First Be A Man
From: How To Succeed
The great need at this hour is manly men. We want no
goody-goody piety; we have too much of it. We want men who will
do right, though the heavens fall, who believe in God, and who
will confess Him.
--REV. W. J. DAWSON.
All the world cries, Where is the man who will save us? We want
a man! Don't look so far for this man. You have him at hand.
This man--it is you, it is I; it is each one of us!... How to
constitute one's self a man? Nothing harder, if one knows not
how to will it; nothing easier, if one wills it.
"I thank God I am a Baptist," said a little, short Doctor of Divinity,
as he mounted a step at a convention. "Louder! louder!" shouted a man in
the audience; "we can't hear." "Get up higher," said another. "I can't,"
replied the doctor, "to be a Baptist is as high as one can get."
But there is something higher than being a Baptist, and that is being a
Rousseau says: "According to the order of nature, men being equal, their
common vocation is the profession of humanity; and whoever is well
educated to discharge the duty of a man cannot be badly prepared to
fill any of those offices that have a relation to him. It matters little
to me whether my pupil be designed for the army, the pulpit, or the bar.
To live is the profession I would teach him. When I have done with him,
it is true he will be neither a soldier, a lawyer, nor a divine. _Let
him first be a man_; Fortune may remove him from one rank to another, as
she pleases, he will be always found in his place."
"First of all," replied the boy James A. Garfield, when asked what he
meant to be, "I must make myself a man; if I do not succeed in that, I
can succeed in nothing."
"Hear me, O men," cried Diogenes, in the market place at Athens; and,
when a crowd collected around him, he said scornfully, "I called for
men, not pigmies."
One great need of the world to-day is for men and women who are good
animals. To endure the strain of our concentrated civilization, the
coming man and woman must have an excess of animal spirits. They must
have a robustness of health. Mere absence of disease is not health. It
is the overflowing fountain, not the one half full, that gives life and
beauty to the valley below. Only he is healthy who exults in mere animal
existence; whose very life is a luxury; who feels a bounding pulse
throughout his body; who feels life in every limb, as dogs do when
scouring over the field, or as boys do when gliding over fields of ice.
Dispense with the doctor by being temperate; the lawyer by keeping out
of debt; the demagogue, by voting for honest men; and poverty, by being
"Nephew," said Sir Godfrey Kneller, the artist, to a Guinea slave
trader, who entered the room where his uncle was talking with Alexander
Pope, "you have the honor of seeing the two greatest men in the world."
"I don't know how great men you may be," said the Guinea man, as he
looked contemptuously upon their diminutive physical proportions, "but I
don't like your looks; I have often bought a much better man than either
of you, all muscles and bones, for ten guineas."
A man is never so happy as when he suffices to himself, and can walk
without crutches or a guide. Said Jean Paul Richter: "I have made as
much out of myself as could be made of the stuff, and no man should
"The body of an athlete and the soul of a sage," wrote Voltaire to
Helvetius; "these are what we require to be happy."
Although millions are out of employment in the United States, how
difficult it is to find a thorough, reliable, self-dependent,
industrious man or woman, young or old, for any position, whether as a
domestic servant, an office boy, a teacher, a brakeman, a conductor, an
engineer, a clerk, a bookkeeper, or whatever we may want. It is almost
impossible to find a really _competent_ person in any department, and
oftentimes we have to make many trials before we can get a position
fairly well filled.
It is a superficial age; very few prepare for their work. Of thousands
of young women trying to get a living at typewriting, many are so
ignorant, so deficient in the common rudiments even, that they spell
badly, use bad grammar, and know scarcely anything of punctuation. In
fact, they murder the English language. They can copy, "parrot like,"
and that is about all.
The same superficiality is found in nearly all kinds of business. It is
next to impossible to get a first-class mechanic; he has not learned his
trade; he has picked it up, and botches everything he touches, spoiling
good material and wasting valuable time.
In the professions, it is true, we find greater skill and faithfulness,
but usually they have been developed at the expense of mental and moral
The merely professional man is narrow; worse than that, he is in a sense
an artificial man, a creature of technicalities and specialties, removed
alike from the broad truth of nature and from the healthy influence of
human converse. In society, the most accomplished man of mere
professional skill is often a nullity; he has sunk his personality in
"The aim of every man," said Humboldt, "should be to secure the highest
and most harmonious development of his powers to a complete and
Some men impress us as immense possibilities. They seem to have a sweep
of intellect that is grand; a penetrative power that is phenomenal; they
seem to know everything, to have read everything, to have seen
everything. Nothing seems to escape the keenness of their vision. But
somehow they are forever disappointing our expectations. They raise
great hopes only to dash them. They are men of great promise, but they
never pay. There is some indefinable want in their make-up.
What the world needs is a clergyman who is broader than his pulpit, who
does not look upon humanity with a white neckcloth ideal, and who would
give the lie to the saying that the human race is divided into three
classes: men, women and ministers. Wanted, a clergyman who does not look
upon his congregation from the standpoint of old theological books, and
dusty, cobweb creeds, but who sees the merchant as in his store, the
clerk as making sales, the lawyer pleading before the jury, the
physician standing over the sick bed; in other words, who looks upon the
great throbbing, stirring, pulsing, competing, scheming, ambitious,
impulsive, tempted, mass of humanity as one of their number, who can
live with them, see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and
experience their sensations.
The world has a standing advertisement over the door of every
profession, every occupation, every calling: "Wanted--A Man."
Wanted, a lawyer, who has not become the victim of his specialty, a mere
walking bundle of precedents.
Wanted, a shopkeeper who does not discuss markets wherever he goes. A
man should be so much larger than his calling, so broad and symmetrical
in his culture, that he would not talk shop in society, that no one
would suspect how he gets his living.
Nothing is more apparent in this age of specialties than the dwarfing,
crippling, mutilating influence of occupations or professions.
Specialties facilitate commerce, and promote efficiency in the
professions, but are often narrowing to individuals. The spirit of the
age tends to doom the lawyer to a narrow life of practice, the business
man to a mere money-making career.
Think of a man, the grandest of God's creations, spending his life-time
standing beside a machine for making screws. There is nothing to call
out his individuality, his ingenuity, his powers of balancing, judging,
He stands there year after year, until he seems but a piece of
mechanism. His powers, from lack of use, dwindle to mediocrity, to
inferiority, until finally he becomes a mere part of the machine he
Wanted, a man who will not lose his individuality in a crowd, a man who
has the courage of his convictions, who is not afraid to say "No,"
though all the world say "Yes."
Wanted, a man who, though he is dominated by a mighty purpose, will not
permit one great faculty to dwarf, cripple, warp, or mutilate his
manhood; who will not allow the over-development of one faculty to stunt
or paralyze his other faculties.
Wanted, a man who is larger than his calling, who considers it a low
estimate of his occupation to value it merely as a means of getting a
living. Wanted, a man who sees self-development, education and culture,
discipline and drill, character and manhood, in his occupation.
As Nature tries every way to induce us to obey her laws by rewarding
their observance with health, pleasure and happiness, and punishes their
violation by pain and disease, so she resorts to every means to induce
us to expand and develop the great possibilities she has implanted
within us. She nerves us to the struggle, beneath which all great
blessings are buried, and beguiles the tedious marches by holding up
before us glittering prizes, which we may almost touch, but never quite
possess. She covers up her ends of discipline by trial, of character
building through suffering by throwing a splendor and glamour over the
future; lest the hard, dry facts of the present dishearten us, and she
fail in her great purpose. How else could Nature call the youth away
from all the charms that hang around young life, but by presenting to
his imagination pictures of future bliss and greatness which will haunt
his dreams until he resolves to make them real. As a mother teaches her
babe to walk, by holding up a toy at a distance, not that the child may
reach the toy, but that it may develop its muscles and strength,
compared with which the toys are mere baubles; so Nature goes before us
through life, tempting us with higher and higher toys, but ever with one
object in view--the development of the man.
In every great painting of the masters there is one idea or figure which
stands out boldly beyond everything else. Every other idea or figure on
the canvas is subordinate to this idea or figure, and finds its real
significance not in itself, but, pointing to the central idea, finds its
true expression there. So in the vast universe of God, every object of
creation is but a guide-board with an index finger pointing to the
central figure of the created universe--Man. Nature writes this thought
upon every leaf; she thunders it in every creation; it exhales from
every flower; it twinkles in every star.
Open thy bosom, set thy wishes wide,
And let in manhood--let in happiness;
Admit the boundless theatre of thought
From nothing up to God ... which makes a man!
Next: Seize Your Opportunity