"Pushing to the Front, Vol. 1"
by Orison Swett Marden
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1911. Other volumes in this set include ISBN number(s): 0766127257. Volume one of a two volume set. Partial Contents: Man and the Opportunity; Boys with no Chance; Opportunities where You Are; How Poor Boys and Girls go to College; What Career? Choosing a Vocation; Triumphs of Enthusiasm; What a a Good Appearance will Do; Personality as a Success Asset; A Fortune in Good Manners; Self-consciousness and Timidity Foes to Success; Tact or Common Sense; Do it to a Finish; Reward of Persistence; Clear Grit; Success Under Difficulties; Observation as a Success Factor; Self-improvement Habit; Raising of Values.
The author's excuse for one more postponement of the end " of making many books " can be briefly, given. He early determined that if it should ever lie in his power, he would write a book to encourage, inspire, and stimulate boys and girls who long to be somebody and do something in the world, but feel that they have no chance in life. Among hundreds of American and English books for the young, claiming to give the "secret of success," he found but few which satisfy the cravings of youth, hungry for stories of successful lives, and eager for every hint and every bit of information which may help them to make their way in the world. He believed that the power of an ideal book for youth should lie in its richness of concrete examples, as the basis and inspiration of character-building; in its uplifting, energizing, suggestive force, more than in its arguments; that it should be free from materialism, on the one hand, and from cant on the other; and that it should abound in stirring examples of men and women who have brought things to pass. To the preparation of such a book he had devoted all his spare moments for ten years, when a fire destroyed all his manuscript and notes. The memory of some of the lost illustrations of difficulties overcome stimulated to another attempt; so once more the gleanings of odd bits of time for years have been arranged in the following pages.< style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">The author's aim has been to spur the perplexed youth to act the Columbus to his own undiscovered possibilities; to urge him not to brood over the past, nor dream of the future, but to get his lesson from the hour; to encourage him to make every occasion a great occasion, for he cannot tell when fate may take his measure for a higher place; to show him that he must not wait for his opportunity, but make it; to tell the round boy how he may get out of the square hole, into which he has been wedged by circumstances or mistakes; to help him to find his right place in life; to teach the hesitating youth that in a land where shoemakers and farmers sit in Congress no limit can be placed to the career of a determined youth who has once learned the alphabet. The standard of the book is not measured in gold, but in growth; not in position, but in personal power; not in capital, but in character. It shows that a great checkbook can never make a great man; that beside the character of a Washington, the millions of a Croesus look contemptible; that a man may be rich without money, and may succeed though he does not become President or member of Congress; that he who would grasp the key to power must be greater than his calling, and resist the vulgar prosperity that retrogrades toward barbarism; that there is something greater than wealth, grander than fame; that character is success, and there is no other.
If this volume shall open wider the door of some narrow life, and awaken powers before unknown, the author will feel repaid for his labor. No special originality is claimed for the book. It has been prepared in odd moments snatched from a busy life, and is merely a new way of telling stories and teaching lessons that have been told and taught by many others from Solomon down. These well-worn and trite topics lie " the marrow of the wisdom of the world."
"Though old the thought, and oft expressed, 'T is his at last who says it best."
If in rewriting this book from lost manuscript, the author has failed to always give due credit, he desires to hereby express the fullest obligation. He also wishes to acknowledge valuable assistance from Mr. Arthur W. Brown, of West Kingston, R. I. 43 BowDois Street, Boston, November 11, 1894.
THE MAN AND THE OPPORTUNITY
No man is born into this world whose work is not born with him. - LOWELL.
No royal permission is requisite to launch forth on the broad sea of discovery that surrounds us-most full of novelty where most explored.- EDWARD EVERETT.
Things don't turn up in this world until somebody turns them up. - GARFIELD.
We live in a new and exceptional age. America is another name for Opportunity. Our whole history appears like a last effort of the Divine Providence in behalf of the human race.- EMERSON.
Vigilance in watching opportunity ; tact and daring in seizing upon opportunity; force and persistence in crowding opportunity to its utmost of possible achievement-these are the martial virtues which must command success. - AUSTIN PHELPS.
"I will find away or make one."
There never was a day that did not bring its own opportunity for doing good, that never could have been done before, and never can be again. - W. H. BURLEIGIH.
"Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute;
What you can do, or dream you can, begin it."
" IF we succeed, what will the world say?" asked Captain Berry in delight, when Nelson had explained his carefully formed plan before the battle of the Nile.
"There is no if in the case," replied Nelson. "That we shall succeed is certain. Who may live to tell the tale is a very different question." Then, as his captains rose from the council to go to their respective ships, he added: "Before this time tomorrow I shall have gained a peerage or Westminster Abbey." His quick eye and daring spirit saw an opportunity of glorious victory where others saw only probable defeat.
" Is it POSSIBLE to cross the path ? " asked Napoleon of the engineers who had been sent to explore the dreaded pass of St. Bernard. "Perhaps," was the hesitating reply, "it is within the limits of possibility." "FORWARD, THEN," said the Little Corporal, heeding not their account of difficulties, apparently insurmountable.
England and Austria laughed in scorn at the idea of transporting across the Alps, where "no wheel had ever rolled, or by any possibility could roll," an army of sixty thousand men, with ponderous artillery, and tons of cannon balls and baggage, and all the bulky munitions of war. But the besieged Massena was starving in Genoa, and the victorious Austrians thundered at the gates of Nice. Napoleon was not the man to fail his former comrades in their hour of peril.
The soldiers and all their equipments were inspected with rigid care. A worn shoe, a torn coat, or a damaged musket was at once repaired or replaced, and the columns swept forward, fired with the spirit of their chief.
"High on those craggy steeps, gleaming through the mists, the glittering bands of armed men, like phantoms, appeared. The eagle wheeled and screamed beneath their feet.
The mountain goat, affrighted by the unwonted spectacle, bounded away, and paused in bold relief upon the cliff to gaze at the martial array which so suddenly had peopled the solitude. When they approached any spot of very special difficulty, the trumpets sounded the charge, which reechoed with sublime reverberations from pinnacle to pinnacle of rock and ice.
Everything was so carefully arranged, and the influence of Napoleon so boundless, that not a soldier left the ranks. Whatever obstructions were in the way were to be at all hazards surmounted, so that the long file, extending nearly twenty miles, might not be thrown into confusion." In four days the army was marching on the plains of Italy.
When this "impossible" deed was accomplished, others saw that it might have been done long before. Many a commander had possessed the necessary supplies, tools, and rugged soldiers, but lacked the grit and resolution of Bonaparte. Others excused themselves from encountering such gigantic obstacles by calling ; them insuperable. He did not shrink from mere difficulties, however great, but out of his very need made and mastered his opportunity.
Grant at New Orleans had just been seriously injured by a fall from his horse, when he received orders to take command at Chattanooga, so sorely beset by the Confederates that its surrender seemed only a question of a few days, for the hills around were all aglow by night with the campfires of the enemy, and supplies had been cut off. Though in great pain, General Grant gave directions for his removal to the new scene of action immediately.
On transports up the Mississippi, the Ohio, and one of its tributaries; on a litter borne by horses for many miles through the wilderness; and into the city at last on the shoulders of four men, he was taken to Chattanooga. Things assumed a different aspect immediately. A Master had arrived who was equal to the situation. The army felt the grip of his power. Before he could mount his horse, he ordered an advance. Soon the surrounding hills were held by Union soldiers, although the enemy contested the ground inch by inch.
Were these things 'the result of chance, or were they compelled by the indomitable determination of the injured General ?
Did things adjust themselves when Horatius with two companions held ninety thousand Tuscans at bay until the bridge across the Tiber had been destroyed ? - when Leonidas at Thermopylae checked the mighty march of Xerxes ? - when Themistocles, off the coast of Greece, shattered the Persian's Armada? - when Caesar,
finding his army hard pressed, seized spear and buckler fought while he reorganized his men, and snatched victory from defeat ? -when Winkelried gathered to his breast a sheaf of Austrian spears, thus opening a path through which his comrades pressed to freedom? when Benedict Arnold, by desperate daring at Saratoga, won the battle which seemed doubtful to Horatio Gates, loitering near his distant tent ?-when for years, Napoleon did not lose a single battle in which he was personally engaged ? - when Wellington fought in many climes without ever being conquered ? - when Ney, on a hundred fields, changed apparent disaster into brilliant triumph ? - when Perry left the disabled Lawrence, rowed to the Niagara, and silenced the British guns? -when Sheridan arrived from Winchester just as the Union retreat was becoming a rout, and turned the tide by riding along the line ? -when Sherman signaled his men to hold the fort, though sorely pressed; and they held it, knowing that their leader was coming ?
History furnishes thousands of examples of men who have seized occasions to accomplish results deemed impossible by those less resolute- Prompt decision and whole-souled action sweep the world before them.
True, there has been but one Napoleon; but, on the other hand, the Alps that oppose the progress of the average American youth are not as high or dangerous as the summits crossed by the Corsican.
Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities- Seize common occasions and make them great.< style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">On the morning of September 6, 1838, a young woman in the Longstone Lighthouse, between England and Scotland, was awakened by shrieks of agony rising above the roar of wind and wave. A storm of unwonted fury was raging, and her parents could not hear the cries; but a telescope showed nine human beings clinging to the windlass of a wrecked vessel whose bow was hanging on the rocks half a mile away. " We can do nothing," said William Darling, the light-keeper. "Ah, yes, we must go to the rescue," exclaimed his daughter, pleading tearfully with both father and mother until the former replied: "Very well, Grace, I will let you persuade me, though it is against my better judgment." Like a feather in a whirlwind the little boat was tossed on the tumultuous sea, and it seemed to Grace that she could feel her brain reel amid the maddening swirl. But borne on the blast that swept the cruel surge, the shrieks of those shipwrecked sailors seemed to change her weak sinews into cords of steel. Strength hitherto unsuspected came from somewhere, and the heroic girl pulled one oar in even time with her father.
At length the nine were safely on board. "God bless you; but ye're a bonny English lass," said one poor fellow, as he looked wonderingly upon this marvelous girl, who that day had done a deed which added amore to England's glory than the exploits of many of, her monarchs.
A cat-boat was capsized in 1854 near Lime Rock Lighthouse, Newport, R. I., and four young men were left struggling in the cold waves of a choppy sea. Keeper Lewis was not at home, and his sick wife could do, nothing; but their daughter Ida, twelve years old, rowed out in a small boat and saved the men. During the next thirty years she rescued nine other, at various times. Her work was done without assistance, and showed skill and endurance fully equal to her great courage.
"If you will let me try, I think I can make some thing that will do," said a boy who had been employed as a scullion at the mansion of Signor Faliero, as the story is told by George Cary Eggleston. A large company had been invited to the banquet, and just before the hour the confectioner, who bad been making a large ornament for the table, sent word that he had spoiled the piece. " You !" exclaimed the head servant, in astonishment; " and who are you ?" " I am Antonio
Canova, the grandson of Pisano the stone-cutter," replied the pale-faced little fellow.
"And, pray, what can you do ?" asked the major domo- "I can make you something that will do for the middle of the table, if you'll let me try." The servant was at his wit's end, so he told Antonio to go ahead and see what he could do. Calling for some butter, the scullion quickly moulded a large crouching lion, which the admiring major-domo placed upon the table.
Dinner was announced, and many of the most noted merchant's, princes, and noblemen of Venice were ushered into the dining-room. Among them were skilled critics of art work. When their eyes fell upon the butter lion, they forgot the purpose for which they had come, in their wonder at such a work of genius. They looked at the lion long and carefully, and asked Signor Faliero what great sculptor had been persuaded to waste his skill upon a work in such a temporary material. Faliero could not tell; so he asked the head servant, who brought Antonio before the company.
When the distinguished guests learned that the lion had been made in a short time by a scullion, the dinner was turned into a feast in his honor. The rich host declared that he would pay the boy's expenses under the best masters, and he kept his word. But Antonio was not spoiled by his good fortune." He remained at heart the same simple, earnest, faithful boy, who had tried so hard to become a good stone-cutter in the shop of Pisano. Some may not have heard how the boy Antonio took advantage of this first great opportunity; but all know of Canova, one of the greatest sculptors of all time.
Weak men wait for opportunities, strong men make them. "The best men," says E. H. Chapin, "are not those who have waited for chances but who have taken them; besieged the chance; conquered the chance; and made chance the servitor."
" Oh, how I wish I were rich I " exclaimed a bright, industrious drayman in Philadelphia, who had many mouths to fill at home. "Well, why don't you get rich ?" asked Stephen Girard, who had overheard the remark. "I don't know how, without money," replied the drayman. "You don't need money," replied Mr. Girard. " Well, if you will tell me how to get rich without money, I won't let the grass grow before trying it."< style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">
"A ship-load of confiscated tea is to be sold at, auction tomorrow at the wharf," said the millionaire. "Go down and buy it, and then come to me." "But I have no money to buy a whole ship-load of tea,, "with," protested the drayman. "You don't need any money, I tell you," said Girard sharply; "go down and bid on the
whole cargo, and then come to me."
The next day the auctioneer said that purchasers would have the privilege of taking the one case, or the whole ship-load, buying by the pound. A retail grocer started the bidding, and the drayman at once named a higher figure, to the surprise of the large crowd present. "I'll take the whole ship-load," said he coolly, when a sale was announced. The auctioneer was astonished, but when he learned that the young bidder was Mr. Girard's drayman, his manner changed, and he said it was probably all right.
The news spread that Girard was buying tea in large quantities, and the price rose several cents per pound. "Go and sell, our tea," said the great merchant the next day. The young man secured quick sales by quoting a price a trifle below the market rate, and in a few hours he was worth fifty thousand dollars.
The author does not endorse this method of doing business, but tells the story merely as an example of seizing an opportunity. There may not be one chance in a million that you will ever receive aid of this kind; but opportunities are often presented which you can improve to good advantage, if you will only act.
"'You are too young," said the advertiser for a factory manager in Manchester, England, after a single glance at an applicant. "They used to object to me on that score four or five years ago," replied Robert Owen, "but I did not expect to have it brought up now." "How often do you get drunk in the week ? " "I never was drunk in my life," said Owen, blushing. " What salary do ' you ask ? " "Three hundred (pounds) a year" " Three hundred a year! Why I have had I don't know how many after the place here this morning, and all their asking together would not come up to what you want."
" Whatever others may ask, I cannot take less. I am making there hundred a year by my own business." The youth, who had never been in a large cotton mill, was put in charge of a factory employing five hundred operatives. By studying machines, cloth, and processes at night, he mastered every detail of the business in a short time, and was soon without a superior in his line in Manchester.< style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">The lack of opportunity is ever the excuse of a weak, vacillating mind. Opportunities ! Every life is full of them. Every lesson in school or college is an opportunity. Every examination is a chance in life. Every patient is an opportunity. Every newspaper article is an opportunity. Every client is an opportunity. Every sermon is an opportunity. Every business transaction is an opportunity, - an opportunity to be polite, - an opportunity to be manly, - an opportunity to be honest, - an opportunity to make friends. Every proof of confidence in you is a great opportunity. Every responsibility thrust upon your strength and your honor is priceless. Existence is the privilege of effort, and then that privilege is met like a man, opportunities to succeed along the line of your aptitude will come faster than you can use them. If a slave like Fred Douglass can elevate himself into an orator, editor, statesman what ought the poorest white boy to do, who is rich in opportunities compared with Douglass, who did not even own his body ?
It is the idle man, not the great worker; who is always complaining that he has no time or opportunity. Some young men will make more out of the odds and ends of opportunities, which many carelessly throw away, than others will get out of a whole lifetime. Like bees, they extract honey from every flower. Every person they meet, every circumstance of the day, must add something to their store of useful knowledge or personal power. "
"There is nobody whom Fortune does not visit once in his life," says a Cardinal; "but when she finds he is not ready to receive her, she goes in at the door and out at the window."
"What is its name?" asked a visitor in a studio, when shown, among many gods, one whose face was concealed by hair, and which had wings on its feet. "Opportunity," replied the sculptor. "Why is its face hidden?" "Because men seldom know him when becomes to them." "Why has he wings on his feet? " "Because he is soon gone, and once gone, cannot be overtaken"
Life pulsates with chances. They may not be dramatic or great, but they are important to him who would get on in the world.< style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">Cornelius Vanderbilt saw his opportunity in the steamboat, and determined to identify himself with steam navigation. To the surprise of all his friends, he abandoned his prosperous business and took command of one of the first steamboats launched, at one thousand dollars a year. Livingston and Fulton had acquired the sole right to navigate New York waters by steam, but Vanderbilt thought the law unconstitutional, and defied it until it was repealed. He soon became a steamboat owner. When the government was paying a large subsidy for carrying the European mails, he offered to carry them free and give better service. His offer was accepted, and in this way he soon built up an enormous freight and passenger traffic. Foreseeing the great future of railroads in a country like ours, he plunged into railroad enterprises with all his might, laying the foundation for the vast Vanderbilt system of today.
Young Philip Armour joined the long caravan of Forty Niners, and crossed the "Great American Desert" with all his possessions in a prairie schooner drawn by mules. Hard work and steady gains carefully saved in the mines enabled him to start, six years later, in the grain and warehouse business in Milwaukee.
In nine years he made five hundred thousand dollars. But he saw his great opportunity in Grant's order, " On to Richmond." One morning in 1864, he knocked at the door of Plankinton, partner in his venture as a pork packer. " I am going to take the next train to New York," said he, "to sell pork ' short.' Grant and Sherman have the rebellion by the throat, and pork will go down to twelve dollars a barrel." This was his opportunity.
He went to New York and offered pork in large quantities at forty dollars per barrel. It was eagerly taken. The shrewd Wall Street speculators laughed at the young Westerner, and told him pork would go to sixty dollars, for the war was not nearly over. Mr. Armour kept on selling. Grant continued to advance. Richmond fell, and pork fell with it to twelve dollars a barrel. Mr. Armour cleared two millions of dollars.< style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">John D. Rockefeller saw his opportunity in petroleum. He could see a large population in this country, with very poor lights. Petroleum was plenty, but the refining process was so crude that the product was inferior, and not wholly safe. Here was his chance. Taking into partnership Samuel Andrews, the porter in a mashine shop where both had worked, Mr. Rockefeller started a single barrel still in 1870, using an improved process discovered by his partner. They made a superior grade of oil and prospered rapidly. They soon admitted the third partner, Mr. Flagler, but Andrews soon became dissatisfied.
"What will you take for your interest ? " asked Rockefeller. Andrews wrote carelessly on a piece of paper, " One million dollars." Within twenty-four hours Mr. Rockefeller handed him the amount, saying, "Cheaper at one million than ten." In twenty years the business of the little refinery, not worth one thousand dollars for building and apparatus, had grown into the Standard Oil Trust, capitalized at ninety millions of dollars, with stock quoted at 170, giving a market value of one hundred and fifty millions.
These are illustrations of seizing opportunity for the purpose of making money. But fortunately there is a new generation of electricians, of engineers, of scholars, of artists, of authors, and of poets, who find opportunities, thick as thistles, for doing something nobler than merely becoming rich-' Wealth is not an end to strive for, but an opportunity; not the climax of a man's career, but the beginning.< style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">Mrs. Elizabeth Fry, a Quaker lady, saw her opportunity in the prisons of England. From three hundred to four hundred half-naked women, as late as 1813, would often be huddled in a single ward of Newgate, London, awaiting trial. They had neither beds nor bedding, but women, old and young, and little girls, slept in filth and rags on the floor. No one seemed to care for them, and the Government furnished simply food to keep them alive. She visited Newgate, calmed the howling mob, and told them she wished to establish a school for the young women and the girls, and asked them to select a schoolmistress from their own number. They were amazed, but chose a young woman who had been committed for stealing a watch. In three month these "wild beasts," as they were sometimes called, were tame, and became harmless and kind. The reform spread until the Government legalized the system, and good women throughout Great Britain became interested in the work of educating and clothing these outcasts. Fourscore years have passed, and her plan has been adopted throughout the civilized world.
A boy in England had been run over by the cars, and the bright blood spurted from a severed artery- No one seemed to know what to do until another boy, Astley Cooper, took his handkerchief and stopped the bleeding by pressure above the wound. The praise which Astley received for thus saving the boy's life encouraged him to become a surgeon, the foremost of his day.
" The time comes to the young surgeon," says Arnold, "when, after long waiting, and patient study and experiment, he is suddenly confronted with his first critical operation- The great surgeon is away. Time is pressing. Life and death hang in the balance. Is he equal to the emergency ? Can he fill the great surgeon's place, and do his work ? If he can, he is the one of all others who is wanted. His opportunity confronts him. He and it are face to face. Shall he confess his ignorance and inability, or step into fame and fortune ? It is for him to say."
Are you prepared for a great opportunity ? "Hawthorne dined one day with Longfellow," said James T- Fields, "and brought a friend with him from Salem. After dinner the friend said, ' I have been trying to persuade Hawthorne to write a story based upon a legend of Acadia, and still current there, - the legend of a girl who, in the dispersion of the Acadians, was separated from her lover, and passed her life in waiting and seeking for him, and only found him dying in a hospital when both were old.' Longfellow wondered that the legend did not strike the fancy of Hawthorne, and he said to him, ' If you have really made up your mind not to use it for a story, will you let me have it for a poem ? ' To this Hawthorne consented, and promised, moreover, not to treat the subject in prose till Longfellow had seen what he could do with it in verse- Longfellow seized his opportunity and gave to the world Evangeline, or the Exile of the Acadians."'< style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">
Of what value was the old story of Shylock and his pound of flesh (contained in a dozen lines) till Shakespeare touched it with his magic pen and transformed it into a realistic drama ?
Open eyes will discover opportunities everywhere; open ears will never fail to detect the cries of those who are perishing for assistance; open hearts will never want for worthy objects upon which to bestow their gifts; open hands will never lack for noble work to do.
Everybody had noticed the overflow when a solid is immersed in a vessel filled with water, although no one had made use of his knowledge, that the body displaces its exact bulk of liquid; but when Archimedes observed the fact, he perceived therein an easy method of finding the cubical contents of objects, however irregular in shape. Everybody knew how steadily a suspended weight, when moved, sways back and forth until friction and the resistance of the air bring it to rest, yet no one considered this information of the slightest practical importance ; but the boy Galileo, as he watched a lamp left swinging by accident in the cathedral at Pisa, saw in the regularity of those oscillations the useful principle of the pendulum: Even the iron doors of a prison were not enough to shut him out from research, for he experimented with the straw of his cell, and learned valuable lessons about the relative strength of tubes and rods of equal diameters. For ages astronomers had been familiar with the rings of Saturn, and regarded them merely as curious exceptions to the supposed law of planetary formation; but Laplace saw that, instead of being exceptions, they are the sole remaining visible evidences of certain stages in the invariable process of star manufacture, and from their mute testimony he added a valuable chapter to the scientific history of Creation. There was not a sailor in Europe who had not wondered what might lie beyond the Western Ocean, but it remained for Columbus to steer boldly out into an unknown sea and discover a new world. Innumerable apples had fallen from trees, often hitting heedless men on the head as if to set them thinking, but not before Newton did any one realize that they fall to the earth by the same law which holds the planets in their courses, and prevents the momentum of all the atoms in the universe from hurling them wildly back to chaos. Lightning had dazzled the eyes, and thunder had jarred the ears of men since the days of Adam, in the vain attempt to call their attention to the all-pervading and tremendous energy of electricity; but the discharges of Heaven's artillery were seen and heard only by the eye and ear of terror until Franklin, by a simple experiment, proved that lightning is but one manifestation of a resistless yet controllable force, abundant as air and water.< style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">
Like many others, these men are considered great, simply because they improved opportunities common to the whole human race. Read the story of any successful man and mark its moral, told thousands of years ago by Solomon: " Seest thou a man diligent in his business ? he shall stand before kings." This proverb is well illustrated by the career of the industrious Franklin, for he stood before five kings and dined with two.
He who improves an opportunity sows a seed which will yield fruit in opportunity for himself and others. Every one who has labored honestly in the past has aided to place knowledge and comfort within. the reach of a constantly increasing number.
Avenues greater in number, wider in extent, easier of access than ever before existed, stand open to the sober, frugal, energetic and able mechanic, to the educated youth, to the office boy and to the clerk-avenues through which they can reap greater successes than ever before within the reach of these classes within the history of the world. A little while ago there were only three or four professions -now there are fifty. And of trades, where there was one, there are a hundred now.< style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">
"Opportunity has hair in front," says a Latin author .,- "behind she is bald; if you seize her by the forelock, you may hold her, but, if suffered to escape, not Jupiter himself can catch her again."
But what is the best opportunity to. him who cannot or will not use it ? "It was my lot," said a shipmaster, "to fall in with the ill-fated steamer Central America. The night was closing in, the sea rolling high; but I hailed the crippled steamer and asked if they needed help. ' I am in a sinking condition,' cried Captain Herndon. ' Had you not better send your passengers on board directly ?.' I asked. ' Will you not lay by me until morning ? ' replied Captain Herndon. ' I will try,' I answered, ' but had you not better send your passengers on board now ?" ' Lay by me till morning,' again shouted Captain Herndon. "I tried to lay by him, but at night, such was the heavy roll of the sea, I could not keep my position, and I never saw the steamer again. In an hour and a half after the Captain said, ' Lay by me till morning,' his vessel, with its living freight, went down. The Captain and crew and most of the passengers found a grave in the deep."
Captain Herndon appreciated the value of the opportunity he had neglected when it was beyond his reach, but of what avail was the bitterness of his self-reproach when his last moments came ? How many lives were sacrificed to his unintelligent hopefulness and indecision! Like him the feeble, the sluggish, and the purposeless too often see no meaning in the happiest occasions, until too late they learn the old lesson that the mill can never grind with the water which has passed. Such people are always a little too late or a little too early in everything they attempt. "They have three hands apiece," said John B- Gough ; " a right hand, a left hand, and a little behind-hand."< style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">
As boys, they were late at school, and unpunctual in their home duties. That is the way the habit is acquired; and now, when responsibility claims them, they think that if they had only gone yesterday they would have obtained the situation, or they can probably get one tomorrow. They remember plenty of chances to make money, or know how to make it some other time than now; they see how to improve themselves or help others in the future, but perceive no opportunity in the present. They are always at the pool, but somehow, when the angel troubles the water, there is no one to put them in. They cannot seize their opportunity.
Joe Stoker, rear brakeman on the accommodation train, was exceedingly popular with all the railroad men. The passengers liked him, too, for he was eager to please and always ready to answer questions. But he did not realize the full responsibility of his position- He " took the world easy," and occasionally tippled; and if any one remonstrated, he would give one of his brightest smiles, and reply in such a good-natured way that the friend would think he had overestimated the danger: "Thank you- I'm all right. Don't you worry." One evening there was a heavy snowstorm, and his train was delayed. Joe complained of extra duties because of the storm, and slyly sipped occasional draughts from a flat bottle. Soon be became quite jolly; but the conductor and engineer of the train were both vigilant and anxious.< style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">Between two stations the train came to a quick halt; The engine had blown out its cylinder head, and an express was due in a few minutes upon the same track here's no hurry. Wait till I get my overcoat." The conductor answered gravely, "Don't stop a minute, Joe. The express is due."
"All right," said Joe, smilingly. The conductor then hurried forward to the engine. But the brakeman did not go at once- He stopped to put on his overcoat. Then he took another sip from the flat bottle to keep the cold out- Then he slowly grasped the lantern and, whistling, moved leisurely down the track.
He had not gone ten paces before he heard the puffing of the express. Then he ran for the curve, but it was too late. In a horrible minute the engine of the express had telescoped the standing train, and the shrieks of the mangled passengers mingled with the hissing escape of steam.
Later on, when they asked for Joe, he had disappeared ; but the next day he was found in a barn, delirious, swinging an empty lantern in front of an imaginary train, and crying, " Oh, that I had! "
He was taken home, and afterward to an asylum, for this is a true story, and there is no sadder sound in that sad place than the unceasing moan, " Oh, that I 'had! " " Oh, that I bad! " of the unfortunate brakeman, whose criminal indulgence brought disaster to many lives.
" Oh, that I had!" or "Oh, that I had not!" is the silent cry of many a man who would give life itself for the opportunity to go back and retrieve some long-past error.
"There are moments," says Dean Alford, " which are worth more than years. We cannot help it. There is no proportion between spaces of time in importance nor in value - A stray, unthought of five minutes may contain the event of a life. And this all-important moment - who can tell when it will be upon us ? "
"What we call a turning-point," says Arnold, " is simply an occasion which sums up and brings to a result previous training. Accidental circumstances are nothing except to men who have been trained to take advantage of them." An opportunity will only make you ridiculous unless you are prepared for it.
The trouble with us is that we are ever looking for a princely chance of acquiring riches, or fame, or worth. We are dazzled by what Emerson calls the " shallow Americanism" of the day. We are expecting mastery without apprenticeship, knowledge without study, and riches by credit. Because the politician acquires power by bribing the caucus, influence by "standing in" with the saloon keeper, wealth by fraud, and immunity from conviction by packing the jury, we are cozened into looking at life through a distorted lens. These are opportunities to be shunned like the cholera. They appear to rest upon a solid foundation, but they lead to infamy, and crime, and harmfulness to mankind, and perhaps suicide.
It is a common saying that "Luck beats science every time." But this is the gambler's maxim, the fool's motto.
Young men and women, why stand ye here all the day idle ? Was the land all occupied before you were born ? Has the earth ceased to yield its increase ? Are the seats all taken ? the positions all filled ? the chances all gone ? Are the resources of your country fully developed ? Are the secrets of nature all mastered ? Is there no way in which you can utilize these passing moments to improve yourself or benefit another ? Is the competition of modern existence so fierce that you must be content to simply gain an honest living ? Have you received the gift of life in this progressive age, wherein all the experience of the past is garnered for your inspiration, merely that you may increase by one the sum total of purely animal existence ?
The new is supplanting the old everywhere. The machinery of ten years ago must soon be sold as old iron to make room for something more efficient. The methods of our fathers are daily giving place to better systems. Those who have devoted their lives to the cause of labor and progress are constantly falling in the ranks; and, as the struggle grows more intense, men and women with even stronger arms and truer hearts are needed to take the vacant places in the Battle of Life.
Born in an age and country in which knowledge and opportunity abound as never before, how can you sit with folded hands, asking God's aid in work for which He has already given you the necessary faculties and strength ? Even when the Chosen People supposed their progress checked by the Red Sea, and their leader paused for Divine help, the Lord said, " Wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward."
With the world full of work
needs to be done; with human nature so constituted that often a
pleasant word or a trifling assistance may stem the tide of disaster
for some fellow man, or clear his path to success; with our own
faculties so arranged that in honest, earnest, persistent endeavor we
find our highest good; and with countless noble examples to encourage
us to dare and to do, each moment brings us to the threshold of some
"Pushing to the Front, Vol. 1"