God, the great Paymaster, gives to each of us the one talent, the two talents, or the ten talents, of endowment and opportunity: after that, we are left to our own devices!
There are four things which every employee should constantly bear in mind, if he wishes to advance,—skill, business opportunity, loyalty, and control. Until a man has mastered what he has to do, he cannot be expected to be accounted a serious factor in the economic world. The moment he achieves skill in what he has to do—and this is a question of thoroughness, accuracy, and speed—he has achieved power, a possibility of dictation in the matter of hours and wages.
The next point is business opportunity. Two men, of exactly the same opportunities and endowments, take up the same task. One man idles and is surpassed by the other, or he does only what he is told to do, without further thought. The other performs his set task, but at the same time he is examining into the principles of his engine, or into the conduct of the factory or business. In a few years he is the foreman, or an inventor, or a partner, with independent capital of his own. Again, there is a blind way of doing skilled work, or of merely doing it without noticing where it is most needed, or how the market is going for this special kind of work. The one who has his eyes open reads, notes the state of the market, adds to his skill the power of counsel, and can gradually take a larger responsibility upon him, which will advance the economic value of his time, as well as the work. There is a constant flux in the labor-world, which is the result largely, not of special opportunity, but of worth, application, and concentrated thought.
Third, loyalty has a high mercantile value. Disloyalty is a sin.
The fourth point is control. Does it not strike wonder to think how some men have under them, either in their industrial plant, or in their railway systems, or in their syndicate-work, anywhere from a few hundred to ten, fifteen, or twenty thousand men? How do they maintain discipline, either themselves, or through their subordinates? This problem of control is a serious one in business. Every angry threat, every sullen hour, each case of insubordination, every strike, every widespread dissatisfaction, means economic waste. It means expense both of time and money to send for Pinkertons to keep order and preserve discipline. The man who adds to his technical skill, and his knowledge of the market, the power of control adds great force and value to his work. Higher yet is executive force, the power to adjust responsibilities and duties in such a way as to get back a high economic return in the way of service. But above all, there is that force of character which impresses itself on a company, on a decade, on a generation—so that some names are handed down in business from generation to generation, all men knowing that from father to son, and again to his son, there will pass down that certain integrity, nobility, steadfastness of purpose, fidelity, and honor which give credit throughout the business world, and which promise health and happiness for those who are happy to be in their employ.