Another frequent cause of failure is a neglect of one's business. There are many causes for this. One thing is certain, a man will attend to his business in proportion to the amount of interest he has in that business. This applies to all vocations, either in the professions, business, or manual labor. If we see a man playing checkers day after day in some corner-store, although the game itself may be no harm, still it is wrong for that man to waste valuable time.
Then there are pool and billiards. How many young men have been ruined for life, and possibly eternally damned, just by beginning a downward course at the billiard room. There is a peculiar fascination in the game of pool or billiards which cannot be described. Of course it is only a game for the cigars—yes, that's it; one habit leads to another. The young man who smokes goes in and in one evening's fun, "wins" fifteen or twenty cigars. He argues that he has got smoking material for two or three days or a week for nothing, but listen: He plays pool for ten cents a game. If he beats, his opponent pays; if his opponent beats, he pays. Each game is distinct by itself, and has no bearing on any previous game. Now, if you play and win two out of three games right straight along, you are steadily losing.
Every game you lose is ten cents gone that you can not possibly win back. If you play twenty-five games, (and it won't take long for good players to do that in an evening), and you win two out of three, you will then be out at least eighty cents. If you win twenty-four out of the twenty-five, you would be out ten cents. Don't you see that the percentage is against the player. You never heard of a man making anything playing pool or billiards unless he was in the business. You have personally seen many young men working by the day who admit that they have spent from $100 to $1,000 during the three to five years they had played. Now, why is it some succeed while others fail?
There is one thing that nothing living ever naturally liked except a vile worm, and that is tobacco; yet, how many people there are who cultivate this unnatural habit. They are well aware that its use does harm. It is a harder job to learn it than to learn to like castor oil, yet they will persist in it until they learn to long for it. Young lads regret that they are not men; they would like to go to bed boys and wake up men. Little Charlie and Harry see their fathers or uncles smoke, if not, then they see somebody's father or uncle puffing along the street, "taking comfort," and they think that is one of the essentials of being a man. So they get a pipe and fill it with tobacco, and as the parents, instead of persisting until they gain their affections, slowly teaching them to detest wrong, fly to pieces and say, "I will whip you if I see you doing that again." So little Charlie and Harry get out behind the barn and light up. By and by Charlie says, "Do you like it, Harry"? And that lad dolefully replies, "Not very much; it tastes bitter." Presently he turns pale and soon offers up a sacrifice on the altar of fashion. But the boys stick to it, and at last conquer even their appetites, learning to prefer their quid to the most delicious peach.
I speak from personal knowledge, for I have seen the time that I never felt prouder than when behind a five or ten cent cigar or meerschaum. But that time is passed with me, and I never see a poor clerk going along the street puffing a cigar which he must know he can ill-afford to buy, but I think of what a man once said in speaking of a cigar: "It is a roll of tobacco with fire on one end and a fool on the other." One cigar excites the desire for another, hence the habit grows on a person. These remarks apply with ten fold force to the use of intoxicants. No matter how bountifully a man is blessed with intelligence, if the brain is muddled, and his judgment warped by intoxicating drinks, it will simply be impossible for him to succeed, to his utmost bounds, at least.
Orators for years have told you of the degradation and want that the "social glass" brings us to. Stories innumerable have been told of husbands leaving all they loved in this world to satisfy these unnatural desires. One habit indulged leads to another. We have seen how even the "innocent" habit of smoking may have an influence in deciding a young man to take the next step. Once in the billiard room it is not hard to see how the young can be led on to drink, first one thing, then another. We will say nothing of cards. Card-playing, gambling, is only the natural result of these other evils, that is, they tend that way, they go with it and it goes with them. Where one is found you will often find the other.
The coroner can tell you more about the results of bad habits than I can. To those who to-day may be so unfortunate as to be under the fascination of any habit, let me say that you can overcome that habit, and learn to detest it, too. Young man, you desire to be rich and succeed, but you disregard the fundamental principles of success—hence fail. Why wouldn't you? You might as well expect to build a fine house without a foundation. You desire to gain wealth, yet you spend twenty cents every day on one extravagance or another, which, with interest, would amount to over $19,000 at the end of fifty years. There is food for thought for you. When you again wish to yourself that you were rich, and then take ten cents out of your pocket in the shape of a cigar, and proceed to burn it up, just let the thought pass through your mind, "What a fool I make of myself every day."
A man recently told the writer that he spent one dollar every day in treating and smoking. He is an ice dealer in New York City, and has done a good business for thirty years. I cannot say how long he has been spending this dollar a day, but I do know that one dollar earned each day, with interest, will make a man worth over $475,000 within fifty years. There is enough wasted by the average person within twenty-five years to make any family well off. The pennies are wasted in the desire to get the dollars. The dollars are not half so essential to success as the pennies. The old saying: "Honesty is the best policy," is surely true in more ways than one. There is more ways than one to succeed in this world.
A man may succeed in National honor, and yet have little of this world's goods. Many a Congressman, who has but little money, who sometimes feel the need of money, would not exchange places with a Rothschild. But it is not necessary to be either a Rothschild or a Webster, in order to succeed. It is a question in my mind, whether that man, who has lived wholly for self, is happy, even though he be rich as Croesus or as honored as Demosthenes.
Therefore let us not entirely lose sight of the fundamental law of success.—"Do unto others as you would have them do to you." "Put yourself in his place." What is success? It is doing our level best. It is the making the most of our abilities. If we do not do this we both sin, and lose the goal of earthly happiness.
"And is it too late? No! for Time is a fiction, and limits not fate. Thought alone is eternal. Time thralls it in vain. For the thought that springs upward and yearns to regain The pure source of spirit, there is no TOO LATE."