day I live I am amazed that so many people should be
content to be ineffectual in life. It is hardly an exaggeration
to say that half the people in the world are ineffectual
because they don’t know how to try; and the other
half are ineffectual because they don’t even want
I have an idea that evil came
on earth when the first man or woman said: “That
isn’t the best than I can do, but it is well enough.”
In that sentence the primitive curse was pronounced,
and until we banish it from the world again we shall
be doomed to inefficiency, sickness, and unhappiness.
Thoroughness is an elemental virtue. In nature nothing
is slighted, but the least and the greatest [Page
194] of tasks are performed with equal care,
and diligence, and patience, and love, and intelligence.
are ineffectual because we are slovenly and lazy and
content to have things half done. We are willing to
sit down and give up before the thing is finished. Whereas
we should never stop short of an utmost effort toward
perfection so long as there is a breath in our body.
of course, are worse in this respect than men. Their
existence does not depend on their efficiency, and therefore
they can be almost as useless and inefficient as they
please; whereas, men have behind them a very practical
incentive to efficiency, which goes by the name of starvation.
there are ineffectual men enough, certainly. It is not
a matter of large attempts, but of trifles — the
accumulation of trifles that makes ultimate success.
For character, like wealth, may be amassed in small
quantities, as well as acquired in one day. If you [Page
195] watch a woman dusting a room, you will
notice at once whether she will be able to do anything
more important in the world, or whether she is destined
to keep to such simple work all her days, going gradually
from inefficiency to inefficiency, until she gives up
at last in despair and falls into the ranks of the great
procession of the failures in life. Watch a man harness
a horse or mend a fence; you can tell whether or not
he will ever own a horse and a farm.
it may not matter whether the last nail is doubled over
instead of being driven in to the head, but the state
of mind which could be content with one nail too few
is fatal. Indifference may not wreck the man’s
life at any one turn, but it will destroy him with a
kind of dry-rot in the long run. There is a passion
for perfection which you will rarely see fully developed;
but you may note this fact, that in successful lives
it is never wholly lacking.
think one great reason for our common [Page
196] inefficiency lies in the fact that we
neglect to correlate our forces. When we undertake a
task, we do not bring all our powers to bear. I do not
mean, of course, that we should expend our utmost force
on trifles; that is not necessary; we must always maintain
a reserve. I mean that we should call into play in every
act something of each of our three natures. If there
is a stone to be moved from the middle of the road,
there is a right way to move it, and there are a hundred
wrong ways. That implies the use of mind. I must bring
my wits to the task. Also I may do it gladly, when it
will be easy, or grudgingly, when it will be hard and
exhausting. In short, for the half-moment, I must devote
myself to the stone as thoroughly as if I were rolling
it away from the door of heaven. Have you ever noticed
a nursemaid getting her baby carriage over the curb?
Usually she manages to give it the greatest jolt possible.
And I think as soon as women can get off of a street-car
properly they should be [Page 197] allowed
to vote. It is never enough to put strength into the
work, one must put heart and brains as well.
matter of correlating the three vital forces is at once
perhaps the most important and the least understood
element in personal success. It is, in my judgment,
incomparably more important than any subject of study
in our colleges or schools, more useful than any practical
training we are now giving our young men and women;
and it is so little understood that I doubt whether
more than a very few have considered its real value.
I am afraid that, when we do think of it, we are willing
to take it for granted, without ever actually relying
upon it. That is a pity. We may pervert and neglect
our forces as we will; we may spend half a lifetime
in using them amiss, and yet so small a trial of right
adjustment and correlation would convince us of the
enormous gain of power to be had in that direction.