Write to Joyce
Pursuing your dream takes the same amount of work as acquiring more things that you don’t really care about or want – so you might as well pursue your dream.
“Fame and Failure”
The masses of mankind form a vast pyramid. At the very tip-top peak are gathered the few who are famous. In the bottom layer are the many failures. Between these extremes lie all the rest–from those who live near the ragged edge of Down-and-Out-Land to those who storm the doors of the House of Greatness.
Again, between these, and making up the large majority, are the myriads of laborers, clerks, small business men, housekeepers—that myriad-headed mass known as “the back bone of the world.”
Yet the great distance from the lower layer to the tip-top peak is not insurmountable. Many have covered it almost overnight.
A Favorite Fallacy
For fame is not due, as we have been led to believe, solely to years of plodding toil. A thousand years of labor could never have produced an Edison, a Bill Gates, a Marconi, a Curie, a Rockefeller, a Roosevelt, a Wilson, a Bryan, a Ford, a Babe Ruth, a Carpentier, a Mary Pickford, a Caruso, a Spencer or an Emerson.
The reserved seat in the tip-top peak of the pyramid is procured only by him who has found his real vocation.
To such a one his work is not hard. No hours are long enough to tire his body; no thought is difficult enough to weary his mind; to him there is no day and no night, no quitting time, no Saturday afternoons and no Sundays. He is at the business for which he was created--and all is play.
Edison Sleeps Four Hours
Thomas A. Edison so loves his work that he sleeps an average of less than four hours of each twenty-four. When working out one of his experiments he forgets to eat, cares not whether it is day or night and keeps his mind on his invention until it is finished.
Yet he has reached the age of seventy-four with every mental and physical faculty doing one hundred per cent service–and the prize place in the tip-top peak of the Wizards of the World is his! He started at the very bottom layer, an orphan newsboy. He made the journey to the pinnacle because early in life he found his vocation.
Failures Who Became Famous
Each one of the world’s great successes was a failure first.
It is interesting to note the things at which some of them failed. Darwin was a failure at the ministry, for which he was educated. Herbert Spencer was a failure as an engineer, though he struggled years in that profession. Abraham Lincoln was such a failure at thirty-three as a lawyer that he refused an invitation to visit an old friend “because,” he wrote, “I am such a failure I do not dare to take the time.”
Babe Ruth was a failure as a tailor. Hawthorne was a failure as a Custom House clerk when he wrote the “Scarlet Letter.” Theodore Roosevelt was a failure as a cowboy in North Dakota and gave up his frontiering because of it.
These men were failures because they tried to do things for which they were not intended. But each at last found his work, and when he did, it was so easy for him it made him famous.
Play, Not Work, Brings Fame
Fame comes only to the man, or woman, who loves his work so well that it is not work but play. It comes only to him who does something with marvellous efficiency. Work alone can not produce that kind of efficiency.
Fame comes from doing one thing so much better than your competitors that your results stand out above and beyond the results of all others. Any man who will do efficiently any one of the many things the world is crying for can place his own price upon his work and get it. He can get it because the world gladly pays for what it really wants, and because the efficient man has almost no competition.
Efficiency Comes from Enjoyment
But here’s the rub. You will never do anything with that brilliant efficiency save what you LIKE TO DO. Efficiency does not come from duty, or necessity, or goading, or lashing, or anything under heaven save ENJOYMENT OF THE THING ITSELF.
Nothing less will ever release those hidden powers, those miraculous forces which, for the lack of a better name, we call “genius.”
Knowing What are Not Your Vocations
Elimination of what are distinctly NOT your vocations will help you toward finding those that ARE. To that end here are some tests which will clear up many things for you. They will help you to know especially whether or not the vocations you have been contemplating are fitted to you.
How to Test Yourself
Whenever you are considering your fitness for any vocation, ask yourself these questions:
Self-Question 1–Am I considering this vocation chiefly because I would enjoy the things it would bring–such as salary, fame, social position or change of scene?
If, in your heart, your answer is “Yes,” this is not a vocation for you.
The Movie Hopeful
The above test can best be illustrated by the story of a young woman who wanted to be told that she had ability to act. “I am determined to go into the movies,” she told us. “Do you think I would be a success?”
“When you picture yourself in this profession what do you see yourself doing?” we asked.
“Oh, everything wonderful,” she replied. “I see myself driving my own car–one of those cute little custom-made ones, you know–and wearing the most stunning clothes and meeting all those big movie stars—and living all the year round in California!”
“Is that all you ever see yourself doing?” we inquired.
“Yes–but isn’t that enough?”
“All but one–the acting.”
She then admitted that in the eight years she had been planning to enter the movies she had never once really visualized herself acting, or studying any part, or doing any work–nothing but rewards and emoluments.
Pleasure or Pay?
Self-Question 2–Knowing the requirements of this vocation–its tasks, drudgeries, hours of work, concentration and kind of activity–would I choose to follow them in preference to any other kind of activity even if the income were the same?
Would I do these things for the “pleasure” of doing them and not for the pay?
If, in your heart, you can answer “Yes” to these questions, your problem is settled; you will succeed in that vocation. For you will so enjoy your work that it will be play. Being play, you will do it so happily that you will get from it new strength each day.
Because you are doing what you were built to do, you will think of countless improvements, inventions, ways of marketing them. This will promote you over the others who are there only for the pay envelope; it will raise your salary; it will eventually and inevitably take you to the top.
A man we know aptly illustrates this point. He was a bookkeeper. He had held the same position for twenty-three years and was getting $3,500 a month. He had little leisure but used all he did have–evenings, Saturday afternoons, Sundays and his ten-day vacations–making things.
In that time he had built furniture for his six-room house–every kind of article for the kitchen, bathroom and porch. And into everything he had put little improving touches such as are not manufactured in such things.
We convinced him that his wife was not the only woman who would appreciate these step-saving, work-reducing, leisure-giving conveniences. He finally believed it enough to patent some of his inventions, and today he is a rich man.
Of “Your Own Accord”
One more question will shed much light on the matter of your talents. Here it is:
Self-Question 3–Do I tend to follow, of my own accord, for the sheer joy of it, the kinds of activity demanded by this vocation which I am contemplating?
If you do not you will never succeed in this line of work.
Thought it Would Do Him Good
One incident will serve to illustrate the foregoing test. A young man asked us if he could succeed as a public speaker. He had decided to become a lecturer and had spent two years studying for that work.
“Do you enjoy talking? Do you like to explain and expatiate? When out with others do you furnish your share of the conversation or a little more?” were the questions we put to him.
To all of the questions he answered “No.”
“But I thought this was just the line of work I ought to go into,” he explained, “I have always been diffident and I thought the training would do me good.”
Life Pays the Producer
Expecting the world to pay you handsomely while remaking you is short-sighted, to say the least. The public schools are free, like life’s education, but you don’t get a salary for attending them.
To be a success you must PRODUCE something out of the ordinary for the world. And you will produce nothing unusual save what your particular organism was built to produce. To know what this is, classify the kind of activities you “take to” naturally. You can be a star in some line that calls for those activities. You will never succeed in any calling which demands the opposite kinds of activities or reactions.
The Worst Place for Her
A few years ago, in San Francisco, a young woman came to us for vocational advice. She had decided to find an opening in a silk-importing establishment, for none of whose duties she was qualified. When asked how she happened to hit upon the thing for which she unquestionably had no ability, she said:
“I thought it would give me a world outlook (which I need); compel me to learn fabrics (something I think every woman ought to know); force me to attend to details (which I have always hated but which I must learn to master); and because it would bring me into contact with people (I dislike them but think I should learn to deal with them).”
When Considering a Position
When a position is being considered the questions an applicant should be asking himself are, “What must I do in this position? Am I qualified? Can I make good? Do I like the activities demanded by this position?”
But ninety-nine out of every hundred applicants for a vacancy ask no question of themselves whatever, and only one of anybody else. That question is to the employer and it is only four words: “What does it pay?”
He overlooks the fact that if the salary involved is large enough to be attractive he will soon be severed from it unless he makes good. He also forgets that if the salary is small he can force it to grow if he is big enough himself.
If the particular task he is considering does not warrant a large salary, his employers will find one for him that does if he shows he has ability.
Every business in the world is looking for people who can do a few things a trifle better than the mass of people are doing them today, and whenever they find them they pay them well–because it pays THEM in the long run.
The Big-Salaried Men
Don’t be afraid that you may develop ability and then find no market for it. The only jobs that have to go begging are the big-salaried ones, because the combination of intelligence and efficiency is not easy to find. The men who are drawing from $500,000 to $1,000,000 a year are not supermen. They are not very different from anybody else. But they found a line that fitted their particular talents, and they went ahead cultivating those talents without asking for everything in advance.
Looking for “Chicken Feed”
While touring through the Rockies last summer we came one day to a log shack perched on the mountain-side near the road. In the back-yard was the owner, just ready to feed his chickens. As he flung out the grain they came from every direction, crowding and jostling each other and frantically pecking for the tiny morsels he threw on the ground. Several dozen flocked around him. But three or four stayed on the outer edge, ready to scamper for the big grains he threw now and then amongst the boulders up on the hillside.
“I do that just to see them use their heads,” he explained. “People are just like that. They rush for the little chances where all the competition is, instead of staying out where they can see a big chance when it comes.”
Life is full of opportunities for every person who will consult his own capacities and aim for the big chance.
Causes of Misfits
Various influences are responsible for the misfit, chief amongst which are his loving parents. Many fathers and mothers, with the best intentions in the world, urge their children to enter vocations for which they have no natural fitness whatever. These same parents often discourage in their children the very talents which, if permitted to develop, would make them successful.
Such a child has small chance in the world if it happens that his parents are sufficiently well-to-do to hold the purse strings on his training. Not until he has “failed” at the work they choose for him will such parents desist. When they finally allow him to take to the work he prefers they are usually surprised to see how clever he is.
But if he does not succeed at it they should bear in mind that it is doubtless due to their having cheated him out of his priceless youth–the years when the mind is moldable, impressionable and full of inspiration.
Richard and Dorothy
One instance in which Fate took a hand was very interesting. A New York widow, whose husband had left his large fortune entirely to her, nursed definite ambitions for her son and daughter. Richard, she had decided, should become a stock-raiser and farmer on the several-thousand-acre ranch they owned in Texas. Dorothy should study art in Paris.
But it so happened that Richard and Dorothy disliked the respective vocations laid out for them, while each wanted to do the very thing the other was being driven to do. Richard was small, dark, sensitive, esthetic–and bent on being an artist. Dorothy, who was six feet in her stockings, laughed at art and wanted to be a farmer.
But mother was obdurate and mother held the family purse. So, in the spring of 1914, Dorothy was sent to Paris to study the art Richard loved, and Richard was sent to the Texas ranch that Dorothy wanted.
Then the War broke and Dorothy hurried from Paris to avoid German shells, while Richard enlisted to escape the Texas ranch. Dorothy, in her element at last, took over the ranch (of which Richard had made a failure), turned it into one vast war garden, became a farmerette and is there now–a shining success.
Richard got to Paris during the War and when it closed refused to come home. He wrote his mother that the war had taught him he could earn his own living–an accomplishment he is achieving today with his art. The mother herself is happier than she ever was before, and proud of her children’s success.
Nevers for All
Never choose a vocation just because it looks profitable. It won’t bring profits to you long unless you are built for it.
Never choose a vocation just because it looks easy. No work will be easy for you except that which Nature intended for you.
Never choose a vocation just because it permits the wearing of good clothes. You need more than a permit; you need ability.
Never choose a vocation just because the hours are short. You can’t fool employers that way. They also know they are short, and pay you accordingly. The extra play these leisure hours give you will amount to nothing but loss to you ten years hence.
Never choose a vocation just because it is popular or sounds interesting.
“I am going to be a private secretary,” said a young woman near us at the theater recently.
“What will you have to do?” asked her friend.
“Oh, I don’t know,” the girl answered, “but it sounds so fascinating, don’t you think?”
Never turn your back on a profession just because it is old-fashioned, middle class or ordinary. If you have talents fitting you for such vocations you are lucky, for these are the ones for which there is the greatest demand. Demand is a big help. If you can add a new touch to such a one you are made.
Why She Taught German
Never choose a vocation just because your friends are in it, nor refuse another just because your worst enemy is in it.
Two friends come to mind in this connection. One is a splendid woman we knew at college. She became a German teacher and up to the outbreak of the War had an instructorship in a western state university. The elimination of German lost her the position.
“Why did you ever choose German, anyhow, Ruth?” we asked her. “Your abilities lie in such a different direction.”
“Because my favorite teacher in high school taught German,” she replied.
Enemies and Engineering
An opposite case is that of a friend of ours who has worked in an uncongenial profession for thirty years. “You were meant for engineering, Tom,” we told him. “With all the leanings you had in that direction, how did it happen you didn’t follow it?”
“Because the man who cheated my father out of all he had was an engineer!” he said.
Never choose a new vocation just because you are restless. You will be more so if you get into the wrong one.
The “Society” Delusion
Never choose a vocation just because it promises social standing. The entree it gives will fail you unless you make good. And social standing isn’t worth much anyhow. When you are in the work for which you were born you won’t worry about social standing. It will come to you then whether you want it or not. And when it does you will care very little about it.
The Entering Wedge
Never take a certain job for life just because people are dependent upon you. Save enough to live one month without a job, preparing yourself meanwhile for an entering wedge into a vocation you do like. Then take a smaller-paying place if necessary to get started. If you really like the work you will do it so well you will promote yourself. You owe it to those who are dependent upon you to do this.
Jack of All Trades
Never do anything just to show you can. Don’t let your versatility tempt you into following a number of lines of work for the purpose of demonstrating your ability. Versatility can be the greatest handicap of all; it tempts you to neglect intensive study, to flit, to become a “jack of all trades and master of none.”
Only Three Kinds of Work
There are but three general classes of work. They are:
WORK WITH PEOPLE;
WORK WITH THINGS;
WORK WITH IDEAS.
Each individual is fitted by nature to do one of these better than the others and there will be one class for which he has the least ability. In the other one of the three he might make a mediocre success. Every individual should find a vocation furnishing that one of these three kinds of work for which he has the greatest ability. Then he should go into the particular branch of that vocation which is best adapted to his personality, training, education, environment and experience.
“Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” – Isaiah 55:2, NIV
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