What a self-made man told his son in 1900 still true today

Letters from a self-made Merchant to his son

Below are a few extracts from the letters, written by John Graham, Head of the House of Graham & Company, to his son Pierrepont, a freshman at Harvard University. (Find it on in my Amazon Library.)

Have a read – and please make your contribution at the end.

$$$

Education is 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. Everything else is screwed down tight and the screw-driver lost.

$$$

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.

$$$

The first thing that any education ought to give a man is character, and the second thing is education.

$$$

It isn’t so much knowing a whole lot, as knowing a little and how to use it that counts.

$$$

When Pierrepont—still at Harvard—submits his expense account to his father, he receives some more fatherly advice.

$$$

The sooner you adjust your spending to what your earning capacity will be, the easier they will find it to live together.

$$$

The only sure way that a man can get rich quick is to have it given to him or to inherit it. You are not going to get rich that way—at least, not until after you have proved your ability to hold a pretty important position with the firm; and, of course, there is just one place from which a man can start for that position with Graham & Co. It doesn’t make any difference whether he is the son of the old man or of the cellar boss—that place is the bottom. And the bottom in the office end of this business is a seat at the mailing-desk, with eight dollars every Saturday night.

$$$

I can’t hand out any ready-made success to you. It would do you no good, and it would do the house harm.

$$$

You know how I began—I was started off with a kick, but that proved a kick up, and in the end every one since has lifted me a little bit higher. I got two dollars a week, and slept under the counter, and you can bet I knew just how many pennies there were in each of those dollars, and how hard the floor was. That is what you have got to learn.

$$$

But I always lay it down as a safe proposition that the fellow who has to break open the baby’s bank toward the last of the week for car-fare isn’t going to be any Russell Sage when it comes to trading with the old man’s money. He’d punch my bank account as full of holes as a carload of wild Texans would a fool stockman that they’d got in a corner.

$$$

Now I know you’ll say that I don’t understand how it is; that you’ve got to do as the other fellows do; and that things have changed since I was a boy. There’s nothing in it. Adam invented all the different ways in which a young man can make a fool of himself, and the college yell at the end of them is just a frill that doesn’t change essentials. The boy who does anything just because the other fellows do it is apt to scratch a poor man’s back all his life.

$$$

There are times when it’s safest to be lonesome. Use a little common-sense, caution and conscience. You can stock a store with those three commodities, when you get enough of them. But you’ve got to begin getting them young. They ain’t catching after you toughen up a bit.

$$$

You needn’t write me if you feel yourself getting them. The symptoms will show in your expense account. Good-by; life’s too short to write letters and New York’s calling me on the wire.

$$$

 

Dear reader, I wonder if you can indulge me by sharing YOUR words of wisdom. If you had to give your child, who is planning to follow you into business, ONE piece of advice what will it be?

I will kick it off with my own piece of advice – which, believe me, my kids are sick and tired of hearing:

“The way you do anything, is the way you do everything.”

 

What is yours? Please comment or shoot me an email – who knows, we might even turn into a poster or something.

Dennis

Ganador: Trainers to the stars

HT: Shane Parrish (Based on the collection of American Journalist George Horace Lorimer in the early 1900s.)