Character Building - Application
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
APPLICATION may be called putting Attention to practical use. It means not only the ability to concentrate your mind on the task at hand, but the will to keep it there, and to exert all your powers toward completing it. It is called for in play as well as in work. You must train systematically, you must practise a certain length of time each day, whether you like it or not, you must play hard to the final innings, or you won't win. Problems cannot be solved, tasks worth doing cannot be accomplished, except by working steadily as well as forcefully. Hard work will not count for what it ought unless it is continuous. It was his steadfast attention to business, slow but sure, which put the tortoise first over the line, while the hare, though spurting now and then, frequently stopped to look after other affairs than the race which was his immediate duty. The English saying "It's dogged does it" expresses the effect of application, bringing to mind the whole-souled scratching of a terrier in digging out a mouse, undistracted by anything going on around him.
To their power of application most great men attribute their success. Henry Ward Beecher quoted a general observation when he declared that genius was a capacity for hard work. We may believe genius to be somewhat more than this if we please, but we do know that the men who have become great are, as a rule, these who could bend their minds and energies sternly and continuously to the subject they were engaged upon. They could do one thing at a time, and see it through. They not only struck while the iron was hot, but gave it no time to cool before they hammered it into the shape they desired. Application, then, is the fixing one's mind upon the work in hand, and keeping it there as long as necessary; it is the practice of attentive labor. Such ability is the outgrowth of the faculty of attention, and is indispensable to profitable industry. Furthermore, application is not only the best way to get things done, but gives more reward than the good result attained, for it so trains the faculties that when, as will surely happen, some occasion arises for special, continuous, strained effort, like a college examination or a business crisis, mind and body will readily cope with the emergency, and will survive the ordeal where competitors accustomed only to casual and disconnected labor will speedily break down. A dreamy, desultory, inattentive manner of working will accomplish little. The boy or girl who is not capable and in the habit of application is in need of instant reform.
In Volume I of the Library will be found little poems and stories, easily appreciated by youngsters, bearing upon this topic-read "The Three Brothers," "Do the Best You Can," "The Tortoise and the Hare," and "The Crow and the Pitcher." Chapters in "Robinson Crusoe," Volume III, contain numerous instances of the practical results of ingenious application. "Goody Two-Shoes," further on in that volume, presents a simpler but just as important example. Turn to Volume VIII and you find many successful scientific achievements owing their completion to the habit of unflagging application, for instance "Wireless Telegraphy," or "The Motor Vehicle," or "The Flying Machine." In Volume IX we recommend the biographies of Thomas A. Edison and Elihu Burritt, also the articles "Men of Pluck" and "How Great Things Are Done."