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BIGGER THAN YOUR POSITION*
I want to tell you at the outset how happy I am to be back here in a University atmosphere. It is a pleasure to meet you gentlemen of the graduating class. I envy you. It was
at a similar commencement not so many ages ago that I sat where you do, down there on one of those front seats, filled with eager ambition and straining at the leash. It was a happy time and the whole world was mine oyster.
The years that have flown by so rapidly since have all of them been years of hard work, and most of them years also of selfdenial, of frequent disappointment, of struggle and hardship and drudgery. But I should nevertheless like to start with you to-night and live them over again. There is no zest like the zest of fighting for a place in the world, with the din of the battle in your ears, and with the hope of conquest in your heart!
YOUTH A PRICELESS ASSET.
Yes, you gentlemen are to be envied, and I wish you were up here talking and I was down there listening. Many and grievous have been the mistakes I have committed, and how I long for an opportunity to rectify them! Give me another chance and I could improve vastly on the record. It see it all now. I did not then. But it is one of the penalties of life that we cannot go back and run the race over again, hoping to do better next time. The judges make their decision: the event is over: the gates open: the crowds disperse: and you must stand or fall on the result!
Gentlemen, I beg of you, bear this thought in mind: force yourselves to realize the unescapable, the inevitable, the ruthless fact that you must live your life right in the first place. for you cannot live it over again.
Health and energy, youth and ambition, are priceless assets. You are rich in capital. You are richer than the boy born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but weakened by indulgence and relaxation, and under no necessity of developing his powers by the compelling
*Commencement address delivered before the graduating class in pharmacy at Valparaiso University.
By HARRY B. MASON
need of using them to make a place for himself. Do not waste your capital; do not squander your health. Once gone it will never return. Once dissipated, you are worse off than the man who has lost his money. For money can be made again, but health can rarely be restored, youth can never be recalled, and energy and ambition, once forfeited, are usually forfeited forever.
THREE PERIODS IN LIFE.
Shakespeare divides human life into seven periods. I shall paraphrase him by saying that in a man's business life there are three periods. What are they?
From 20 to 30 or 35 is the first period. School and college have been left behind, and a man is gaining his experience, developing his ability, maturing his judgment, perfecting himself as an instrument of success, and establishing a reputation. This is the period of preparing the soil and sowing the seed. From 35 to 55 or 60 is the second era-the period of harvesting the crop. A man is then filling the place in the world for which he has prepared himself, is using the powers he has developed, and is reaping the returns in money, in dignity, in respect, in position. From 60 onward is the third period. His powers begin to wane, he takes life easier, he leaves things more to his associates and successors, and he sinks gradually into an old age which should be comfortable, free from want and worry, and rich with the memories of a life well lived and a peace of mind well earned.
Now, gentlemen, you are to-night face to face with the first period of 10 or 15 years. It is by far the most important, the most critical, of all three periods. For it is the preparatory period. Upon what you make of it will absolutely and finally determine what the middle-age and old-age periods are to be. If you do not sow the seed you will get no crop. If you do not nourish and tend the soil you will garner no harvest-except a harvest of weeds.
It is hard for a young man of 21 to realize these things. He is heedless of the years to come. His life is spread out before him in an
almost endless panorama, and he thinks there is plenty of time to make good.
He sees men attain success at 40 or 50, and he assumes that the trick can be turned at any time, not knowing that the man who becomes influential and prosperous at 40 is the man who gets under way at 20. "Let me take things easy for a few years," he argues, "and then, after I am married and have a wife and family to support, and increasing expenses to meet, I can settle down and win place and money. Until this time comes let me enjoy life. I shall never be young but once."
No, you will never be young but oncethat's the crux of the whole argument. Your youth is your greatest asset. It is It is your richest piece of capital. You will have only one, and it will go, Heaven knows, all too quickly. What will you do with it? Will you use it to build a success upon, or will you divert it to the purpose of having a good time? You cannot do both. You cannot eat your cake and have it too.
If you are going to develop a future you must do it now, while you have the strength, the eagerness, the courage, the endurance of early life-while you can stand the hard knocks, while you can live frugally, while you can go through the toil and the struggle and the hardship which success demands. If you don't develop your future now, you will have no future. I wish beyond all things to-night that I could make you realize this. I wish I could force home the truth so powerfully that you would absolutely know it to be the truth and would be guided by it in your later activities.
THE CRITICAL FIVE YEARS.
I have said that you are to-night facing the most important 15 years of your life. I will say more than this: You are facing the most important 5 years of your life! Why? Because at 25 you have more physical strength and endurance than you will have at 30. At 30 you will have more than you will have at 35. At 35 you will have more than you will have at 40. An athlete who astonishes the world at 22 begins to get passe at 26 or 28, and at 30 he is out of the running. The best of our youth is evanescent. It passes before we realize it.
Far, then, from facing a long life of endless opportunities to-night, gentlemen, with plenty of leisure for getting under way, you are right
up against the critical 10 or 15 years, yes, the critical 5 years, of your entire career. When you leave Valparaiso to-morrow, or next day, you will be face to face with your destiny. You will start right in determining your whole future. Every day will count. Every action will tell. Every month will send you further along the right road or back along the wrong one, and in a very few years, before there is scarcely time for you to realize it, the die is cast. Your horoscope is finished. Your future is determined.
But there is another consideration. The years between 20 and 35 are the most important in a man's career not only because he has then the physical strength and endurance to do the hard work of foundation building and to make a place for himself. They are equally if not more important because they are the years when, if ever, character building is done. What you make of yourself as a man before you are thirty-that you will always be. You cannot make any radical change in your character after you are 30 or 35. Inclinations then harden into habits and throw their roots down into soil so deep that they cannot be torn up except by some great upheaval which few men experience.
If at 30 you are lazy and shiftless; if you have learned to love ease; if pleasures have grown to mean more than labors; if present advantage is placed above future benefit; if opportunities have been made to wait for a later acceptance-if these things are true at 30, they will always be true. It is a law almost as invariable as the tides that what you make of yourself as a man in the next ten years you will be in only greater measure in the next 50. If you make yourself abler, abler still you will continue to grow; if you make yourself weaker, weaker you will steadily become. the tree is bent, so will it grow.
Therefore I say, the biggest question you have to face to-night, gentlemen, is this: What will you do with your youth? Will you build a career on it, or will you waste it? Will you use it to assure your future ease and comfort, your prosperity and happiness, to make yourself in your later years free from want and care and anxiety, or will you spend it riotously, bewail its loss when it is too late, and make yourself during all your middle life and old age a slave to drudgery and a prey to misfortune? What will you do with your youth?
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 laying down one rule of business life which no man can flout 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. tion!
Make yourself bigger than your posi
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