Haruki Murakami is quoted as having said “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” Along the same lines, Aman Jassal said that we must “Read different to think differently.”
A post that promised me five books that I’d never heard of coupled with a strong desire to think differently led me to a book by George Horace Lorimer – Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son.
This book is described as a “timeless collection of Gilded Age aphorisms from a rich man – a prosperous pork-packer in Chicago to his son, Pierrepont, whom he ‘affectionately’ calls ‘Piggy.’.”
This book is a gem. A perfect representation of the fact that great advice does not have an expiration date. This is a book that cannot be read just once.
For every quote in the book, there is a story that drives the point home. I highly recommend you read the book to get the story. In the meantime, here are some quotes that gave me thoughtful pause.
1. You’ll find that education’s about the only thing lying around loose in this world and that it’s about the only thing a fellow can have as much of as he’s willing to haul away.
2. Some men learn the value of money by not having any and starting out to pry a few dollars loose from the odd millions that are lying around, and some learn it by having fifty thousand or so left to them and starting out to spend it as if it were fifty thousand a year. Some men learn the value of truth by having to do business with liars, and some by going to Sunday School. Some men learn the cussedness of whiskey by having a drunken father, and some by having a good mother. Some men get an education from other men and newspapers and public libraries, and some get it from professors and parchments—it doesn’t make any special difference how you get a half-nelson on the right thing just so you get it and freeze on to it.
3. The first thing that any education ought to give a man is character and the second thing is education.
4. There are two parts of a college education—the part that you get in the schoolroom from the professors, and the part that you get outside of it from the boys. That’s the really important part. For the first can only make you a scholar, while the second can make you a man.
5. Anything that trains a boy to think and to think quick pays; anything that teaches a boy to get the answer before the other fellow gets through biting the pencil, pays.
6. But if you’ll simply use a little conscience as a tryer, and probe into a thing which looks sweet and sound on the skin, to see if you can’t fetch up a sour smell from around the bone, you’ll be all right.
7. College doesn’t make fools; it develops them. It doesn’t make bright men; it develops them.
8. It isn’t so much knowing a whole lot, as knowing a little and how to use it that counts.
9. I have noticed for the last two years that your accounts have been growing heavier every month, but I haven’t seen any signs of your taking honors to justify the increased operating expenses; and that is bad business—a good deal like feeding his weight in corn to a scalawag steer that won’t fat up.
10. The sooner you adjust your spending to what your earning capacity will be, the easier they will find it to live together.
11.The only sure way that a man can get rich quick is to have it given to him or to inherit it.
12. The swamps are full of razor-backs like Charlie, fellows who’d rather make a million a night in their heads than five dollars a day in cash.
13. There is plenty of room at the top here, but there is no elevator in the building.
14. The boy who does anything just because the other fellows do it is apt to scratch a poor man’s back all his life.
15. It’s the fellow who has the spunk to think and act for himself, and sells short when prices hit the high C and the house is standing on its hind legs yelling for more, that sits in the directors’ meetings when he gets on toward forty.
16. There are times when it’s safest to be lonesome.
17. Some men learn all they know from books; others from life; both kinds are narrow. The first are all theory; the second are all practice. It’s the fellow who knows enough about practice to test his theories for blow-holes that gives the world a shove ahead, and finds a fair margin of profit in shoving it.
18. It’s not what a man does during working hours, but after them, that breaks down his health. A fellow and his business should be bosom friends in the office and sworn enemies out of it. A clear mind is one that is swept clean of business at six o’clock every night and isn’t opened up for it again until after the shutters are taken down next morning.
19. It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy.
20. Putting off an easy thing makes it hard, and putting off a hard one makes it impossible.
21. There is one excuse for every mistake a man can make, but only one. When a fellow makes the same mistake twice he’s got to throw up both hands and own up to carelessness or cussedness.
22. A business man’s conversation should be regulated by fewer and simpler rules than any other function of the human animal. They are: Have something to say. Say it. Stop talking.
23. Remember, too, that it’s easier to look wise than to talk wisdom. Say less than the other fellow and listen more than you talk; for when a man’s listening he isn’t telling on himself and he’s flattering the fellow who is.
24. A lesson learned at the muzzle has the virtue of never being forgotten.
25. Remember that when you’re in the right you can afford to keep your temper and that when you’re in the wrong you can’t afford to lose it.
26. If you really want a look at the solid facts of a thing you must strain off the sentiment first.
27. There’s no easier way to cure foolishness than to give a man leave to be foolish. And the only way to show a fellow that he’s chosen the wrong business is to let him try it. If it really is the wrong thing you won’t have to argue with him to quit, and if it isn’t you haven’t any right to.
28. Business is like oil—it won’t mix with anything but business.
29. The fun of the thing’s in the run and not in the finish.
30. With most people happiness is something that is always just a day off. But I have made it a rule never to put off being happy till to-morrow. Don’t accept notes for happiness, because you’ll find that when they’re due they’re never paid, but just renewed for another thirty days.
31. Keep your eyes to the front all the time, and you won’t be so apt to shy at the little things by the side of the track.
32. There’s nothing comes without calling in this world, and after you’ve called you’ve generally got to go and fetch it yourself.
33. Put a pretty high value on loyalty. It is the one commodity that hasn’t any market value, and it’s the one that you can’t pay too much for. You can trust any number of men with your money, but mighty few with your reputation.
34. A real salesman is one-part talk and nine-parts judgment; and he uses the nine-parts of judgment to tell when to use the one-part of talk.
35. Real buyers ain’t interested in much besides your goods and your prices. Never run down your competitor’s brand to them, and never let them run down yours. Don’t get on your knees for business, but don’t hold your nose so high in the air that an order can travel under it without your seeing it.
36. Poverty never spoils a good man, but prosperity often does.
37. A tactful man can pull the stinger from a bee without getting stung.
38. When you make a mistake, don’t make the second one—keeping it to yourself. Own up. The time to sort out rotten eggs is at the nest. The deeper you hide them in the case the longer they stay in circulation, and the worse impression they make when they finally come to the breakfast-table. A mistake sprouts a lie when you cover it up. And one lie breeds enough distrust to choke out the prettiest crop of confidence that a fellow ever cultivated.
39. Some salesmen think that selling is like eating—to satisfy an existing appetite; but a good salesman is like a good cook—he can create an appetite when the buyer isn’t hungry.
40. Appearances are deceitful, I know, but so long as they are, there’s nothing like having them deceive for us instead of against us.
41. While it’s all right for the other fellow to be influenced by appearances, it’s all wrong for you to go on them. Back up good looks by good character yourself.
42. A man’s got to lose more than money to be broke. When a fellow’s got a straight backbone and a clear eye his creditors don’t have to lie awake nights worrying over his liabilities. You can hide your meanness from your brain and your tongue, but the eye and the backbone won’t keep secrets. When the tongue lies, the eyes tell the truth.
43. As a matter of fact, a man’s first duty is to mind his own business. It’s been my experience that it takes about all the thought and work which one man can give to run one man right, and if a fellow’s putting in five or six hours a day on his neighbor’s character, he’s mighty apt to scamp the building of his own.
44. Easy-come money never draws interest; easy-borrowed dollars pay usury.
45. Enthusiasm is the best shortening for any job; it makes heavy work light.
46. No man can ask more than he gives. A fellow who can’t take orders can’t give them.
47. You can’t work individuals by general rules. Every man is a special case and needs a special pill.
48. Consider carefully before you say a hard word to a man, but never let a chance to say a good one go by. Praise judiciously bestowed is money invested.
49. Never learn anything about your men except from themselves. A good manager needs no detectives, and the fellow who can’t read human nature can’t manage it. The phonograph records of a fellow’s character are lined in his face, and a man’s days tell the secrets of his nights.
50. Be slow to hire and quick to fire. The time to discover incompatibility of temper and curl-papers is before the marriage ceremony. But when you find that you’ve hired the wrong man, you can’t get rid of him too quick. Pay him an extra month, but don’t let him stay another day. A discharged clerk in the office is like a splinter in the thumb—a centre of soreness. There are no exceptions to this rule, because there are no exceptions to human nature.
51. In handling men, your own feelings are the only ones that are of no importance. I don’t mean by this that you want to sacrifice your self-respect, but you must keep in mind that the bigger the position the broader the man must be to fill it. And a diet of courtesy and consideration gives girth to a boss.
52. A man’s as good as he makes himself, but no man’s any good because his grandfather was.
53. A man who does big things is too busy to talk about them. When the jaws really need exercise, chew gum.
54. Hot air can take up a balloon a long ways, but it can’t keep it there.
55. Life isn’t a spurt, but a long, steady climb. You can’t run far up-hill without stopping to sit down.
56. Steady, quiet, persistent, plain work can’t be imitated or replaced by anything just as good,
57. The only undignified job I know of is loafing, and nothing can cheapen a man who sponges instead of hunting any sort of work, because he’s as cheap already as they can be made.
58. It’s mighty seldom that a fellow’s afraid of what he ought to be afraid of in this world.
59. It’s been my experience that pride is usually a spur to the strong and a drag on the weak. It drives the strong man along and holds the weak one back. It makes the fellow with the stiff upper lip and the square jaw smile at a laugh and laugh at a sneer; it keeps his conscience straight and his back humped over his work; it makes him appreciate the little things and fight for the big ones. But it makes the fellow with the retreating forehead do the thing that looks right, instead of the thing that is right; it makes him fear a laugh and shrivel up at a sneer; it makes him live to-day on to-morrow’s salary; it makes him a cheap imitation of some Willie who has a little more money than he has, without giving him zip enough to go out and force luck for himself.
60. Learning how to be humble is a heap more important than knowing how to be proud.
61. There are two things you never want to pay any attention to—abuse and flattery. The first can’t harm you and the second can’t help you.
62. Money ought never to be the consideration in marriage, but it always ought to be a consideration.
63. A little change is a mighty soothing thing.
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