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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 24.djvu/350

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

avoid joining fortunes with an unlucky man. Much of the misfortune is in the man's quality; for we say of the successful man that, if a given project fails, he still has something in reserve. He has foreseen and provided for failure, and has great power of readjusting his vocation in an emergency. Besides an accumulation of money, which he has thrown up as an embankment between himself and disaster, he has an even stronger reserve force in his knowledge of human nature, his address, and his strength of character. In this sense the average indicates that prolonged effort results in control. He reaches a point in after-years when the special event conforms to his effort easily.

But we must not overlook the conditions that limit success. There is a margin of uncertainty in the fact that the successful man is seen to suffer from temporary calamities, which clearly are not due to his action or inaction. We find an outward influence completely beyond his control. The fact that it can be conquered by perseverance and knowledge does not lessen its irresistible force in the present. The outer forces, largely social but not less powerful than those of organization and physical law, do not respond to his efforts—seem arrayed against him, or turn unexpectedly in his favor. It thus appears that the question of control might easily result in endless debate, because each side—the triumph of circumstances or of human will and perseverance—includes part of the truth. While admitting that the tendency is persistently in favor of effort, we yet find a positive conclusion impossible to hold. The control, even under favorable conditions, is incomplete. It is true we can not express this with even relative accuracy, yet a rough idea of the truth may be given by a statement of arithmetical proportion as applied to a large number of men having successful qualities—such as knowledge of human nature and perseverance. The proportion of control will seem much greater if we consider the effect upon a given calling or condition toward which the effort tends. When a person starts in life with one object—say, that of making money—and uses every available means to accomplish his purpose, saving and constantly watching the public wants with the intention of supplying them, working night and day at a sacrifice of social recreation, the average, we may say, is as high as ninety per cent that he will succeed. Many will put the possibility of failure at much less than ten per cent; but if the question be carefully considered, it will be admitted that sickness and other causes may make inroads upon prosperity, so that of a hundred persons with such qualities, ten might fail after a given lapse of time, owing to conditions beyond their control.

While noticing the proportion of failure which may result in spite of prolonged effort, we must not omit the immense differences due to the qualities with which men are born. This is the most important of all the conditions considered. After deducting a large number of exceptions, we would doubtless still find the balance heavily in favor