J. HERBERT HODGINS August 15 1926


J. HERBERT HODGINS August 15 1926




INVARIABLY we meet in the street car going to the office each morning. Personally unacquainted, by reason of this day in and day out meeting I have come to feel that I know him—though we never speak a word to each other. I have watched him in winter and in summer, and it is always the same. The moment he boards the street car each morning he buries his head in the sports page. I have never seen him give more than casual attention to the front page headlines, have never seen him pause to consider the editorial comment—and certainly the financial or business section holds no interest for him.

You must know his type, because, unfortunately, his kind is to be found going down to office each morning, returning home from office each evening in very considerable numbers.

One of the young men who has not yet got anywhere in the business world told me the other day quite emphatically, when I brought up the subject, “I have no time to read about business.”

No time to read about business! He is busy all day, he explained, so busy that he is late getting away from the office each afternoon, late for dinner and the evening is thus cut short! Outside of the time he snatches for the sporting pages going to and from office in the street car, he devotes no hours to reading except a casual excursion into the trashiest of fiction.

“Unfortunately,” observed a business executive of my acquaintance, “there are thousands of young Canadians like him. They devote to their work only the hours they are at their work—and often these hours are spent half-heartedly, languidly, discontentedly. Yet this is the type of man who complains most loudly that the opportunities were gobbled up by the big fellows, that you cannot make money unless you have money, that success is a matter of luck, that the rich don’t give poor people half a chance . . .

“My insight into the life and habits of a number of conspicuously successful business men has revealed this, that with few exceptions these men early acquired the habit of reading about their line of business and kept up this practice no matter how busy they became.”

Reading as a Basis

I KNOW of no phase of business life which requires more definite, more continuous study and reading than banking. Yet I know no type of young man more lacking in ambition than your average Canadian bank clerk. He will grumble and grouse the day through and half the night about the inconsiderations of “Head Office” and the fact that he has not been plucked from the ledger in a prairie branch immediately to be set down at least as assistant general manager in Montreal or Toronto. But rarely will he make use of the years of his apprenticeship to acquaint himself with the basic principles of banking and world economics. This fact would be definitely established, I think, were the staff records of our Canadian banks to be searched and analysis made of the proportion of the employed staff who have made the best of their opportunities for study through the arrangement which the Canadian Bankers’ Association has with one of our universities.

My personal knowledge of the conditions which existed within at least one Canadian bank warrant the remark that the situation is appalling. There was an amazing lack of desire upon the part of the staff to improve their technical qualifications through study.

The majority of young men in junior jobs quibble with an educational course. They are too busy in banking hours and too busy out of banking hours to embark upon an education course. “They have no time to read.” Yet they grumble abundantly, if, at the end of a year, the usual hundred dollar raise in salary does not come along.

No time to read!

There are exceptions, of course, and right within one of our Canadian banks, fortunately, by way of contrast, there is the example of a general manager of one of Canada’s four foremost banks. He entered the bank during his teens as many of our young bank clerks do. Home circumstances did not permit of his finishing his secondary education; a university course was entirely out of the question.

But he found time to read. In banking hours and out of banking hours he read about banking. The day came, when, as representative of his bank in the great banking centre of the world, London, England, he delivered before a critical audience what has for many years been regarded as a notable exposition of Canada’s pre-war economic condition.

He has become active directing executive of one of the world’s dominant banks. How and why? Admittedly he must have had talent for his chosen profession—but unquestionably his eminent position could never have been obtained had he not fitted himself by progressive study of his job and all that pertained to the great subject of banking and finance.

He himself will tell you, as he has told me in frequent interviews, that a “read up” on one’s business is vital for the progress of each and every man. In my meetings with Big Business men, everywhere in Canada, I care not what their “line,” it has been my invariable experience that they value a thorough study of their particular business and all its ramifications.

Astronomy for the Egotists

IT was only recently that C. H. Carlisle, president of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company—himself risen from a farm lad—stressed the value of reading. He considers reading and study basic to his own business success, and he firmly believes that every man would do well to broaden his reading even to the inclusion of a little study of astronomy as a cure for too much egotism! As he expresses it: “When a man realizes you can put our earth in the centre of the sun, then set the moon to revolve about it; and that to go from the edge of the moon to the outside of the sun, one would have to travel 22,000 miles, they are apt to feel that the little niche they fill in the scheme of affairs is pretty small after all.”

But enough of example; you have only to look about you, in short, to read a very little, to learn what reading has done for every successful man. Practical knowledge, it almost goes without saying, is indispensable. If you doubt it then pit the man who has climbed from the bottom rung of the ladder against the man who by some chance gained admittance half way up the ladder. You know full well which man is the better fitted, the better qualified, the surer worker, the more certain in vital decisions.

But to make for the larger successes in life, practical knowledge must be complemented by a broad, all-embracing knowledge. And this is only possible through “reading up.”

Business study is made simple in these modern days. There is a business newspaper for almost every “line.” Look them over, if you have not been doing so in the past—you will find they teem with invaluable suggestions. They tell you of the day-to-day developments in the very “line” you are interested in; they bring you inspiration by detailing the successes of men in the same business as yourself; they counsel and advise. In short the well-edited business newspaper is an invaluable adjunct in every man’s daily reading.

It can be accepted as an axiom that the man who has no time to read about business has no time to succeed in business.