“No,” said he, “I did not get discouraged. I was living, and my wife and children were living; and Vanderbilt was not doing any more than that, after all. I felt all the time that I was getting ready. I worked a good deal harder than I have since I achieved my fortune. Somehow, up to the time it came I had not felt equal to my chance; for I knew that my opportunity would be a large one when it came, and I knew that it would come. It did come.”
Business men said for the first two or three years, “What a change of luck Mr. —— has had! But he is not equal to it. He has never accomplished anything heretofore.”
Yes, but he had been getting ready. He had been saving vitality, building up character, indexing and pigeonholing experiences, accumulating and systematizing a long-continued series of observations and all the potentialities of intellect and personality out of which, when applied to proper conditions, success alone is forged.
And so he gathered to himself great riches, and the poor man of a few years ago is now—of course, of course, and alas! if you like—a member of one of the most powerful trusts in the country.
Get yourself into the current of Circumstance—“in the swim,” as the colloquialism has it. A man of large experience and important achievement said to me not long ago: “I am afraid I am getting to be a back number.” That was a distinct note of degeneration. If he thought so that thought was the best evidence of the fact.
Do not get it into your head that you are out of step with the times. That in itself will paralyze both intellect and will. It is an admission of permanent failure. No matter whether you think the changed conditions and methods of business, society, and affairs, which almost each day brings, are inferior or superior to the old conditions and methods or not, you must keep abreast of them; take in the spirit of them.
An attitude of protest against the progressive order of things may be heroic, but it is not practical or effective. These conditions and methods which make you feel like a “back number” may not be the best; if they are not, try to make them the best, if you will, but do not attempt to perfect them backward by returning to yesterday. The world is very impatient of apparent retrogression; it hurts its egotism.
“What! Go back to old conditions?” says the World. “Never! never! Progress, alone, for me!”
But sometimes it means motion, not progress; for true progress might possibly be a return to old and superior methods. No matter, I am speaking of your practical, personal, and material success now. I am not speaking to you as a reformer or as a teacher of the elemental truths. You are a searcher, past fifty years of age, after the flesh-pots. Very well, then. Do not run amuck of the world. Join in its progress, even if that progress seems to you to be unreal.