Lesson Fourteen FAILURE

Yesterday is but a dream,
Tomorrow is only a vision.
But today well lived makes
Every yesterday a dream of happiness,
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day.
– From the Sanscrit.

“You Can Do It if You Believe You Can!”

UNDER ordinary circumstances the term “failure” is a
negative term. In this lesson, the word will be given a
new meaning, because the word bas been a very much
misused one; and, for that reason, it has brought
unnecessary grief and hardship to millions of people.

In the outset, let us distinguish between “failure”
and “temporary defeat.” Let us see if that which is so
often looked upon as “failure” is not, in reality, but
“temporary defeat.” Moreover, let us see if this
temporary defeat is not usually a blessing in disguise,
for the reason that it brings us up with a jerk and
redirects our energies along different and more
desirable lines.

In Lesson Nine of this course, we learned that
strength grows out of resistance; and we shall learn,
in this lesson, that sound character is usually the
handiwork of reverses, and set-backs, and temporary
defeat, which the uninformed part of the world calls

Neither temporary defeat nor adversity amounts
to failure in the mind of the person who looks upon it
as a teacher that will teach some needed lesson. As a
matter of fact, there is a great and lasting lesson in
every reverse, and in every defeat; and, usually, it is a
lesson that could he learned in no other way than
through defeat.

Defeat often talks to us in a “dumb language” that
we do not understand. If this were not true, we would
not make the same mistakes over and over again
without profiting by the lessons that they might teach
us. If it were not true, we would observe more closely
the mistakes which other people make and profit by

The main object of this lesson is to help the
student understand and profit by this “dumb language”
in which defeat talks to us.

Perhaps I can best help you to interpret the
meaning of defeat by taking you back over some of my
own experiences covering a period of approximately
thirty years. Within this period, I have come to the
turning-point, which the uninformed call “failure,”
seven different times. At each of these seven turning-
points I thought I had made a dismal failure; hut now I
know that what looked to be a failure was nothing
more than a kindly, unseen hand, that halted me in my
chosen course and with great wisdom forced me to
redirect my efforts along more advantageous

I arrived at this decision, however, only after I
had taken a retrospective view of my experiences and
had analyzed them in the light of many years of sober
and meditative thought.


After finishing a course in a business college, I
secured a position as stenographer and bookkeeper
which I held for the ensuing five years. As a result of
having practiced the habit of performing more work
and better work than that for which I was paid, as
described in Lesson Nine of this course, I advanced
rapidly until I was assuming responsibilities and
receiving a salary far out of proportion to my age. I
saved my money; and my bank account amounted to
several thousand dollars. My reputation spread rapidly
and I found competitive bidders for my services.

To meet these offers from competitors my
employer advanced me to the position of General
Manager of the mines where I was employed. I was
quickly getting on top of the world, and I knew it!

Ah! but that was the sad part of my fate – I knew

Then the kindly hand of Fate reached out and
gave me a gentle nudge. My employer lost his fortune
and I lost my position. This was my first real defeat;
and, even though it came about as a result of causes
beyond my control, I should have learned a lesson
from it; which, of course, I did, but not until many
years later.


My next position was that of Sales Manager for a
large lumber manufacturing concern in the South. I
knew nothing about lumber, and but little about sales
management; but I had learned that it was beneficial
to render more service than that for which I was paid;
and I had also learned that it paid to take the initiative
and find out what ought to be done without someone
telling me to do it. A good sized bank account, plus a
record of steady advancement in my previous position,
gave me all the self-confidence I needed, with some to
spare, perhaps.

My advancement was rapid, my salary having
been increased twice during the first year. I did so
well in the management of sales that my employer
took me into partnership with him. We began to make
money and I began to see myself on top of the world

To stand “on top of the world” gives one a
wonderful sensation; but it is a very dangerous place
to stand, unless one stands very firmly, because the
fall is so long and hard if one should stumble.

I was succeeding by leaps and bounds!

Up to that time it had never occurred to me that
success could be measured in terms other than money
and authority. Perhaps this was due to the fact that I
had more money than I needed and more authority
than I could manage safely at that age.

Not only was I “succeeding,” from my viewpoint,
of success, but I knew I was engaged in the one and
only business suited to my temperament. Nothing
could have induced me to change into another line of
endeavor. That is – nothing except that which
happened, which forced me to change.

The unseen hand of Fate allowed me to strut
around under the influence of my own vanity until I
had commenced to feel my importance. In the light of
my more sober years, I now wonder if the Unseen

Hand does not purposely permit us foolish human
beings to parade ourselves before our own minors of
vanity until we come to see how vulgarly we are
acting and become ashamed of ourselves. At any rate,
I seemed to have a clear track ahead of me; there was
plenty of coal in the bunker; there was water in the
tank; my hand was on the throttle – I opened it wide
and sped along at a rapid pace.

Alas! Fate awaited me just around the comer,
with a stuffed club that was not stuffed with cotton.
Of course I did not see the impending crash until it
came. Mine was a sad story, but not unlike that which
many another might tell if he would be frank with

Like a stroke of lightning out of a clear sky, the
1907 panic swept down upon me; and, overnight, it
rendered me an enduring service by destroying my
business and relieving me of every dollar that I

This was my first serious defeat! I mistook it,
then, for failure; but it was not, and before I complete
this lesson I will tell you why it was not.


It required the 1907 panic, and the defeat that it
brought me, to divert and redirect my efforts from the
lumber business to the study of law. Nothing on earth,
except defeat, could have brought about this result;
thus, the third turning-point of my life was ushered in
on the wings of that which most people would call
“failure,” which reminds me to state again that every
defeat teaches a needed lesson to those who are ready
and willing to be taught.

ONE of the greatest
leaders who ever lived
stated the secret of his
leadership in six words,
as follows: “Kindness is
more powerful than compulsion.

When I entered law school, it was with the firm
belief that I would emerge doubly prepared to catch
up with the end of the rainbow and claim my pot of
gold; for I still had no other conception of success
except that of money and power.

I attended law school at night and worked as an
automobile salesman during the day. My sales
experience in the lumber business was turned to good
advantage. I prospered rapidly, doing so well (still
featuring the habit of performing more service and
better service than that for which I was paid) that the
opportunity came to enter the automobile
manufacturing business. I saw the need for trained
automobile mechanics, therefore I opened an
educational department in the manufacturing plant and
began to train ordinary machinists in automobile
assembling and repair work. The school prospered,
paying me over a thousand dollars a month in net

Again I was beginning to near the end of the
rainbow. Again I knew I had at last found my niche in
the world’s work; that nothing could swerve me from
my course or divert my attention from the automobile

My banker knew that I was prospering, therefore
he loaned me money with which to expand. A peculiar
trait of bankers – a trait which may be more or less
developed in the remainder of us also – is that they
will loan us money without any hesitation when we
are prosperous!

My banker loaned me money until I was
hopelessly in his debt, then he took over my business
as calmly as if it had belonged to him, which it did!

From the station of a man of affairs who enjoyed
an income of more than a thousand dollars a month, I
was suddenly reduced to poverty.

Now, twenty years later, I thank the hand of Fate
for this forced change; but at that time I looked upon
the change as nothing but failure.

The rainbow’s end had disappeared, and with it
the proverbial pot of gold which is supposed to be
found at its end. It was many years afterwards that I
learned the truth that this temporary defeat was
probably the greatest single blessing that ever came
my way, because it forced me out of a business that in
no way helped me to develop knowledge of self or of
others, and directed my efforts into a channel which
brought me a rich experience of which I was in need.

For the first time in life I began to ask myself if
it were not possible for one to find something of value
other than money and power at the rainbow’s end. This
temporary questioning attitude did not amount to open
rebellion, mind you, nor did I follow it far enough to
get the answer. It merely came as a fleeting thought,
as do so many other thoughts to which we pay no
attention, and passed out of my mind. Had I known as
much then as I now know about the Law of
Compensation, and had I been able to interpret
experiences as I can now interpret them, I would have
recognized that event as a gentle nudge from the hand
of Fate.

After putting up the hardest fight of my life, up
to that time, I accepted my temporary defeat as failure
and thus was ushered in my next and fourth turning-
point, which gave me an opportunity to put into use
the knowledge of law that I had acquired.


Because I was my wife’s husband and her people
had influence I secured the appointment as assistant to
the chief counsel for one of the largest coal companies
in the world. My salary was greatly out of proportion
to those uusally paid to beginners, and still further out
of proportion to what I was worth; but pull was pull,
and I was there just the same. It happened that what I
lacked in legal skill I more than made up through the
application of the principle of performing more
service than that for which I was paid, and by taking
the initiative and doing that which should have been
done without being told to do it.

I was holding my position without difficulty. I
practically had a soft berth for life had I cared to keep

Without consultation with my friends, and
without warning, I resigned!

This was the first turning-point that was of my
own selection. It was not forced upon me. I saw the
old man Fate coming and beat him to the door. When
pressed for a reason for resigning, I gave what seemed
to me to be a very sound one, but I bad trouble
convincing the family circle that I had acted wisely.

I quit that position because the work was too easy
and I was performing it with too little effort. I saw
myself drifting into the habit of inertia. I felt myself
becoming accustomed to taking life easily and I knew
that the next step would be retrogression. I bad so
many friends at court that there was no particular
impelling urge that made it necessary for me to keep
moving. I was among friends and relatives, and I had a
position that I could keep as long as I wished it,
without exerting myself. I received an income that
provided me with all the necessities and some of the
luxuries, including a motor car and enough gasoline to
keep it running.

What more did I need?

“Nothing!” I was beginning to say to myself.

This was the attitude toward which I felt myself
slipping. It was an attitude which, for some reason
that is still unknown to me, startled me so sharply that
I made what many believed to be an irrational move
by resigning. However ignorant I might have been in
other matters at the time, I have felt thankful ever
since for having had sense enough to realize that
strength and growth come only through continuous
effort and struggle, that disuse brings atrophy and

This move proved to be the next most important
turning-point of my life, although it was followed by
ten years of effort which brought almost every
conceivable grief that the human heart can experience.
I quit my job in the legal field, where I was getting
along well, living among friends and relatives, where
I had what they believed to be an unusually bright and
promising future ahead of me. I am frank to admit that
it has been an ever-increasing source of wonderment
to me as to why and how I gathered the courage to
make the move that I did. As far as I am able to
interpret the event, I arrived at my decision to resign
more because of a “hunch,” or a sort of “prompting”
which I then did not understand, than by logical

I selected Chicago as my new field of endeavor. I
did this because I believed Chicago to be a place
where one might find out if one had those sterner
qualities which are so essential for survival in a world
of keen competition. I made up my mind that if I
could gain recognition, in any honorable sort of work,
in Chicago, it would prove that I had the sort of
material in my make-up that might be developed into
real ability. That was a queer process of reasoning; at
least it was an unusual process for me to indulge in at
that time, which reminds me to state that we human
beings often take unto ourselves credit for intelligence
to which we are not entitled. I fear we too often
assume credit for wisdom and for results that accrue
from causes over which we have absolutely no control.

While I do not mean to convey the impression
that I believe all of our acts to be controlled by causes
beyond our power to direct, yet I strongly urge you to
study and correctly interpret those causes which mark
the most vital turning-points of your life; the points at
which your efforts are diverted – from the old into
new channels -in spite of all that you can do. At least
refrain from accepting any defeat as failure until you
shall have had time to analyze the final result.

My first position in Chicago was that of
advertising manager of a large correspondence school.
I knew but little about advertising, but my previous
experience as a salesman, plus the advantage gained
by rendering more service than that for which I was
paid, enabled me to make an unusual showing.

The first year I earned $5,200.00.

I was “coming back” by leaps and bounds.
Gradually the rainbow’s end began to circle around
me, and I saw, once more, the shining pot of gold

when things go
against you, that of all
the expressions you
carry in your face the
light of joy shines
farthest out to sea.

almost within my reach. History is full of evidence
that a feast usually precedes a famine. I was enjoying
a feast but did not anticipate the famine that was to
follow. I was getting along so well that I thoroughly
approved of myself.

Self-approval is a dangerous state of mind.

This is a great truth which many people do not
learn until the softening hand of Time has rested upon
their shoulders for the better part of a life-time. Some
never do learn it, and those who do are those who
finally begin to understand the “dumb language” of

I am convinced that one has but few, if any, more
dangerous enemies to combat than that of self-
approval. Personally I fear it more than defeat.

This brings me to my fifth turning-point, which
was also of my own choice.


I had made such a good record as advertising
manager of the correspondence school that the
president of the school induced me to resign my
position and go into the candy manufacturing business
with him. We organized the Betsy Ross Candy
Company and I became its first president, thus
beginning the next most important turning-point of my

The business grew rapidly until we had a chain of
stores in eighteen different cities. Again I saw my
rainbow’s end almost within my reach. I knew that I
had at last found the business in which I wished to
remain for life. The candy business was profitable
and, because I looked upon money as being the only
evidence of success, I naturally believed I was about
to corner success.

Everything went smoothly until my business
associate and a third man, whom we had taken into the
business, took a notion to gain control of my interest
in the business without paying for it.

Their plan was successful, in a way, but I balked
more stiffly than they had anticipated I would;
therefore, for the purpose of “gentle persuasion,” they
had me arrested on a false charge and then offered to
withdraw the charge on condition that I turn over to
them my interest in the business.

I had commenced to learn, for the first time, that
there was much cruelty, and injustice, and dishonesty
in the hearts of men.

When the time for a preliminary hearing came,
the complaining witnesses were nowhere to be found.
But I had them brought and forced them to go on the
witness stand and tell their stories, which resulted in
my vindication, and a damage suit against the
perpetrators of the injustice.

This incident brought about an irreparable breach
between my business associates and myself, which
finally cost me my interest in the business, but that
was but slight when compared to that which it cost my
associates; for they are still paying, and no doubt will
continue to pay as long as they live.

My damage suit was brought under what is known
as a “tort” action, through which damages were
claimed for malicious damage to character. In Illinois,
where the action was brought, judgment under a tort
action gives the one in favor of whom the judgment is
rendered the right to have the person against whom it
whom it is obtained placed in jail until the amount of
the judgment has been paid.

In due time I got a heavy judgment against my
former business associates. I could then have had both
of them placed behind the bars.

For the first time in my life I was brought face to
face with the opportunity to strike back at my enemies
in a manner that would hurt. I had in my possession a
weapon with “teeth” in it – a weapon placed there by
the enemies, themselves.

The feeling that swept over me was a queer one!

Would I have my enemies jailed, or would I take
advantage of this opportunity to extend them mercy,
thereby proving myself to be made of a different type
of material.

Then and there was laid, in my heart, the
foundation upon which the Sixteenth Lesson of this
course is built, for I made up my mind to permit my
enemies to go free – as free as they could be made by
my having extended them mercy and forgiveness.

But long before my decision had been reached the
hand of Fate had commenced to deal roughly with
these misguided fellow men who had tried, in vain, to
destroy me. Time, the master worker, to which we
must all submit sooner or later, had already been at
work on my former business associates, and it had
dealt with them less mercifully than I had done. One
of them was later sentenced to a long term in the
penitentiary, for another crime that he had committed
against some other person, and the other one had,
meanwhile, been reduced to pauperism.

We can circumvent the laws which men place
upon statute books, but the Law of Compensation

The judgment which I obtained against these men
stands on the records of the Superior Court, of
Chicago, as silent evidence of vindication of my
character; but it serves me in a more important way
than that – it serves as a reminder that I could forgive
enemies who had tried to destroy me, and for this
reason, instead of destroying my character, I suspect
that the incident served to strengthen it.

Being arrested seemed, at the time, a terrible
disgrace, even though the charge was false. I did not
relish the experience, and I would not wish to go
through a similar experience again, but I am bound to
admit that it was worth all the grief it cost me,
because it gave me the opportunity to find out that
revenge was not a part of my make-up.

Here I would direct your attention to a close
analysis of the events described in this lesson, for if
you observe carefully you can see how this entire
course of study has been evolved out of these
experiences. Each temporary defeat left its mark upon
my heart and provided some part of the material of
which this course has been built.

We would cease to fear or to run away from
trying experiences if we observed, from the
biographies of men of destiny, that nearly every one
of them was sorely tried and run through the mill of
merciless experience before he “arrived.” This leads
me to wonder if the band of Fate does not test “the
metal of which we are made” in various and sundry
ways before placing great responsibilities upon our

Before approaching the next turning-point of my
life, may I not call your attention to the significant
fact that each turning-point carried me nearer and
nearer my rainbow’s end, and brought me some useful
knowledge which became, later, a permanent part of
my philosophy of life.


We come, now, to the turning-point which
probably brought me nearer the rainbow’s end than
any of the others had, because it placed me in a
position where I found it necessary to bring into use
all the knowledge I had acquired up to that time,
concerning practically every subject with which I was
acquainted, and gave me opportunity for self-
expression and development such as rarely comes to a
man so early in life. This turning-point came shortly
after my dreams of success in the candy business had
been shattered, when I turned my efforts to teaching
Advertising and Salesmanship as a department of one
of the colleges of the Middle West.

Some wise philosopher has said that we never
learn very much about a given subject until we
commence teaching it to others. My first experience as
a teacher proved this to be true. My school prospered
from the very beginning. I had a resident class and
also a correspondence school through which I was
teaching students in nearly every English-speaking
country. Despite the ravages of war, the school was
growing rapidly and I again saw the end of the
rainbow within sight.

Then came the second military draft which
practically destroyed my school, as it caught most of
those who were enrolled as students. At one stroke I
charged off more than $75,000.00 in tuition fees and

IT is far better
to be associated
with a few who are
right than
with the mob which is
wrong, because right
is always the winner
in the end.

at the same time contributed my own service to my

Once more I was penniless!

Unfortunate is the person who has never had the
thrill of being penniless at one time or another; for, as
Edward Bok has truthfully stated, poverty is the
richest experience that can come to a man; an
experience which, however, he advises one to get
away from as quickly as possible.

Again I was forced to redirect my efforts, but,
before I proceed to describe the next and last
important turning-point, I wish to call your attention
to the fact that no single event described up to this
point is, within itself, of any practical significance.
The six turning-points that I have briefly described
meant nothing to me, taken singly, and they will mean
nothing to you if analyzed singly. But take these
events collectively and they form a very significant
foundation for the next turning-point, and constitute
reliable evidence that we human beings are constantly
undergoing evolutionary changes as a result of the
experiences of life with which we meet, even though
no single experience may seem to convey a definite,
usable lesson.

I feel impelled to dwell at length on the point
which I am here trying to make clear, because I have
now reached the point in my career at which men go
down in permanent defeat or rise, with renewed
energies, to heights of attainment of stupendous
proportions, according to the manner in which they
interpret their past experiences and use those
experiences as the basis of working plans. If my story
stopped here it would be of no value to you, but there
is another and a more significant chapter yet to be
written, covering the seventh and most important of
all the turning-points of my life.

It must have been obvious to you, all through my
description of the six turning-points already outlined,
that I had not really found my place in the world. It
must have been obvious to you that most, if not all, of
my temporary defeats were due mainly to the fact that
I had not yet discovered the work into which I could
throw my heart and soul. Finding the work for which
one is best fitted and which one likes best is very
much like finding the one person whom one loves
best; there is no rule by which to make the search, but
when the right niche is contacted one immediately
recognizes it.


Before I finish I will describe the collective
lessons that I learned from each of the seven turning-
points of my life, but first let me describe the seventh
and last of these turning-points. To do so, I must go
back to that eventful day – November Eleven, Nineteen
Hundred and Eighteen!

That was armistice day, as everyone knows. The
war bad left me without a penny, as I have already
stated, but I was happy to know that the slaughter had
ceased and reason was about to reclaim civilization
once more.

As I stood in front of my office window and
looked out at the howling mob that was celebrating
the end of the war, my mind went back into my
yesterdays, especially to that eventful day when that
kind old gentleman laid his band on my shoulder and
told me that if I would acquire an education I could
make my mark in the world. I had been acquiring that
education without knowing it. Over a period of more
than twenty years I had been going to school in the
University of Hard Knocks, as you must have observed
from my description of the various turning-points of
my life. As I stood in front of that window my entire
past, with its bitter and its sweet, its ups and its
downs, passed before me in review.

The time had come for another turning-point!

I sat down to my typewriter and, to my
astonishment, my hands began to play a regular tune
upon the key-board. I had never written so rapidly or
so easily before. I did not plan or think about that
which I was writing – I just wrote that which came
into my mind!

Unconsciously, I was laying the foundation for
the most important turning-point of my life; for, when
I had finished, I had prepared a document through
which I financed a national magazine that gave me
contact with people throughout the English-speaking
world. So greatly did that document influence my own
career, and the lives of tens of thousands of other
people, that I believe it will be of interest to the
students of this course; therefore, I am reproducing it,
just as it appeared in Hill’s Golden Rule magazine,
where it was first published, as follows:


I am writing on Monday, November eleventh,
1918. Today will go down in history as the greatest

On the street, just outside of my office window,
the surging crowds of people are celebrating the
downfall of an influence that has menaced civilization
for the past four years.

The war is over!

Soon our boys will be coming back home from the
battlefields of France.

The lord and master of Brute Force is nothing but
a shadowy ghost of the past!

Two thousand years ago the Son of man was an
outcast, with no place of abode. Now the situation has
been reversed and the devil has no place to lay his

Let each of us take unto himself the great lesson
that this world war has taught; namely, only that
which is based upon justice and mercy toward all – the
weak and the strong, the rich and the poor, alike can
survive. All else must pass on.

Out of this war will come a new idealism – an
idealism that will be based upon the Golden Rule
philosophy; an idealism that will guide us, not to see
how much we can “do our fellow man for”; but how
much we can do for him that will ameliorate his
hardships and make him happier as he tarries by the
wayside of life.

Emerson embodied this idealism in his great
essay, the Law of Compensation. Another great
Philosopher embodied it in these words, “Whatsoever
a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

The time for practicing the Golden Rule
philosophy is upon us. In business as well as in social
relationships he who neglects or refuses to use this
philosophy as the basis of his dealings will but hasten
the time of his failure.

And, while I am intoxicated with the glorious
news of the war’s ending, is it not fitting that I should
attempt to do something to help preserve for the
generations yet to come, one of the great lessons to be
learned from William Hohenzollern’s effort to rule the
earth by force?

I can best do this by going back twenty-two years
for my beginning. Come with me, won’t you?

It was a bleak November morning, probably not
far from the eleventh of the month, that I got my first
job as a laborer in the coal mine regions of Virginia,
at wages of a dollar a day.

A dollar a day was a big sum in those days;
especially to a boy of my age. Of this, I paid fifty
cents a day for my board and room.

Shortly after I began work, the miners became
dissatisfied and commenced talking about striking. I
listened eagerly to all that was said. I was especially
interested in the organizer who had organized the
union. He was one of the smoothest speakers I bad
ever heard, and his words fascinated me. He said one
thing, in particular, that I have never forgotten; and,
if I knew where to find him, I would look him up
today and thank him warmly for saying it. The
philosophy which I gathered from his words has had a
most profound and enduring influence upon me.

Perhaps you will say that most labor agitators are
not very sound philosophers; and I would agree with
you if you said so. Maybe this one was not a sound
philosopher, but surely the philosophy he expounded
on this occasion was sound.

Standing on a dry goods box, in the corner of an
old shop where he was holding a meeting, he said:

NO one is living aright
unless he so lives that
whoever meets him goes
away more confident
and joyous for the contact.
-Lilian Whiting.

“Men, we are talking about striking. Before you
vote I wish to call your attention to something that
will benefit you if you will heed what I say.

“You want more money for your work; and I wish
to see you get it, because I believe you deserve it.

“May I not tell you how to get more money and
still retain the good-will of the owner of this mine?

“We can call a strike and probably force them to
pay more money, but we cannot force them to do this
and like it. Before we call a strike, let us be fair with
the owner of the mine and with ourselves; let us go to
the owner and ask him if he will divide the profits of
his mine with us fairly.

“If he says yes,’ as he probably will, then let us
ask him how much he made last month and, if he will
divide among us a fair proportion of any additional
profits he may make if we all jump in and help him
earn more next month.

“He, being human, like each of us, will no doubt
say – ‘Why, certainly boys; go to it and I’ll divide
with you.’ It is but natural that he would say that,

“After he agrees to the plan, as I believe he will
if we make him see that we are in earnest, I want
every one of you to come to work with a smile on your
face for the next thirty days. I want to bear you
whistling a tune as you go into the mines. I want you
to go at your work with the feeling that you are one of
the partners in this business.

“Without hurting yourself you can do almost
twice as much work as you are doing; and if you do
more work, you are sure to help the owner of this
mine make more money. And if he makes more money
he will be glad to divide a part of it with you. He will
do this for sound business reasons if not out of a spirit
of fair play.

“He will retaliate as surely as there is a God
above us. If he doesn’t, I’ll be personally responsible
to you, and if you say so I’ll help blow this mine into

“That’s how much I think of the plan, boys! Are
you with me?”

They were, to the man!

Those words sank into my heart as though they
had been burned there with a red-hot iron.

The following month every man in the mines
received a bonus of twenty per cent of his month’s
earnings. Every month thereafter each man received a
bright red envelope with his part of the extra earnings
in it. On the outside of the envelope were these
printed words:

Your part of the profits from the work which you
did that you were not paid to do.

I have gone through some pretty tough
experiences since those days of twenty-odd years ago,
but I have always come out on top – a little wiser, a
little happier, and a little better prepared to be of
service to my fellow men, owing to my having applied
the principle of performing more work than I was
actually paid to perform.

It may be of interest to you to know that the last
position I held in the coal business was that of
Assistant to the Chief Counsel for one of the largest
companies in the world. It is a considerable jump from
the position of common laborer in the coal mines to
that of Assistant to the Chief Counsel of one of the
largest companies – a jump that I never could have
made without the aid of this principle of performing
more work than I was paid to perform.

I wish I had the space in which to tell you of the
scores of times that this idea of performing more work
than I was paid to perform has helped me over rough

Many have been the times that I have placed an
employer so deeply in my debt, through the aid of this
principle, that I got whatever I asked for, without
hesitation or quibbling; without complaint or hard
feelings; and, what is more important, without the
feeling that I was taking unfair advantage of my

I believe most earnestly that anything a man
acquires from his fellow man without the full consent
of the one from whom it is acquired, will eventually
burn a hole in his pocket, or blister the palms of his
hands, to say nothing of gnawing at his conscience
until his heart aches with regret.

As I said in the beginning, I am writing on the
morning of the Eleventh of November, while the
crowds are celebrating the great victory of right over

Therefore, it is but natural that I should turn to
the silence of my heart for some thought to pass on to
the world today – some thought that will help keep
alive in the minds of Americans the spirit of idealism
for which they have fought and in which they entered
the world war.

I find nothing more appropriate than the
philosophy which I have related, because I earnestly
believe it was the arrogant disregard of this
philosophy that brought Germany – the Kaiser and his
people – to grief. To get this philosophy into the
hearts of those who need it I shall publish a magazine
to be called Hill’s Golden Rule.

It takes money to publish national magazines, and
I haven’t very much of it at this writing; but before
another month shall have passed, through the aid of
the philosophy that I have tried to emphasize here, I
shall find someone who will supply the necessary
money and make it possible for me to pass on to the
world the simple philosophy that lifted me out of the
dirty coal mines and gave me a place where I can be
of service to humanity. The philosophy which will
raise you, my dear reader, whoever you may be and
whatever you may be doing, into whatever position in
life you may make up your mind to attain.

Every person has, or ought to have, the inherent
desire to own something of monetary value. In at least
a vague sort of way, every person who works for
others (and this includes practically all of us) looks
forward to the time when he will have some sort of a
business or a profession of his own.

The best way to realize that ambition is to
perform more work than one is paid to perform. You
can get along with but little schooling; you can get
along with but little capital; you can overcome almost
any obstacle with which you are confronted, if you are
honestly and earnestly willing to do the best work of
which you are capable, regardless of the amount of
money you receive for it….

{Note: It is the afternoon of November the
twenty-first, just ten days since I wrote the foregoing
editorial. I have just read it to George B. Williams, of
Chicago, a man who came up from the bottom through
the aid of the philosophy of which I have written, and
he has made the publication of Hill’s Golden Rule
magazine possible.)

It was in this somewhat dramatic manner that a
desire which had lain dormant in my mind for nearly
twenty years became translated into reality. During all
that time I had wanted to become the editor of a
newspaper. Back more than thirty years ago, when I
was a very small boy, I used to “kick” the press for
my father when he was publishing a small weekly
newspaper, and I grew to love the smell of printer’s

Perhaps this desire was subconsciously gaining
momentum all those years of preparation, while I was
going through the experiences outlined in the turning-
points of my life, until it had finally to burst forth in
terms of action; or it may be that there was another
plan, over which I had no control, that urged me on
and on, never giving me any rest in any other line of
work, until I began the publication of my first
magazine. That point can be passed for the moment.
The important thing to which I would direct your
attention is the fact that I found my proper niche in
the world’s work and I was very happy over it

Strangely enough, I entered upon this work with
never a thought of looking for either the end of the
rainbow or the proverbial pot of gold which is
supposed to be found at its end. For the first time in
my life, I seemed to realize, beyond room for doubt,

TO give pleasure to a
single heart by a single
kind act is better than a
thousand head-bowings in prayer

that there was something else to be sought in life that
was worth more than gold; therefore, I went at my
editorial work with but one main thought in mind –
and I pause while you ponder over this thought

And that thought was to render the world the best
service of which I was capable, whether my efforts
brought me a penny in return or not!

The publication of Hill’s Golden Rule magazine
brought me in contact with the thinking class of
people all over the country. It gave me my big chance
to be heard. The message of optimism and good-will
among men that it carried became so popular that I
was invited to go on a country-wide speaking tour
during the early part of 1920, during which I had the
privilege of meeting and talking with some of the
most progressive thinkers of this generation. Contact
with these people went a very long way toward giving
me the courage to keep on doing the good work that I
had started. This tour was a liberal education, within
itself, because it brought me in exceedingly close
contact with people in practically all walks of life,
and gave me a chance to see that the United States .of
America was a pretty large country.

Comes, now, a description of the climax of the
seventh turning-point of my life.

During my speaking tour I was sitting in a
restaurant in Dallas, Texas, watching the hardest
downpour of rain that I have ever seen. The water was
pouring down over the plate-glass window in two
great streams, and Playing backward and forward from
one of these streams to the other were little streams,
making what resembled a great ladder of water.

As I looked at this unusual scene, the thought
“flashed into my mind” that I would have a splendid
lecture if I organized all that I had learned from the
seven turning-points of my life and all I had learned
from studying the lives of successful men, and offered
it under the title of the “Magic Ladder to Success.”

On the back of an envelope I outlined the fifteen
points out of which this lecture was built, and later I
worked these points into a lecture that was literally
built from the temporary defeats described in the
seven turning-points of my life.

All that I lay claim to knowing that is of value is
represented by these fifteen points; and the material
out of which this knowledge was gathered is nothing
more or less than the knowledge that was forced upon
me through experiences which have undoubtedly been
classed, by some, as failures!

The reading course, of which this lesson is a part,
is but the sum total of that which I gathered through
these “failures.” If this course proves to be of value to
you, as I hope it will, you may give the credit to those
“failures” described in this lesson.

Perhaps you will wish to know what material,
monetary benefits I have gained from these turning-
points, for you probably realize that we are living in
an age in which life is an irksome struggle for
existence and none too pleasant for those who are
cursed with poverty.

All right! I’ll be frank with you.

To begin with, the estimated income from the sale
of this course is all that I need, and this, despite the
fact that I have insisted that my publishers apply the
Ford philosophy and sell the course at a popular price
that is within the reach of all who want it.

In addition to the income from the sale of the
course (which, please bear in mind, is but the sale of
knowledge I have gathered through “failure”), I am
now engaged in writing a series of illustrated
editorials that is to be syndicated and published in the
newspapers of the country. These editorials are based
upon these same fifteen points as outlined in this

The estimated net income from the sale of the
editorials is more than enough to care for my needs.

In addition to this I am now engaged in
collaboration with a group of scientists, psychologists
and business men, in writing a postgraduate course
which will soon be available to all students who have
mastered this more elementary course, covering not
only the fifteen laws here outlined, from a more
advanced viewpoint, but including still other laws
which have but recently been discovered.

I have mentioned these facts only because I know
what a common thing it is for all of us to measure
success in terms of dollars, and to refuse, as unsound,
all philosophy that does not foot up a good bank

Practically all the past years of my life I have
been poor – exceedingly poor – as far as bank balances
were concerned. This condition has been, very largely,
a matter of choice with me, because I have been
putting the best of my time into the toilsome job of
throwing off some of my ignorance and gathering in
some of the knowledge of life of which I felt myself
in need.

From the experiences described in these seven
turning-points of my life, I have gathered a few
golden threads of knowledge that I could have gained
in no other way than through defeat!

My own experiences have led me to believe that
the “dumb language” of defeat is the plainest and most
effective language in the world, once one begins to
understand it. I am almost tempted to say that I
believe it to be the universal language in which Nature
cries out to us when we will listen to no other

I am glad that I have experienced much defeat!

It has had the effect of tempering me with the
courage to undertake tasks that I would never have
begun had I been surrounded by protecting influences.

Defeat is a destructive force only when it is
accepted as failure! When accepted as teaching some
needed lesson it is always a blessing.

I used to hate my enemies!

That was before I learned how well they were
serving me by keeping me everlastingly on the alert
lest some weak spot in my character provide an
opening through which they might damage me.

In view of what I have learned of the value of
enemies, if I had none I would feel it my duty to
create a few. They would discover my defects and
point them out to me, whereas my friends, if they saw
my weaknesses at all, would say nothing about them.

Of all Joaquin Miller’s poems none expressed a
nobler thought than did this one:

“All honor to him who shall win a prize,”

The world has cried for a thousand years;

But to him who tries, and who fails, and dies,
I give great honor, and glory, and tears.

Give glory and honor and pitiful tears
To all who fail in their deeds sublime;
Their ghosts are many in the van of years,
They were born with Time, in advance of Time.

Oh, great is the hem who wins a name;
But greater many, and many a time,
Some pale-faced fellow who dies in shame
And lets God finish the thought sublime.
And great is the man with a sword undrawn,
And good is the man who refrains from wine;
But the man who fails and yet still fights on,
In, he is the twin-brother of mine.

There can be no failure for the man who “still
fights on.” A man has never failed until he accepts
temporary defeat as failure. There is a wide difference
between temporary defeat and failure; a difference I
have tried to emphasize throughout this lesson.

In her poem entitled When Nature Wants a Man,
Angela Morgan expressed a great truth in support of
the theory set out in this lesson, that adversity and
defeat are generally blessings in disguise.

When Nature wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man.
When nature wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;
When she yearns with all her heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall praise –
Watch her method, watch her ways!
How she ruthlessly perfects
Whom she royally elects;
How she hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him

IF we could read the
secret history of our
enemies, we should
find in each man’s life
sorrow and suffering
enough to disarm all hostility.

Into trial shapes of clay which only Nature understands
While his tortured heart is crying and he lifts beseeching hands!

How she bends, but never breaks,
When his good she undertakes….
How she uses whom she chooses
And with every purpose fuses him,
By every art induces him
To try his splendor out –
Nature knows what she’s about.
When Nature wants to take a man,
And shake a man,
And wake a man;
When Nature wants to make a man
To do the Future’s will;
When she tries with all her skill
And she yearns with all her soul
To create him large and whole… .

With what cunning she prepares him!
How she goads and never spares him,
How she whets him, and she frets him,
And in poverty begets him… .
How she often disappoints
Whom she sacredly anoints,
With what wisdom she will hide him,
Never minding what betide him
Though his genius sob with slighting and his
pride may not forget!
Bids him struggle harder yet.
Makes him lonely
So that only
God’s high messages shall reach him,
So that she may surely teach him
What the Hierarchy planned.
Though he may not understand,
Gives him passions to command.
How remorselessly she spurs him
With terrific ardor stirs him
When she poignantly prefers him!
When Nature wants to name a man
And fame a man
And tame a man;
When Nature wants to shame a man
To do his heavenly best…
When she tries the highest test
That she reckoning may bring –
When she wants a god or king!
How she reins him and restrains him
So his body scarce contains him
While she fires him
And inspires him!
Keeps him yearning, ever burning for a tantalizing goal
Lures and lacerates his soul.
Sets a challenge for his spirit,
Draws it higher when he’s near it –
Makes a jungle, that he clear it;
Makes a desert that he fear it
And subdue it if he can –
So doth Nature make a man.
Then, to test his spirit’s wrath
Hurls a mountain in his path –
Puts a bitter choice before him
And relentlessly stands o’er him.
“Climb, or perish!” so she says….
Watch her purpose, watch her ways!
Nature’s plan is wondrous kind
Could we understand her mind…
Fools are they who call her blind.
When his feet are torn and bleeding
Yet his spirit mounts unheeding,
All his higher powers speeding,
Blazing newer paths and fine;
When the force that is divine
Leaps to challenge every failure and his ardor still is sweet
And love and hope are burning in the presence of defeat…
Lo, the crisis! Lo, the shout
That must call the leader out.
When the people need salvation
Doth he come to lead the nation….
Then doth Nature show her plan
When the world has found – a MAN!*
*From ‘Forward, March P’ The John Lane Company.

I am convinced that failure is Nature’s plan
through which she hurdle-jumps men of destiny and
prepares them to do their work. Failure is Nature’s
great crumble in which she burns the dross from the
human heart and so purifies the metal of the man that
it can stand the test of hard usage.

I have found evidence to support this theory in
the study of the records of scores of great men, from
Socrates and Christ on down the centuries to the well

known men of achievement of our modern times. The
success of each man seemed to be in almost exact
ratio to the extent of the obstacles and difficulties he
had to surmount.

No man ever arose from the knock-out blow of
defeat without being stronger and wiser for the
experience. Defeat talks to us in a language all its
own; a language to which we must listen whether we
like it or not.

Of course one must have considerable courage to
look upon defeat as a blessing in disguise; but the
attainment of any position in life, that is worth
having, requires a lot of “sand,” which brings to mind
a poem that harmonizes with the philosophy of this

I observed a locomotive in the railroad yards one day,

It was waiting in the roundhouse where the locomotives stay;

It was panting for the journey, it was coaled and fully manned,

And it had a box the fireman was filling full of sand.

It appears that locomotives cannot always get a grip
On their slender iron pavement, ’cause the wheels are apt to slip;
And when they reach a slippery spot, their tactics they command,
And to get a grip upon the rail, they sprinkle it with sand.

It’s about the way with travel along life’s slippery track
If your load is rather heavy, you’re always slipping back;

So, if a common locomotive you completely understand,

You’ll provide yourself in starting with a good supply
of sand.

If your track is steep and hilly and you have a heavy grade,
If those who’ve gone before you have the rails quite slippery made,
If you ever reach the summit of the upper tableland,
You’ll find you’ll have to do it with a liberal use of sand.

If you strike some frigid weather and discover to your cost,
That you’re liable to slip upon a heavy coat of frost,
Then some prompt decided action will be called into demand,
And you’ll slip ‘way to the bottom if you haven’t any sand.

You can get to any station that is on life’s schedule seen,
If there’s fire beneath the boiler of ambition’s strong machine,
And you’ll reach a place called Flushtown at a rate of speed that’s grand,
If for all the slippery places you’ve a good supply of sand.

It can do you no harm if you memorize the poems
quoted in this lesson and make the philosophy upon
which they are based a part of your own.

‘Tis the human touch in this
world that counts,
The touch of your hand and mine,
Which means far more to

the fainting heart,
Than shelter and bread and wine;
For shelter is gone when the

night is o’er,
And bread lasts only a day,
But the touch of the hand

and the sound of the voice,
Sing on in the soul alway.
– Spencer M. Tree

As I near the end of this lesson on Failure, there
comes to mind a bit of philosophy taken from the
works of the great Shakespeare, which I wish to
challenge because I believe it to be unsound. It is
stated in the following quotation:

There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows, and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.

Fear and admission of failure are the ties which
cause us to be “bound in shallows, and in miseries.”
We can break these ties and throw them off. Nay, we
can turn them to advantage and make them serve as a
tow-line with which to pull ourselves ashore if we
observe and profit by the lessons they teach.

Who ne’er has suffered, he has lived but half,
Who never failed, he never strove or sought,
Who never wept is stranger to a laugh,
And he who never doubted never thought.

As I near the end of this, my favorite lesson of
this course, I close my eyes for a moment and see
before me a great army of men and women whose
faces show the lines of care and despair.

Some are in rags, having reached the last stage of
that long, long trail which men call failure!

Others are in better circumstances, but the fear of
starvation shows plainly on their faces; the smile of
courage has left their lips; and they, too, seem to have
given up the battle.

The scene shifts!

I look again and I am carried backward into the
history of man’s struggle for a place in the sun, and
there I see, also, the “failures” of the past – failures
that have meant more to the human race than all the
so-called successes recorded in the history of the

I see the homely face of Socrates as he stood at
the very end of that trail called failure, waiting, with
upturned eyes, through those moments which must
have seemed like an eternity, just before he drank the
cup of hemlock that was forced upon him by his

I see, also, Christopher Columbus, a prisoner in
chains, which was the tribute paid him for his
sacrifice in having set sail on an unknown and
uncharted sea, to discover an unknown continent.

I see, also, the face of Thomas Paine, the man
whom the English sought to capture and put to death
as the real instigator of the American Revolution. I
see him lying in a filthy prison, in France, as he
waited calmly, under the shadow of the guillotine, for
the death which he expected would be meted out to
him for his part in behalf of humanity.

And I see, also, the face of the Man of Galilee, as
he suffered on the cross of Calvary – the reward he
received for his efforts in behalf of suffering human

“Failures,” all!

Oh, to be such a failure. Oh, to go down in
history, as these men did, as one who was brave
enough to place humanity above the individual and
principle above pecuniary gain.

On such “failures” rest the hopes of the world.

Oh, men, who are labeled “failures” – up, rise up! again and do!
Somewhere in the world of action is room; there is room for you.
No failure was e’er recorded, in the annals of truthful men,
Except of the craven-hearted who fails, nor attempts again.
The glory is in the doing, and not in the trophy won;
The walls that are laid in darkness may laugh to the kiss of the sun.
Oh, weary and worn and stricken, oh, child of fate’s cruel gales!
I sing – that it haply may cheer him – I sing to the man who fails.

Be thankful for the defeat which men call failure,
because if you can survive it and keep on trying it
gives you a chance to prove your ability to rise to the
heights of achievement in your chosen field of

No one has the right to brand you as a failure
except yourself.

If, in a moment of despair, you should feel
inclined to brand yourself as a failure, just remember
those words of the wealthy philosopher, Croesus, who
was advisor to Cyrus, king of the Persians:

“I am reminded, O king, and take this lesson to
heart, that there is a wheel on which the affairs
of men revolve and its mechanism is such that it
prevents any man from being always fortunate.”

What a wonderful lesson is wrapped up in those
words – a lesson of hope and courage and promise.

Who of us has not seen “off” days, when
everything seemed to go wrong? These are the days
when we see only the flat side of the great wheel of

Let us remember that the wheel is always turning.
If it brings us sorrow today, it will bring us joy
tomorrow. Life is a cycle of varying events – fortunes
and misfortunes.

We cannot stop this wheel of fate from turning,
but we can modify the misfortune it brings us by
remembering that good fortune will follow, just as
surely as night follows day, if we but keep faith with
ourselves and earnestly and honestly do our best.

In his greatest hours of trial the immortal Lincoln
was heard, often, to say: “And this, too, will soon
pass. ”

If you are smarting from the effects of some
temporary defeat which you find it hard to forget, let
me recommend this stimulating little poem, by Walter


They do me wrong who say I come no more
When once I knock and fail to find you in;
For every day I stand outside your door,
And bid you wake, and rise to fight and win.
Wail not for precious chances passed away;
Weep not for golden ages on the wane;
Each night I burn the records of the day;
At sunrise every soul is born again.
Laugh like a boy at splendors that have sped,
To vanished joys be blind and deaf and dumb:
My judgments seal the dead past with its dead,
But never bind a moment yet to come.
Though deep in mire wring not your hands and weep,
I lend my arm to all who say, “I can!”
No shamefaced outcast ever sank so deep
But yet might rise and be again a man!
Dost thou behold thy lost youth all aghast?
Dost reel from righteous retribution’s blow?
Then turn from blotted archives of the past
And find the future’s pages white as snow.
Art thou a mourner? Rouse thee from thy spell;
Art thou a sinner? Sin may be forgiven;
Each morning gives thee wings to flee from hell,
Each night a star to guide thy feet to heaven.

STRIVE not to banish
pain and doubt,
In pleasure’s noisy din;
The peace thou seekest
from without,
Is only found within,