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
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
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
Sordid, base, meanly avaricious.
What is meant by the phrase "to apply
himself," in the fourth paragraph?
What is meant by "a generous manhood,"
By "expansion of soul," twelfth
Tell what is meant by "good will,"
as taught by this lesson.
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New McGuffey Fourth Reader