Every-day Thoughts in Prose and Verse
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
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Women Who Want to Succeed.
All wordly success is comparative.  Every man
sees men above him and men below him.
   There seems to be no lowest and no highest rung
in the ladder of success.
   The errand boy regards the compositor as a capi-
talist, and the compositor thinks he would be happy
to attain to the proofreader's position in life.
   Yet the managing editor of our largest dailies is
a poor man in the eyes of the railroad magnate, who
in turn is nobody in the opinion of somebody with
more millions and ancestors.
   All men and women who have achieved any
measure of success in any line, are accustomed to
being asked by beginners in the same field for
advice and counsel how to succeed.
   Very often the people so questioned feel them-
selves to be failures in life; but the wisest counsel
may as well proceed from the mouth of the van-
quished as from that of the victor.
   It is the man who has stumbled who knows the
   It is easier to tell how you have failed than how
you have succeeded; and it is easier to tell people
what not to do than what to do.
   When the matter of "good advice" is sifted, we
find only a few old familiar grains of wheat left--
and they are the time-worn maxims we learned in
our copybooks as children at school.
   We are given to sneering at platitudes in this age,
and we sometimes forget that principles are plati-
   We despise the commonplace, yet the virtues are
commonplace qualities, when we come down to
   It is easy to imagine the expression of disgust
upon the countenance of an end-of-the-century
youth, who should be told that "honesty is the best
policy" by the millionaire whom he asked for ad-
vice in the beginning of a business career.
   Who has not listened to a lovely strain of music,
practiced over and over, until it lost all melody and
significance to the ear, and became only a monotony
of sound?
   Yet the melody was still there.  It is so with the
old precepts.  Their truth is indestructible, though
we have heard them so often, they become trite and
stupid to our minds.
   It would be well for the scores of young women
setting forth to-day upon artistic careers to remem-
ber this fact.  They are eager for counsel; they
want to be told the short cut to success; they prate
about "influence" and think "a friend of court" the
first step toward the place they crave in the Temple
of Art; but they do not like to be told patience,
industry, a high sense of honor, a spirit of independ-
ence and absolute veracity, are all desirable qual-
ities for a woman who expects to make a name in
the world, to cultivate.  Nevertheless, at the risk
of being thought stupid, and commonplace, and
prosy, by these ambitious young aspirants for recog-
nition in the Court of Fame, there are a few old
platitudes I am going to resurrect for their consid-
   In the first place, do not ask advice.  Look about
you, and observe people whom you admire and wish
to emulate, and those whom you do not admire, and
whose example you would avoid.
   Look within your own heart, and listen to the
voice of your conscience, which is your best self.
You have heard this sentence a thousand times, I
dare say, yet you have seen the sun mount in the
heavens many thousand times, and you do not
despise light, or know how to live without it.
   Do not imagine you can build a worthy future
without respecting the voice of your conscience,
trite though its promptings be.
   If black coffee makes you ill, don't force yourself
to drink it because the successful woman does!
   You have heard it said that "nothing succeeds
like success."  But in order to carry out the truth
of that saying, do not cultivate untruthfulness in
your statements about your own prosperity and suc-
   Boastfulness is not classed as lying, perhaps, in
your lexicon, but I have observed that the dividing
line between the two vices is liable to become indis-
   Complaining of your ill-treatment from God and
man is not a means of making friends divine or
human.  The pessimist belongs to God's misfit
counter, and ought to be sold at a sacrifice to the devil.
   If you think and talk ill-luck constantly, it will
pursue you.
   Do not imagine because you can paint, write, sing
or create music, that the material world owes you a
living, unless you earn it honestly; or that by your
owning stock in the beautiful, the useful should
pay you dividends and consider it a favor.
   Of all things, avoid giving the impression that be-
cause you are a woman and an artist, you feel that
no business methods are expected of you.  There
should be no consideration of sex in the business
   If you borrow money, borrow it like a financier,
give your note and pay interest.  If you borrow a
dime or a postage stamp, consider it quite as impor-
tant to make payment as if you had borrowed a
hundred dollars; not that your creditor is in need of
the dime or the stamp, but because you need this
moral training of exact integrity.
   You may possess friends who so admire and
respect your talents, that they will gladly share
home and fortune with you; but their respect for
you will diminish in spite of themselves if you for-
get small business obligations.
   Accept their hospitality and love gifts in the
spirit in which they are offered; but if you borrow a
carfare, make it a religious duty to return it, not in
order to reimburse them, but to keep the under-
pinning of your own character strong.
   Avoid debt, small or great, if it is possible; and
it is possible in nine cases out of ten if the right
habits are pursued.  Sometimes debt is the founda-
tion of success.  I know of two young girls who are
successful women to-day, who both began life by
borrowing money to obtain an education.  Both
lived with great economy, and even privation, until
the last penny was paid.  But the habit of being a
borrower on every occasion of temporary embarrass-
ment is a dangerous one.  It is dangerous to business
prosperity and to a continuance of agreeable social
   Friends who are the most generous in offering
favors are often the most sensitive at having them
asked or demanded.
   Do not consider yourself privileged to be un-
kempt, ill-bred, vulgar, or immoral because you are
"an artist."
   Whatever your achievements, the woman you are,
or are not, will breathe through them.
   To live up to the motto of "art for art's sake" is
all very fine, if you preface it with being "a woman
for womanhood's sake."
   To sum it all up--be worth while.

Every-day thoughts in prose and verse. by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Chicago: W. B. Conkey Company, 1901.

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