Will You Pay The Price?
The gods sell anything and to everybody at a fair price.
All desire knowledge, but no one is willing to pay the price.
There is no royal path which leads to geometry.
There is no road to success but through a clear, strong
purpose. A purpose underlies character, culture, position,
attainment of whatever sort.
--T. T. MUNGER.
Remember you have not a sinew whose law of strength is not
action; you have not a faculty of body, mind, or soul, whose
law of improvement is not energy.
--E. B. HALL.
"We have but what we make, and every good
Is locked by nature in a granite hand,
Sheer labor must unclench."
"Oh, if I could thus put a dream on canvas!" exclaimed an enthusiastic
young artist, pointing to a most beautiful painting. "Dream on canvas!"
growled the master, "it is the ten thousand touches with the brush you
must learn to put on canvas that make your dream."
"There is but one method of attaining excellence," said Sydney Smith,
"and that is hard labor."
"If only Milton's imagination could have conceived his visions," says
Waters, "his consummate industry alone could have carved the immortal
lines which enshrine them. If only Newton's mind could reach out to the
secrets of nature, even his genius could only do it by the homeliest
toil. The works of Bacon are not midsummer-night's dreams, but, like
coral islands, they have risen from the depths of truth, and formed
their broad surfaces above the ocean by the minutest accretions of
persevering labor. The conceptions of Michael Angelo would have perished
like a night's phantasy, had not his industry given them permanence."
Salvini contributes the following to the _Century_ as to his habits of
study before he had established himself as a past master of tragedy: "I
imposed upon myself a new method of study. While I was busying myself
with the part of Saul, I read and reread the Bible, so as to become
impregnated with the appropriate sentiments, manners and local color.
When I took up Othello, I pored over the history of the Venetian
Republic and that of the Moorish invasion of Spain. I studied the
passions of the Moors, their art of war, their religious beliefs, nor
did I overlook the romance of Giraldi Cinthio, in order the better to
master that sublime character. I did not concern myself about a
superficial study of the words, or of some point of scenic effect, or of
greater or less accentuation of certain phrases with a view to win
passing applause; a vaster horizon opened out before me--an infinite sea
on which my bark could navigate in security, without fear of falling in
His method was not new, but he considered it so, and gives his opinion
in quotation-marks. He speaks of characters with which, his name is not
always associated by writers on the stage, but is correct, I think, in
Many years ago a little boy entered Harrow school and was put in a class
beyond his years, wherein all the other boys had the advantage of
previous instruction. His master used to reprove his dullness, but all
his efforts could not raise him from the lowest place in the class. The
boy finally procured the elementary books which the other boys had
studied. He devoted the hours of play and many of the hours of sleep to
mastering the elementary principles of these books. This boy was soon at
the head of his class and the pride of Harrow. The statue of that boy,
Sir William Jones, stands to-day in St. Paul's Cathedral; for he lived
to be the greatest Oriental scholar of Europe.
"What is the secret of success in business?" asked a friend of Cornelius
Vanderbilt. "Secret! there is no secret about it," replied the
commodore; "all you have to do is to attend to your business and go
ahead." If you would adopt Vanderbilt's method, know your business,
attend to it, and keep down expenses until your fortune is safe from
"Work or starve," is nature's motto,--and it is written on the stars and
the sod alike,--starve mentally, starve morally, starve physically. It
is an inexorable law of nature that whatever is not used, dies. "Nothing
for nothing," is her maxim. If we are idle and shiftless by choice, we
shall be nerveless and powerless by necessity.
The mottoes of great men often give us glimpses of the secret of their
characters and success. "Work! work! work!" was the motto of Sir Joshua
Reynolds, David Wilkie, and scores of other men who have left their mark
upon the world. Voltaire's motto was "Toujours au travail" (always at
work). Scott's maxim was "Never be doing nothing." Michael Angelo was a
wonderful worker. He even slept in his clothes ready to spring to his
work as soon as he awoke. He kept a block of marble in his bedroom that
he might get up in the night and work when he could not sleep. His
favorite device was an old man in a go-cart, with an hour-glass upon it,
bearing this inscription: "Ancora imparo" (still I'm learning). Even
after he was blind he would ask to be wheeled into the Belvidere, to
examine the statues with his hands. Cobden used to say, "I'm working
like a horse without a moment to spare." It was said that Handel, the
musician, did the work of a dozen men. Nothing ever daunted him. He
feared neither ridicule nor defeat. Lord Palmerston worked like a slave,
even in his old age. Being asked when he considered a man in his prime,
he replied, "Seventy-nine," that being his own age. Humboldt was one of
the world's great workers. In summer he arose at four in the morning for
thirty years. He used to say work was as much of a necessity as eating
or sleeping. Sir Walter Scott was a phenomenal worker. He wrote the
"Waverley Novels" at the rate of twelve volumes a year. He averaged a
volume every two months during his whole working life. What an example
is this to the young men of to-day, of the possibilities of an earnest
life! Edmund Burke was one of the most prodigious workers that ever
George Stephenson used to work at meal time, getting out loads of coal
while the miners were at dinner in order that he might earn a few extra
shillings to buy a spelling-book and an arithmetic. His associates
thought he was very foolish, and asked him what good it would do to
learn to read and cipher. He told them he was determined to improve his
mind; so he studied whenever he could snatch a minute before the
engine's fire, and in every possible situation until he had a good,
practical, common-sense education.
Garibaldi's father decided that Guiseppe should be a minister, because
the boy was so sorry for a cricket which lost its leg. Samuel Morse's
father concluded that his son would preach well because he could not
keep his head above water in a dangerous attempt to catch bait in the
Mystic River. President Dwight told young Morse he would never make a
painter, and hinted that he never would amount to much any way if he did
not study more. Although under the teaching of West and Allston in
London, he became a tolerable portrait painter, he did not find his
sphere until returning from England on a sailing vessel, he heard
Professor Jackson explain an electrical experiment in Paris, when the
thought of the telegraph flashed into his mind and he found no rest,
until he flashed over the wire the first message, "What hath God
wrought!" on the experimental line between Baltimore and Washington:
this was May 24, 1844.
William H. Vanderbilt was by far the wealthiest man in the world.
Chauncey M. Depew estimated his fortune at two hundred millions. He left
his eight children ten millions each, except Cornelius and William K.,
who had sixty-five millions each. Commodore Vanderbilt, his father,
amassed a fortune of eighty millions of dollars in his own lifetime, and
that too at a time when it was more difficult to make money than it is
Mr. C. P. Huntington is a good example of a self-made man. His father
was a Connecticut farmer. The farm was left to him, but he traded it off
for a lot of clocks which he peddled in mining districts for gold dust
and nuggets. He and Mark Hopkins formed a partnership and opened a
hardware store in California. They united with Leland Stanford in the
construction of a railroad, and they all got rich rapidly. Mr.
Huntington is one of the greatest railroad operators of the country. He
always acted upon the principle that he would control the stock of any
road in which he was interested. He is one of the most methodical men of
all the millionaires of this country. He is very plain in his manner,
strictly temperate, and very abstemious in his living. He said he never
knew what it was to be tired.
Russell Sage used to keep a grocery store in Troy, N. Y. He finally
associated himself with Jay Gould, who used to be a constant borrower of
money of him. Mr. Sage probably keeps more ready money on hand than any
other millionaire. He can nearly always control ten millions or more at
call. He has never speculated in stocks to any extent. Mr. Sage's word
is as good as any bond. He has no taste for ordinary diversions, except
Philip D. Armour, who has the appearance of a prosperous farmer, was
born on a farm near Watertown, N. J. He became fired with a desire to
see the "Boundless West." His mind seemed to run to hogs, and with a
financial instinct he made up his mind that there was a fortune in
transporting the hogs from where they were so plenty to where there were
so few of them and so many to eat them. He could now purchase every hog
in the world and then have money left to buy a railroad or two.
Mrs. Hetty Green is probably the richest woman in the world. Her fortune
has grown from the little industry of her father in New Bedford, Mass.
She has raised the nine millions left her by her father and nine
millions left her by her aunt to thirty millions. She is a woman of
great ability and courage. She once took with her five millions of
dollars of securities in a satchel on a street car to deposit with her
banker on Wall street.
The probabilities are that billionaires will be as plentiful in the
twentieth century as millionaires are to-day, through hard work,
self-denial, rigid economy, method, accuracy, and strict temperance, for
not one of the self-made millionaires are intemperate. John D.
Rockefeller never tastes intoxicating liquor. He seems as unvarying in
his method and system as the laws of the universe. Jay Gould did not use
wine or intoxicating liquor of any kind. Mr. Huntington does not even
drink coffee, while William Waldorf Astor merely takes a sip of wine
for courtesy's sake. Not one of the leading millionaires uses tobacco,
and not one of them is profane. Very rich men are almost always honest
in their dealings, so far as their word is concerned. William Waldorf
Astor, until recently, has been considered the richest man in the world,
but John D. Rockefeller surpasses him now, it is said. The whole wealth
of Croesus was little more than the income of this modern Croesus
for one year. Mr. Rockefeller controls about eighty or ninety millions
of capital stock in the Standard Oil Trust. The Standard Oil Company is
one of the best managed corporations in the world.
Two centuries and a quarter ago, a little, tempest-tossed,
weather-beaten bark, barely escaped from the jaws of the wild Atlantic,
landed upon the bleakest shore of New England. From her deck disembarked
a hundred and one careworn exiles.
To the casual observer no event could seem more insignificant. The
contemptuous eye of the world scarcely deigned to notice it. Yet the
famous vessel that bore Caesar and his fortunes, carried but an ignoble
freight compared with that of the Mayflower. Though landed by a
treacherous pilot upon a barren and inhospitable coast, they sought
neither richer fields nor a more congenial climate, but liberty and
A lady once asked Turner the secret of his great success.
"I have no secret, madam, but hard work."
"This is a secret that many never learn, and they don't succeed because
they fail to learn it. Labor is the genius that changes the world from
ugliness to beauty, and the great curse to a great blessing."
See Balzac, in his lonely garret, toiling, toiling, waiting, waiting,
amid poverty and hunger, but neither hunger, debt, poverty nor
discouragement could induce him to swerve a hair's breadth from his
purpose. He could wait, even while a world scoffed.
"Mankind is more indebted to industry than to ingenuity," says Addison;
"the gods set up their favors at a price and industry is the purchaser."
Rome was a mighty nation while industry led her people, but when her
great conquests of wealth and slaves placed her citizens above work,
that moment her glory began to fade, and vice and corruption, induced by
idleness, doomed the proud city to an ignominious history. Even Cicero,
Rome's great orator, said, "All artisans are engaged in a disgraceful
occupation;" and Aristotle said, "The best regulated states will not
permit a mechanic to be a citizen, for it is impossible for one who
lives the life of a mechanic, or hired servant, to practice a life of
virtue. Some were born to be slaves." But, fortunately there came a
mightier than Rome, Cicero or Aristotle, whose magnificent life and
example forever lifted the false ban from labor and redeemed it from
disgrace. He gave dignity to the most menial service, and significance
Christ did not say, "Come unto me all ye pleasure hunters, ye indolent
and ye lazy;" but "Come all ye that _labor_ and are _heavy laden_."
Columbus was a persistent and practical, as well as an intellectual
hero. He went from one state to another, urging kings and emperors to
undertake the first visiting of a world which his instructed spirit
already discerned in the far-off seas. He first tried his own countrymen
at Genoa, but found none ready to help him. He then went to Portugal,
and submitted his project to John II., who laid it before his council.
It was scouted as extravagant and chimerical. Nevertheless, the king
endeavored to steal Columbus's idea. A fleet was sent forth in the
direction indicated by the navigator, but, being frustrated by storms
and winds, it returned to Lisbon after four days' voyaging.
Columbus returned to Genoa, and again renewed his propositions to the
Republic, but without success. Nothing discouraged him. The finding of
the New World was the irrevocable object of his life. He went to Spain,
and landed at the town of Palos, in Andalusia. He went by chance to a
convent of Franciscans, knocked at the door and asked for a little bread
and water. The prior gratefully received the stranger, entertained him,
and learned from him the story of his life. He encouraged him in his
hopes, and furnished him with an admission to the Court of Spain, then
at Cordova. King Ferdinand received him graciously, but before coming to
a decision he desired to lay the project before a council of his wisest
men at Salamanca. Columbus had to reply, not only to the scientific
arguments laid before him, but to citations from the Bible. The Spanish
clergy declared that the theory of the antipodes was hostile to the
faith. The earth, they said, was an immense flat disk; and if there was
a new earth beyond the ocean, then all men could not be descended from
Adam. _Columbus was considered a fool._
Still bent on his idea, he wrote to the King of England, then to the
King of France, without effect. At last, in 1492, Columbus was
introduced by Louis de Saint Angel to Queen Isabella of Spain. The
friends who accompanied him pleaded his cause with so much force and
conviction that he at length persuaded the queen to aid him.
Lord Ellenborough was a great worker. He had a very hard time in getting
a start at the bar, but was determined never to relax his industry until
success came to him. When he was worked down to absolute exhaustion, he
had this card which he kept constantly before his eyes, lest he might be
tempted to relax his efforts: "Read or Starve."
Show me a man who has made fifty thousand dollars, and I will show you
in that man an equivalent of energy, attention to detail,
trustworthiness, punctuality, professional knowledge, good address,
common sense, and other marketable qualities. The farmer respects his
savings bank book not unnaturally, for it declares with all the
solemnity of a sealed and stamped document that for a certain length of
time he rose at six o'clock each morning to oversee his labors, that he
patiently waited upon seasonable weather, that he understood buying and
selling. To the medical man, his fee serves as a medal to indicate that
he was brave enough to face small pox and other infectious diseases, and
his self-respect is fostered thereby.
The barrister's brief is marked with the price of his legal knowledge,
of his eloquence, or of his brave endurance during a period of
A rich man asked Howard Burnett to do a little thing for his album.
Burnett complied and charged a thousand francs. "But it took you only
five minutes," objected the rich man. "Yes, but it took me thirty years
to learn how to do it in five minutes."
"I prepared that sermon," said a young sprig of divinity, "in half an
hour, and preached it at once, and thought nothing of it." "In that,"
said an older minister, "your hearers are at one with you, for they also
thought nothing of it."
Virgil seems to have accomplished about four lines a week; but then they
have lasted eighteen hundred years and will last eighteen hundred more.
Seven years Virgil is said to have expended in the composition of the
Georgics, and they could all be printed in about seven columns of an
ordinary newspaper. Tradition reports that he was in the habit of
composing a few lines in the morning and spending the rest of the day in
polishing them. Campbell used to say that if a poet made one good line a
week, he did very well indeed; but Moore thought that if a poet did his
duty, he could get a line done every day.
What an army of young men enters the success-contest every year as raw
recruits! Many of them are country youths flocking to the cities to buy
success. Their young ambitions have been excited by some book, or fired
by the story of some signal success, and they dream of becoming Astors
or Girards, Stewarts or Wanamakers, Vanderbilts or Goulds, Lincolns or
Garfields, until their innate energy impels them to try their own
fortune in the magic metropolis. But what are you willing to pay for
"success," as you call it, young man? Do you realize what that word
means in a great city in the nineteenth century, where men grow gray at
thirty and die of old age at forty,--where the race of life has become
so intense that the runners are treading on the heels of those before
them; and "woe to him who stops to tie his shoestring?" Do you know that
only two or three out of every hundred will ever win permanent success,
and only because they have kept everlastingly at it; and that the rest
will sooner or later fail and many die in poverty because they have
given up the struggle.
There are multitudes of men who never rely wholly upon themselves and
achieve independence. They are like summer vines, which never grow even
ligneous, but stretch out a thousand little hands to grasp the stronger
shrubs; and if they cannot reach them, they lie dishevelled in the
grass, hoof-trodden, and beaten of every storm. It will be found that
the first real movement upward will not take place until, in a spirit of
resolute self-denial, indolence, so natural to almost every one, is
mastered. Necessity is, usually, the spur that sets the sluggish
energies in motion. Poverty, therefore, is often of inestimable value as
an incentive to the best endeavors of which we are capable.
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