There is an old saying that comparisons are odious, and while this is not necessarily true in all cases, it is relatively true due to the state of mind of the individual making the comparison. In a small number of instances comparisons are made which recognize the progress and development of an individual with due credit being given for their advancement both as to character and capability. This is as it should be. Unfortunately, however, in most cases comparisons are made along lines that are not of advantage to the individuals who are their objects. There is a tendency to compare performance with expectations. Most individuals have the habit of expecting too much of other individuals just as soon as they show any signs of development and progress.
Parents expect their children to secure as good marks at school as they have done previously. If they receive better marks, that is fine, but if they receive lower marks, regardless of the fact that they are qualifying marks, then the parents are disappointed. This in spite of the fact that qualifying marks are at percentages within the capacity of the average child. The parents, however, desire their offspring to be better than the average. This of course is impossible for if all the children were better than the present average, then the marks that they reach would automatically become the average.
The above refers to the acquisition of knowledge, but has very little to do with the development of character. If parents would pay more attention to the development of character traits in their children and endeavor to have them establish a high mark along this line, it would be far better for the children even if they only received passing marks at school.
The tendency in comparisons is illustrated by the general statements, “I am as good as anybody else,” and “I wish I were as rich as John Brown. John Brown being a mythical figure of someone who is better off financially or otherwise. In other words there is a tendency to accentuate the quality of our moral and mental attainments while at the same time we depreciate the quality and worth of our possessions, our health and our freedom. Almost every man believes that he is as good as most other men, but there are a very limited number that desire to do anything to show that they are better than other men.
When it comes to questions of character most individuals are content to receive a passing mark, even if in some cases this mark itself is not deserved, but when it comes to questions of power, influence, money or possessions practically every individual would like to be listed well above the average. In taking this attitude they are themselves making a comparison that is not only extremely odious, but is distinctly against their own welfare.
Character traits are the most important things in life. Without them it is impossible for a man, regardless of power, place or influence, and especially regardless of wealth, to acquire happiness or even contentment. Everyone in life is actually seeking happiness even if they are too ignorant to understand that this is so. When a man desires wealth, influence, power or possessions it is solely because he thinks these things would make him happy, in ninety-nine per cent of all cases. The mere fact that he gives others reasons for desiring these things is superficial and misleading. People do not deliberately set out to acquire things that will make them unhappy.
In social life particularly comparisons are the breeders of many little disturbances that are totally unnecessary. Mrs. Jones compares herself and her possessions with Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Smith, but in the following manner. Mrs. Brown is wealthy, but not prepossessing, so Mrs. Jones compares her possessions with those of Mrs. Brown. Mrs. Smith is relatively poor but beautiful in face and figure, so Mrs. Jones compares her personal charms with those of Mrs. Smith. There are many other methods of comparisons, but the usual thing is for individuals to compare themselves with those who are more favored and never with those who are less favored.
We take for granted full and complete sets of fingers and toes, of arms and legs, of eyes and ears, in functioning condition. It is only when we lose the use of any of these physical possessions that we appreciate them fully and completely. We do not go around loudly proclaiming the fact that we are not afflicted with heart disease or tuberculosis, but we certainly make the welkin ring with our lamentations if we do acquire such afflictions. The average man or woman should be glad to be alive in such a wonderful world, in full possession of their faculties and with a sound and wholesome body. The enjoyment of life has to do largely with our attitude and viewpoint, and this is created to a very large extent by our methods of comparison. If we would continually endeavor to develop our characters so that we could truly say that we were above the average then we would have something to be really proud of.
Possessions are things that we can take pleasure in according to our capacity, but are not something to be proud of unless we honestly earned them through our own sincere effort and ability and are using them for the good of humanity as well as ourselves. This does not mean that we share our possessions with others, but it does mean that we use them so far as possible to bring benefits to others as well as to ourselves. For example, if a man has a comfortable and well furnished home he should make that home an example of what a home should be and it should be the training ground for the children of the family, with the purpose of making them into sound, honorable and worthwhile men and women. The family, themselves, should be able to enjoy each other and have a good time among themselves.
The moment that a home is turned into a place of continual entertainment of outsiders, or the moment that the members of the family begin to feel that it is necessary to go somewhere else in order to have a good time, then the home is losing its true character and is not being used for the purposes for which it is really intended.
Most families have a certain amount of friction between certain members almost entirely due to their faulty system of comparison. People expect too much of each other merely because they are closely related and they feel that their close relationship gives them certain privileges and rights which actually can never be bestowed on anyone. There are certain privacies and certain rights that belong to individuals merely because they are human beings, regardless of their age, although age has something to do with certain other rights and privileges.
For example a child, regardless of age, is entitled to know why they should do certain things and refrain from doing others. Also each member of a family is entitled to be treated as an individual as well as a part of the family, but also every member of the family should have a part of the family responsibility.
Children when grown have a duty to see that their parents do not suffer privation or hardship, if they can prevent it, but this certainly does not mean that a married son or daughter has any duty whatever that compels them to live in the same residence as the older people. Every married woman and every married man are entitled to a home of their own no matter how poor or insignificant. If intelligence is used, families can be supported as economically and comfortably separated from each other as they can living together. The real trouble is that it seems so much easier to live together than it does to use this intelligence. This has resulted in hurt feelings and sometimes mental suffering on the part of certain members of such families. An older man or woman would almost always rather live in one comfortable room that they could call their own, than to be compelled to live with a son-in-law or daughter-in-law. The few occasions where such arrangements have proved satisfactory only proved the rule. A younger man and woman just married would be far better off to also live in one comfortable room than to go to live with the old folks and everybody would be much happier in almost all such cases.
The young business man or young working man look at those above them in position and think how satisfied they would be with the other fellow’s job or income, but as soon as this is acquired they immediately compare themselves with someone still higher in position or income. Very seldom do they compare themselves with those who are not so well off.
Men should be ambitious and should desire to progress, but their ambition should be to acquire more responsibility and to be actually more important because of their developed capabilities, rather than thinking about more money or more power. If we take care of our development, both as to character and capability, the financial and business rewards will almost automatically take care of themselves. This does not mean that a young man, so to speak, should “hide his light under a bushel,” but it does mean that he should make himself so valuable that he would just have to be promoted to a better job. This may not always be done with a particular business entity but it stands good for the general field of business. If a man makes himself too valuable to be kept on a mediocre job, then he will inevitably secure another job.
One of the principal methods by which a young man can make himself qualified for promotion, and one that secures the quickest results, is the development of his own character and intelligence. This development rests entirely with the man himself. He may have to wait a considerable time to have the opportunity to develop along actual business and technical lines, but he doesn’t need to wait one instant to start developing his intelligence and his character. In the long run this will prove most beneficial along financial and business lines, and, which is far more important, it will make him into a real man, capable of doing many things for the benefit of others, and finally, which is the most vital and important point of all, capable of acquiring happiness and enjoying life to its full measure.
One of the chief elements to consider in striving for success is the amount and the kind of work to be performed. It has to do both with the element of time, and the element of efficiency, but it also has to do with the element of sincerity. No one can be truly said to be vitally interested in succeeding unless they are willing to perform all of the work and the kind of work that is necessary for their success. Individuals who are not dominated by these characteristics have a tendency to excuse themselves by false comparisons. They claim that they have worked hard for many years and see no apparent results, whereas other individuals have progressed further and more rapidly. In making this comparison they either fail to take note of the additional effort, time and determination that were the prime factors in the success of the other individual, or else they deliberately choose someone for comparison who was especially fortunate, or who had the backing of his family or friends and their resources to aid him in his undertaking. They never mention the thousands of individuals that have worked harder than themselves and achieved less.
Success can be had only by paying the price therefor. The rule for success is simple. It is first necessary to decide what you desire to accomplish, and this goal should be placed as high as a person’s native intelligence can envision. This does not mean that the further acquisition of knowledge and experience may not impel them to a higher and better goal at a later date. But it does mean that they must have common sense understanding of their aim and destination in so far as they are capable of visualizing the future.
The second item necessary is that the goal must be satisfying when actually reached. This does not mean that ambition will come to an end, but it does mean that they shall not have to admit that they made a mistake in deciding what they wanted.
The third element is that it should be a worth while object in itself and destined to bring benefit to others as well as to the individual concerned.
The fourth item is that there shall be no qualifying restrictions as to time, effort and intelligence that are to be used to accomplish their results.
A man must necessarily be willing to work just as long as it is necessary to arrive at his goal. He should be willing to work just as hard and as much as it is necessary to accomplish his objective in the shortest possible space of time through use of proper and honorable methods, and, more important than all, he should be willing to use every atom of his intelligence to achieve his purpose and be willing to constantly endeavor to enlarge the scope and efficiency of his intellectual processes. If a man does not desire to do these things then he is deluding himself in believing that he desires to achieve success. What real difference does it make if a man does work harder and longer than some other person to achieve the same results.
All successes do not follow in exactly the same manner. Some individuals require a long time to get on a sound basis but develop much more rapidly thereafter, while others develop their success more quickly, but do not press forward thereafter so steadily and persistently. Some individuals’ ambitions are gratified when they arrive at a certain point, while others press onward and upward consistently from one goal to another.
The man who is actively occupied with his whole heart in struggling for success along proper and honorable lines has neither the time nor inclination to compare himself with other individuals except from the standpoint of bettering his own character and abilities.
The modern young man has more available help and assistance in bettering his condition than was ever thought of in the old days. Everybody is actually eager to help a really ambitious man on his way. It should not be considered as a contradiction of this theory when business or professional men, through a series of tests, endeavor to find out whether a man is really ambitious, or whether he is merely anxious to arrive at a certain point without the hard work necessary to rightfully earn success.
When we consider what the immortal Lincoln had to undergo in order to achieve his legal ambition, walking miles to borrow books and then sitting up late at night, after a hard day’s work, studying all alone by the light of a tallow candle, it gives us a fair impression of what the ambitious young man of that day had to do to achieve even the ambition to acquire knowledge, and it impresses upon us forcefully the wonderful opportunities that are available at the present time to men who have only a small portion of the desire to succeed that animated our ancestors. Men worked hard in those days and they were proud of their ability to do a man’s work.
The modern man’s work may be different and not so arduous, but a man can still give plenty of value received on a man’s job by exerting himself and putting his heart in his work. He should do this not merely because of the benefit to his employer that might result in promotion, but in justice to himself and to his own character and self-respect.
The main idea is to see how much work we can do in this world and not how little, to do our best work instead of a mediocre substitute. Finally, to do this day after day steadily and consistently, in the meantime using all of our endeavors to increase our intelligence and experience to thereby broaden and expand our responsibilities.
The simple rule, therefore, condensed is this; first: fit yourself for responsibility by developing your character and your capabilities. Second: seek responsibility (it will not be hard to find for most men will be found shirking it). Third: be proud and happy because of the responsibilities which you have succeeded in securing and discharge them with all of the intelligence and ability in your possession. Fourth: measure your value to the world by the amount of responsibility placed upon your shoulders which you have handled, and will handle in the future, to the satisfaction of others as well as yourself. Fifth: endeavor to impress upon other worthy individuals the importance of following these same rules and regulations, being firm on principle but considerate and tolerant of other people’s mistakes when they are actually trying to do the right thing.
When you have done this you will have arrived not only at the status of a real man of real importance in the world, but you will have also arrived at a point of development which will enable you to remain reasonably happy and contented under the most trying and adverse conditions. You will have no apology to make to your family, your friends, your community, or your country, and the only piece of advice to give to such a man is merely this, don’t ever “get the swell head” because you know you are good.
H. B. MONJAR – October, 1935