How to Succeed by Orison Swett Marden

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How to Succeed

by Orison Swett Marden

Produced by Marilynda Fraser-Cunliffe, Karina Aleksandrova and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at

Transcriber Notes:

1. Several misprints corrected. A complete list of corrections may be found at the end of the text.

2. Symbol of a hand pointing right has been replaced with a right arrow: ==>.



Stepping-Stones to Fame and Fortune.




Author of

"Pushing to the Front; or, Success Under Difficulties," and "Architects of Fate; or, Steps to Success and Power."

* * * * *


Copyright, 1896, BY LOUIS KLOPSCH.



I. First, Be a Man, 5 II. Seize Your Opportunity, 14 III. How Did He Begin? 27 IV. Out of Place, 49 V. What Shall I Do? 58 VI. Will You Pay the Price? 66 VII. Foundation Stones, 81 VIII. The Conquest of Obstacles, 99 IX. Dead in Earnest, 115 X. To Be Great, Concentrate, 128 XI. At Once, 140 XII. Thoroughness, 149 XIII. Trifles, 160 XIV. Courage, 169 XV. Will Power, 183 XVI. Guard Your Weak Point, 192 XVII. Stick, 209 XVIII. Save, 220 XIX. Live Upward, 229 XX. Sand, 238 XXI. Above Rubies, 256 XXII. Moral Sunshine, 275 XXIII. Hold Up Your Head, 287 XXIV. Books and Success, 296 XXV. Riches Without Wings, 318




The great need at this hour is manly men. We want no goody-goody piety; we have too much of it. We want men who will do right, though the heavens fall, who believe in God, and who will confess Him. --REV. W. J. DAWSON.

All the world cries, Where is the man who will save us? We want a man! Don't look so far for this man. You have him at hand. This man--it is you, it is I; it is each one of us!... How to constitute one's self a man? Nothing harder, if one knows not how to will it; nothing easier, if one wills it. --ALEXANDER DUMAS.

"I thank God I am a Baptist," said a little, short Doctor of Divinity, as he mounted a step at a convention. "Louder! louder!" shouted a man in the audience; "we can't hear." "Get up higher," said another. "I can't," replied the doctor, "to be a Baptist is as high as one can get."

But there is something higher than being a Baptist, and that is being a man.

Rousseau says: "According to the order of nature, men being equal, their common vocation is the profession of humanity; and whoever is well educated to discharge the duty of a man cannot be badly prepared to fill any of those offices that have a relation to him. It matters little to me whether my pupil be designed for the army, the pulpit, or the bar. To live is the profession I would teach him. When I have done with him, it is true he will be neither a soldier, a lawyer, nor a divine. Let him first be a man; Fortune may remove him from one rank to another, as she pleases, he will be always found in his place."

"First of all," replied the boy James A. Garfield, when asked what he meant to be, "I must make myself a man; if I do not succeed in that, I can succeed in nothing."

"Hear me, O men," cried Diogenes, in the market place at Athens; and, when a crowd collected around him, he said scornfully, "I called for men, not pigmies."

One great need of the world to-day is for men and women who are good animals. To endure the strain of our concentrated civilization, the coming man and woman must have an excess of animal spirits. They must have a robustness of health. Mere absence of disease is not health. It is the overflowing fountain, not the one half full, that gives life and beauty to the valley below. Only he is healthy who exults in mere animal existence; whose very life is a luxury; who feels a bounding pulse throughout his body; who feels life in every limb, as dogs do when scouring over the field, or as boys do when gliding over fields of ice.

Dispense with the doctor by being temperate; the lawyer by keeping out of debt; the demagogue, by voting for honest men; and poverty, by being industrious.

"Nephew," said Sir Godfrey Kneller, the artist, to a Guinea slave trader, who entered the room where his uncle was talking with Alexander Pope, "you have the honor of seeing the two greatest men in the world." "I don't know how great men you may be," said the Guinea man, as he looked contemptuously upon their diminutive physical proportions, "but I don't like your looks; I have often bought a much better man than either of you, all muscles and bones, for ten guineas."

A man is never so happy as when he suffices to himself, and can walk without crutches or a guide. Said Jean Paul Richter: "I have made as much out of myself as could be made of the stuff, and no man should require more."

"The body of an athlete and the soul of a sage," wrote Voltaire to Helvetius; "these are what we require to be happy."

Although millions are out of employment in the United States, how difficult it is to find a thorough, reliable, self-dependent, industrious man or woman, young or old, for any position, whether as a domestic servant, an office boy, a teacher, a brakeman, a conductor, an engineer, a clerk, a bookkeeper, or whatever we may want. It is almost impossible to find a really competent person in any department, and oftentimes we have to make many trials before we can get a position fairly well filled.

It is a superficial age; very few prepare for their work. Of thousands of young women trying to get a living at typewriting, many are so ignorant, so deficient in the common rudiments even, that they spell badly, use bad grammar, and know scarcely anything of punctuation. In fact, they murder the English language. They can copy, "parrot like," and that is about all.

The same superficiality is found in nearly all kinds of business. It is next to impossible to get a first-class mechanic; he has not learned his trade; he has picked it up, and botches everything he touches, spoiling good material and wasting valuable time.

In the professions, it is true, we find greater skill and faithfulness, but usually they have been developed at the expense of mental and moral breadth.

The merely professional man is narrow; worse than that, he is in a sense an artificial man, a creature of technicalities and specialties, removed alike from the broad truth of nature and from the healthy influence of human converse. In society, the most accomplished man of mere professional skill is often a nullity; he has sunk his personality in his dexterity.

"The aim of every man," said Humboldt, "should be to secure the highest and most harmonious development of his powers to a complete and consistent whole."

Some men impress us as immense possibilities. They seem to have a sweep of intellect that is grand; a penetrative power that is phenomenal; they seem to know everything, to have read everything, to have seen everything. Nothing seems to escape the keenness of their vision. But somehow they are forever disappointing our expectations. They raise great hopes only to dash them. They are men of great promise, but they never pay. There is some indefinable want in their make-up.

What the world needs is a clergyman who is broader than his pulpit, who does not look upon humanity with a white neckcloth ideal, and who would give the lie to the saying that the human race is divided into three classes: men, women and ministers. Wanted, a clergyman who does not look upon his congregation from the standpoint of old theological books, and dusty, cobweb creeds, but who sees the merchant as in his store, the clerk as making sales, the lawyer pleading before the jury, the physician standing over the sick bed; in other words, who looks upon the great throbbing, stirring, pulsing, competing, scheming, ambitious, impulsive, tempted, mass of humanity as one of their number, who can live with them, see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and experience their sensations.

The world has a standing advertisement over the door of every profession, every occupation, every calling: "Wanted--A Man."

Wanted, a lawyer, who has not become the victim of his specialty, a mere walking bundle of precedents.

Wanted, a shopkeeper who does not discuss markets wherever he goes. A man should be so much larger than his calling, so broad and symmetrical in his culture, that he would not talk shop in society, that no one would suspect how he gets his living.

Nothing is more apparent in this age of specialties than the dwarfing, crippling, mutilating influence of occupations or professions. Specialties facilitate commerce, and promote efficiency in the professions, but are often narrowing to individuals. The spirit of the age tends to doom the lawyer to a narrow life of practice, the business man to a mere money-making career.

Think of a man, the grandest of God's creations, spending his life-time standing beside a machine for making screws. There is nothing to call out his individuality, his ingenuity, his powers of balancing, judging, deciding.

He stands there year after year, until he seems but a piece of mechanism. His powers, from lack of use, dwindle to mediocrity, to inferiority, until finally he becomes a mere part of the machine he tends.

Wanted, a man who will not lose his individuality in a crowd, a man who has the courage of his convictions, who is not afraid to say "No," though all the world say "Yes."

Wanted, a man who, though he is dominated by a mighty purpose, will not permit one great faculty to dwarf, cripple, warp, or mutilate his manhood; who will not allow the over-development of one faculty to stunt or paralyze his other faculties.

Wanted, a man who is larger than his calling, who considers it a low estimate of his occupation to value it merely as a means of getting a living. Wanted, a man who sees self-development, education and culture, discipline and drill, character and manhood, in his occupation.

As Nature tries every way to induce us to obey her laws by rewarding their observance with health, pleasure and happiness, and punishes their violation by pain and disease, so she resorts to every means to induce us to expand and develop the great possibilities she has implanted within us. She nerves us to the struggle, beneath which all great blessings are buried, and beguiles the tedious marches by holding up before us glittering prizes, which we may almost touch, but never quite possess. She covers up her ends of discipline by trial, of character building through suffering by throwing a splendor and glamour over the future; lest the hard, dry facts of the present dishearten us, and she fail in her great purpose. How else could Nature call the youth away from all the charms that hang around young life, but by presenting to his imagination pictures of future bliss and greatness which will haunt his dreams until he resolves to make them real. As a mother teaches her babe to walk, by holding up a toy at a distance, not that the child may reach the toy, but that it may develop its muscles and strength, compared with which the toys are mere baubles; so Nature goes before us through life, tempting us with higher and higher toys, but ever with one object in view--the development of the man.

In every great painting of the masters there is one idea or figure which stands out boldly beyond everything else. Every other idea or figure on the canvas is subordinate to this idea or figure, and finds its real significance not in itself, but, pointing to the central idea, finds its true expression there. So in the vast universe of God, every object of creation is but a guide-board with an index finger pointing to the central figure of the created universe--Man. Nature writes this thought upon every leaf; she thunders it in every creation; it exhales from every flower; it twinkles in every star.

Open thy bosom, set thy wishes wide, And let in manhood--let in happiness; Admit the boundless theatre of thought From nothing up to God ... which makes a man! --YOUNG.



"The blowing winds are but our servants When we hoist a sail."

You must come to know that each admirable genius is but a successful diver in that sea whose floor of pearls is all your own. --EMERSON.

Who waits until the wind shall silent keep, Who never finds the ready hour to sow, Who watcheth clouds, will have no time to reap. --HELEN HUNT JACKSON.

The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes. --DISRAELI.

Do the best you can where you are; and, when that is accomplished, God will open a door for you, and a voice will call, "Come up hither into a higher sphere." --BEECHER.

Our grand business is, not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand. --CARLYLE.

"When I was a boy," said General Grant, "my mother one morning found herself without butter for breakfast, and sent me to borrow some from a neighbor. Going into the house without knocking, I overheard a letter read from the son of a neighbor, who was then at West Point, stating that he had failed in examination and was coming home. I got the butter, took it home, and, without waiting for breakfast ran to the office of the congressman for our district. 'Mr. Hamer,' I said, 'will you appoint me to West Point?' 'No, ---- is there, and has three years to serve.' 'But suppose he should fail, will you send me?' Mr. Hamer laughed. 'If he don't go through, no use for you to try, Uly.' 'Promise me you will give me the chance, Mr. Hamer, anyhow.' Mr. Hamer promised. The next day the defeated lad came home, and the congressman, laughing at my sharpness, gave me the appointment. Now," said Grant, "it was my mother's being without butter that made me general and president." But he was mistaken. It was his own shrewdness to see the chance, and the promptness to seize it, that urged him upward.

"There is nobody," says a Roman Cardinal, "whom Fortune does not visit once in his life; but when she finds he is not ready to receive her, she goes in at the door, and out through the window." Opportunity is coy. The careless, the slow, the unobservant, the lazy fail to see it, or clutch at it when it has gone. The sharp fellows detect it instantly, and catch it when on the wing.

The utmost which can be said about the matter is, that circumstances will, and do combine to help men at some periods of their lives, and combine to thwart them at others. Thus much we freely admit; but there is no fatality in these combinations, neither any such thing as "luck" or "chance," as commonly understood. They come and go like all other opportunities and occasions in life, and if they are seized upon and made the most of, the man whom they benefit is fortunate; but if they are neglected and allowed to pass by unimproved, he is unfortunate.

"Charley," says Moses H. Grinnell to a clerk born in New York City, "take my overcoat tip to my house on Fifth Avenue." Mr. Charley takes the coat, mutters something about "I'm not an errand boy. I came here to learn business," and moves reluctantly. Mr. Grinnell sees it, and at the same time one of his New England clerks says, "I'll take it up." "That is right, do so," says Mr. G., and to himself he says, "that boy is smart, he will work," and he gives him plenty to do. He gets promoted, gets the confidence of business men as well as of his employers, and is soon known as a successful man.

The youth who starts out in life determined to make the most of his eyes and let nothing escape him which he can possibly use for his own advancement, who keeps his ears open for every sound that can help him on his way, who keeps his hands open that he may clutch every opportunity, who is ever on the alert for everything which can help him to get on in the world, who seizes every experience in life and grinds it up into paint for his great life's picture, who keeps his heart open that he may catch every noble impulse and everything which may inspire him, will be sure to live a successful life; there are no ifs or ands about it. If he has his health, nothing can keep him from success.

Zion's Herald says that Isaac Rich, who gave one million and three quarters to found Boston University of the Methodist Episcopal Church, began business thus: at eighteen he went from Cape Cod to Boston with three or four dollars in his possession, and looked about for something to do, rising early, walking far, observing closely, reflecting much. Soon he had an idea: he bought three bushels of oysters, hired a wheelbarrow, found a piece of board, bought six small plates, six iron forks, a three-cent pepper-box, and one or two other things. He was at the oyster-boat buying his oysters at three o'clock in the morning, wheeled them three miles, set up his board near a market, and began business. He sold out his oysters as fast as he could get them, at a good profit. In that same market he continued to deal in oysters and fish for forty years, became king of the business, and ended by founding a college. His success was won by industry and honesty.

"Give me a chance," says Haliburton's Stupid, "and I will show you." But most likely he has had his chance already and neglected it.

"Well, boys," said Mr. A., a New York merchant, to his four clerks one winter morning in 1815, "this is good news. Peace has been declared. Now we must be up and doing. We shall have our hands full, but we can do as much as anybody."

He was owner and part owner of several ships lying dismantled during the war, three miles up the river, which was covered with ice an inch thick. He knew that it would be a month before the ice yielded for the season, and that thus the merchants in other towns where the harbors were open, would have time to be in the foreign markets before him. His decision therefore was instantly taken.

"Reuben," he continued, addressing one of his clerks, "go and collect as many laborers as possible to go up the river. Charles, do you find Mr.----, the rigger, and Mr.----, the sailmaker, and tell them I want them immediately. John, engage half-a-dozen truckmen for to-day and to-morrow. Stephen, do you hunt up as many gravers and caulkers as you can, and hire them to work for me." And Mr. A. himself sallied forth to provide the necessary implements for icebreaking. Before twelve o'clock that day, upward of an hundred men were three miles up the river, clearing the ships and cutting away ice, which they sawed out in large squares, and then thrust under the main mass to open up the channel. The roofing over the ships was torn off, and the clatter of the caulkers' mallets was like to the rattling of a hail-storm, loads of rigging were passed up on the ice, riggers went to and fro with belt and knife, sailmakers busily plied their needles, and the whole presented an unusual scene of stir and activity and well-directed labor. Before night the ships were afloat, and moved some distance down the channel; and by the time they had reached the wharf, namely, in some eight or ten days, their rigging and spars were aloft, their upper timbers caulked, and everything ready for them to go to sea.

Thus Mr. A. competed on equal terms with the merchants of open seaports. Large and quick gains rewarded his enterprise, and then his neighbors spoke depreciatingly of his "good luck." But, as the writer from whom we get the story says, Mr. A. was equal to his opportunity, and this was the secret of his good fortune.

A Baltimore lady lost a valuable diamond bracelet at a ball, and supposed it was stolen from the pocket of her cloak. Years afterward, she walked the streets near the Peabody Institute to get money to purchase food. She cut up an old, worn out, ragged cloak to make a hood of, when lo! in the lining of the cloak, she discovered the diamond bracelet. During all her poverty she was worth thirty-five hundred dollars, but did not know it.

Many of us who think we are poor are rich in opportunities if we could only see them, in possibilities all about us, in faculties worth more than diamond bracelets, in power to do good.

In our large eastern cities it has been found that at least ninety-four out of every hundred found their first fortune at home, or near at hand, and in meeting common everyday wants. It is a sorry day for a young man who cannot see any opportunities where he is, but thinks he can do better somewhere else. Several Brazilian shepherds organized a party to go to California to dig gold, and took along a handful of clear pebbles to play checkers with on the voyage. They discovered after arriving at Sacramento, after they had thrown most of the pebbles away, that they were all diamonds. They returned to Brazil only to find that the mines had been taken up by others and sold to the government.

The richest gold and silver mine in Nevada was sold for forty-two dollars by the owner, to get money to pay his passage to other mines where he thought he could get rich.

Professor Agassiz told the Harvard students of a farmer who owned a farm of hundreds of acres of unprofitable woods and rocks, and concluded to sell out and try some more remunerative business.

He studied coal measures and coal oil deposits, and experimented for a long time. He sold his farm for two hundred dollars and went into the oil business two hundred miles away. Only a short time afterward the man who bought the farm discovered a great flood of coal oil, which the farmer had ignorantly tried to drain off.

A man was once sitting in an uncomfortable chair in Boston talking with a friend as to what he could do to help mankind. "I should think it would be a good thing," said the friend, "to begin by getting up an easier and cheaper chair."

"I will do it," he exclaimed, leaping up and examining the chair. He found a great deal of rattan thrown away by the East India merchant ships, whose cargoes were wrapped in it. He began the manufacture of rattan chairs and other furniture, and has astonished the world by what he has done with what was before thrown away. While this man was dreaming about some far off success, he at that very time had fortune awaiting only his ingenuity and industry.

If you want to get rich, study yourself and your own wants. You will find millions of others have the same wants, the same demands. The safest business is always connected with men's prime necessities. They must have clothing, dwellings; they must eat. They want comforts, facilities of all kinds, for use and pleasure, luxury, education, culture. Any man who can supply a great want of humanity, improve any methods which men use, supply any demand or contribute in any way to their well-being, can make a fortune.

But it is detrimental to the highest success to undertake anything merely because it is profitable. If the vocation does not supply a human want, if it is not healthful, if it is degrading, if it is narrowing, don't touch it.

A selfish vocation never pays. If it belittles the manhood, blights the affections, dwarfs the mental life, chills the charities and shrivels the soul, don't touch it. Choose that occupation, if possible, which will be the most helpful to the largest number.

It is estimated that five out of every seven of the millionaire manufacturers began by making with their own hands the articles on which they made their fortune.

One of the greatest hindrances to advancement and promotion in life is the lack of observation and the disinclination to take pains. A keen, cultivated observation will see a fortune where others see only poverty. An observing man, the eyelets of whose shoes pulled out, but who could ill afford to get another pair, said to himself, "I will make a metallic lacing hook, which can be riveted into the leather." He succeeded in doing so and now he is a very rich man.

An observing barber in Newark, N. J., thought he could make an improvement on shears for cutting hair, and invented "clippers" and became very rich. A Maine man was called from the hayfield to wash out the clothes for his invalid wife. He had never realized what it was to wash before. He invented the washing-machine and made a fortune. A man who was suffering terribly with toothache, said to himself, "There must be some way of filling teeth to prevent them aching;" he invented gold filling for teeth.

The great things of the world have not been done by men of large means. Want has been the great schoolmaster of the race: necessity has been the mother of all great inventions. Ericsson began the construction of a screw-propeller in a bath-room. John Harrison, the great inventor of the marine chronometer, began his career in the loft of an old barn. Parts of the first steamboat ever run in America were set up in the vestry of an old church in Philadelphia by Fitch. McCormick began to make his famous reaper in an old grist-mill. The first model dry-dock was made in an attic. Clark, the founder of Clark University of Worcester, Mass., began his great fortune by making toy wagons in a horse-shed.

Opportunities? They crowd around us. Forces of nature plead to be used in the service of man, as lightning for ages tried to attract his attention to electricity, which would do his drudgery and leave him to develop the God-given powers within him.

There is power lying latent everywhere, waiting for the observant eye to discover it.

First find out what the people need and then supply that want. An invention to make the smoke go the wrong way in a chimney might be a very ingenious thing, but it would be of no use to humanity. The patent office at Washington is full of wonderful devices, ingenious mechanism; not one in hundreds is of earthly use to the inventor or to the world, and yet how many families have been impoverished and have struggled for years mid want and woe, while the father has been working on useless inventions. These men did not study the wants of humanity. A. T. Stewart, as a boy, lost eighty-seven cents when his capital was one dollar and a half, in buying buttons and thread which people would not purchase. After that he made it a rule never to buy anything which people did not want.

The first thing a youth, entering the city to make his home there, needs to do is to make himself a necessity to the person who employs him, according to the Boston Herald. Whatever he may have been at home, it counts for nothing until he has done something that makes known the quality of the stuff that is in him. If he shirks work, however humble it may be, the work will soon be inclined to shirk him. But the youth who comes into a city to make his way in the world, and is not afraid of doing his best whether he is paid for it or not, is not long in finding remunerative employment. The people who seem so indifferent to employing young people from the country are eagerly watching for the newcomers, but they look for qualities of character and service in actual work before they manifest confidence or give recognition. It is the youth who is deserving that wins his way to the front, and when once he has been tested his promotion is only a question of time. It is the same with young women. There are seemingly no places for them where they can earn a decent living, but the moment they fill their places worthily there is room enough for them, and progress is rapid. What the city people desire most is to find those who have ability to take important places, and the question of gaining a position in the city resolves itself at once into the question of what the young persons have brought with them from home. It is the staying qualities that have been in-wrought from childhood which are now in requisition, and the success of the boy or girl is determined by the amount of energetic character that has been developed in the early years at home. Take up the experience of every man or woman who has made a mark in the city for the last hundred years, and it has been the sterling qualities of the home training that have constituted the success of later years.

Don't think you have no chance in life because you have no capital to begin with. Most of the rich men of to-day began poor. The chances are you would be ruined if you had capital. You can only use to advantage what has become a part of yourself by your earning it. It is estimated that not one rich man's son in ten thousand dies rich. God has given every man a capital to start with; we are born rich. He is rich who has good health, a sound body, good muscles; he is rich who has a good head, a good disposition, a good heart; he is rich who has two good hands, with five chances on each. Equipped? Every man is equipped as only God could equip him. What a fortune he possesses in the marvelous mechanism of his body and mind. It is individual effort that has accomplished everything worth accomplishing in this world. Money to start with is only a crutch, which, if any misfortune knocks it from under you, would only make your fall all the more certain.

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