Sol was a failure as a musician because, while he knew all the notes, he had nothing in himself to add to them when he played them. It’s easy to learn all the notes that make good music and all the rules that make good business, but a fellow’s got to add the fine curves to them himself if he wants to do anything more than beat the bass-drum all his life. Some men think that rules should be made of cast iron; I believe that they should be made of rubber, so that they can be stretched to fit any particular case and then spring back into shape again. The really important part of a rule is the exception to it.
Your affectionate father,
P.S.—Leave for home to-morrow.
From John Graham, at the Hotel Cecil, London, to his son, Pierrepont, at the Union Stock Yards, Chicago. The old man has just finished going through the young man’s first report as manager of the lard department, and he finds it suspiciously good.
LONDON, December 1, 189-.
Dear Pierrepont: Your first report; looks so good that I’m a little afraid of it. Figures don’t lie, I know, but that’s, only because they can’t talk. As a matter of fact, they’re just as truthful as the man who’s behind them.
It’s been my experience that there are two kinds of figures—educated and uneducated ones—and that the first are a good deal like the people who have had the advantage of a college education on the inside and the disadvantage of a society finish on the outside—they’re apt to tell you only the smooth and the pleasant things. Of course, it’s mighty nice to be told that the shine of your shirt-front is blinding the floor-manager’s best girl; but if there’s a hole in the seat of your pants you ought to know that, too, because sooner or later you’ve got to turn your back to the audience.
Now don’t go off half-cocked and think I’m allowing that you ain’t truthful; because I think you are—reasonably so—and I’m sure that everything you say in your report is true. But is there anything you don’t say in it?
A good many men are truthful on the installment plan—that is, they tell their boss all the good things in sight about their end of the business and then dribble out the bad ones like a fellow who’s giving you a list of his debts. They’ll yell for a week that the business of their department has increased ten per cent., and then own up in a whisper that their selling cost has increased twenty. In the end, that always creates a worse impression than if both sides of the story had been told at once or the bad had been told first. It’s like buying a barrel of apples that’s been deaconed—after you’ve found that the deeper you go the meaner and wormier the fruit, you forget all about the layer of big, rosy, wax-finished pippins which was on top.