a short route.
The thorough boys are the boys that are heard from, and usually from posts far higher up than those filled by the boys who were too “smart” or too indifferent to be thorough.
But thoroughness from the start is the only sure foundation. Everywhere we see men being crippled by the halfdone things away back in their boyhood, which they never expected to hear from again, but which are constantly bobbing up to trip them.
Look at the desk of a man who thought it was not worth while to be exact in little things when a boy. It is loaded with papers and letters. Confusion reigns everywhere. Such a man never knows where he stands. He lacks system and thoroughness, is slovenly in his business habits. His slipshod methods are infectious. Everyone who works for him catches the contagion. Nobody has confidence in the man who half-does things. The botcher cannot get credit, his notes go to protest, he misses his engagements, he can never be depended upon. What a calamity for a youth to grow to manhood and
find his whole future compromised and endangered by the habit of half-doing things formed early in his boyhood! He may not have known that careless, indifferent work makes a careless, indifferent man.
Whatever the stage of your advancement, do the thing you are doing as though your whole future depended upon it. I have in mind a poor chorus girl who got an opportunity to speak two or three apparently trifling lines in a play. She made up her mind that this might be the chance of a life-time. She studied the lines and practised giving as much color, setting and expression as possible to them, and when the time came, she gave the lines with such distinction and expression that she made the hit of the evening, was at once given important parts, and is now a noted actress.
Many a youth has been promoted because of the quality and distinction which he gave to an apparently very unimportant piece of work. First of all, thoroughness, as the foundation of success, demands putting dignity into the countless little things that make up your daily work, thus dignifying your position entire, whatever it may be. It is a curious fact that most people think because their occupations in life are humble, because they occupy no official place of special importance, no position of distinction, that they are of very little account, and they get in the habit of regarding themselves as nobodies in particular. Now, every individual should look upon his vocation, however humble, with the same sense of pride as he would if he were occupying a post of great distinction. Why not?
Your position in life, your vocation, is just as significant to you as that of the President of the United States is to him. It is your sacred duty to honor that position, to make it respected, if it has been belittled, just as Roger Sherman, Vice-President Wilson, Kitto and many other great souls lifted out of its former contempt the cobbler’s trade, so that it was regarded at one time as an occupation of considerable distinction.
A great personality, a superb life’s devotion, will lift any necessary occupation into dignity and respect. Insist that, whatever you do, you will stand erect; live your own life, your own creed.
It is a pitiable thing to see people apologizing to those who happen to occupy a little higher place in life, for their own humble calling, explaining that they have not been able to climb up further. Why should any human being who does what is necessary feel that he should apologize, even to the highest officials in the land? If you do your work in a kingly manner, if you put your heart into it, if you put your trade-mark on everything that passes through your hands, the trade-mark of character, the patent of nobility, you need not apologize. In the first place, we should never do anything which is justifiably disagreeable to us or demoralizing to ourselves or others.
There is a great deal of false heroworship in this country. It is a dangerous thing to run after those who happen to have been a little more fortunate than yourself. If you are doing the best work you are capable of under the circumstances, dignify it by doing it in a superior manner. A king may cobble on the throne, while a cobbler may do kingly work mending shoes on his bench. Many a man is still cobbling in Congress while mechanics and farmers in his own community may be putting the stamp of royalty upon their work. There is many a stenographer or private secretary who is really greater than the mayor or governor she serves. She may be putting a queenly stamp upon her work, while her employer is disgracing his iob. It is doing work in a kingly fashion that makes the real king. Nobility is the child of superior quality. ,
The fortune you make is of little consequence in comparison with the influence you have exerted in making your fortune, the standard you have set up for vour fellows. Whatever your line of work, it is a great thing to set a pace for your competitors, to raise the stand-
ard of your specialty so high that your name will ever be identified with elevated methods and lofty purpose.
Recently, a memorial window was placed in a •public building in memory of the Roosevelt administration. Why? It was not because Mr. Roosevelt’s administration was perfect, not because he did not make any mistakes and serious blunders, but because he set up standards in the White House which had not been there before since Lincoln’s time. It was because of his lofty purpose, his determination to give his fellows a square deal.
It is a disgrace to cobble in Congress, but it is kingly to put the stamp of royalty upon mending shoes, to cobble in the spirit of an artist, instead of an artisan.
Thoroughness, born of the dignity he recognizes in his calling, should mark any man’s work. It is a dangerous time in a youth’s life when he first allows himself to half do a thing. There is a certain loss of self-respect for which he can never quite forgive himself. He is never quite the same man again after doing a botched job. Something of manhood has gone out of him, a lowering of the ideal has taken place which will tend always to degrade his work and his life.
There are thousands of patents and devices in the Patent Office at Washington which are absolutely useless because the inventor or discoverer Hid not think out his idea to the finish, did not carry bis device quite far enough to make it practical. Much of Edison’s fortune and reputation has come from picking up these dropped threads, these halfcarried-out ideas, of these almost successful inventors, and continuing them, completing, developing to final perfection what these almost-inventors had begun and dropped.
There are a thousand persons who can start a thing with great enthusiasm to one who can carry it to completion. The majority of people fall down before ihey reach their goal, stop this side of their laurels, because they never learned the habit of perfecting what they un-
dertake. The ideal of perfection must be held high ánd kept clear and clean. The standard of thoroughness must be kept up, or the general conduct of life will drop.
The very reputation of being a highclass man is everything. The reputation of regarding the quality of your work as your trade-mark, and of being very jealous of the quality of your service; the reputation of being ambitious to carry everything you touch to completion, will not only give you an infinite satisfaction later in life and will save you from thousands of temptations to cheat yourself and sell yourself, but it will be the greatest possible factor in your advancement, your promotion.
I once heard of a laborer who was leaning over his hoe when it was nearly time to quit work, and when asked what he was doing, said he was waiting for the whistle to blow so that he could quit. I have never known a man who made it a rule to wait for the whistle to amount to much. Everywhere we see people waiting for the whistle to blow, and as a rule, they remain perpetual clerks, perpetual day laborers.
Whatever your vocation, resolve that you will be a man of quality, that you will have nothing about you which is second-class, inferior, cheap; that you will have nothing to do with shoddy and shams, that you will have nothing to do with inferiority, because it will contaminate your ideals. Make it a rule to set the pace for those about you. Show them by your manner, your dress, that you have nothing to do with cheapness and commonness. Just make up your mind at the very outset that your work is going to stand for quality, that you will let others slight their jobs, and slipshod, slovenly work if they will, but that you are going to stamp a superior quality upon everything that goes out of your bands, that whatever you do shall bear the hall-mark of excellence. Let others work for quantity if they will, let quality be your motto, so that everything that your name is associated with shall suggest excellence, the best that can be done, or can be made.
Stamp the trade-mark thoroughness, of individuality, of distinptivness, upon everything that you touch. Then you will be a marked man, your services will be in great demand, and you will have the satisfaction of constantly hearing the “Well done!” of that small voice within you.
Accustoming oneself to the secondbest is fatal to all excellence, just as familiarity with inferiority, with slipshod, easy-going methods, is fatal to the building up of habits of system and order. Learn to be particular with yourself, exacting as to the quality of your work. Never accept from yourself inferior work. If you do, every lime you attempt to slight your task, slovenliness will grow easier and easier. The habit of doing one’s best and never accepting anything else, is a characterbuilder, it buttresses and sustains and supports the whole man. The habit of forcing oneself up to standard is a most important one.
All slipshod, slovenly work is lying. Many people who tell the truth with their tongues lie with their service, lie in poor work, bad work. Lies in half-done jobs are often worse than lying with one’s tongue, because their indifference and carelessness may cost precious lives or limbs. Many a railroad accident, many a disaster on the water, has been caused by careless workmen away back in the machine shop.
Imperial material, defective bolts, bubbles in steel rails, iron columns or beams, the fault of careless workmen in the foundry, have caused many fatal accidents. Multitudes of people have been permanently maimed or have lost their lives by the half-done job or botched work.
The dangers of carelessness cannot be over emphasized. Just a little indifference or carelessness, just a few little bubbles in a casting, and a whole building is wrecked or a bridge goes down into the river, carrying its train of precious human freight.
Yet everywhere 'we see evidences of carelessness and shirking.
A prominent New York business man tells me that he was once tempted, because of the meanness and stinginess of his employer, to slight a very important piece of cabinet work, and cover up defects, lie says that he has never forgiven himself. This poor job has haunted him for twenty-five years, and it has cost him many a sleepless night.
On every hand we see people cheapening themselves, marring their own records, injuring their reputations, without realizing it, by doing a poor job. Resolve to be a high-class man in everything. Resolve that you will have nothing to do with anything that is cheap, inferior, shoddy, or with shams. Re genuine in everything, so that people will look up to you. Get the reputation of being a man of quality.
Mr. Tiffany made it a life rule never under any circumstances to deceive a customer, or allow him to be disappointed in anything purchased at his store. This is why people from all parts of the world felt perfect confidence in sending to him large sums of money for goods, goods they had no chance to examine before purchasing, but without a shadow of doubt that they would be treated squarely. And this practice of utter fairness to his patrons has acted supremely to the advantage of the establishment. The name of Tiffany on a piece of silver or jewelry has been all the protection it needed from competitors for nearly three-quarters of a century.
“Expected to do it better later” would make a fitting epitaph for many a failure. One of the most insidious ideas that ever deluded any mortal is the thought that he will get more time later to do the things which he is slighting at the moment. The habit of doing things temporarily, “just for now,” with the expectation of taking them up later and doing them better is a great demoràlizer of character. It ruins one’s system to have a lot of fag-ends, tail ends, halfdone things, around one. It violates every sense of fitness of things, of wholeness.
The mind is constructed on lines of
perfection. It loves wholeness, completeness, and the faculties protest against any half-done or botched work. The intensity of this protest is always in proportion to the distance from the first offence. First impressions are always strongest, and the mind becomes used to the conditions in its environment and gradually protests with less and less intensity. The adjusting power of the mind counteracts .the exacting demand of the normal mind. To leave a thing half done, to postpone perfecting it, is a most dangerous entering wedge for inferiority. One must be very exacting with his mental processes in order to keep his brain machinery up to the standard.
I know young men who are always telling how other people’s success and ability are due to a mysterious luck or to unusual qualities. They seem to think fortune unjust. Why should not the fates deal as kindly with them? Yet they would not, probably, in ten months, keep up their work to the standard of one day’s work of the men of whom they speak. If they would only watch for a single day the men they envy they would learn the secret of the great difference between their stations in life.
For years I marveled at the wonderful success of a friend of mine. When I left school I was ahead and I could not understand why he got along in the business world so much faster than I. But I soon found that he made it an inflexible life rule, never to allow anything to go through his hands that was not done just as well as he knew how to do it. No matter how hurried, he would not dictate a slip-shod, slovenly letter. He would not scrawl or scribble an address on an envelope. Everything had to be done just so. His business associates called him “The Tartar” and laughed at his exactitude in everything. They thought it a foolish waste of time. It did not occur to them that doing things with such severe exactitude bore any particular relation to getting on in life. But they soon saw that this man went ahead by leaps and bounds, while
they were perpetual employees. It was just the difference in the way they did things. The man whose position they envied had a high ideal and he lived up to it. He was always prodding himself to do his best, while they under him were content to do their second best.
There is something in the constant struggle to attain the ideal which makes for our own betterment. When we are trying with all our might to do our level best we are improving all along the lines of our natures. Everything looks up when we struggle up, as everything looks down when we are going down hill. Aspiration always lifts the life, as groveling lowers it. The whole life grows when we are striving for excellence; but when we are slovenly in our mental habits, and slipshod in our work, there is a downward tendency in our lives.
Refuse to work for a man who wants you to slight your work, or to do poor work because the price he gets as the result of your labor will not warrant thorough work. Tell him you cannot work unless you can put the trade-mark of your manhood, of superiority, the stamp of your integrity, upon everything you do. Give him to understand that no amount of salary would compensate for the loss of self-respect, that you cannot cheat yourself for salary or cheapen your work for any consideration. Let your employer understand that the way you do your work is your capital, that the quality of success means everything to you. He should know that, moreover, the quality of your work affects the quality of his business. Inferiority taints everything it touches. The public unconsciously carries the image of the quality of his establishment in its mind. It is made up of impressions received from the courtesy or the rudeness of the employees, from the quality and style of the merchandise, from the order and system or the slovenliness of the establishment. And only with the closest cooperation for excellence, down to the least details, between employer and em-
•’ ployee can the establishment have a name for consistent superiority.
/What a man can do should be his •greatest ornament. Every man’s life work ought to be a masterpiece. Every least pièce of work he does should be a masterpiece.
• ■• A well-known judge in Ohio once made a contract with a young man to mend a fence for a dollar and a half. He told him that as the fence was to be covered with vines, not to plane the boards and to do a rough job.
The judge, however, was amazed to find that the boards were all carefully . planed and the entire work done just as
• painstakingly and as carefully as though the fence were intended for the front yard of a fine residence. He was angry, because he supposed the young man would try to collect a large price for the work. But he would only take a dollar, and a half. The judge told him that nobody would have seen the poor
work because the vines would have covered it, and the young man replied: “But I should have known it was there.”
Ten years later, the judge awarded this young man the contract for several large public buildings, which made a rich man of him.
Resolve that your life’s work shall be a masterpiece. No matter whether it is farming, cobbling or law-making, or only fence building, let it be a masterpiece. No matter what your work may be, look upon it as a great painter looks upon his masterpiece, the destiny of which is affected by every slightest stroke of the brush. Your whole life is affected by the quality you put into everything that goes through your hands. Quality, the trade mark of superiority is the foundation of all success—your own inner success in character building, and your outward efficiency, the building you do for your times and for the world of progress.
Many a man, capable by nature of being an employer, is often compelled to be a very ordinary employee because his mind is totally untrained. Everywhere we see young men and young -women tied to very ordinary positions all their lives simply because, although they have good brains, they have never cultivated them. They have never tried to improve themselves by good reading, study or observation. Their salary on a Saturday night and a good time are about all they can see, and the result— the narrow, the contracted, the pinched career.
“Side-tracked by ignorance, for the lack of a little more preparation,” would be a fitting epitah over the grave of many a failure. In every department of endeavor we find men switched off, obliged to stop just this side of their laurels, because they did not follow the main track of thorough preparation in their youth.
Perhaps there is no other country in the world where so much poor work is done as in America. Half-trained medical students perform bungling operations, and butcher their patients, because they are not willing to take time for thorough preparation. Half-trained lawyers stumble through their cases, and make their clients pay for experience which the law school should have given. Half-trained clergymen bungle away in the pulpit, and disgust their intelligent and cultured parishioners. Many an American youth is willing to stumble through life half prepared for his work, and then blame society because he is a failure. Nature works for centuries to perfect a rose or a fruit, but an American youth is ready to try a riifficult case in court after a few months’ desultory law reading, or to undertake a critical operation upon which a precious life depends after listening to two or three courses of medical lectures.
Fifty years ago a poor boy with health and ambition could make his way as a manufacturer of cotton or silk, or as a producer of iron or steel. But to-day he would need a thorough technical training for any kind of an opportunity, and without it he would soon be “frozen out.”
Science has gone into business as never before. To-day, scientific methods are being applied everywhere. There never was such an opportunity in the history of the world for the trained mind, the specialized brain, as to-day.
The untrained mind is no match for the educated. Ignorance is no match for intelligence.
Scientific methods dominate everywhere. It was the science of the German army that beat France in 1871. It was intelligence against Ignorance, the scientific methods, that enabled Japan to humiliate Russia.
The business to-day which is not conducted along scientific lines will be very short-lived. Science is invincible. Nothing else can successfully compete with it.
When the Germans went into business, they took science with them. The same thoroughness, the same painstaking methods which have so long characterized the German scholar, are now characterizing the German business man. If he is a manufacturer, he manufactures scientifically. If he is a merchant, he is a scientific merchant. No matter what line he takes up, he makes a profession of his trade.
What a difference there is in boys as to the sharpness of their observing power, the retention of the memory, the quickness of their perceptive powers.
Some boys never seem to know anything you ask them. If you put to them a question, that is the least out of the ordinary, you are practically sure that they will say, “I do not know.”
Others always seem to give you the information you want. Their minds are alert, quick, receptive, their knowledge definite, certain ; their memory reliable.
The “I don’t know” employee is not a climber in his vocation; he is a perpetual clerk, because people who fill important positions must use their gray matter.
Every human being is a lodestone, drawing to himself his affinities, things which correspond with his ambition. The majority of employees only use a small part of their ability, because they are not sufficiently ambitious to be always on the alert to absorb every bit of information which will increase their facility and expertness.
Knowledge is power. No matter how small your salary, every bit of valuable information you pick up, every bit of good reading or thinking you do—in fact, every effort you put forth to make yourself a larger, completer man or woman—will also help you to advance in your position.
A tanner in England whose leather became famous said that he never would have made such good leather if he had not read Carlyle.
I have known employees who were working on small salaries who did more for their advancement in their spare time, at every possible opportunity, by improving their minds, than by the actunl work they did. Their salaries were insignificant in comparison with the growth of their minds.
The youth \vho is ambitious for promotion is always preparing himself for the position above him. He is always studying the situation and he is trying to make himself so valuable in his position that his employer cannot afford not to advance him. The employee cannot win promotion by slighting his work or filling his position just well enough. He must do more than is expected of him before he attracts special attention to himself. Most employees are not ready for promotion when it comes. They did not think there would be an opening so soon and they had not been training for it. They thought there would be plenty of time.
Mr. Rockefeller says: “My plan has been, not only to know how to do my
work, but also that of the man above me.”
It is a great thing to keep your eye on the man above you, to learn to be able to take his position, for changes come about very suddenly and unexpectedly, and the man who is best prepared is prompted.
Many employees seem to think that their employers have a monopoly upon all the good ideas, the best methods of doing things, and that it is not much use for them to suggest anything. One of the unfortunate things of selling our services to others is that most of us take it for granted that we are inferior to those who pay us, or we would not be working for them—we should be doing something for ourselves.
This is far from true. It is possible for the humblest employee to make his employer feel his power by the very superior way in which he does his work, and by constant study of the situation he may often suggest better ways of doing things.
When Hugh Chalmers was' working as a cash boy in the National Cash Register Company, the superintendent over him viewed with contempt the new ideas which the boy suggested, and often intimated that he would better mind his own affairs. But the boy was not to be squelched. There was something in him which told him that he was superior to the man over him, that all he needed was an opportunity and a little time, and he resolved that he would soon show
those who had domineered over him a thing or two.
There were lots of employees who sneered at what they considered his presumption, and tried to keep him down, but he had yeast in him which could not be kept down. Chalmers believed that he had a lot of ideas which were far in advance of those of the men above him, that he had a message for the proprietors of the concern, and that sooner or later he would “deliver the goods.” It did not trouble him that those who envied him called him a wilful upstart. He had his eye on the goal, and pushed ahead.
Nothing else will attract an employer’s notice more quickly than superiority in the way of doing things. Better methods, quicker, more efficient ways of reaching results, more than ordinary alertness, evidences of progressive methods, indications of superiority, are what your employer is always looking for. There is nothing else that pleases an upto-date business man more .than evidences of marked ability in employees.
For employees realize how much they could assist their employer by keeping their eyes open and their minds alert for new ideas or suggestions for him. Even if he cannot always utilize the idea, an employer will generally appreciate the spirit which prompts it.
Power gravitates to the man who * knows how. “Luck is the tide, nothing more. The strong man rows with it if it makes toward his port; he rows against it if it flows the other way.”