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BIGGER THAN YOUR POSITION*
By HARRY B. MASON
I want to tell you at the outset how happy need of using them to make a place for himI am to be back here in a University atmo- self. Do not waste your capital; do not squansphere. It is a pleasure to meet you gentlemen der your health. Once gone it will never reof the graduating class. I envy you. It was turn. Once dissipated, you are worse off than at a similar commencement not so many ages the man who has lost his money. For money ago that I såt where you do, down there on one can be made again, but health can rarely be of those front seats, filled with eager ambition restored, youth can never be recalled, and and straining at the leash. It was a happy energy and ambition, once forfeited, are time and the whole world was mine oyster. usually forfeited forever. The years that have flown by so rapidly.
THREE PERIODS IN LIFE. since have all of them been years of hard work, and most of them years also of self
Shakespeare divides human life into seven denial, of frequent disappointment, of struggle.
periods. I shall paraphrase him by saying that and hardship and drudgery. But I should
in a man's business life there are three periods. nevertheless like to start with you to-night and
What are they? live them over again. There is nu zest like the
From 20 to 30 or 35 is the first period. zest of fighting for a place in the world, with
School and college have been left behind, and the din of the battle in your ears, and with the
a man is gaining his experience, developing hope of conquest in your heart!
his ability, maturing his judgment, perfecting
himself as an instrument of success, and estabYOUTH A PRICELESS ASSET.
lishing a reputation. This is the period of preYes, you gentlemen are to be envied, and I paring the soil and sowing the seed. From 35 wish you were up here talking and I was down to 55 or 60 is the second era—the period of there listening. Many and grievous have been harvesting the crop. A man is then filling the the mistakes I have committed, and how I long place in the world for which he has prepared for an opportunity to rectify them! Give me himself, is using the powers he has developed, another chance and I could impruve vastly on
and is reaping the returns in money, in dignity, the record. It see it all now. I did not then. in respect, in position. From 60 onward is the But it is one of the penalties of life that we third period. His powers begin to wane, he cannot go back and run the race over again, takes life easier, he leaves things more to his hoping to do better next time. The judges associates and successors, and he sinks gradmake their decision: the event is over: the ually into an old age which should be comfortgates open: the crowds disperse: and you must able, free from want and worry, and rich with stand or fall on the result!
the memories of a life well lived and a peace Gentlemen, I beg of you, bear this thought of mind well earned. in mind: force yourselves to realize the un- Now, gentlemen, you are to-night face to escapable, the inevitable, the ruthless fact that
face with the first period of 10 or 15 years. you must live your life right in the first place. It is by far the most important, the most critifor you cannot live it over again.
cal, of all three periods. For it is the preparaHealth and energy, youth and ambition, are tory period. Upon what you make of it will priceless assets. You are rich in capital. You absolutely and finally determine what the midare richer than the boy born with a silver dle-age and old-age periods are to be. If you spoon in his mouth, but weakened by indul- do not sow the seed you will get no crop. If gence and relaxation, and under no necessity you do not nourish and tend the soil you will of developing his powers by the compelling garner no harvest—except a harvest of weeds.
It is hard for a young man of 21 to realize *Commencement address delivered before the grad- these things. He is heedless of the years to uating class in pharmacy at Valparaiso University. come. His life is spread out before him in an
almost endless panorama, and he thinks there up against the critical 10 or 15 years, yes, the is plenty of time to make good.
critical 5 years, of your entire career. When He sees men attain success at 40 or 50, and you leave Valparaiso to-morrow, or next day, he assumes that the trick can be turned at any you will be face to face with your destiny. time, not knowing that the man who becomes You will start right in determining your whole influential and prosperous at 40 is the man future. Every day will count. Every action who gets under way at 20. “Let me take will tell. Every month will send you further things easy for a few years,” he argues, “and along the right road or back along the wrong then, after I am married and have a wife and one, and in a very few years, before there is family to support, and increasing expenses to scarcely time for you to realize it, the die is meet, I can settle down and win place and cast. Your horoscope is finished. Your future money. Until this time comes let me enjoy is determined. life. I shall never be young but once.”
But there is another consideration. The No, you will never be young but once years between 20 and 35 are the most importthat's the crux of the whole argument. Your ant in a man's career not only because he has youth is your greatest asset. It is your richest then the physical strength and endurance to do piece of capital. You will have only one, and the hard work of foundation building and to it will go, Heaven knows, all too quickly. What make a place for himself. They are equally will you do with it? Will you use it to build if not more important because they are the a success upon, or will you divert it tu the pur- years when, if ever, character building is done. pose of having a good time? You cannot do What you make of yourself as a man before both. You cannot eat your cake and have it you are thirty—that you will always be. You too.
cannot make any radical change in your charIf you are going to develop a future you acter after you are 30 or 35. Inclinations then must do it now, while you have the strength, harden into habits and throw their roots down the eagerness, the courage, the endurance of into soil so deep that they cannot be torn up early life—while you can stand the hard except by some great upheaval which few men knocks, while you can live frugally, while you experience. can go through the toil and the struggle and If at 30 you are lazy and shiftless; if you the hardship which success demands. If you have learned to love ease; if pleasures have don't develop your future now, you will have grown to mean more than labors; if present no future. I wish beyond all things to-night advantage is placed above future benefit; if that I could make you realize this. I wish I opportunities have been made to wait for a could force home the truth so powerfully that later acceptance—if these things are true at 30, vou would absolutely know it to be the truth they will always be true. It is a law almost as and would be guided by it in your later activ- invariable as the tides that what you make of ities.
· yourself as a man in the next ten years you
will be in only greater measure in the next 50. I have said that you are to-night facing the If you make yourself abler, abler still you will most important 15 years of your life. I will continue to grow; if you make yourself say more than this: You are facing the most weaker, weaker you will steadily become. As important 5 years of your life! Why? Be- the tree is bent, so will it grow. cause at 25 you have more physical strength Therefore I say, the biggest question you and endurance than you will have at 30. At have to face to-night, gentlemen, is this: What 30 you will have more than you will have at will you do with your youth? Will you build 35. At 35 you will have more than you will a career on it, or will you waste it? Will you have at 40. An athlete who astonishes the use it to assure your future ease and comfort, world at 22 begins to get passe at 26 or 28, and your prosperity and happiness, to make yourat 30 he is out of the running. The best of self in your later years free from want and care our youth is evanescent. It passes before we and anxiety, or will you spend it riotously, berealize it.
wail its loss when it is too late, and make yourFar, then, from facing a long life of endless self during all your middle life and old age a opportunities to-night, gentlemen, with plenty slave to drudgery and a prey to misfortune? of leisure for getting under way, you are right What will you do with your youth?
THE CRITICAL FIVE YEARS.
WHAT DETERMINES SUCCESS? Now in this race of life what determines success and what failure? There are as many definitions of success as there are men, and many attempts have been made to disclose what has often been called the "secret of success.” I shall enter upon no philosophic and academic disquisition. I shall content myself with lay. ing down one rule of business life which no man can fout or contradict. I have studied with absorbing interest the careers of many successful men, some of whom I have known personally, and I have come to the conclusion that men usually succeed because they make themselves bigger than the position they occupy at the moment, and literally demand another one higher up the scale. My chief advice to you to-night is this: Make yourself bigger than your position! If you will only remember this one sentence you may forget everything else I say. It is the very heart and core of my message. Make yourself bigger than your position!
This applies to any place in which you may happen to find yourself. It makes no difference whether you are to become a clerk, a proprietor, a traveling salesman, an analytical chemist, an employee in a big jobbing or manufacturing house, a department manager, or what not. Make yourself bigger than your position!
You are perhaps an employee on a small salary in a big establishment—very well. Imagine yourself the boss. What would you do to push the business if you were in his shoes? What would you have done here and there, what changes would you make, what methods apply? Whatever these things are, do them—or else suggest them to your chief. Make yourself invaluable. Make yourself indispensable. Do more than you are asked to do—more than fill your job!
TWO COMMON BLUNDERS. But let me warn you: nine men out of ten will tell you that this advice is all tommyrot. If you watch them closely, however, you will see that they are the nine failures in every crop of ten men—and it is the failures who make the most noise and who are unfortunately listened to the most frequently. It is this type of man who is always crying out that he isn't paid what he is worth, that he isn't appreciated, that he is being “worked” and that he doesn't propose to kill himself until his employer does the
square thing. It is this very man who makes two fatal mistakes—mistakes which I warn you will become your Scylla and Charybdis if you commit them.
One of these blunders is to adopt the attitude of the average young man who, when asked to do something a little unusual, replies: “That isn't my work." The other equally stupid and fatal error is to say: "I won't earn more for my employer until I get it.” The young man who commits these follies is lost. He is gone. Far from refusing to do something outside of his own cut-and-dried line of work, the ambitious man should welcome with great joy an opportunity to get out of the rut. Opportunities are the steps of success: they comprise the ladder on which we climb upward. Opportunities should be seized with hungry avidity before they escape us and get into the grasp of other and wiser men.
MAYOR GAYNOR'S REPLY. As for the pitiable wail of the youth who fears he will work harder than his salary justifies, I can only reply as the late Mayor Gaynor did a few years ago. He wrote a malcontent that “the man who won't earn more than he gets is the man who will never get more than he earns !" And this is the whole question in a nutshell. No sane employer is going to raise your salary until you show him beyond cavil that you are worth it. He isn't going to give you a better position until he knows beyond any question of doubt that you can fill it. You have got to show him, and when you do you will get the raise or the promotion. If you don't get it from him you'll get it from somebody else—take my word for that! Every type of employer, whether pharmacist or what not, is always on the lookout for good and still better men, and you will not lack for recognition if you deserve it.
The great trouble is that most men don't deserve recognition. They are self-made failures. They are self-developed knockers. Their whole philosophy is wrong—they aren't right with the world. They grumble about the lack of appreciation when they should kick themselves all over the earth because they don't deserve appreciation. The world is full of such men, and they never once realize that "the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
But even if you weren't appreciated, even if you weren't getting all you deserved, even if