Many serious letters and a half-humorous criticism in Punch suggest that I am to be regarded as the apostle of a pure materialism. That is not so. I quite recognise the existence of other ambitions in the walks of Art, Religion, or Literature. But at the very outset I confined the scope of my advice to those who wish to triumph in practical affairs. I am talking to the young men who want to succeed in business and to build up a new nation. Criticism based on any other conception of my purpose is a spent shaft.
Money—the word has a magical sound. It conjures up before the vision some kind of enchanted paradise where to wish is to have—Aladdin's lamp brought down to earth.
Yet in reality money carries with it only two qualities of value: the character it creates in the making; the self-expression of the individuality in the use of it, when once it has been made. The art of making money implies all those qualities —resolution, concentration, economy, self-control—which make for success and happiness. The power of using it makes a man who has become the captain of his own soul in the process of its acquirement also the master of the circumstances which surround him. He can shape his immediate world to his own liking. Apart from these two faculties, character in acquirement, power in use, money has little value, and is just as likely to be a curse as a blessing. For this reason the money master will care little for leaving vast wealth to his descendants. He knows that they would be better men for going down stripped into the struggle, with no inheritance but that of brains and character. Wealth without either the wish, the brains, or the power to use it is too often the medium through which men pamper the flesh with good living, and the mind with inanity, until death, operating through the liver, hurries the fortunate youth into an early grave. The inheritance tax should have no terrors for the millionaire.
The value of money is, therefore, first in the striving for it and then in the use of it. The ambition itself is a fine one—but how is it to be achieved? I would lay down certain definite rules for the guidance of the young man who, starting with small things, is determined to go on to great ones:— 1. The first key which opens the door of success is the trading instinct, the knowledge and sense of the real value of any article. Without it a man need not trouble to enter business at all, but if he possesses it even in a rudimentary form he can cultivate it in the early days when the mind is still plastic, until it develops beyond all recognition. When I was a boy I knew the value in exchange of every marble in my village, and this practice of valuing became a subconscious habit until, so long as I remained in business, I always had an intuitive perception of the real and not the face value of any article.
The young man who will walk through life developing the capacity for determining values, and then correcting his judgments by his information, is the man who will succeed in business.
2. But supposing that a young man has acquired this sense of values, he may yet ruin himself before he comes to the fruition of his talent if he will not practise economy. By economy I mean the economic conduct of his business. Examine your profit and loss account before you go out to conquer the financial world, and then go out for conquest—if the account justifies the enterprise. Too many men spend their time in laying down "pipe-lines" for future profits which may not arrive or only arrive for some newcomer who has taken over the business. There is nothing like sticking to one line of business until you have mastered it. A man who has learned how to conduct a single industry at a profit has conquered the obstacles which stand in the way of success in the larger world of enterprise.
3. Do not try to cut with too wide a swath. This last rule is the most important of all. Many promising young men have fallen into ruin from the neglect of this simple principle. It is so easy for premature ambition to launch men out into daring schemes for which they have neither the resources nor the experience. Acquire the knowledge of values, practise economy, and learn to read the minds of men, and your technique will then be perfected and ready for use on wider fields. The instinct for values, the habit of economy, the technique of business, are only three forms of the supreme quality of that judgment which is success.
For these reasons it is the first £10,000 which counts. There is the real struggle, the test of character, and the warranty of success. Youth and strength are given us to use in that first struggle, and a man must feel those early deals right down to the pit of his stomach if he is going to be a great man of business. They must shake the very fibre of his being as the conception of a great picture shakes an artist. But the first ten thousand made, he can advance with greater freedom and take affairs in his stride. He will have the confidence of experience, and can paint with a big brush because all the details of affairs are now familiar to his mentality. With this assured technique nothing will check the career. "Why," says the innkeeper in an adaptation from Bernard Shaw's sketch of Napoleon in Italy, "conquering countries is like folding a tablecloth. Once the first fold is made, the rest is easy. Conquer one, conquer all." Such in effect is the career of the great captains of industry. Yet the man who attains, by the practice of these rules, a great fortune, may fail of real achievement and happiness. He may not be able to recognise that the qualities of the aspirant are not exactly the qualities of the man who has arrived. The sense of general responsibility must supersede the spirit of private adventure.
The stability of credit becomes the watchword of high finance. Thus the great money master will not believe that periods of depression are of necessity ruinous. It is true that no great profits will be made in such years of depression.
But the lean years will not last for ever. Industry during the period of deflation goes through a process like that of an over-fat man taking a Turkish bath. The extravagances are eliminated, new invention and energy spring up to meet the call of necessity, and when the boom years come again it finds industry, like a highly trained athlete, ready to pour out the goods and pay the wages. Economic methods are nurtured by depression.
But when all has been said and done, the sceptic may still question us. Is the capacity to make money something to be desired and striven for, something worth having in the character, some proof of ability in the mind? The answer is "Yes." Money which is striven for brings with it the real qualities in life. Here are the counters which mark character and brains. The money brain is, in the modern world, the supreme brain. Why? Because that which the greatest number of men strive for will produce the fiercest competition of intellect. Politics are for the few; they are a game, a fancy, or an inheritance. Leaving out the man of genius who flares out, perhaps, once or twice in a century, the amount of ability which enables a man to cut a very respectable figure in a Cabinet is extraordinarily low, compared with that demanded in the world of industry and finance. The politician will never believe this, but it is so.
The battles of the market-place are real duels, on which realities of life and death and fortune or poverty and even of fame depend. Here men fight with a precipice behind them, not a pension of £2,000 a year. The young men who go down into that press must win their spurs by no man's favour. But youth can triumph; it has the resolution when the mind is still plastic to gain that judgment which experience gives.
My advice to the young men of to-day is simply this: Money is nothing but the fruit of resolution and intellect applied to the affairs of the world. To an unshakable resolution fortune will oppose no bar.
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