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| Home | Reading Room The New McGuffey Fourth Reader

The New McGuffey Fourth Reader
by William H. McGuffey, Compiler

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By John Townsend Trowbridge

I suppose you all, my boys, are looking for some sort of success

in life; it is right that you should; but what are your notions

of success? To get rich as soon as possible, without regard to

the means by which your wealth is acquired?

There is no true success in that: when you have gained millions,

you may yet be poorer than when you had nothing; and it is that

same reckless ambition which has brought many a bright and

capable boy, not to great estate at last, but to miserable

failure and disgrace; not to a palace, but to a prison.

Wealth rightly got and rightly used, rational enjoyment, power,

fame,--these are all worthy objects of ambition; but they are not

the highest objects, and you may acquire them all without

achieving true success. But if, whatever you seek, you put good

will into all your actions, you are sure of the best success at

last; for whatever else you gain or miss, you are building up a

noble and beautiful character, which is not only the best of

possessions in this world, but also is about all you can expect

to take with you into the next.

I say, good will in all your actions. You are not simply to be

kind and helpful to others; but, whatever you do, give honest,

earnest purpose to it. Thomas is put by his parents to learn a

business. But Thomas does not like to apply himself very closely.

"What's the use?" he says. "I'm not paid much, and I'm not going

to work much. I'll get along just as easily as I can, and have as

good times as I can."

So he shirks his tasks; and instead of thinking about his

employer's interests, or his own self-improvement, gives his mind

to trifles,--often to evil things, which in their ruinous effects

upon his life are not trifles. As soon as he is free from his

daily duties, he is off with his companions, having what they

call a good time; his heart is with them even while his hands are

employed in the shop or store.

He does nothing thoroughly well,--not at all for want of talent,

but solely for lack of good will. He is not preparing himself to

be one of those efficient clerks or workmen who are always in

demand, and who receive the highest wages.

There is a class of people who are the pest of every

community--workmen who do not know their trade, men of business

ignorant of the first principles of business. They can never be

relied upon to do well anything they undertake. They are always

making blunders which other people have to suffer for, and which

react upon themselves. They are always getting out of employment,

and failing in business.

To make up for what they lack in knowledge and thoroughness, they

often resort to trick and fraud, and become not merely

contemptible, but criminal. Thomas is preparing himself to be one

of this class. You cannot, boys, expect to raise a good crop from

evil seed.

By Thomas's side works another boy, whom we will call James,--a

lad of only ordinary capacity, very likely. If Thomas and all the

other boys did their best, there would be but small chance for

James ever to become eminent. But he has something better than

talent: he brings good will to his work. Whatever he learns, he

learns so well that it becomes a part of himself.

His employers find that they can depend upon him. Customers soon

learn to like and trust him. By diligence, self-culture, good

habits, cheerful and kindly conduct, he is laying the foundation

of a generous manhood and a genuine success.

In short, boys, by slighting your tasks you hurt yourself more

than you wrong your employer. By honest service you benefit

yourself more than you help him. If you were aiming at mere

worldly advancement only, I should still say that good will was

the very best investment you could make in business.

By cheating a customer, you gain only a temporary and unreal

advantage. By serving him with right good will,--doing by him as

you would be done by,--you not only secure his confidence, but

also his good will in return. But this is a sordid consideration

conspired with the inward satisfaction, the glow and expansion of

soul which attend a good action done for itself alone. If I were

to sum up all I have to say to you in one last word of love and

counsel, that one word should be--Good will.


Character, the sum of qualities which distinguishes one person from another.

Purpose, intention, aim.

Principles, fixed rules.

Capacity, ability, the power of receiving ideas.

Sordid, base, meanly avaricious.


What is meant by the phrase "to apply himself," in the fourth paragraph?

What is meant by "a generous manhood," tenth paragraph?

By "expansion of soul," twelfth paragraph?

Tell what is meant by "good will," as taught by this lesson.



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